In almost every church I have attended, the same invitation comes my way… Children’s Ministry volunteer. If you are a woman, with children, there is some sort of natural assumption that you will serve in this area. I’ve always been surprised by how quickly the invitation comes. In some cases it comes too quickly.
I remember once being asked if I was interested in volunteering as a Sunday School teacher on my very first visit. We had just moved to a new city, we knew absolutely no one, and this was just one of several churches we were visiting as we tried to find a new church home. No one knew me, my history, my experience. I was a woman, who had children, and that was enough.
I recall when a member of church leadership found out that I had a theatre background, the natural invitation was for me to direct the Children’s Christmas Program. There was a day that some church leaders, their wives, and volunteers were having a casual lunch and talking church business. As I passed by, I heard one of the wives chime in that “anyone who has children in the Children’s Ministry should have to volunteer a set number of days per year.”
Does Being a Woman Mean I am Gifted For Children’s Ministry?
Somewhere we have gotten the notion that just because a person is a woman, that she must have a natural inclination toward children in general. Even more so, if she has children herself. That being a woman and a mother, in and of itself, defines her ministry gifting toward childcare, the church nursery, and volunteering in the Children’s Ministry. As women and families join our church, we automatically funnel the women right through those doors. We make this decision before we even learn anything about them, what their gifts are, and how they feel called to serve.
Where Do I Belong? How Do I Serve Here?
If you are not serving in Children’s Ministry, usually the next stop is Worship Ministry. Can you sing? Play an instrument? I see this assumption more often among women who have grown up in the church. If this is not your calling either, then you are usually left with just a few options… making the coffee & bagels on Sunday morning, greeting people at the door, bringing meals to the sick, and secretarial duties. Perhaps there is an opportunity to lead a Bible Study or participate in the Women’s Ministry.
When you attend a larger church, and statistics suggest that half or more of the church is made up of women, there are only so many people who can fill these roles. This leaves quite a few women with no place to serve. And, with these roles being routine (greeting at the door, handing out the bulletins, putting out bagels), there are some women who don’t feel that their gifts and talents are best used here.
What Happens When I Don’t Serve With My Gifts
In a book I recently read, Church Refugees, this was a common problem among those who had been long term, dedicated, serving leaders that ultimately led to leaving their church. Even though they had been serving for decades, they never felt as if they were serving in their actual gifted areas. Instead, they just felt like warm bodies plugged in to an empty spot because they were dependable. Many felt that their offers to start a ministry, or attempts to build up an existing ministry, were hindered. There was no place for them grow, nor trust to allow them to lead, despite their years of dedication.
What Does This All Mean?
- We shouldn’t assume that just because a person has a particular gender, that automatically means they are good at a stereotypical area of ministry. Some men can be stellar in Children’s Ministry, and some women may not be.
- We should take time to learn about the gifts and talents of the women who join our churches. We shouldn’t look at new members as warm bodies to fill empty spots. Instead, we should learn about their education, skills, job, gifts, talents, and callings. Then, find areas in the church that allow them to serve and use these gifts and talents.
- Don’t discount a person’s ministry calling because you don’t see how it fits into the church vision or the immediate need. Spend time talking with her about what this ministry calling looks like, pray over whether or not this ministry is something that can be supported by the church. Just because you don’t personally see the need, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
- If there is not a place in the church specifically that can use this person’s gift, consider if your church is connected to a local ministry that could. If this is a woman with leadership skills, consider organizations that may be hiring or looking for volunteers.
- Have a very clear view on where women can serve in the church, help disciple women in those leadership positions, and trust the women to lead well. If she can run a fortune 500 company, I am certain she is capable of leading a Women’s Ministry too.
I saw this tweet the other day, in regard to women in the church. I think it is a great place to leave off today’s post:
“Without you, the church is missing half of it’s voice, half of it’s gifting, half of it’s mission and ministry.” Scott Lencke