7 Questions with Sally Contessi
Name: Sally Contessi
Current title: Pastor for Children & Families Ministry
Current organisation: Queensland Baptists
I’m married to Tyler and I work as a part time registered nurse as well as a registered pastor with Queensland Baptists. I’ve been involved in kids’ & family ministries since I was old enough to volunteer! I’ve been on staff at Forest Lake Baptist since 2016 as the children’s/family ministry coordinator, and the state leader for children’s & families ministry for Queensland Baptists since 2013. In 2019 Tyler & I became parents to our beautiful 3 year old daughter through foster care.
1. What have you found most challenging as a church leader?
Having stepped into ministry leadership young, the greatest challenge I have faced in church leadership learning at such a fast pace. I feel as though I have passed on anything I’ve learned as fast as I have learned it myself, and sometimes (often?) through my faults and failures. I’m so very grateful to God for his grace to me and the many incredible leaders who I have been able to learn from and who have taken the time to share their wisdom with me.
2. How did you become a church leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I was volunteering in kids ministry and was working full time as a nurse when my local church offered me a ministry internship. During this internship as a ministry leader, I was supported through Bible college and then became part of the staff team at the end of my studies. It was during the time of my internship that I applied and became the Queensland Baptist leader for children’s & family ministry, and have since completed my pastoral registration.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
As a mum who also works other jobs too, I wake up and spend time with my daughter before getting us both ready for kindy and work. Once she’s ready or dropped off, I spend time with Jesus, or else the rest of the day is pretty much a flop. I wish I was awake enough in the mornings to do this before my daughter wakes up, but maybe I’ll learn that in another season of life. :) Then once the work-day starts, it’s emails to create a priority list for the day. I try to do creative (content creation, sermon or lesson writing, vision planning etc) work in the morning hours as I find I’m freshest then. I try to use the middle hours of the day to work on continuing progressive work or projects and leave ‘tick-box tasks’ that don’t take much energy for the afternoon - or if I need to have one-on-one meetings have them at this time as I find they give me energy. I fit other meetings around this schedule as I need to. I try to leave afternoons and evenings as free as I can so I can be with my family. Tyler and I love spending time in the kitchen together while we cook dinner.
4. What one book had the most profound impact on your church leadership? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
Letters to the Church by Francis Chan was such a great read - fresh insight into the cultural expectations of the modern church, and where our areas of priority should be as leaders.
5. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
No matter how hard you try, you can’t make people love Jesus. Not sure how many times I have to be taught that one.
6. How do you develop a healthy leadership pipeline in a church?
I think having a culture where leaders of diverse gifts and roles are constantly looking for who God has equipped and called for the next season to raise up and lead the church. When leaders assume they are replaceable, and that God in His mercy gifts and calls as He chooses, when He chooses, leaders can humbly approach and train new leaders with a sense of excitement and enthusiasm for the Kingdom’s sake.
7. If you had to pick just one story, what would be the most meaningful story from your time as a church leader so far?
Recently, I was approached by an older gentleman in the church, who I had minimal interaction with up until that point. He mentioned he read one of the weekly church emails that I had written. I had written about being ‘interruptible’ as we go about our day - mainly in the context of children’s ministry, and how we can use every moment as a moment to teach about God or give Him glory if we are ready to be ‘interruptible’ as parents and leaders. This man shared with me that he had been challenged by this thought of ‘being interruptible for the gospel’ and had carried it with him into the week. He made the intentional decision to spend time with a man he’d just met at the shops -who’d had a pretty negative experience of church during the time he had been caring for his dying wife. Anyway, this older man shared with me that because he had changed his mindset after reading my email, he had since befriended this man, led him to Christ, and the man had since passed away, a believer in Jesus. The older gentleman of our church thanked me for my words and said it was because of them he had taken the steps to leading this guy to Christ. I was floored. And a teary mess. Obviously, I felt so humbled that he would even consider me part of this guy’s story - I felt like all I had done was write to parents about listening well to their kids. But that’s such a narrow view of how God works - we really just are clay in the potter’s hands. God uses our obedience however he likes, to do whatever He likes, to reach and call whoever He wants to, in His time. Ha. It was such a great lesson for me in being able to just take a step back and be reminded God has His own plan and timing, and every little thing done in faithfulness, no matter how small, can be used by God in amazing ways - even if we never get to hear about them.