Having a pastor for a spouse comes with lots of nuanced pressures and challenges. Add in leading Gateway Women, one of the largest women’s ministries in the US, and being a mother of three young kids, and you have Bridgette Morris. One of her secrets is not allowing herself to feel the pressure. “I could let it bother me,” she says. “But I just don’t.”
On this episode of the Women in Ministry Leadership podcast, hosts Rhonda Davis and Julie Cole talk with Bridgette about how she balances ministry and family life, what she says yes to, and more importantly, when she says no.
Dr. Rhonda Davis: Well, hi everyone and welcome back again. I am so excited to be here with my friend Julie and our friend Bridgette Morris.
Julie Cole: Yes.
Bridgette Morris: Hi everybody.
Rhonda: Bridgette, thanks for being here.
Bridgette: Thank you for having me.
Rhonda: Yeah, I want to tell you a little bit about Bridgette before we get started. She is the executive pastor of Gateway Women and Adult Ministries at Gateway Church. She has served in many areas at that church since coming to Gateway in 2008. She loves creative expression, especially when it relates to worship and content. We want to talk a little bit about that.
Bridgette: All right.
Rhonda: Bridgette is passionate about seeing women fully equipped to walk out the calling God has placed on their lives. Her heart is to help women embrace their true identities as followers of Christ and enjoy life along the way. I love this. She loves the outdoors and can be found tending her garden and wrangling farm animals.
Julie: That’s a nice picture.
Rhonda: Yeah, on the family homestead.
Rhonda: She’s married to her husband James for 13 years and they have three beautiful kids, two boys and a girl. An awesome family. Bridgette, we’re so happy to have you with us today.
Bridgette: Well, thank you for having me. I’m so excited to be here.
Julie: Yes. We have a question that we start almost every session out.
Julie: And that is, how did you get here? Some people have a straight shot path, always wanted to be a woman in ministry leadership. Some people have more of a meandering path. How was that for you?
Bridgette: Well, when I first think about it, I’m like, oh, I’ve just always been in ministry. Since I was raised in a Christian home, and I was the two year old in the front of our Little Baptist church raising her hands praising Jesus. I feel like I’ve been around and in ministry my whole life.
Now, in the lane that I’m in now, I did not picture that, so that was a bit of a curve ball to me. But I’ve always been in church. My parents raised me to love the Lord, so I’m so grateful for them. I really feel like I was set up the best way possible. But I remember when I was 15, it was either a youth camp or a retreat or something, and I was in the back, and I was just on my face in worship and I got this picture of me. And I felt like the Lord was saying, “I’m calling you to lead. I’m calling you to lead my people. I’m calling you to be a leader.”
I was 15, and even in that moment, I remember feeling so strong the pull to ministry. But in that time of my life, I had always sang in church. I did kids choirs. Anything I could do within worship or any of that stuff within kids ministry, I did. Then in high school, I was on our youth worship team, and I just have always loved worship. I’m a worshiper. So, that was my context.
I thought, “This is the route that I’ll go. This is what makes sense in my brain.” How many times do we get a word from the Lord, and we rationalize it and make it-
Julie: Have our own picture for it.
Bridgette: Yeah. So I painted the picture that I knew. It did serve me well. It didn’t hinder me. I pursued what I felt peace. I was already in worship. I graduated high school and went to Hillsong Bible College, and I studied worship and creative arts there. Had a great experience. Then I came home, and I’m not going to lie, I was a little tired when I came home. Very-
Rhonda: Rightfully so.
Bridgette: Very intense Bible college. And I am just naturally really involved. I love to be with people. That’s just my personality. So I’m going to overdo it unless somebody brings me back. So I came home and I was like, I’m really tired now. I think I’m just going to sit here.
Then I met my husband. We got married, all of that stuff. But all the while I’ve always been in worship. Then I came on staff at Gateway in Worship, and it was like ah. All the things are finally aligning-
Rhonda: That was your yeah.
Bridgette: And coming into the way it’s supposed to be. This is what I’ve been waiting for. And I remember sitting in my office and it was … I was so distraught because I was like, “Lord, this doesn’t feel like I thought it would feel. This is not…” Even though I loved my job, loved my job. I got to pour into kids and students in worship. It was just, oh, I just loved my job. And yet I still sat there and was like, this isn’t it. Oh no. If this isn’t it, what is?
