Women & Work
Work Done Well: Monique Brooks
Director of Counseling at Bayview Baptist Church, Life Coach, Pilates Instructor, and Author
California Native Monique Antoinette Brooks serves as a long-standing member and the First Lady alongside her husband, Senior Pastor, Terry Wayne Brooks at Bayview Church in San Diego, CA.
An advocate for education, Monique earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Pk-8th grade from Western Governors University. She went on to utilize her degree in the field of Education where she worked as a Before and After School Program Site Director with the Lemon Grove School District for over 9 years.
While working as a Site Director, Monique found herself to be a confidant as well as an emotional support system for students, parents and many of her co-workers. This experience sparked a desire in Monique to further help individuals cope with the emotions and issues they face regarding their life circumstances through counseling. On God’s terms, she further pursued her education and earned a Master of Arts Degree in Leadership Ministry with a focus in Christian Counseling from Faith Evangelical Seminary and College. Following her degree completion, Monique set out to fulfill her God-given purpose and developed a Ministry within her church built around educating and counseling individuals in the areas of Mental Health, Marriage and Family Counseling, as well as Addiction and Recovery, with an emphasis on the faith-based perspective.
In addition to being a full-time Christian Counselor, Monique wears many hats. She has served as the Music Ministry Director of the Youth and Young Adult Choir “ChoZen”, the Coordinator and Facilitator for the Single & Parenting Ministry, and a bible teacher. She is currently a member of the Bayview Worship Team, a Small Group Facilitator, and is Director for the Youth Leadership Development Program, #iChooseLife. Monique is also a Mental Health Advocate, Mental Health First Aid Coach, and QPR (Question, Persuade, and Refer) Trainer for Suicide Prevention. Not to mention, during a pandemic Monique became a Certified Pilates Mat Instructor/Personal Trainer and a published Author, penning her first book, “From a Mess to a Miracle.”
When not active in ministry, Monique constantly seeks spiritual growth through the Word of God and many other books she reads. Monique finds joy in not only serving God’s people through various ministries, but fulfilling her God-given role as a loving and attentive wife to her husband, and a mother to their two sons, Jordan and Amarion.
Well, I am 42 and am married to the best pastor, husband, teacher, leader, visionary and father, this side of the Western hemisphere, Terry Wayne Brooks. We have two sons who are now young men. One will be 24 years old and the youngest, but tallest will be 18 next year in 2022. So we’ll be empty nesters here soon and it’s bittersweet. But I’m excited and nervous at the same time. It’s a blessing to be able to see our kids flourish in their academics and career choices. But above being a wife, a mother and all the other hats I wear, I am a child of The Most High God!
My husband and I have both been in previous marriages, of which we’ve learned and grown a lot from. We both come from blended families and have a blended family of our own. The beauty of a well blended family is when you can’t tell the blending process ever took place, it’s seamless and by the grace of God, he made it be so with our nucleus. I’m just grateful to God for the opportunity to be able to experience marriage in a different way, in a way that is Christ centered.
I was born and raised in San Diego, California and have been here all of my life until the year 2000 when I moved away for a little bit, but then found myself back home in San Diego and have been here ever since. I absolutely love it, it’s home, but I love to travel as well!
I am a faithful life member of the Bayview Church, the largest predominantly African- American church in San Diego. I say life member because I was practically born on a pew and my family goes back three generations, to the founding pastor. After being involved in several ministries, I have found my fit. I am a certified Christian counselor and I work in full-time ministry. I’m what we call at our church, volunteer staff. I am the director of our mental health and Christian counseling ministry. In addition to being a certified Christian counselor, I am also a mental health advocate and first aid coach, and a QPR (Question Persuade Refer) Trainer for Suicide Prevention. In the personal space of my life I am a certified Pilates instructor and personal trainer and last year I became a published author, with my first book entitled, From a Mess to a Miracle. Oh, not to mention I also mentor several young women. So that’s kind of where I am in my life right now.
