For many years, I have been blessed to stay home with my kids and contribute to my local church and community as a full time volunteer.
What is a full time volunteer? This is someone who is essentially providing a 40 hour work week for no pay. Shows up every week to do their work. For me, this included serving in my local church, my work with Women’s Ministry Council, and serving with other community based ministries and NPOs.
In the last few years, as our family dynamics shifted (my youngest is entering high school, the other two are already graduated), my sights were set on vocational ministry. I had been preparing for this day for many years. First, through education. I completed a ministry degree. Second, through ongoing trainings via conferences, workshops, reading, and the like. Third, I put these two things into practice within the ministries in which I served.
This included writing my book, creating content for this blog, and building up the needed social media platforms to add to my credentials. Eventually expanding to include writing articles or being interviewed by other authors, major magazines/newspapers, podcasts, etc.
For me, this was never about building the big public platform, but actually building up my credibility for when the day would come that I would send out those resumes and seek ministry employment.
The reality is, that I would have been content spending the rest of my life as a Women’s Ministry Leader (or similar position) on staff at a church. I could put the writing aside. I could stop platform building for myself and instead focus on the church and community I was serving. I never wanted to build my own kingdom, but work towards the Kingdom.
Many of my closest counsel were just as confused as I was, every time my attempt for employment was rejected. Of all resumes sent (related to ministry), I have had only 1 official interview. Despite 20 years of dedicated service, a degree, and all the things people told me I needed… it wasn’t enough.
My husband didn’t get it either. He would say things like, “They probably already had someone lined up, and listing the job was just a formality”. Maybe.
As a woman, I realized that there are NOT a lot of jobs open to women in ministry. But there are a LOT of women who are vying for those positions. Too many fish, in too small a pond.
Then an opportunity opened up. I’ll liken it to an internship. I would be educated in the ways of the overall ministry, serving at their events, etc. It was a commitment to two years of prep, without any guarantee that at the end of the term there would be a job, or that if there was a job it would even be full time.
So, I went to someone for advice. I laid out all of the opportunities presented before me, including this one (to which she was part of this ministry).
The first bit of counsel she gave me, I readily received. She said, “What can you say yes to now?” In other words, while there are all of these various things I could be doing in the coming months…. what things could I commit to today?
The second thing she said to me, still stings a bit. “Gena, I don’t think you’ll be satisfied in vocational ministry in the church.” This was the thing I had always desired. This was my goal. Here she was telling me that she didn’t think I would be happy there. She was essentially talking me out of their internship program. Instead, pointing me toward starting up my own ministry in the community to follow my passions.
It was just another ministry rejection. But, for some reason… this really stung.
A volleying of emotions. Feeling either that I was too much or not enough to be in vocational ministry. That all the work, dedication, investment, etc. was literally for nothing. If within this place, that I called home, and served happily… I could be pushed out the doors…. then who else would want me?
It was a really low time period for me. I then made the decision that I would no longer apply to ministries, churches, or NPOs for employment. Instead, I would go back to my roots.
Two immediate interviews. One hired me on the spot. Three weeks later, they were already talking about future advancement within 6 months. Being told that my resume was “impressive” and that I am “much more than this job”.
For the first time in over twenty years, I was being seen and valued for my contributions. Having one of the upper levels asking me if I was happy working there, expressing concern that I might leave.
Also knowing that where ever I go, ministry comes with me. Meaning that the Lord would create opportunities for me to live out my calling where He would lead me… in the church or out. I show up each day, with joy for the work ahead. I’m content.
Yet, I still grieve over what I could have offered to vocational ministry. She was wrong. I could have been more than happy serving in vocational ministry. I would have done that for the rest of my life, in gladness. But, vocational ministry (the church) didn’t want me. Maybe there is a lesson to the church in that.
Or, perhaps God didn’t want me there b/c the lesson was that ministry isn’t a place but a lifestyle. I don’t work IN ministry, I AM ministry.
But, it still hurts a bit.
So, I keep pressing forward.
I love the Lord.
I will serve the people.
I write the words.
I’ll publish the books.
I’m still speaking the message.
He call’s me out.