Rhonda: Was that the curve ball?
Bridgette: That was the curve ball for me. I had a mini identity crisis. It wasn’t really an identity crisis. It was like, you think you’re running down the right path, which you are. Then you come to road end, and you’re looking around like, well, if this is the end of the road, whoa, where am I? And where am I supposed to be? And you kind of feel like, wait, have I been in the wrong place? And then the Lord … I don’t know, it’s kind of like with Isaac, he pulls a ram out of the thicket. So then all of a sudden there’s a different highway right there. You just never knew about it. The Lord just redirected my path.
Then I switched from being in worship leadership into a more pastoral track. It was like I had been so focused for so long on one piece of what the Lord had called me to that I had made it my full plate. Then it was like the Lord brought me up and I saw, oh, there are actually so many things on my plate. I just didn’t know they were available. I didn’t even know they were there. That was such a … so I had my crisis moment. Then when I had that, it was this … almost like relief and this peace. It was like, okay, all of these things make so much sense, how You’ve gifted me, how You’ve given me talents. Then even the things that I’ve pursued over the years, this all comes into alignment. And one of those things is now coming to TKU. So plug.
Rhonda: Oh, that’s right. Oh, also, yeah, shameless plug. Bridgette’s a student here.
Rhonda: It’s amazing how much bigger His picture is.
Rhonda: That 15-year-old girl that was saying, “Yes, you can have everything.” That might’ve been too much. I love it when people share their stories of how God’s plan was just so much bigger than I originally thought so. That’s so great.
Bridgette: He gives us little pieces along the way, and we have to be careful not to wrap everything up in what we can understand in the moment.
Rhonda: That’s right.
Bridgette: Still leave some room for Him to move us.
Julie: You mentioned getting married. I’m going to state the obvious here. You’re married to James Morris. Pastor Robert Morris’s son. You got thrust into a very public place. How have you handled the limelight? Or maybe there have been expectations that people have on you. How do you handle that?
Bridgette: Well, what is awesome is I never felt thrust into it. I would say that that’s because of Robert and Debbie. They really just let us be who we are and never put expectations or pressure on us. They expect good things because every parent expects good things, but they never placed undue expectations on us at any point. When we were more in business side and then we were ministering also, but we were in business, that’s what we were doing, and they cheered us on there. Then when we started talking about ministry, they cheered us on there. I think that from that perspective, I never felt thrust into anything. I just felt like this is who we are, and we just roll with it. Now I think that other people may have expectations.
Bridgette: But I just don’t really listen to that. There’s a reason the Lord wired me the way He wired me.
Rhonda: That’s right.
Julie: Well tell us about that.
Bridgette: Because people in their best intentions, really. I think maybe some people have bad intentions, but for the most part, most people just say things. And if I let it, it could get to me or it could bother me or whatever. But I just don’t. I don’t know fully how or why. I just know that I can do what I can do. If they have a problem with something and they’re letting me know, I’m like, “Thank you for sharing.” But it’s not my job to go fix that. That’s not in my purview, and it’s not my problem.
Rhonda: And that’s the case for-
Bridgette: I have to let somebody else deal with that. Their job.
Rhonda: Right. That’s the case for anyone in ministry I think. It’s a really good lesson to learn. There are just expectations when you lead people or people just only know certain parts of you and what you have to offer. People will just place those strange expectations from their own heart and mind onto us. It’s really some significant lessons to learn about how to put that in its right place.
Bridgette: And a lot of people who maybe are struggling, they’re struggling. That’s why they’re being critical or saying just really ugly mean things. But if you look at it, you have to think through the lens of if they’re hurting, if somebody has a broken leg, and they start shouting and they’re angry, well they’re in a lot of pain. It’s not necessarily that they’re mad at you. They’re in pain. You have to treat them with compassion and love them and try to help them as much as you can without taking on what they’re saying as truth for yourself because they’re just in a hurting place. Now, I will say, there’s always room for feedback because sometimes I do things and I’m like, oh, that came across that way. I didn’t realize that. Thank you for letting me know. I always want to be open, but I can’t take everything that everyone says to heart. I have to really be compassionate and see people for how God sees them and where they are and be compassionate to their situation and still hear them out.
