In this series, we asked alumni to update us on their path to ministry since graduation. They reflect on how their time at Princeton Seminary prepared them for leadership, while sharing some of the surprises and challenges they’ve experienced along the way.
Joshua Noah ’15 MDiv attended seminary with plans to be a youth minister, but he later discovered his call as solo pastor. He talks about what it’s like to be a “jack of all trades,” and what’s most challenging about being the solo pastor of a large congregation.
Q: Tell us about yourself. How did you end up where you are now?
A: I am a beloved child of God, father of three energetic boys, husband to an awesome wife, and pastor to a growing congregation. I got to where I am because of the generous grace of God, who led me through a church schism (where I heard my call to ministry), sustained me through four challenging years of seminary (including the birth of my third child and my wife undergoing cancer treatments), and brought me to a place where my gifts can equip the saints for the upbuilding of the church.
Q: What’s it like being the solo pastor of a large congregation?
A: As solo pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church in Crystal City, Missouri, the largest Presbyterian church in Jefferson County, I am a “jack of all trades.” When it comes to ministry—I am the youth minister, pastoral care provider, preacher and worship planner, community activist, mission/outreach leader, and session moderator, etc.
“About six months into my call, I discovered that adults (especially older adults) need youth ministry too.”
Q: What has been the biggest challenge and surprise for you in your ministry?
A: My biggest challenge has been learning the unique personality of both the congregation and the community—assessing the strengths and the struggles of each, and how the two can work together.
My biggest surprise was that I went to seminary intending to be a youth pastor, yet somehow felt called to be a solo pastor and I didn’t understand why. About six months into my call, I discovered that adults (especially older adults) need youth ministry too. This delightful surprise affirmed me in my call as solo pastor and continues to inform the way I approach ministry with church members of all ages.
Q: Looking back, how do you think Princeton Seminary prepared you for the work you’re doing? What is a lesson or learning that continues to inform your ministry?
A: My youth ministry classes with Kenda Creasy Dean, my Christian spirituality classes with Bo Karen Lee, and my missional theology classes with Professor Darrell Guder were critical in forming my approach to solo ministry—especially in small rural churches that are learning how to live in a post-Christendom world.
These classes have helped me understand the deeper spiritual needs of congregation members—their desire for a spiritual and lived out faith. They also taught me how to connect the congregation’s needs with the needs of our community—more than one-third of which lives below the poverty level.
Q: What’s next for you in your work?
A: I am looking forward to following the Holy Spirit in all of the unexpected ways that she moves. Currently, things at my church are in a bit of a “beautiful chaos,” but we are learning to live into it without anxiety, trusting the grace the God, and seeking to become better disciples of Christ.
“Informal time in discussion groups with faculty and students discussing feminist theological literature, altered my views, excited my spirit, and greatly influenced my teaching.”