Rev. Deborah Iversen is the pastor at Little Bethel Community Church in Hamilton. I sent her a series of questions to ask her about her call into ministry and what encouragement she would offer others who are considering responding to God’s calling in their lives. This is what she had to share:
How did you first experience your call to be a pastor?
I would say God came through the back door. After living in Belgium for 17 years with my Belgian husband and children, we returned to Canada in 2014. My husband and I were attending Little Bethel Community Church which has always had a special place in our hearts and where we felt very much at home. When the position of interim pastor opened up, I did not consider it until after a few people asked me to apply. At the time, I was unemployed and looking for work in education without much success, but was open to God leading in other ways. I was selected as the interim pastor. Much to my amazement, this role fit like a glove. Reverend Karen Lowe announced she would like to co-pastor upon return from parental leave, and a few months later stopped pastoring, leaving me as the sole pastor of Little Bethel. I had to laugh to myself at the thought of how God led me through the back door. If he had opened the front door to solo pastoring right away, I might have avoided walking through it. I was completely satisfied with God using me in ministry as a lay person, but God has led me somewhere fulfilling where I would never have wandered on my own initiative.
God has brought me to this broad place, where my heart is full and deepest desires fulfilled in ways I never dreamed or thought possible, but it is also Little Bethel’s affirmation of my calling to ministry which is a strong reinforcement of God’s call to pastor. This affirmation has great meaning for me because these are people who have experienced—firsthand—the gifts God has given me.
What challenges have you experienced in navigating what has traditionally been seen as a man’s role?
Little Bethel has a history of female pastors, so I don’t really feel challenges in this church. When I lived in Belgium, however, the church we attended for 10 years did not affirm women in ministry. The pastor knew I did not share that belief, but I also never made it a contentious issue. If I felt God called me to a specific church as a member, I would pray and support it in the ways permitted. I was able to do almost anything in that church except preach. When I left that church to return to Canada, the pastor understood my gifts and affirmed them. He wrote a letter of recommendation in which it was clear he not only saw Christ in me but also affirmed the ministry God had given me.
How do you see God using you in your church? Your community?
My passion is people. God has given me an incredible love for people and a desire to walk alongside and help them get to the next step. I have come to understand that this is my calling and it finds its deepest fulfilment in ministry in the church. This is how I believe God continues to use me in my faith community. My anti-bullying background has also shaped me in aiming for healthy, mature faith as God uses me to help his sheep get to the next step.
What message or advice would you give to young or second-career women who are considering transitioning into ministry?
Ministry is hard and demanding. Trust God in his calling on your life and that he has equipped you with what you need for the task ahead. Surround yourself with other pastors with whom you can share deeply with and pray together. Set healthy boundaries and remember it is God’s work. You do your part and leave the rest to him who has called you.