COVID has illuminated a lot of things in my life. I guess I could say that God has made me comfortable with who I am and where I am but it took some time to get to this space of self-confidence, it definitely didn’t happen overnight. I have had to go through some stages and some phases of being uncomfortable to get to the space I’m in right now. By the grace of God, if it weren’t for him, things would not be as they are.
When I thought about the question of gifts, God given gifts, I thought back to the discipleship classes that I had taken years ago. We had to do a spiritual gifts analysis which was designed to help people navigate which ministry they best fit to serve in. While we might enjoy doing one thing, God might have gifted us to do something else. Sometimes we feel like we’re not qualified or we just don’t have what it takes. Fear often gets in the way. So again, I had to go back to my spiritual gifts analysis and really look at my results, which was pretty interesting. I took it for the first time in 1997 as a requirement for all high school seniors at our church as a part of completing our discipleship classes before graduation. The interesting part is, from the first analysis in 1997 up until the most recent analysis I took in 2014, which is now referred to as S.H.A.P.E. Assessment, standing for Spiritual Gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality and Experience, my gifts have not changed. My spiritual gifts are encourager, exhortation, teaching and leading. As I look at it now, I’m like, wow, that is amazing how God showed me then what I would be doing before I even began the real work or ministry.
God has really shown me and put me in spaces and places where I’m able to now work in those gifts. While being a certified Christian counselor and a mental health advocate, I’m encouraging. Even with Pilates, I’m doing the teaching. As a published author, I’m able to encourage others through my life experience. Did I know back in 1997, that those were the things that I would eventually be doing? No, absolutely not. But God knew. He is all-knowing of course! I just appreciate the fact that he gave me a little bit back then, and along the way, began to equip me, for what was eventually to come and what is still to come, because I’m still learning.
I never consider myself to have maxed out on learning. I’m a forever learner and just wanting to be in a space and a posture where I’m able to be used by God, and all that I do points back to Him.
When people congratulate me on any of my successes I just respond by saying, “I’m just glad to be in the room.” It’s all God because he knows me better than I know myself. The fact that he uses me to such a great magnitude, in being a counselor and tending to the souls of His people, I don’t take that lightly or for granted. There’s a section in our counseling training that I instruct, where we talk about the role of the holy spirit. I am fully aware that the holy spirit dwells in me, and I’m fully aware that I couldn’t do anything, live or breathe without His help and guidance.
When I’m counseling I have to have one ear tuned to the counselee and one ear tuned to the Holy Spirit. I have to ask the Holy Spirit to help me navigate through every situation so that I can help give the counselee what their ears need and what their hearts need so they can find hope and healing. He is the one I put on a platform because it’s never me who does the encouraging, I’m just a vessel. As long as I allow myself to be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit, He does his work and he does it effortlessly. Then I go into my private time and express my gratitude for what He just did through me for His people.
I started in a career of education before I graduated high school, and after many years of serving students and parents, started to realize my time was coming to an end. You know, after being in a certain space for so long and you deal with some of the same stuff year after year, but then that same stuff begins to annoy you, well that’s where I was, so I knew then, it was time to move on. Now let me be very clear. It was never the students who annoyed me. Of all things, I miss them the absolute most. But small things started to become annoying and my husband said, “I think it’s time for you to start making a transition.” So I started to look into other options. I asked God what he wanted me to do. I worked in the bank for a short period, but knew that wasn’t for me. So what was I to do, but sit and wait for God to answer my question of what it was He wanted me to do, so that’s what I did.
I was reminded of a situation that happened at the school where a young lady lost her aunt who was like her mother to her, and God put me in a space where I was able to really encourage her through her grieving. At the same time I had lost my grandmother and so we were able to connect on a deep and spiritual level. Educators wear several hats, from being a counselor, nurse, coach, parental figures and so many other things. I found myself being that person for not only my students, but also for the staff and other faculty at the school, not to mention the parents that I worked with as well. During this period of reflection I began to see God’s answer to my question unfold right before my eyes. People were reaching out to me to talk and pray about their challenges and unbeknownst to me I was already operating in His purpose. It was becoming clear to me that God was calling me into full time ministry as a Christian counselor. There was a need at Bayview and I wanted to make it my business to tend to that need. I talked with my husband, expressing the need we had at the church, he agreed and that’s when I got to work.
