Published on January 23, 2024 by Libby Criswell and Kristen Padilla  
Dakota Rice and Kristen Padilla

During Kristen Padilla’s adolescent years, one of her biggest desires was for a mentor – someone who could show her what it looked like when God called a woman to serve him in ministry. Though that desire was not fulfilled for Kristen as a teenager, she now seeks to live her life in such a way that demonstrates the love and truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ for other women.

Kristen is currently an acquisitions editor for B&H Academic, one of the top evangelical publishers in the United States. Prior to this position, she worked as the manager of marketing and communications for Beeson Divinity School at Samford University, where she founded the Center for Women in Ministry in 2021. Kristen attributes the trajectory of her career to God’s goodness.

“God has been good to me, even when I least deserved it, and has always provided the next step even when it wasn’t so easily discernible,” she said.

Kristen grew up the daughter of a Baptist pastor, which was instrumental for her spiritual formation and the discerning of her calling. Because of her father’s work in ministry, she wondered from a young age what plans God might have for her life.

“I have a very sensitive personality, for better or worse,” Kristen said. “I think that having a sensitive spirit made me even more attuned to the work of God, at times. Nonetheless, I can say, looking backward, that the Spirit of God was always working in me a desire to serve him.”

Kristen earned her undergraduate degree in Christian Ministry from Ouachita Baptist University before attending seminary at Beeson Divinity School. She graduated with her Master of Divinity in 2008, then went back to Beeson Divinity in 2015, this time, as the marketing and communications manager. It was during her time on staff that she noticed female divinity students consistently demonstrating a need for resources as they neared the end of their studies and began to seek full-time ministry positions.

“While there were many resources written for men for how to thrive in ministry and even charted paths from seminary into ministry for men, for most of us women there wasn’t either,” Kristen said. “The fact of the matter is that there are not as many spaces for women to serve in full-time, paid ministry. I began talking about that need and my desire for [Beeson] to do something to better serve the women it was training.”

Douglas D. Sweeney, the dean of Beeson Divinity School, gave Kristen permission to form the Center for Women in Ministry. The Center aims to consolidate gifts and resources for the purpose of mentoring women and helping them find the job placements that they need to flourish following the completion of their degrees. Since its beginning in 2021, the Center has successfully served women who are training for ministry, as well as churches and church leaders.

Kristen led the Center for Women in Ministry from its beginning until 2023, when she accepted her current job as an acquisitions editor. The Center is now being led by Anna Russell.

“I was glad to be able to get [The Center] started. I never wanted it to live or die by me. So, when the opportunity came for my current job, it was a hard decision because it would mean leaving an entity that I had just started two years before,” Kristen said. “But I trusted the Lord that my leaving could allow for its flourishing beyond me. I’m still trusting God in that.”

Kristen believes that her job at B&H Academic is a perfect fit for her because it combines her love for God, the classroom and the church. As a published writer herself, it is also helpful that she understands what an author experiences on their end during the publishing process.

“I love my job,” she said. “I get to talk to and work with scholars who are seeking to publish their research and resources for the classroom.”

Ultimately, Kristen considers her calling to be the pursuit of and the pointing toward Christ and away from self. She believes that true Christian ministry is not one where the minister is put on a platform to be admired and celebrated but rather one in which a sinner tells another sinner, “I have found the Lord, our redeemer, our forgiveness of sins, our salvation, indeed, our consolation.”

“Christ is so central. There is no life outside of Jesus,” she said. “Pursue Christ over everything else, and then he will do the rest. He will fulfill your ministry for you.”

Kristen PadillaKristen Padilla (MDiv, Beeson Divinity School) is acquisitions editor for B&H Academic. Previously, she served as the manager of marketing and communication and founding director of the Center for Women in Ministry at Beeson Divinity School. She is the author of Now That I'm Called: A Guide for Women Discerning a Call to Ministry.

Libby CriswellLibby Criswell is a senior at Samford University majoring in music and minoring in biblical studies. She grew up in LaGrange, Georgia, where she first discovered a passion for worship that she has pursued throughout her college experience. Libby is a Student Resident at Samford’s Center for Worship and the Arts and serves as a worship leader for Samford’s Women-Led Worship series. Libby plays cello with the Samford Orchestra, sings with the university’s A Cappella Choir, and has been a guest conductor for both ensembles. She attends Vestavia Hills Baptist Church, where she sings in the choir. Next year, Libby plans to pursue graduate study in either music education or music ministry.

You may also be interested in: Coming Home to Diverse Worship Practices – A Fuller Picture of the Glory of God, by Libby Criswell.