Rhonda: That’s so good to rightly place that. And to even be able to turn and have empathy for whatever’s causing that is really awesome. What are you studying here at TKU?
Bridgette: I’m studying Theology, Masters of Practical Theology.
Rhonda: Yeah. In your studies and also as that has played out in your ministry life, you are able to see a lot of trends in the women that you serve and the people that come through TKU. So tell me about what do you see as you minister to women, what are some of the trends that you see in terms of issues that they’re facing or things that we should be aware of as ministry leaders? What have you seen?
Bridgette: I think people are trying to figure out how to deal with the stuff around them. They’re trying to understand what the word says about what we’re going through. And I think that’s really one of the reasons why I wanted to come study at The Kings. I mean, for one thing, I didn’t want to stand up and unintentionally speak heresy. So there’s that.
Rhonda: That’s good. That was a good move.
Bridgette: Yeah. Somebody asked me, “What do you get afraid of? Do you get afraid of people saying something or your pants falling down?” And I’m like, “No, pants can fall, but if I speak heresy I just will die.”
Rhonda: That’d be over.
Bridgette: False prophet. I don’t want to be that. I really wanted to study. Make sure I was grounded in what is correct. I lost track because now I’ve said my pants falling down.
Rhonda: So after your pants falling down, what have you seen? What do you see as people navigate this?
Bridgette: They’re trying to figure out what is truth and then how to walk in that and how to lead throughout their families or in their marriage. For women, how am I to walk as a believing woman? What do I do? How do I do? Why am I doing this? I think there’s this search for truth, which I think is … that’s a cultural thing in general. People are searching for truth. But the thing is, we have the truth and we know the truth. We know who the truth is. I think for leaders, and even if you’re a small group leader, having an understanding of who God is and what His word says is the only way we’re going to be able to address those things. Then we have to be bold to address it. If we just know the truth, then never state it, well, that’s not helping anybody.
Rhonda: How have you been able to do that? How have you seen that in action?
Bridgette: Well, I get random texts from people, what does this mean? So there’s that little practical thing. When I’m sitting across the table from somebody and they’re pouring their heart out about the struggles that their kids are going through, that they’re going through in their marriage, I think that’s the best time that I can kindly point them to the word. Kindly point them to Jesus, who is the most compassionate. He is compassion. He is. He is kindness. He is love. There’s been a lot of times that it’s just been one-on-one.
Now of course I get the opportunity to teach. I get the opportunity to preach so I can do it from a platform. But even more than a platform I think is the one-on-ones, the day-to-day with people. That’s where real, real challenge can happen, and then real change can happen. Then the follow up and the follow through of that. Then I can text them later and say like, “Okay, how are you working through this?” If they had maybe not totally correct viewpoint of something and I say, “Okay, would you consider this side?” I can follow up. How are you doing with that?
Rhonda: Right. It’s ever changing it seems like, how we think about so many things are being challenged and how we find community is being challenged in a world where we’re still trying to discover what’s real in front of us, what’s not, and compounded on a leader’s life where it can just be difficult to find community in general. I wonder that about, that’s something that we’ve been asked before. How do I find good friends and good community as I lead the church? I just ask you that. How does that happen for you? How have you been able to navigate that? Especially right now when things just seem to be disconnected in a lot of ways.
Bridgette: In the COVID season, we actually did a Zoom group and at first we were like, is this going to work? But we had already had this-
Rhonda: From the farm.
Bridgette: Yeah, yeah, exactly. We’re weeding in our garden and talking to our friends. We did have an established relationship with them already. But that was an interesting thing because we thought, is this going to work? Then we actually had the best conversations, and we really challenged each other. “Okay, this is what I’m reading right now. What do you think about this?” We would get into it. But one of the couples moved away. That was the best way for us to stay connected.
