Pastor Nell Smith Ward talks ministry, new music, and the regimen that keeps her going

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever

Pastor Nell Smith Ward

Pastor Nell Smith Ward has been preaching since the tender age of three and singing nearly as long. From then til now, “Little Nell,” as she is better known, has graced platforms with numerous notables including Pastor Shirley Caesar, Dr. Bobby Jones, Beverly Crawford, and Dr. Maya Angelou. In 2018, she took social media by storm when Facebook footage of her wedding serenade (Jason Nelson’s “Forever”) to husband Bishop Timothy Ward went viral. As of April 2022, the video is at 733,000 views and counting.

From humble beginnings as the young preaching machine and singer-musician who served at Miracle Center Holiness Church, founded by her mother Overseer Cora Smith, God birthed Living Waters Christian Church (presently based in Zebulon, NC) in 2000. She remains the pastor alongside her husband. In our GMF Q&A, Pastor Ward chats about the early days of her ministry, her new music project, and how she brings balance into her life in the midst of ongoing demands.

Describe Pastor Nell Smith Ward in three words.

Passionate, fair, loving.

You started preaching when you were three and ran your first revival at age six. I’m sure many people were fascinated to hear about you. Do you remember what that first revival experience was like for you and possibly for those who attended? 

Yes, I remember my first revival. It was in Henderson, NC at the Jesus House of Prayer. They had to build a stool for me to stand on top of for the people to see me. People would come from miles around to hear me. My mom, Overseer Cora Smith, was there, as well as Sister Doris Busby, Donald Morgan, and Julia Johnson, my aunt. I was a sweet little girl who wanted to pray for everyone. The people were excited to see a child used by God. The churches were packed from wall to wall. I wasn’t afraid or shy. I knew my calling even back then. 

When and how did you recognize singing to be a part of your ministry?

At the age of eight. I remember when my dad came home from work and he said, “Nell, I leave for work [and] you’re singing. I come home, you’re singing.” I knew I had a gift right then and there.

Tell us all about your latest project, It’s Your Time.

This is a 20-year project in the making. I started this journey over 20 years ago. It wasn’t easy. I kept on preaching and singing and pastoring Living Waters. Yes, I had to wait on the Lord – wait on his timing – and now it’s my time! 

That’s certainly a fitting album title for your journey. What is your favorite track on the new album?

“Holy Ghost”! [And it’s] because I see how the power of God changed my life and it changes the lives of so many people. I love every song on the album. WOW! This is a hard choice.

Speaking of “Holy Ghost,” you reached back and got that classic from Rev. Milton Brunson and The Thompson Community Singers’ There Is Hope album. Why did you decide to make it part of yours?

When I was praying about the songs for the album, I started thinking about a place and time in my life. Childhood times came back to my memory. Hanging out with my cousin Darrell Johnson, he would play Rev. Milton Brunson’s music. We would listen to the album over and over again. It was a happy place in my life, so that’s why I chose that song. 

Don’t say it’s an unfair question (smile), but between singing and preaching, which is your favorite to do?

Preaching is, but singing is too. I can’t choose. They go hand-in-hand with my type of ministry.

You’ve been doing both practically all your life. In a time when we see pastors, preachers, and others in ministry experiencing burnout, what, in addition to your relationship with God, keeps you going?

Prayer keeps me going; having faith and trust in God. I’ve learned to live my life being dependent on Jesus! Staying focused on my assignment and saying “no” to some things is one way to keep your sanity as well. You can’t be everything to all people. Let God be God, and you’ll get through it.


Pastor Ward wants you to know the single “Holy Ghost” is available on all major digital platforms.