One of the exciting aspects of life at RTS Charlotte is seeing all the female students come through and head off into various kinds of ministry. God is using these students in special ways, whether in college ministry, youth ministry, missions, women’s ministry, or counseling.
Our ministry to women is exemplified in Tari Williamson (class of 2005) who is the Dean of Women here on the Charlotte campus. Tari has developed a wonderful women’s ministry–to both female students and student wives. Her energy and enthusiasm has created a flourishing community where women feel loved and cared for.
So, Tari is the next installment of our Where Are They Now? series.
1. What are you currently doing?
I am currently serving the female students and student wives at RTS Charlotte as their dean of women. Throughout my 25 years on staff at RTS I have also worn and am still wearing several other hats, such as: faculty secretary, doctor of ministry assistant, and student council advisor. In addition to my paid vocation, I occasionally teach the women at my church and this summer led a five week study on Philippians. One of my favorite current activities is writing, which I hope may one day turn into something publishable. I write on topics that weave together my theology and experiences, which I post on-line in a blog. With a team of RTS staff, students & student wives, my vocation also allows me the privilege of running an urban camp each year for a week at Brookstone Schools in Charlotte. It is truly one of my favorite weeks of the year.
2. Why did you originally come to RTS Charlotte?
My husband, Tom, and I came to RTS at the encouragement of Luder Whitlock. Tom, first attended RTS Jackson 25 years ago and graduated four years later with two master degrees. While in Jackson I enjoyed auditing a class each semester, but it wasn’t until my second year on staff at RTS Charlotte that I got the nudge to begin a degree program myself. Of course I attribute that nudge to the Holy Spirit, yet marvel at his pragmatic sensibilities: he used another female student and a generous staff scholarship to get my attention. I remember thinking, “If she could do it, maybe I could too.” It was the second best decision of my life.
3. Is there one thing that you learned at RTS that has come back to you as you have ministered to others? A phrase, encouragement or advice?
My favorite piece of advice came from the late Frank Kik, Professor of Practical Theology. He was not only my professor but a mentor and friend. Chatting one day after class privately, I told him that I didn’t know what God wanted me to do with my life post-seminary. He said, “You don’t have to know. Just get ready.” Seminary got me ready, and that advice also calmed my anxious heart greatly at the time. I have passed that advice forward dozens of times since then.
4. What do you enjoy most about your current ministry?
It is hard to pick just one thing, because there is so much about my vocation that I love (the variety, the relationships, the flexibility, the work environment, my co-workers and bosses). But there is one thing that rises to the top, and that is ministering one-on-one to a hurting woman. I consider it a great privilege to share in another’s struggle. Strange as it sounds, I love to cry with women, but more than that, I love to encourage them. I love to instill in them the truth that our God is ever-present and extremely abundant, all while convincing them that often his ways are not their ways. Even though his ways may not always “feel” abundant, they are making us usable for his kingdom. If I’ve done that, I’ve had an enjoyable day.
5. What has been a struggle in your ministry?
Me. I just get in the way. I care too much about what other people think, even when I am working on it. I never have enough wisdom. I remember telling my husband about the advice I dished out to a new student one day and his comment was, “I can’t believe you said that!” I later found out that it took the student a while to get over it too. Thankfully love covers a multitude of bad advice.
6. If you could give any encouragement to a current student in seminary, what would it be?
Just one hour ago, I was having lunch with a student. She was feeling anxious about taking her first exam in seminary. So there was much opportunity to be an encouragement, dole out advice, and get very preachy. On the drive back to campus, I told her about this question, and asked her, “So what piece of encouragement do you think sunk in?” (I paraphrase!) She said it was the part about, “Remember you are in seminary because you love Jesus.”
To learn more about women’s ministry at Charlotte, see the Women of RTS homepage.