I talked to a couple of trusting individuals who I knew would speak truth, encourage and lead me in the right direction. Those conversations led me to go back to school, Seminary to be more specific. For the next two years I worked on and obtained my Masters in Leadership Ministry with a focus in Christian counseling. I was able to connect with Saddleback Church and The Rock Church. I started attending their pastoral counseling training. During my time at Saddleback and with the relationships we established I was able to connect with Kay Warren who is a huge advocate for mental health. The resources I received from Kay and the Saddleback community were a huge asset in helping me lay the foundation for what was to come.
We were going to start with Celebrate Recovery but that felt like such a huge feat. So we decided to scale back and focus just on Christian counseling and mental health. We started with mental health support groups, which we call Grace Groups- Living Grace and Family Grace. Living Grace is for those who live with mental health challenges themselves, whether diagnosed or undiagnosed, and Family Grace is for those who support those living with a mental health challenge.
Once we got that up and rolling, our focus then shifted to the Christian counseling component. We put out the call for people who felt like they would be an asset to the ministry but would also benefit from the ministry as well. It was more so of a call to a specific group of people. I literally, in my mind, could see faces of people I thought would be a good fit. I felt like the Holy Spirit was putting people on my heart to reach out to.
Allow me to go back a bit, after having those conversations and going back to school my journey started when Donna Rose, the Director of our Family Matters Ministry asked me to be a coordinator for the Single and Parenting support. Donna told me not to make a decision right away, but take a week, pray about it and then we would connect again. After praying over whether or not this was what God wanted me to do, Donna and I talked again and I gave her my decision, it was a “yes”. As the coordinator, I not only made sure all the specifics were tended to, but I also facilitated the discussion of the actual groups. I had to mention that process that Donna took me through, because it was the same process I took my potential counselors through. I made the call, presented my request and then instructed them to take a week to pray about their decision. Out of the 10 people I contacted, I received a yes from all but 2. I took the quipping process so seriously because we were tending to the hearts of God’s people. In addition to completing the six week training, there are a number of requirements that have to be met in order to serve in this ministry, some of the requirements are to agree to a background check, be a member of the church for at least 2 years and having completed our Membership Classes called GET F.I.T (which means Faithfully and Intentional Transformed), and be a member of a Small Group, just to name a few.
Before we launched in 2018, my husband, our pastor, did a whole mental health series from the pulpit. Because of his sermon series and his transparency, it opened doors for our church community to begin having conversations about mental health. Members started to feel comfortable enough because their leader, their pastor, talked about his own mental health challenges. For our community the stigma is, what happens with us stays with us. We don’t talk about it. We suppress it. We cope in many different ways that don’t include counseling or therapy. Culturally and historically, that’s just how it’s been. But just because that’s how it’s been doesn’t mean that’s how it has to continue. We started to pick away at those barriers, and started to remove those stigmas by saying, “Hey, we all have something we’re dealing with. You’re something might not be my something, but we need to work through it and we can do it together.” It’s okay if we have challenges, but we don’t have to continue to struggle, we shouldn’t continue to wallow in our stuff. We need to talk about it, we must talk about it. Our church then recognized the need and so we began creating safe spaces for those conversations to happen. See, most people don’t realize that the root of their issue is something deeper. When we start to have those conversations, we see layers of the metaphorical onion start to peel. There is trauma that has been endured and passed down through generations but we are trying to show people how to deal with it in a healthy way. While you might not have all the answers or you might not have all the tools, your voice is power. You have the ability to use your voice and say, this is what I’m feeling and I know that something isn’t right. A lot of times people think it’s a weakness, but it really isn’t. We’re tapping into our superpower and we’re using them for the good of ourselves and in some cases for the good of others as well.. We’re setting not only ourselves up for success when it comes to our mental health, but we’re setting up the generations to come after us for success when it comes to their mental health. By doing our work, we’re eliminating excuses and trying to break those unhealthy generational cycles by not allowing what has happened to be what will happen in the future.
