I have always felt called to equipping women to lead, and lead well. Early on there were those who thought I would become a teacher, but to me that wasn’t exactly the right fit. I spend my days working in a ministry that focuses on equipping women to be more effective leaders in ministry.
Can I tell you how hard that can be, in a time where women have been told they can be anything BUT a ministry leader. (I’m not even talking about being a Pastor, which is another conversation for another day). I’ve sat in rooms with women who can’t even teach or lead other women through a Bible study. Once, I was speaking with a Pastor about utilizing the women in his church more and help take some of the burden off the shoulders of the staff. He replied to me: “The best thing a woman in my church can do to help me is to take care of her husband and children.”
As if women are incapable of doing more than one thing at a time, or that their family will suffer from their ministry leadership. It was truly heartbreaking. Not all men are this way, not all Pastors are this way. But I have been quite shocked as to how many are, and that it is not limited to a particular denomination, age, or region.
Not that long ago, women were told that they couldn’t. Couldn’t go to college. Couldn’t be a doctor. Couldn’t hold a job once they were married.
In the late 90’s I worked with a young woman from Haiti. She was one of my most dependable employees. Always on time, always willing to stay late to get work done. Never an error in her work, but she moved a little slower than the rest of the world. She was precise and methodical. On a few occasions, based on conversations, I began to wonder if perhaps she had some sort of disability. Even if there was, she was overcoming it and doing a great job.
I remember speaking to her about entering our training program to move up to an hourly manager. The look on her face, was total shock. I told her that I’d be happy to supervise her through the program, even though it meant I’d lose one of my best. She was dumbfounded. As we talked about it, I realized something about this sweet woman…
No one had ever told her that she could.
Not just that she could become a manager, but that she could become anything. Her life was destined to work in our building until she got married (it was an arranged marriage). After marriage, she would have children and be a housewife. That was her future.
No one had ever told her that she had a choice.
She had never even been given the chance to consider the possibilities that life could offer her. That she didn’t have to move from her parents’ home to her husband’s home. That she didn’t have to bear children right away, or at all. That she could not only choose to work for as long as she wanted, but she could also rise in the workplace.
When I see women who try to lead in the church turned away, I see her face.
These beautiful, gifted, women that have so much to offer the church cast aside for no other reason than that they are female. I have seen the defeat in their eyes, heard the disappointment in their voice, when they finally give up trying to fulfill the calling God placed on their lives. They have no energy left to fight the battle, they are weary of praying for change that never comes. They diminish into the back row of pews.
A friend was sharing with me a story about her own church. There was a woman who was a CFO (chief financial officer) for a fortune 500 company who volunteered to serve on the church finance committee. She was turned down because she was a woman. Despite her degree, her position, and years of experience… she was disqualified simply for being a woman. The church felt only men should serve in that capacity.
I can’t wrap my head around that.
So, when you hear me speak up boldly in support of women being encouraged and equipped… this is why.
Someone needs to speak into the void, shine light on this issue. The gifts and talents of women are beyond domesticated chores. The Proverbs 31 Woman is the one most touted about… yes her husband and children call her blessed. Yes, she tends to her household.
She also made goods with her hands that she sold to merchants. Then took her earnings and bought a vineyard.
I’m thinking there is a lot more to her than volunteering in the nursery, greeting people at the door, making the coffee, and setting out the bagels and donuts.