Women & Work
Work Done Well: Melissa Hoegh
Resident Director of Ohio Hall at Judson University
Melissa Hoegh resides on campus as a Resident Director at Judson University in Elgin, Illinois. She is married to the love of her life Joshua and together they are raising their tiny disciples Carter, Cooper, Campbell and Colbie Lane. Melissa can regularly be found on the campus quad hanging out with her dorm residents or serving her local church as a pastor’s wife. Aside from loving being a stay-at-home mom and raising her littles, Melissa enjoys sweet tea, creamy and sweet iced coffee, a good book, and bottomless chips & salsa.
Melissa, thank you for joining us today on Women and Work, Work Done Well blog. We are encouraged to hear about the good work you are doing, equipping and mentoring the next generation of Christian women. Please share with us a little bit about yourself, your family, your passions and calling and where God has you today in a career setting.
Hi! Thank you so much for asking me! I have been married to the love of my life, Joshua, for 13 years. Joshua is the full-time Pastor of Worship and Creative Arts at First Baptist Church in Elgin, Illinois where we have called our “church home” for the past 11 years. Together we are raising 4 delightful humans, 3 sons, and a brand-new daughter.
Carter is 10, Cooper is 7, Campbell is 4, and Colbie Lane is 7 months. I graduated from Judson University in 2011 with a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education with a concentration in Psychology. However, I graduated 6 months pregnant with Carter and was given the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom and never used my teaching degree in a classroom setting. I enjoyed the first 7 years of motherhood serving as a stay-at-home mom, homemaker, and pastor’s wife.
I began directing theater for Judson University in 2014 for a creative outlet and the Lord really filled me with a desire to love young adults. In 2019, we had been talking and praying about how to make some headway on our student loan debt. We owned a townhome and had dreams of a bigger single-family home. The Lord answered our prayers through a job opening. I saw that a resident director position was opening at Judson. I applied and took on the job of Resident Director of Ohio Hall, the freshman/sophomore girls’ dorm. On the day of our 10-year anniversary, Joshua and I sold our home and moved our family of 5 into an apartment in the dorm! I am thankful to be home with my littles while also getting a paycheck and getting the chance to disciple and live life alongside young adults.
As a mom of four little ones, how did you decide to transition from full-time, stay at home mom to a working mom and what has that looked like for your family? What words of wisdom do you have for other women wanting to do the same?
I enjoyed directing theater with college students on the side while being a full-time mom. It was my creative outlet. And while I enjoyed the directing experience, I began to find that what I really enjoyed was making relationships with the students. I enjoyed having them over for dinner in our home or going on a double date with a newly dating couple. I liked hearing about their days and praying with them before rehearsals. It was the relationships that filled my cup. My main advice is that doubt and fear is a liar. If you believe you are being called to something and are afraid of it, that’s ok, but letting that fear make you decide if you’re going to follow Jesus’s leading- that’s not ok. Talk to wise counsel around you. When the job came up as a possibility, I began talking to those that I trust and it was words from them about biblical truth that helped me combat the fear and doubt. I wanted to be the mom that could be both, mom and work. And I was excited about doing my part to help bring in more income for our big family. As a whole, the transition has felt seamless at times and other times, it’s a mess. But all the greats we read about in the Bible were a mess that the Lord boldly used. Our family is still glad that we did it. It is wildly better than our family could have imagined and we savor each year we have here. As a mom, I’ve had to learn to give up control and use babysitters or ask my husband to take a day off for the times when it’s not beneficial or appropriate to have a toddler (or more) in tow. But that’s also given me power to do my job well and as undistracted as possible. When I feel guilty about time away from my family, I remember that I’m letting them see God work in me in other areas outside the home as well.
Speaking of family, you moved your entire clan onto a college campus and into residential housing with freshman girls. How does your family walk alongside you, including your kids and husband, as you all help minister to these young women who are in a very big season of life transition?
Yes, we sold our home and moved directly into the center of campus life. Our front door is basically a revolving door. My kids go in and out to go play on the quad (which also happens to be their front yard), visiting their favorite residents in the dorm and students coming and going from our apartment. I anticipated loving the community, but I could not have imagined the way my kids love it. For what they lack in neighbors their age, they gain in a community full of college students who really love them. The students, both the girls from my dorm, and the boys across the quad really invest in my kids. They play outside with them, eat meals with them in the cafeteria, do homework with them, take them to sporting events and on adventures. The residents even show up to church events and piano recitals to support our kids. As far as ministry goes, kids are really great at breaking down walls. Many of my residents don’t want to talk to me at first. Some because of intimidation, others because they don’t like the rules I have to enforce. But they will talk to my kids! And if I leave my door open long enough, they wander in to say hi to the kids and we eventually get the chance to connect and get to know one another. I worry that my kids get in the way sometimes, but many of my relationships start BECAUSE of them. My husband is a great dorm dad. He will make homemade popcorn for dorm movie nights, cookies for late night finals studying and he willingly gives up his introverted alone time with me to let residents come over to hang out with me on our living room couch- girl talking the night away. This job is truly a family gig. Joshua and I love getting to model family life, a Christ centered relationship and a fun home environment. It’s a privilege that we take very seriously.
