“The Lord says, ‘I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.’” – Psalm 32:8
Psalm 32:8 is Shannon’s life verse. God has not let Shannon down even once and has led her step by step through a variety of life situations and positions, equipping her with the right tools for each place of service.
Shannon grew up with a Christian heritage that exposed her to the basics of Christianity; however, she did not fully understand what it meant to have a personal relationship with Jesus as her Lord and Saviour. “If asked, I would have said I was a Christian because I didn’t identify with any other faith!”
After high school, Shannon wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her life. She was grateful for a job offer at an oil company for the interim. But at 20, she was wondering what more there was to life. Her mom suggested a trip to Australia, and soon she and a friend obtained working-travel visas and headed down under.
Encountering the Living Word
After a few months, her friend came home, but Shannon stayed. In the weeks leading up to Christmas 1993, she was feeling a bit lonely. She thought, “Maybe if I go to church at Christmas I’ll feel better.” In the heat of Australia’s summer, she attended an outdoor Nativity play at a Baptist church. “I cried through the whole thing.” Back at her lodging, she picked up the Children’s Bible she had tucked into her backpack before leaving Canada. “I started reading and soaked in the living Word of God. I had ongoing conversations with God in my head and although I was being broken inside, I knew it was good.”
As she continued travelling to various towns, she would often find a local church and attend a service. “People invited me home for meals and sometimes offered me a place to stay. I frequently told people I encountered, ‘Everyone needs to read this Book!’”
Return to Canada
Shannon returned to Canada a new creation in Christ, now following God and His ways for her life. “But I had no idea what God’s plan was for me.” She peppered her grandparents with questions about God, and her grandmother eventually suggested she go to Bible college. In the fall of 1994, they drove her to the Briercrest campus (BBC) in Caronport, Saskatchewan. “This was exactly what God knew I needed,” asserts Shannon. “Learning about God through my profs, mentors, and Christian friends was an incubator for my faith.”
While at BBC, she had her introduction to being on mission for God – spending time in Europe working with refugees, interning for the Missions Prof, Dr. Jean Barsness (Mrs. B), and later in Mexico working with Mrs. B at a Bible college. Shannon says, “Mrs. B was, and still is, very influential in my life.” Although it was not Shannon’s goal to receive a degree at the college (preferring to take one year at a time, signing up for classes that most interested her), near the end of her third year the college registrar came into Mrs. B’s office, where she and Shannon were working, and mentioned the school was just about to implement a three-year degree, which Shannon could obtain by taking two correspondence courses over the summer. Shannon said she didn’t care if she got a degree, but Mrs. B quickly chimed in, “She’ll take those classes! She’ll get the degree!” Sure enough, Shannon came away with a Bachelor of Biblical and General Studies, which turned out to be valuable for future ministry positions.
University and Ministry
After Bible college, nothing jumped out as being the best next step, and the oil company hired her back. As Shannon was praying about God’s best plan for her, 10 different people suggested she consider university. Although more academic learning wasn’t super exciting to her, she applied, was accepted, and within a few weeks was on her way to the University of Lethbridge. But what classes to take? God signaled her next step using a conversation with a fellow student she met at Lethbridge’s First Baptist Church. He suggested a Bachelor of Education/Bachelor of Business Management. Three and half years later, Shannon had fast-tracked through and had her double degree, including a teaching practicum in Belize!
In this same time period, God was at work in her brother’s life, and he began getting involved with the Young Adults’ community at Centre Street Church (CSC) in Calgary. Shannon joined him there one evening and while perusing the church bulletin board, she saw a job advertisement for Agape Language Centre. They were looking for a person with: 1. Bible Knowledge, 2. Teacher Training, 3. Business Management, 4. Cross-cultural Experience. “It described my recent background perfectly! I called and was invited to a lunch interview. By the end of the meal I had the job.”
This was a new ESL ministry, and the students were immigrants from all over the world. “I soon realized I love teaching adults, adults who want to be there and are passionate about learning.” After a year, the interim position was about to end, and Shannon was again waiting to see what God had for her next.
Then a good friend called with an opportunity to work with the African Children’s Choir (ACC), starting a new school in Africa. Would Shannon come and look after the business side while her friend led the academic side? Neither of them had ever worked full-time in a school, never mind started or run one. Unperturbed, ACC’s leadership kept stressing these young women were exactly what they were looking for – people who were open to new adventures with some education, experience and cultural background, strong faith, and flexibility. After lots of prayer, the two friends headed to Uganda early in 2002. Shannon stayed for two years until the school was well established, and she felt her time there was coming to an end.
While Shannon prayerfully pondered her next steps, Mrs. B emailed with an invitation to return to Canada and start a new cross-training initiative to help train students for international ministry. After getting this operation up and running, Shannon began sensing a ‘holy restlessness’ (a term introduced to her by Mrs. B), began training her replacements and was again asking God, “Now what?”
The Director of TransWorld Radio (TWR) reached out with an offer to serve for a year as ministry rep for British Columbia. This led to the next invitation, this time by a TWR missionary asking her to relocate to Africa and use her gifts and abilities there as a liaison, working with their African ministries and relaying testimonies to Canadian supporters through correspondence and group presentations. “After five wonderful years with TWR, I had a strong sense that it was time to come home.” She arrived back in Canada, once again with no idea what God had in mind for her next assignment.
A Biblical Model for Volunteer Engagement
Her next position was with Operation Christmas Child (OCC) as regional manager in BC, supporting the year-round volunteers. It was this position where Shannon received the specific training that would fit her for the position she serves in today at CSC. Samaritan’s Purse/OCC partners with High Impact Volunteer Ministries Int’l, and Shannon had numerous opportunities to participate in this training, which is a biblical model for volunteer engagement. After two years with OCC, Shannon resigned and moved back to Calgary, where she was invited to interview for the position she now holds, Volunteer Engagement Manager and Guest Services Coordinator at CSC, a position she has held since 2012. At CSC, a church with nearly 170 staff and approximately 3,000 volunteers, this is no small undertaking.
Shannon trains and coaches staff so they will be inspired and equipped to recruit, train, and lead their respective volunteers with a biblical model. Being a volunteer in a ministry context is about getting to serve God and others, not about filling roles with warm bodies. “Every aspect of engaging volunteers is part of a discipleship journey,” says Shannon. “When a biblical philosophy of serving is instilled in leaders and volunteers, they understand that serving is an act of worship. And when we are able to discern areas that align with our gifting and calling, it is then that we are most fruitful.”
More about Shannon
Besides her rewarding professional life, Shannon makes time to refresh and renew herself. With a strong love of God’s creation, she enjoys the outdoors and almost daily can be found walking the river trails. Her active lifestyle includes walking and biking with friends, pickleball, and a variety of water sports. Shannon has a keen fondness for travel and delights in experiencing God’s creation around the world, including spending time learning from people in other cultures. She is a listener and loves to hear the stories and testimonies of others.
Shannon is now an EMCC Enrich Facilitator, where she is using her God-given gifts, passion, and experience to encourage volunteer ministries that are defined by biblical discipleship, growth, and fruitfulness. She has created and honed practical tools for recruiting, selecting, equipping, leading, and developing lead volunteers. Shannon has designed an interactive one-day workshop that can be tailored to suit particular situations, and she is willing to travel to facilitate this with leaders (staff and/or volunteers) whose responsibility it is to lead volunteer teams.
Visit emccenrich.ca to connect with Shannon.