Now how we find friends is, I feel like friendship as an adult is just very different than when you’re in high school or even college. Adult friends, we have to have much different expectations. I’m like, listen guys. I find people who are in more similar seasons as I am because you naturally have more grace for each other. If I find other working moms to be friends with, then we know where you’re not going to be texting all the time because ain’t nobody got time for that. But we can call each other, we can text each other. We randomly text each other funny little things. Or I’m in a breakdown moment. I need someone to lift my head up off of whatever I’m in right now. Thankfully I feel like the Lord has brought great friendships into our lives by His grace because that can be very difficult.
Rhonda: Sometimes. I still feel like the little girl on the playground that’s like, “Will you be my friend? Will you be my friend? Will you be my friend?” Making friends as a grownup can be hard, especially in regard to those expectations that people have on us.
Julie: Yes, yes. You mentioned family and children. I wonder how with your work life you balance marriage, family, ministry.
Bridgette: This is a question I get asked a lot.
Julie: I’m sure.
Rhonda: Especially with goats and-
Bridgette: I’m like, guys, if y’all saw my laundry room, you wouldn’t ask me this. You would say, “Your house is a wreck. That’s why you can keep going.” And it really is.
Julie: Priorities. Priorities.
Bridgette: This is the wisest of answer I can give for this is, and it’s not mine. Someone else said this and I can’t remember who. Everybody says the struggle is real. I always joke that the juggle is real. I’m just juggling here. I got to juggle my family. I got to juggle my kids, who’s picking up the kids. So the juggle is real. But if I’m juggling, and something’s going to fall, I don’t want it to be something of great importance. I’ve got all the things I’m juggling and some of those are rubber balls and some of those are crystal balls or diamond balls or whatever you want to call them.
If something’s going to fall, it cannot be one of those crystals. If it’s a rubber ball, if it’s my laundry, so be it. But the crystal ball of my marriage cannot fall. The crystal ball of my … and maybe I shouldn’t say crystal ball because that sounds not good. So yeah.
Julie: I’m tracking. I’m tracking with you.
Rhonda: We get what you’re saying.
Bridgette: The important. The precious should not fall. I just have to know, and honestly, y’all, even my friendships, that isn’t as important. So if I’m not going to text somebody back, if I’m not going to make time, if I don’t have time to give because I only have so much time, then I can’t go to every birthday party that I’m invited to. I cannot go to everything that maybe friends are asking me to do. Thankfully I have amazing friends, and they just know that I’m in a busy season.
But I can’t be everything, or I can’t be with everyone all the time. And I only have as much as I can give in time, energy, thinking capacity. And so my main priorities have to be my husband, my marriage, my kids, and the relationship that I’m building with them because just because I’m their mother doesn’t mean I’m naturally going to have a relationship with them. How many kids grew up and still don’t have a relationship with their parents?
Rhonda: That’s really good.
Bridgette: I don’t want to be that. I think that there have been a lot of, unfortunately there’s been a lot of pastor kid orphans, and I don’t want my kids growing up as orphans in a pastor’s home. That’s crazy.
Rhonda: That’s really good. I’m going to stick there for just a second. What do you do to combat that? Because that’s a really real struggle.
Bridgette: I prioritize and fight for them. There are times that I have to say, “We will not do this. We will not go. We have to be home. We cannot do that. We are leaving early. We are leaving early. Tonight’s meet the teacher night. We’re leaving early from work.” And I put it in our calendars well in advance. If anybody schedules anything, I’m like, “No, we are not going to go to that. We have to go to meet the teacher because that’s a big deal.” You only get one meet the teacher first time. For kindergarten, we going to be there. It’s not that you can never miss anything with your kids, but I want them to, without a shadow of a doubt, know that we are there with them and for them. The with though helps the for. If you’re never with me, but I know you’re for me, well. But if you’re with me and you’re for me, that I think helps. I mama bear fight for time with my kids.
Rhonda: That’s so good, Bridgette.
Julie: That is good.
Bridgette: There’s a quality of time and there’s a quantity of time, but it’s hard to have a really good quality of time if you don’t have enough quantity of time. And so making sure that we’re there.
Rhonda: That’s good. There’s so much pulling at you. Making those boundaries and priorities is really important. What do you do then as you’re juggling? I love that. The juggle is real. As you’re juggling, what do you find and what do you do that quiets your own soul? In all of that giving out, that’s one of the things we love to ask is how do you feed? What’s feeding you right now?
