Meet the Innovator
Charisse Jones wears many hats but considers herself a practitioner who is living into her faith in very real ways. Professionally, she is ordained in the Methodist tradition and was on staff in the Office of Faith, Work, and Economics at Asbury Seminary for 6 years. She also is an entrepreneur and has her own coaching business called Grace + Grit Unlimited. Charisse is passionate about helping people find their calling either inside or outside traditional ministry.
Charisse has always had an entrepreneurial spirit. She spent her early career, as she put it, “climbing the corporate ladder” at Ford Motor Company. She also spent 15 years in the public school setting as a parent engagement program coordinator, helping families support their students. She wanted to care for the whole student, by finding out what was going on at home and building a support plan from there. That program ended after 10 years when the district shifted focus to working on increasing high school graduation rates.
Charisse emphasizes the fluidity of calling and being open to the opportunities that God puts in front of us. For example, while a student at Asbury, she began an internship in the Office of Faith, Work, and Economics and had no idea that not only would it continue beyond the internship, but she would work there for a total of 6 years culminating as a Co-Director, expanding work inside and outside of the seminary. Charisse’s work is about keeping people open to where God might be calling them next. She wants to help alleviate the pressure of finding that “one calling” that will make a big impact and focus on creatively helping people uncover what God is calling them to. She asked the big question,
“How do we recover the entrepreneurial spirit of the church?”
The creative Spirit of God has always been with us, so how do we tap into God’s creativity?
Through her coaching at Grace + Grit Unlimited, she helps people realize that God’s calling to ministry is not confined to the linear path through seminary. People expect to have a major life-shift, and some assume they need to quit their job to pursue seminary and full time ministry in a traditional congregational setting. This is not always the case. Charisse wants people to discover God’s calling on their life no matter how big or small. She said, “you just need to be faithful to who God has called you to be.” She is passionate about breaking the stereotypes that we need certain credentials to do ministry or that ministry only happens in certain settings.
She especially loves coaching people who do not feel called to traditional ministry settings. She said that these people are often made to feel less than or have internalized that message because their calling does not match the emphasis placed on certain roles. She wants them to see themselves as co-creators with God in their life and ultimately faithful to the calling and mission that God has designed for them. She desires for those she coaches to break out of a mindset of worrying about what others are doing and focus on saying yes and living out their calling.
Above all what is essential for Charisse in her life as an entrepreneur is prayer. She calls prayer her spiritual foundation for what she does. The soul of her business has to be aligned with the heart of God. Prayer is what allows us to keep an open posture and to be open to the creative ways in which God moves. “Trying to script things out usually doesn’t work,” she noted. There can and will be shifts in the seasons of our lives and callings so staying open to those shifts is an important practice.
The path to ministry takes many twists and turns along the way. Charisse is someone who acts as a guide along the path helping people realize which forks in the road to take. It is her hope that people will say yes to God and discern which path God is leading them down. It may mean a whole life change, but it also may not. God is calling all of us to different places and those places will likely change throughout our lives.
Loving God, thank you for faithful witnesses and entrepreneurs like Charisse. Help us connect with your creative energy and break the molds of traditional ministry. Give us the wisdom to help ourselves and others discern your call on our lives. Give us the vision to see ministry done in new ways so that your love may be shown to everyone. Amen.
About the Author
Timothy Bowman is an ELCA pastor currently serving in the Southeastern Minnesota Synod along with his wife, Allyson. Most recently serving as Associate Pastor at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Mankato, MN, he is now serving Grace Lutheran Church in Nerstrand, MN, and also serves as a board member of Crossroads Campus Ministry at Minnesota State Mankato. Tim has an MDiv (Luther Seminary) and a BA (Bethel University). As part of the Seeds Project Tim is partnering with Luther Seminary’s Faith+Lead platform as a Digital Journalist working to share the stories of identified Innovators on Faith+Lead.
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