We see a wide variety of people come into the church for services. Sometimes we get people who aren’t members. Sometimes we get people who aren’t even saved. As people are being counseled they are learning more about Christ. They’re learning more about themselves and how God sees them. We’re directing people to salvation and encouraging them to be a part of the body of Christ. I would say to date, we have probably served a little over a hundred people, within the ministry. We continue to be open to being used by the Holy Spirit, even in a pandemic.
One of the greatest challenges for me was doing something that had never been done in our church community before. Culturally, talking openly about your mental health and even christian counseling was and still is, frowned upon, it’s all taboo. It is super interesting because secular counseling seems to be more acceptable, but when it comes to Christian counseling, faith-based counseling, it’s put into question. As I see it, we can pray to God and we can pay for a counselor or therapist. It goes both ways, you know? And that’s just a starting point. We go to God, we access His guidance first and foremost and then we ask Him to place people in our lives who can help us filter through and unpack our stuff. God helped me find the right person who poured into me those things I really needed. So I know He can and will do it for others, but we have a part in the process too. Our responsibility is to seek Christ, His responsibility is to act on our behalf, our response and responsibility is to trust that His will is perfect.
Another one of the challenges I definitely had in the beginning was the question I had in my mind if it was really going to work. I was first a counselor at another church and they were sending me a lot of their counselees, most of them looked like me. They would send me the emails with the requests and tell me that this individual really doesn’t want to talk to anyone who belongs to their church.
In my mind I was worried that the same thing would happen at our own church that our church members wouldn’t want to come to us for counseling. That thought constantly ran through my mind, honestly it was really me getting in my own way. To be honest, some people felt that way, but it wasn’t the majority.
The other challenge was, again, me being in my own way and the internal battle I was having with feelings of inadequacy, not feeling like I could fulfill the call to be a Christian counselor and mental health advocate. I knew I was just as messed up as the next person so who am I to tend to the lives and the hearts of God’s people. Why me, God? I didn’t feel like I was equipped to be able to step into the call that he was whispering in my ear and in my heart. But not once did my thoughts stop progress to the process. I kept going full steam ahead even though there were so many different thoughts going on in my mind. If I had listened to every last one of those thoughts, we would not be where we are today. I had to really set myself aside and step out of the way. If God has called you to something He will without a shadow of a doubt see it through. I had to remind myself that God doesn’t call the equipped but He equips the called. He definitely did exactly what he promised and I was never left to do it by myself. He took care of me and made sure that I had all the tools, resources and partners I needed to be able to do what he had called me to do. I realize I’m just a vessel and the Holy Spirit does the work. When I stepped aside and got out of my own way to let the Holy Spirit lead, God was able to use me as he pleased. The goal is greater than me which is always to point people back to Christ, and that is what really helped me get out of my own head. I continue to take steps to equip myself because I am a forever learner. I’m always looking for opportunities to grow in this field. I’m always looking for opportunities to make sure that I stay up to date on current research and methods of how to counsel effectively.
First of all, I don’t allow others to determine who I am or dictate my destiny. I’m very secure in who God says I am and what He has called me to do. I don’t seek the inconsistency of society for how I’m to live my life, God has already laid the foundation and framework. Most of all I definitely don’t take social media too seriously. I’m very discerning on what I allow to seep in and what needs not to take residence in my temple.
I surround myself with like-minded people, people who I can glean from and who can glean from me as well. I open my personal space to people who are honest, challenging, supportive, and who will celebrate me and who don’t mind being celebrated. Authentic relationships haven’t always come easy for me, so when God makes room for people who I can grow with in all areas of life, physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, I take it very seriously because these are individuals I need in my space to keep encouraged.
My family is a great source of encouragement. My husband, our children, and my parents are sources of not only encouragement but strength as well. They all have their own personal relationships with Christ, so I know they go to Him on my behalf. In those moments when I’m not feeling my best, I think of them, I remember that my life is more than just about me. I not only live for me, but I live for them as well. I want to make them proud in all I do. ed to bounce off of him that I do so and he’s always willing to share an encouraging word and uplifting word.
