Chronicling 40: Day 60 of 365

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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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3.  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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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

 

 

 

 

 

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Chronicling 40: Day 59 of 365

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I just want to take a moment to be perfectly clear about my intentions, as we travel this road together.  I am not a woman who is afraid of conversation, nor do I expect everyone to agree with me.  My intentions as I give examples, share experiences, and even my opinion is NOT to do anything more than to challenge thought.

There are some areas where I am still learning and developing my opinions, which you may watch me flesh out on these pages.  I welcome respectful conversation, however challenging it may be.  Not everyone will agree with me, or see things from my perspective.  I am okay with that, after all who am I?  I am no final authority.  I’m willing to admit I am wrong, or see another well expressed perspective.

I only ask that if you are going to present that argument, do so with your evidence.  Give me the scripture, quote the author/speaker/etc that you heard it from.  Any talking down, accusations, etc are unwelcome because they are not helpful.  Real discussion and learning comes from sharing information, and opinions coupled with the explanation of how we came to that opinion.

One thing that I see happen often when anyone talks about women in leadership, is this weird posse that shows up accusing her of being a pulpit stealing Jezebel.  So let me set this fact in stone:  I do not seek a pulpit.  I do not feel called to be a Pastor, never have.  Nothing about what the Lord has laid before me indicates that there is any chance of me heading in that direction either.  Therefore, should I choose to delve into that specific topic it will be done from a neutral stance not a self serving one.

I’m going to explore a lot about leadership, past to present.  I will probably dream a little about what leadership for women will look like in the future.  This topic will cover leadership in the professional (secular) world and in the realm of ministry.  I’ll discuss it in theory, as well as share the practical side of it too.

My purpose will not be to tear down anyone (or any gender), but instead to tear apart to topic and dissect to it’s core… in order to better understand it.  How do we know how to keep a healthy body?  Because we learn how the body works, what does it need to survive at an optimal way, what causes it harm, etc.  Same goes for leadership, we need to understand it at the core in order to understand what works and what doesn’t.  This includes really understand what the Bible says about leadership in general, as well as in regard to specific genders.

I hope you are not willing to just come along for this ride, but be a part of the conversation… genuinely.   Reading to understand, not reading to build an argument.  Sharing facts, scripture, quotes, etc to support your stand.  Having conversations with those around you, outside of this blog to see it in real practical life experiences.

My hypothesis:  things are not as black and white, one way or another, as they appear.

Chronicling 40: Day 58 of 365

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Leadership for women is a very weird space.  The majority of our training as leaders come from men, our teachers have mostly been men, and most of the leadership books are written by men.  How many leadership books (secular or ministry related) are written by women for leading women?  Not many.  Much of what is out there is outdated, and the newer books are not exactly being promoted to us.  In fact, of the ones I personally know of… most I learned about at a national women’s conference and one was from an article on Huffington post.  How many women do you know going to leadership conferences each year?  Few.

This means that majority of our women who are leading in the world learned their skills from men who have led before them.  Which is not a bad thing, please not that I’m not seeing this as a negative thing.  I’ve learned many great things from men who were willing to invest in me as a leader. But, I want to share something that happened recently.

I was interviewing for a job in a ministry position that would oversee women, and I was asked by one of the Pastors to share what I saw as one of my weaknesses.  I was very honest, and shared that my leadership style is more akin to men due to the influences I have had in my life.   I tend to be more direct and don’t always meander around subjects like women are accustomed to.  The Pastor asked me how I would respond to someone who questioned my aggressive leadership style.

I thought that was interesting, when I shared as a woman that I led more like a man… this was seen as aggressive.  Whereas if a man shared the same attributes, would he be called aggressive?  Or, as my friend Faith suggested would they have seen it as assertive.

This is the battle the women face in leadership, if we are too strong or direct, we are considered bossy or even called a Jezebel.  They forget that Deborah was a strong leader.  She wasn’t just a judge, but a military leader.  We lift up the Proverbs 31 woman as a great wife and mother, and we often forget that she was also a business woman and investor… a woman of leadership and wisdom.  Her hospitality and demeanor were of humility, and yet she laughed in the face of the days to come because she did not fear what ever would come.  She feared only the Lord.

Yesterday, I watched a broadcast of an interview with two women who are leaders in their church.  The interview was conducted by a gentleman who was part of the staff of a seminary, and at the end of the interview he invited members of the audience to ask questions.  One of the audience members asked the panel about how men in church leadership could better encourage and support women in the church who felt called into leadership.

The first thing I noticed was the body language that changed.  The majority of the audience was men who were or planned to be in church leadership.  Until this point the women were very relaxed speaking about the roles, giving advice to women looking to a future in leadership, discussing their struggles and successes.  Now, they were a bit more tense and their body language no longer implied ease but instead much more guarded.

The second thing I noticed was how they were suddenly more cautious about how they spoke, and what words they chose.  They tip toed around the topic carefully.  Their responses were far more crafted and nuanced, careful to filter every word and thought.   You could tell that they were struggling between what they wanted to say and how to say it in a manner that would be better received.

Why must this be so?

What I appreciated, however, was that one of the women brought attention to it for the audience to notice.  Essentially, she said that if the audience didn’t realize it… the women were being very cautious about what they said, and how they said it.  She pointed out that they were filtering their responses and this was something women have been cultivated to do.  And that being aware of this, was the first key.  Create an environment where the women don’t need to do so.  That would be a huge first step in building a good support system.

In the past, I think women were grateful to get leadership positions and thus were very careful to not rock the boat and lose what took so long to achieve.  Now, I think women are looking for permission to lead to their fullest ability.  No need to filter, no need to carefully craft words, and meander around subjects.  Instead, to be treated with the same respect a male colleague would receive.  Allow women to lead in the manner in which God gifted them.  Some will have a gentler approach, as they guide others.  Some will carry much more of an authoritative stance, as they build and lead organizations and ministries.

I believe that the Lord placed me in the pathway of the men who influenced my leadership skills because I needed to learn from them.  The skills they have taught me have been invaluable to the ministry work that I am in now.  I see their fingerprints in so much of what I do, and I know that the Lord orchestrated every step of my path for this calling.

We need not discount the gifts of women, but embrace them.  The harvest is plenty, but the workers are few.  Do we cut the workers in half?  Do we cut our army in half?  Or, do we come together and serve the Kingdom united in our cause?