Jordan Rife has long recognized her passion to work with people, but she hadn’t been looking for her niche where she found it: in the local church, as a worship leader.
Growing up in a church that didn’t affirm women as ordained pastors, Rife didn’t imagine she’d soon be a leader at College Wesleyan Church, in Marion, Indiana, pursuing ordination at Wesley Seminary.
“Since joining The Wesleyan Church, I have experienced so much support and love as a woman in ministry. It’s one of my favorite things about serving here,” Rife said.
Eager to celebrate her story as a Wesleyan woman in ministry, Rife shared with us a bit of her journey of leadership and growth.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
“The people,” Rife answered right away, adding that she’s long felt a calling to work with people.
That calling found its home in the church. In her role as co-leader of worship, Rife organizes about 150 volunteers, which brings inspiration as well as challenge. While onstage ministry can tend to generate pride, Rife said her team has a clear focus on the point of worship: to experience God.
“We have such a wide variety of volunteers. The youngest is seven, and the oldest is close to 90. That diversity brings with it such a breadth of spiritual wisdom, life insight and experience,” Rife said.
What’s the most challenging aspect?
In a large congregation, along with making sure volunteers have ways to get involved, Rife has the difficult task of organizing worship services that are as diverse as the worshippers.
“If worship style is the language of your congregation, we have multiple languages here at College Wesleyan. It’s hard to plan a service in which you feel confident everyone will have a voice,” Rife said.
“Some weeks, some people are going to feel really stretched. It’s hard to find the balance between content and preference.”
In what ways is worship ministry central to the life and mission of the Church?
“At College Wesleyan, we believe the Sunday morning gathering is for the believer. It calls God’s people together to celebrate the story of God,” Rife said.
“By enacting worship, we are reminded that we are not of this world, and that our true identity is as people of love and hope.”
Rife pointed to this identity as crucial for the “messy” life of Monday through Saturday.
“If worship isn’t connected to what happens during the week, if it’s not transforming us to be more like Christ, then it’s just entertainment,” she added.
One of the ways College Wesleyan has prioritized transformation is by centering the life of the church around the Christian year. For Rife, tapping into this rhythm has been one of the most inspiring catalysts in her ministry.
“It’s the best kept secret of planning worship sets,” Rife laughed. “It gives you a rhythm that’s bigger than your opinion and mood for that day.”
While some might assume a year of pre-determined themes would kill worship inspiration, Rife says it’s done just the opposite.
“Not only has following the Christian year enhanced my spiritual life but it’s also opened up my creativity, and almost taught me how to be creative.”
How have you grown as a leader in your time serving at College Wesleyan?
When Rife first came to College Wesleyan in the residency program, her pride, which had flown under the radar up to that point, caught up to her.
“I wasn’t showy, but I was really full of myself,” Rife said, adding that that realization brought her to a point of profound brokenness.
“God used this church not only to break me but also to restore me,” she said, adding that not many churches do both for broken leaders.
“Because of the strong belief in the gospel and that God can redeem and restore, they stuck with me and showed me a lot of grace. Through that experience, I learned that the gospel really can transform.”
Rife said her time in leadership not only taught her about personal transformation, but also the power of the local church to transform the world. She encourages others who feel frustrated with the local church to lean in, rather than cop out.
“It’s messy, we don’t always do everything right, but if you want to change the world, you’ve got to be part of the church,” Rife said.