I didn’t see myself becoming a nurse,” Gretchen Johnson ’01 says, explaining how she graduated with a Human Services degree. “And I thought my trajectory was into social work.”
But her job at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services drew her into “the healing ministry of Christ,” leading to nursing degrees and a doctorate. Now she serves as Chief Nurse Executive—says she loves it—though she calls the past two years the most challenging of her career.
The source of her stress comes as no surprise. When the pandemic hit, most facilities refused to treat psychiatric patients with COVID-19 symptoms. Pine Rest took the opposite approach, hiring more nurses and opening a full COVID-19 unit. Despite the abundant challenges, “I’m still excited to come in every day,” she says. “I love what we do—advocating for those with mental health conditions, making sure that they’re getting good care.”
“I couldn’t be in this kind of job without my family to support me. It can be very demanding, it can be emotionally taxing, it can be stressful. So they’re one hundred percent behind me.”
IF EVERYBODY IS SERVING INSIDE CHURCH, HOW ARE WE REACHING OTHERS?
Along with her husband and daughter, she is active in the ministry of Frontline Bible Church in Byron Center, where her father, John Records ’73, also attends and where her grandfather, David H. Records ’46, formerly served as pastor. Her Grace roots run deep—her grandfather was an early graduate of Milwaukee Bible Institute. And both preceded her on Grace’s board of directors. Given the family story, she downplays her appointment as the first female board chair.
“It was about having the right person in that role, at the right time, for the work that we need to do,” she says. “We have a very engaged board. I’m really proud to serve alongside of my board colleagues.”
And yes, the board’s biggest challenge has been COVID-19, again no surprise. Other hot issues include gender identity, sexual orientation, and “anything where you’re countercultural and standing for biblical truth,” she says.
For Gretchen, it all comes back to mission—“‘graduating godly individuals prepared to serve in church and society.’ And to me, that emphasis on society is huge. If everybody is serving inside church, how are we reaching others?” she asks.
Her reputation for community service was recognized last fall with the Brilliant Team Player award from the West Michigan Woman, an organization of influencers and business professionals.
“Because of where I am and how I serve my community, that part is just so important to me— those careers that are outside of the ministry.”
Which leads to the question that could be asked of any Grace graduate: Are you still in the ministry?
Written by: Kevin Mungons. Kevin is the Backlist Curator at Moody Publishers and a freelance writer