A 2008 alumnus of Asbury Theological Seminary, Karen Bates is a minister-of-all-trades. After a career as a newspaper editor, Karen pursued a call to full-time ministry, serving the church as an assistant pastor, ministry coach and communications facilitator.
How did your ministry passion intersect with your time at Asbury?
“My passion is walking through life with people,” says Karen. “It’s coaching and helping equip others.”
Asbury gave Karen a relational context for learning, she explains.
“You don’t go to seminary by yourself, it’s a shared experience,” says Karen. “The greatest impact of my time at Asbury has been with the relationships I have built. It gives you a network of friends that you can connect to, ask questions and seek advice from.”
Karen says she still calls up colleagues from Asbury to ask advice in her ministry, which always turns into a great opportunity to catch up.
Today, Karen coaches others pastors, as well as helping churches develop their communication ministries, through her ministry called Alabaster Box Ministry Services.
“I’ve walked with pastors through difficult seasons in the pastorate. It’s helpful being able to put things into perspective when it might not be going well at their church. I can help them take a step back and look at where they are and where they’re headed.”
What advice would you give students thinking of attending Asbury?
“The best advice I would give them is to minimize their student loans,” Karen shares candidly. “If you don’t, it will hamper what you can do once you graduate.”
The financial aid offered by Asbury was a major pull for Karen. “I didn’t go into it unsupported,” she says.
Karen advises students to ask for help if they’re struggling, no matter what age they are. Beginning seminary as an adult student, Karen hesitated to express her needs.
“I wish that I had asked for help from people who were supportive,” she reflects now. She knows now friends and mentors would have helped had they known she needed a little extra support.
What’s one of the best memories from your time at Asbury?
After signing up for a mission trip to India as part of a servant leadership class, Karen said her perspective on life shifted.
“To be honest, I really had no interest in taking a mission trip. I was just trying to get through to graduation,” Karen laughs, explaining how a friend talked her into attending the interest meeting. “By the end of the meeting, I was asking, ‘where do I sign?’”
In India, Karen learned to prioritize relationships.
“At 11 o’clock every day, everything shut down and it was tea time. No matter where you were or what you were doing, we had tea and biscuits,” recalls Karen.
“I realized the priority in focus changed at tea time. That was that time where you sat down and really got to know people. It helped me understand that what I’m learning and teaching are important, but what’s more important are the people.”
Karen ended up going back to India two more times.
“It was an opportunity to really hone some of my skills in teaching cross-culturally and in developing friendships cross-culturally,” Karen says.
Karen continues to share what she learned in India and at Asbury, through her ministry to join people in all walks of life.
Gaby Garver is a 2016 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University. She currently lives in Istanbul, Turkey where she works as an editor for the Daily Sabah newspaper. Her favorite pastimes are cooking for friends, writing and camping