After sixteen years serving the Church in various educational capacities, Amber Riggs has stepped down as co-director and dean of administration for Artios Christian College. She continues to live near Eugene, Oregon, with her husband and four daughters. The BA caught up with Amber to ask about her experience and what’s next for her.
BA: What drew you to work in Christian education, and how has the reality of working in it differed from your expectations when you started?
Amber Riggs: When I was nineteen, I had a powerful experience of staying up all night, alone, interceding for the Church. Around the same time, I also felt a strong conviction to transfer schools and major in youth ministry. But I didn’t dare hope I’d ever have an opportunity to serve the Church through vocational ministry. I just wanted to be better equipped to build up the Church as a member and volunteer.
About five years later, I was offered a job coordinating a distance-learning program for the many members God has called to serve in areas other than pastoral ministry (to complement the pastoral training program). It was downright surreal.
Not long after I began working on this, an instructor asked me where I saw myself in ten years. I loved what I was getting to do so much that I never saw myself doing anything else. I certainly had no ambitions or expectations to ever direct the whole training system. It’s strange to realize that I walked into a training system and am walking out sixteen years later as co-director of a college. Even though a college was the goal from the very beginning, it seemed so far away. But God keeps bringing people to the team who are able to build on the foundations of that training system and fine-tune it.
BA: What are your hopes for Artios moving forward?
AR: My greatest hope is that more people take advantage of the courses, webinars, coaching, and other resources Artios offers. While they are particularly relevant for pastors, these resources are valuable to any Christian who wants to influence their families, churches, communities, and workplaces to more closely partner with God’s plan for the twenty-first century church.
And I hope that Artios continues to cultivate a culture of team leadership that values a variety of gifts.
BA: As co-director of Artios, you were the first woman in CoG7 history to serve as a director of one of our ministry training schools. What has that experience been like, and what would you like to say to other women in the General Conference regarding their contributions to the Church?
AR: When it comes to the mission of God to renew all creation, it is “all hands on deck.” His plan involves partnering with all of us through His Spirit-given gifts and callings.
Our cultural traditions often undergird an idea that some gifts are masculine and some gifts are feminine, and that some traits are masculine and some traits are feminine. But in the Bible, David wasn’t deemed feminine because he cried out to God or wrote emotional songs. Rather, he cried masculine tears. Priscilla wasn’t seen as trying to be masculine because she taught Apollos a deeper understanding of the gospel. Rather, the Spirit empowered her to teach in a powerful way, and she retained her femininity even as she taught. The New Testament cites many examples of the Spirit empowering women in a broad range of what we often consider masculine gifts. It also cites examples of Paul enthusiastically partnering with these women.
Our cultural traditions have also shaped us to think about roles — even ministry roles — in terms of power: who can have power, who can’t have power, how can I get power, how can I retain power. But Jesus’ ministry had a different relationship with power: He laid down His “rights” and, instead, used His power to build up the church. In fact, this is the model Paul gives for how we should relate to one another (Philippians 2).
Even though I was co-director and thus had certain responsibilities, Artios practices team leadership. This looks like men and women in various roles and giftings working together while paying attention to the Spirit’s work in and through each of us. It is definitely “all hands on deck” and absolutely exhilarating. I would love for everyone to have this type of ministry experience. But it definitely requires a marriage of laying down “rights” with an awareness of how the Holy Spirit is at work, and then a fierce faithfulness to partner with God as we personally and collectively embrace His Spirit-given gifts and callings to build up the church.
BA: What’s next on the horizon for you?
AR: To echo Eric Liddell, “I feel God’s pleasure” when I get to take what I’m learning and create something with it that builds up the Church. I still plan to partner with Artios in that way, but through other roles. I’m also continuing my long-term role of co-directing a much smaller ministry training school with much younger students — aka the Riggs Family Homeschool. God’s been connecting me with some creative opportunities to build up the Church in ways that more tightly integrate with that role, including developing a home Bible curriculum and working on some writing projects. So I’m excited about pursuing those opportunities.
The BA thanks Amber for her long service to the Church, and wishes God’s blessings in all her new endeavors.