Jeff and Susan Whisnant don’t see their namesake Southern Gospel group as a career. It’s a ministry. For them, there’s nothing better than pointing others to Jesus.
Ministering to others has been a way of life for Jeff and Susan ever since they were children. Jeff grew up singing with his mom, dad, and siblings, touring as The John Whisnant Family. And as a pastor’s daughter, Susan began singing for her father’s revival meetings at 12 years old.
The two met in 1986 when their family groups performed together in South Carolina. It took a year for the two singers to begin dating, but once they did, Susan joined Jeff’s family group, and the two have been inseparable in ministry ever since. Still driven by a deep love for the Lord, they now tour and make music as the Whisnants with their two sons, Austin and Ethan, as well as Aaron Hise.
“It’s always a blessing to be able to see people encouraged who were so close to giving up and throwing in the towel,” Susan says.
“There are times we’ll come in Monday, tired from a long weekend, and we’ll get an email saying, ‘I was in your service this weekend, and you have no idea what I was going through, but something you said and one of your songs was exactly what I needed.”
Ministry Beyond the Stage
As much as Jeff and Susan love to point people to Jesus through song, much of their ministry takes place off the stage. They often minister by talking with people after concerts, encouraging them with truth and Scripture, and offering to pray with them right then and there.
“Almost every week [after our concerts], someone pulls us aside and says, ‘Can I talk to you?’” Jeff says. “And we’ll get to do some one-on-one ministry.”
The reason for ministry is always different. Sometimes it’s because someone’s child has walked away from God, or they’re facing a painful illness, or their marriage is teetering on the brink of divorce. Whatever the specific situation, they’re usually dealing with a broken heart.
“It makes a huge difference when you take just a few moments to minister to somebody in person like that, one on one,” Jeff says. “I’ve seen them walk away—or roll away if they’re in a wheelchair—and their countenance will have changed, knowing somebody cares.”
These one-on-one moments have taught Jeff and Susan that ministry is much more than a scheduled time of encouragement. Opportunities to minister often arise in unexpected moments since heartbreak and tragedy don’t respect human schedules. It is a reminder of what Paul once wrote in 2 Timothy 4:2, “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season.”
Recently, one of Jeff and Susan’s friends lost her son unexpectedly. It turns out he had an enlarged heart, and neither he nor his doctors knew it. He was only 30 years old.
That week, Jeff and Susan sent multiple compassionate and encouraging texts to their friend and offered practical help.
“We try our best to invest in others, whether it’s our time, whether it’s prayer, whether it’s financial, because it’s easy to stand and sing about ministry, but we try to put it in the shoe leather when God gives us an opportunity,” Jeff says.
Another way Susan loves to encourage others is through social media. On platforms brimming with negativity and unbiblical ideas, Christians have the opportunity to take a loving stand for Christ. Even something as simple as posting a Scripture verse or biblical truth can have a big impact.
“I don’t post anything negative on Facebook,” Susan says. “This week, I posted the words ‘Even in the valley, God is good.’ And you wouldn’t believe the people who say, ‘Hey, I needed that this morning.’”
No matter how simple or small they seem, our words and actions have more influence than we realize, especially when we’re empowered by God’s grace. What small steps can you take today to encourage someone else?