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My Journey to here

Written by

Monique Woolerton

About author

Monique Woolerton is the Ruakura 6pm gathering leader and oversees both the Young Adults Ministry and the Activate Groups

My Journey to Here

Monique Woolerton

I’d always said I’d never go into church ministry. Even as a kid.

Which was why that early autumn day in March 2020 will forever be etched into my memory. It was the day I finally stopped running from God’s plan for me.

Now to be fair, there’s nothing inherently wrong with working for a church. I was practically born and raised in church, almost receiving frostbite one winter morning as I, a newborn baby, was brought along to church by my wonderfully enthusiastic parents. The worship, the community, the teaching, all of it was lovely and familiar and treasured by me growing up.

But I’d also seen so much behind the scenes, with friends who were pastor’s kids and my own parents who were heavily involved in church. All of this led me to realise just how difficult such a job was, and how much I’d rather work “out in the world”.

So by age 14 I had planned out my life. I’m talking the 5-year, 10-year, and 40-year plan, mapped out in a very measured and realistic fashion. Go easy on me dear reader– I was an odd child that grew up quick.

I had a solid idea of who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. My world was clean-cut, beautifully curated, and streamlined in one direction: I was going to be a clinical psychologist. It was a logical choice: I was good with people and loved figuring out how they worked and how to help them. I remember my friends worrying over what careers they wanted to take, while I had long since planned the classes to set me up for university. In short, I seemed to everyone (and myself) a very put-together individual.

So there I was that day in March, a research assistant, working on my Masters in my office at the Otago University Psychology building.

Bawling my eyes out.

Definitely not “put-together”.

Because at that moment, I had heard clearly from God that He was calling me into church ministry, not clinical psychology.

Since hindsight is 20/20, let’s take a quick look together at the events leading up to this moment. At age 12, I gave my life to Christ during a play called “Heaven’s Gates Hell’s Flames” that instilled in me the reality of the gospel. At age 14, I was baptised in both water and the Holy Spirit, but still struggled greatly with insecurity and fear due to a turbulent childhood. Over the years I became stubbornly good at hiding those negative emotions from others, and even from myself.

Age 20, my friend Cathan Bowler and I started running a young adults Activate group. It grew both in numbers and depth of discipleship, until we were basically running a small church service each Tuesday night, complete with message and ministry time and occasionally even worship. One year in, I remember being confused as to why I was more excited for our group nights than I was for the psychology classes I’d loved up until that point. When someone mentioned going to Bible college though, I just laughed it off, unaware that God was working at my heart.

Age 21, I turned to my mum during worship at a women’s conference and said with complete certainty (and a touch of the Holy Spirit’s prompting), “Mum, I don’t think I’m meant to become a psychologist.” Time passed and that certainty waned. One thing I was mostly sure of: I did not want to go into church ministry. I was comfortably marathon-running away from his plans for me, but still God continued to soften my stubborn heart.

Age 22, I moved to Dunedin to do my Master’s Degree. But before that, I went through a health scare and an operation that threw me bodily at the feet of Jesus. I’d never known desperation and faith that fierce in all my life. All my life I’d been “put-together” but really all I’d done was put a mask over my fears and insecurities. Now the mask was stripped away, and I stood there vulnerable before my God. But instead of turning his back, I felt His love embrace me with all my imperfections and worries.

I fell so deeply in love with this God who’d been there my whole life, this Jesus who’d always stood beside me, even when I was running down the path of my own making. The One who sees us, even as we try to hide from Him as Adam and Eve did in the garden. The One who calls us by name, and speaks tenderly to each and every one of our fears. The One who loves us so much He lay down His life for us. How can we not give everything to the One who gave us everything? And in the midst of this sweet surrender, God called me away from my own plans and guided me towards His.

So over the next few years, God continued to break down at my walls, deepening my trust and growing my character. I served at my local church in Dunedin, continuing to lead young adults groups and devouring theology books between classes. Returning to Hamilton, I started studying at Vision College, a bible school affiliated with Activate Church. I also began interning and then working full-time at Activate Church, overseeing both the Kids Ministry and Young

Adults Ministry. Later, I was also asked to run the 6pm Gatherings at Ruakura Campus, which was an incredible honour. And I still lead a group of fantastic young adults with my wonderful husband.

My friends, if I could tell you anything it’s this: nothing is impossible with God. I thought I knew what the plan was for my life. I thought I could hide all my weaknesses with a well-cultivated life. But all I’d done was pick a direction I knew I could handle in my own strength. Now God is pushing me to the limits, and each time I grow comfortable I find Him urging me to take the next step. While not easy, a life lived according to His plans is ultimately the most satisfying. Trust Him. And never say never.

Matthew 19:26 ‘Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”’

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