Small Shoulders, Big Calling: Balancing Work and Theological Study

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Small Shoulders, Big Calling: Balancing Work and Theological Study

Elyse Balzer grew up in a ministry family, but it’s only since commencing study at Christ College that she has started considering full-time ministry for herself.

The youngest of four children, and the daughter of a Presbyterian Minister, Elyse is grateful to her parents and older siblings for the foundations they laid for her faith.

Elyse recalls a significant formative experience when she was around seven or eight years old. 

“I’m naturally quite an anxious person, and as a child I often felt really guilty and overwhelmed by very small things,” Elyse explains. “I remember a particularly bad night. I couldn’t sleep—I was fairly inconsolable. My dad prayed with me and explained that while I had really small shoulders, God had really big shoulders.”

That profound image has stuck with Elyse ever since. After studying History at university, and then completing her Honours, Elyse ended up accepting a role with the not-for-profit organisation Compassion Australia in 2022. 

In her role coordinating the National Volunteer Program, Elyse interacts with a variety of different people on a daily basis. This led her to consider the benefits of theological study.

“My role can be quite pastoral,” Elyse says. “I meet with people from lots of different denominations and at different stages of their faith, and it struck me that I really wanted to be really equipped to do that well—to speak with truth and clarity and grace when put in those situations.”

Elyse admits that she had also started to crave studying again.

“I’m someone who always loves learning. I was a bit of a nerd at uni—I loved assignments, and I loved writing. So I was kind of getting that itch to study again.”

After tossing up between going back to uni to undertake a PhD, or enrolling at Bible College, Elyse found out about Christ College scholarships and she felt a real peace about it. She’s now about to begin her second year of a Masters part-time.

“There are so many options for Bible colleges when you’re living in Sydney, but I had heard most about Christ College growing up,” Elyse explains. “My granddad was a lecturer, my dad has lectured there too. I really love the small college vibe, and the fact that they are so flexible around full-time work. We started lectures this week, and I already knew my lecturer because we’ve been interacting over the past year. I wasn’t expecting that as a part-time student—it could have been quite easy to go under the radar. But I think that’s the culture of Christ College, just really genuine and everyone just wants the same thing. We all want to see God’s church built up.”

While it wasn’t on Elyse’s radar to head into full-time ministry before she began studying, it is now.

“I went in with the posture that it can’t be a bad thing,” Elyse says. “I was really excited to learn more. I think I’ve definitely grown to consider the idea of intentional ministry. I’ve had conversations with lecturers around doing chaplaincy down the track. I guess God’s opened this door, so I’ll see where it leads—I’ve got time to figure it out.”

Elyse is looking forward to being pushed out of her comfort zone with classes this year.

“I’m starting to learn Greek this year, and a theology unit, so it’s going to be a lot more challenging,” she shares. “I’m looking forward to seeing how God makes me more like him and draws me closer through that.”

Her advice to anyone considering studying at Christ College is that you could never regret it. She’s particularly encouraging of anyone contemplating studying around a full-time job.

“It’s so flexible,” she says. “There’s so much grace and understanding, so just try it!”


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