We interviewed Trillia Newbell, Director of Community Outreach for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, about her experience and influences in ministry. We’re excited to hear Trillia speak at this year’s Kids Ministry Conference!
What excites you the most about the upcoming Kids Ministry Conference?
Kids ministry is an important aspect of many churches. I’ve always served in some capacity with my church’s children’s ministry. There are some members of our churches who go a full month without hearing a sermon in the context of the Sunday morning service because they are serving and loving the children week after week with little to no recognition. They don’t need recognition because God sees and delights in their service, but so often they are the unsung heroes of the church. What I’m most excited about for this conference is the chance to encourage the faith of children’s ministry workers. I’m praying they would be stirred, refreshed, and energized for the tasks ahead in the next year.
If there is one lesson you could pass on to ministry leaders, what would it be?
I have two things (making up one lesson!) that I continually preach to myself. First, you can’t do it all and do it all well. I’m always tempted to take on more than I can actually do. Unfortunately, when I do this something is neglected or it’s all done half-way. Not that the tasks don’t get done, it’s that they don’t get done as well as they would have if I hadn’t taken on more. It’s been freeing over the past year to say no to many things and know that God will be more glorified in my no than my yes—even when serving seems like a great thing to do.
Secondly, the results aren’t up to me. In other words, whether you are teaching children’s ministry or speaking to a group of women, whatever it is you are doing, how the hearer responds is all dependent on the Spirit’s work and not based on me. That frees me to serve, love, and speak for the glory of God and without concern of myself. I want to be, as pastor Tim Keller says, self-forgetful. As I think less of myself, I can think more about those I’m serving and about Jesus who I love to proclaim!
Who was a big influence early in your ministry?
This is tough to narrow down. There are possibly a number of people I can say, so instead I’ll share a few people and a few ministries.
Desiring God, The Gospel Coalition, and The Reformed African American Network were hands-down the three most influential ministries in my life (and remain so). The staff of each organization has helped to encourage my faith, develop my writing, and challenge my thinking. They were incredibly supportive. I’m thankful to God for those ministries. (I can now add the ERLC, which I have the joy of working for.)
I signed a contract with Erik Wolgemuth of Wolgemuth & Associates about three years ago. As my literary agent, he’s probably been the most influential voice (and ear!) in my ministry. He’s wise and helpful, grounded in the gospel and Word of God, and dedicated to seeing God glorified in what I do. He has helped me think biblically about what I’m writing and sharing. In many ways, I wouldn’t have a ministry if he hadn’t seen the potential, and I’m forever grateful for him.
Books, books, and more books. The Lord has graciously given us books. There are many books that helped shape my ministry and thinking, from Future Grace and Bloodlines by John Piper to The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good by Peter Greer. I’ve been blessed to be encouraged by books and writers.
Finally, my family is the biggest influence. I have an incredibly supportive and caring husband who helps direct me and lead me as I serve others. He reminds me that God is good, sovereign, and for me. He reminds me of the gospel when I forget it. He also helps me say no when I need to.
Trillia Newbell is the author of United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity and Fear and Faith: Finding the Peace Your Heart Craves. Her writings on issues of faith, family, and Christian living have been published in the Knoxville News-Sentinel, Desiring God, Christianity Today, Relevant Magazine, The Gospel Coalition, and more. She currently serves as Director of Community Outreach for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention. Trillia is married to her best friend, Thern, and they reside with their two children near Nashville, TN.