Lastly and most importantly what brings me encouragement is my relationship with Christ. I try to make sure that everything that I do and say reflects his image. I try to be more like him every day and in being more like him every day gives me the opportunity to learn more and more about myself. My life scripture is Philippians 4:6-8: Be anxious for nothing.” The author Paul jumps right in with that command. “Be anxious for absolutely nothing, but in everything with prayer and supplication and thanksgiving present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
He then goes on to say, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Those verses came alive for me when I was at my darkest in depression and anxiety. I really couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. One moment when my anxiety was the worst I had our youngest in the car with me at the time and as I was driving I became so agitated. My blood was rushing. I was sweating. It was almost like an outer body experience.
Our son was so small, he was car seat size. As I’m having this out of body experience, I was coming around this bend and I came too close to a caution sign and I smashed my mirror and the passenger window. There was glass all in the passenger seat and glass was in our son’s car seat, but not once did he get scratched or cut. It was after that experience that I told God I couldn’t let anxiety take over my life. I couldn’t let it rule and control me. God gave me Philippians 4:6-8 and it transformed my life.
Recently, Romans 8: 28 has also really made an impact on me. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” All things meaning every last thing. Everything is all inclusive. I am a firm believer in that promise. Does God cause all things to happen? No, but he does allow all things that occur in our life to work out for our good. I don’t want people to take that out of context and say, well, “God caused that car accident to happen.” No, he didn’t cause it to happen, but something good can definitely come from that accident. God is so sovereign with infinite power, that he takes the negative and turns it around to become positive in our lives.
Thank you for asking Carrie. My book From a Mess to a Miracle launched in January of 2021 but was officially published in August 2020. It’s a story about forgiveness, redemption, and restoration. God took what I created from my life, which was a mess, and turned it into a miracle. In the book I talk about a few things, one being what I call my previous life, my first marriage. I talk about how I was in a space where I thought I was ready for marriage, but quickly realized I wasn’t ready for it at all. I not only hurt myself, but I hurt other people in the process. There were some huge lessons that I had to learn as a result of that experience. I had to forgive myself as well as request forgiveness from others. But God is so sovereign and he is so gracious. He knew all those things would happen, of course. And through Romans 8:28 he took all of that and he presented me with a miracle.
I didn’t want my story to be an all-told tale. That’s not what the goal was. The goal was really to say, “Hey, this is what happened to me and if this is what’s happening or has happened to you, be reassured that Christ is there with you. He has not left. You can be reassured that he can turn what you created as a mess into a beautiful miracle. Be reassured that at the end of the day, he has the final say, and if you surrender yourself to him, your life will be changed.” The goal was to point others to Christ through my experience, the lessons learned, and the work that God did on my behalf so He would get the glory in the end.
Surrender, that’s the key right there. You have to surrender yourself to Him. You can’t ask God to take charge of your life while you’re still trying to take charge of it yourself. You can’t ask God to redeem you for something, you haven’t fully repented and turned away from. You can’t ask God to turn your life around if you’re not ready for a turnaround to happen. You’ve got to sit in that space and really evaluate what it is that’s holding you back. What is keeping you from being fully invested in Christ?
I wanted to encourage women and men that their darkest days aren’t their final days if they are willing to surrender to Christ. There’s also a time of reflection for the reader at the end of every chapter. It gives the reader an opportunity to reflect and see themselves in the story. My book is filled with scripture, biblical character references and is a journey of going through the dark days and coming out on the other side better and not bitter, healed and not holding onto the rubbish that no longer serves you.
Trust God. Trust God when times are dark and when His light shines bright. Trust God on good days and not so good days. Trust God when you’re confused because he’s not a God of confusion.. Trust God when you find yourself by yourself because he never leaves us nor will he forsake us. Trust God even when you don’t trust yourself because he knows us better than we know ourselves. God is the one constant in our lives, right? He still makes good on his promises. He is the same yesterday today, and will forever be God, so trust God.
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