As a Resident Director you lead a team of women who have been hand selected to be resident assistants throughout the year. How do you go about developing those young women and helping them become the leaders that God has called them to be? How important is it to be pouring into our next generation?
This part of my job is my most favorite. I have 5 young women on my team each year. Some I have had the privilege of having for 2 years in a row. Part of my job is to meet with them individually for an hour once a week. Those hours are where we get focused time to talk candidly about all the things: Jesus, homework, resident concerns, boys, relationship boundaries, careers, dreams, sin struggles, books, fears, food…you name it. This is also where I get to pray over them. Let’s be real though – sometimes these one on ones are interrupted by a crying baby, a preschooler who wants to talk to their college friend and fighting siblings. I’ve had to really accept grace and vulnerability and show them that real life isn’t this perfectly crafted picture I try to create. Real life is having a deep conversation with a resident while cooking dinner for my family or nursing a baby while asking about a resident’s plans for the week. I have found though, that letting down my walls in that way encourages them to do the same. They can show up in sweats and bedhead and they will be welcomed with open arms and a hug and a slobbery baby. We also meet once a week as a team for professional development and to create programming for our dorm. Now more than ever, young women need other women to talk to. In a world that’s screaming women can be anything, there is a lot of unspoken expectation and pressure. I like being a safe place for them to talk it out and wrestle with their futures. I want these women to lean into whatever the Lord has for them, whether that’s designing residential housing for a new development as an architect, doing laundry and mopping the floors as a homemaker or somewhere in between. I hear a lot of the older generations talking poorly about the young people becoming adults, but I have to say, I get a front row seat to see how amazing our future will be if we take the time to invest in them.
I know that you are a major people person and have a high capacity for living with so many others but how do you have time to refuel and take care of yourself as a wife, mom, mentor, Christ-follower, and support system for others?
I had to learn the hard way to say no and to shut my door, literally. My first year, I felt so guilty whenever I chose to shut my door for a night in with my husband or a family dinner at home instead of going to the dorm event. But the reality is that I can’t pour from an empty cup and after my relationship with the Lord, my husband and my kids deserve my first fruits. By taking care of me and mine, I’m able to be a better leader too. It’s not selfish- it allows the students to see healthy boundaries. It gives them permission to say no too. It’s also a balance of learning to trust my gut to say the right yes too. I have to know when to listen if someone is really needing to talk even if it’s not a good time for me personally. Living on college hours as a non-college age human is rough on the emotional system. I’ve learned that I need sleep in order to be a good mom, wife and resident director. I may be living on a college campus, but I am not a spring chicken anymore. Getting regular sleep helps me be able to have late nights here and there and not have it super affect my parenting the next day. I also try to be devoted to my daily time in the Word and to Jesus. It’s incredibly convicting to encourage my residents to read God’s words if I’m not in them regularly myself.
What have been some of the joys and challenges of being a Resident Director and how have you seen God at work through it all?
I love the relationships that have grown in my time here. I have coworkers who feel like sisters and I have relationships with my teams that I’m confident will last years beyond today. I have gotten to walk with my girls through the high highs, like seeing them get married to the love of their life, even standing in a few of their weddings. I also get to walk with them through the deep valleys of loss and hurt. It’s holy ground to walk with young women like that and an absolute joy to be a safe place for some of the most amazing humans I have ever met. It is even more special to see my kids be loved and enjoyed by the residents. For example, when my son turned 9 in 2021, we rented out a movie theater. A few of his close friends could come, but there was still a lot of fear post pandemic. He was pretty disappointed and casually invited some college students. They took him seriously and showed up alongside his other friends to celebrate him. That meant the world to me. And it happens over and over again. The residents show up to go grocery shopping with me or to do my dishes or just to take a nap on my couch or sit out on the quad in the sun. It’s doing daily life with them that’s a simple but real joy. There are some challenges though when you let others into your life. I’m not a perfect wife or parent and they get to see that. I get embarrassed when I yell at my kids or don’t model good parenting. It can be hard to feel judged, but also let go of pride and admit when you’re parenting wrong. The other challenge in my job is the discipline side. Part of my job is responding to calls like when residents break school rules. In my building, I follow up with the consequences and conversations for my residents. It’s painful to have those hard conversations and it’s hard to be the bad guy. I get nervous about the damage those conversations do to my witness. But I’ve also seen restoration come after those hard conversations. God is in all the details. I get to watch those who already have a relationship with God grow a deeper, more real faith. I also get to see students wrestle with hard truths and decide if they want to follow Jesus or not. I get to grow relationships with residents and I also have experienced gospel redemption in the relationships that didn’t start off on the best foot. God is doing a great work in this generation and I love being in even the tiniest part of their story.
Work Done Well: Joanna Dennstaedt Joanna Dennstaedt Executive Director of Radiant Hope Connect with Joanna Dennstaedt Instagram Facebook Link Joanna is the founder and Executive