Bridgette: Well, I’ve been getting up early, and I’ve been reading my Bible on my back patio and listening to the roosters crow.
Julie: That sounds amazing.
Bridgette: And the cows moo.
Rhonda: Can I do that also?
Bridgette: I hear the ducks doing their thing. There’s that piece. Another little hobby thing that I picked up not too long ago is watercolor because I’m a creative person, and so I realized I am struggling because I don’t have as much of a creative outlet and I need some kind of creative outlet. Watercolor is the easiest thing to clean up and stop abruptly. You can’t oil paint with kids. I used to try to oil paint and that just died. I did that before kids and not after. Watercolor’s an easy thing I can just pick up. And honestly, it’s a slow thing. I just pray and I don’t know. I just have sweet moments with the Lord as I’m painting a flower or whatever I’m doing. That’s a small little hobby thing.
Also, I like to do things. I’m a doer. I rest by doing also. We do live on a little farm, so I like to garden. I really do. I feel like it’s Biblical. The Lord speaks in the garden.
Rhonda: That’s right.
Julie: He does.
Bridgette: So as I’m sitting there weeding or whatever, tending to my garden, it brings it all to perspective. Everything can be all mayhem and chaos. And I’m like, “I got to go to the garden.” And I go sit in the garden and I’m like, “Okay. Rain is from the Lord, sun is from the Lord. I can do all the things. And if this stuff doesn’t come to fruition, it just doesn’t come.” I’m going to do everything I can do to steward my little garden. Then the Lord has to make it happen. The Lord is going to make it happen. I feel like that about my life. How many times I’ve paralleled my little garden to my life and in my ministry and all of that, it’s like, “Lord, I’m going to do everything and steward everything with what I can in my hands.”
Rhonda: That’s such good perspective.
Bridgette: I’m going to till the ground. I’m going to do whatever. I’m going to plant the seeds. I’m going to water them. I’m going to make sure that they’re fertilizing, that bugs aren’t coming into attack things. But at the same time, there’s years you get a great harvest and there are years that you don’t. You can do the same thing, and for some reason it just doesn’t. And so I’m like, “Okay, Lord, I’m just going to trust that whatever You have for me, whatever fruit is supposed to come, supposed to be harvested from this season will come at Your will and at Your hand.”
Rhonda: That’s great. I love when I have some hobbies that have become spiritual practices for me.
Julie: Yeah, that’s good.
Rhonda: I just love hearing that. Well, tell us about what’s happening right now in your ministry. If people want to find out more about what you’re doing and what ministry you’re involved in, how would they do that?
Bridgette: You can go to gatewaywomen.com. You can go to pinkimpact.com also. Gateway Women has a couple of different events that we do throughout the year. And then we have our Pink Impact conference, so you can join us in October at all of our campuses. We have a women’s event, so come to that. It’ll be super fun. We just had a laugh night, and it was so good. I cried. My cheeks hurt. My cheeks legit hurt. Dustin Nickerson came, and we just laughed our faces off, and then we ate lots of good food and had fun.
Rhonda: Always a win.
Bridgette: Yes, always a win. Every women’s event, we’re like, “Okay, we’re going to feed you spiritually. Also, we will feed you with dessert after.” There’s always some kind of sugar after. Then we have our women’s conference, which is Pink Impact in February next year. So get tickets for that. It’s going to be amazing. I know that the Lord is going to do amazing things. Our theme this year is Wonder, and this is something I’ve been asking the Lord, I want to see Your wonders. I want to see Your miracles. I want to see the wonder, the majesty of God. I just want to see it. I’m really expectant for that conference. I’m expecting wonders, y’all. It’s going to be amazing.
Rhonda: That’s awesome. Well, Bridgette, we’re so grateful for you and for what you do. And just want to bless the work of your hands. So thank you. You are just such a great example of what God can do through a willing heart as you continue to till the soil.
Bridgette: Yes. Thank you.
Rhonda: Thanks so much for being with us today.
Bridgette: Thanks for having me.
Rhonda: Thanks for listening. If you like what you heard, we’d love for you to just click subscribe, and we’ll talk to you next time.