A Thought Revisited…

ContemplatingHopefulness

A piece from about a year ago, The Apology I Didn’t Know That I Needed, has come to mind today.  It began when I read Beth Moore’s open letter.   It brought back a lot of thoughts and emotions I’ve had in recent years.  Moore’s letter has been a reverberating conversation among women on and offline.  Some are still afraid to speak up because they fear the repercussions.  The fact that women are even hesitant to speak openly about their feelings should be an indicator of how much work we have to do in this area.

Then, when I read a response from Thabiti Anyabwile that took me right back to that moment last year when two men who had never personally slighted me apologized…

… and how that apology did and still brings me to sobbing tears.

I’m going to step out in a level of open transparency here, that I’ve never done.  Let the consequences be what they may.  If my “official days” in ministry end here, so be it.  The Lord has not fired me yet, and I cling to His promises that whatever may come my way is just another storm that I will have to lean into Him.

Before I entered into ministry, I had a secular job.  In my company, some of my greatest assets and supporters were men.  They recognized my natural gifting for leadership, my gifts of administration, and they appreciated how my mind worked.  They took me through the ranks, taught me what they had learned over years of experience, and set me loose in our corporate world.  To this day, I still think back fondly of these men who fashioned me into a better leader than I could have ever imagined.

These guys, they didn’t need me to get a certain number of years of experience under my belt.  They recognized my potential and developed it, intentionally.  To this day, I remain the youngest person to ever be promoted to level in which I achieved (before leaving work to raise my daughters) and the fastest to promote through these levels.  My last promotion came when one of our Vice Presidents came into our location and decided to hold his conference call in my managers office.  He called in everyone of us who had promoted into middle management to sit in on the call.  When it was over, he asked for feedback on what we heard in the call.  He welcomed our ideas and criticisms.  I was one two women in the office among about 10 men.

When I spoke, he listened.  Not that he agreed with everything I had to say, but I could tell that this was more than just obligatory hearing of words.  He truly listened to what I had to say.  The meeting was concluded and we all went back to our departments. Thirty minutes later, I was called into the office.  I was offered an immediate promotion, significant salary increase, benefits, annual bonus, and so on.  I was only twenty years old.

In two weeks time, I moved to a new location for training.  By the end of my training, they asked me to stay on at that location and be responsible for training new managers coming into the position.  I was responsible for hundreds of thousands of dollars in inventory, daily sales, and a team of over 150 people under my management.  I’ve hired people, fired people, and developed future leaders in the company.  I’ve written training manuals for positions I have held with them.  In a field dominated by men, I could have never reached the level I did without their support, encouragement, and their investment in me.  I learned and gained more from my time there than I probably ever could repay.

The Lord took me on a new journey.  After having our children, I began to invest my time and gifts into ministry.  Over the years my involvement with ministry grew deeper and resulted in my returning to school for a Divinity degree.  I’m thankful that the Lord has always pressed me forward in ministry, made a path for me to take, and walked alongside me when the road was rough.

And ministry has been rough.

In twenty years of ministry service, I have never been paid a dime.  I’ve never been “on staff”, nor even invited to a ministry staff meeting despite leading a ministry in the church.  I’ve never led in a ministry that has significant financial support, and quite often had zero financial support.  If you have attended an event that I have planned, more than likely the money came out of my own pocket to cover the costs.  I counted it as an offering to the church, and gave gladly.  I’m not complaining, I’m just stating the facts.

What ministries have I led in, you might wonder?

The majority of the last twenty years has been serving in Women’s Ministry.  A ministry that aims to serve at least half (if not more) of the church.  If you know me, you’ll know that despite being a “volunteer” leader… I’m giving full time hours to the cause.  I’m reading articles, researching trends.  I attend conferences, buy books, invest in resources… all of which is at my own expense.

And despite my devotion and dedication to serving women, it has been nothing but a struggle.  A struggle for funding.  A struggle for using space.  A struggle to have the Women’s Ministry seen as equally valuable as Youth Ministry, College Ministry, Children’s Ministry, etc.   A struggle to lead without being micromanaged and mistrusted.  A struggle against worries of being accused of usurping or being a Jezebel.

I came from a place in the secular world, where as a leader I was trusted with so much… to a world of ministry where I felt like I would never be trusted with anything.  A secular world, where I could find a new job or move into new positions with ease… to a world of ministry where finding a job that would hire me as a woman was like finding a unicorn.  A secular world where those who were higher up were interested in my education, background, and experience… to a world of ministry where no one even cared to ask.

It is hard to move from a place where you are implicitly trusted to one where you feel for every one step forward you make you get pulled two steps behind.

The truth is, I’ve been hurt in ministry.  I just hadn’t realized how much so until that day last year when Hunter from Serge apologized to me, when Pastor Sandy Willson apologized to us as a group.  It is incredibly hard to be an educated, equipped, woman gifted for leadership in the world of ministry.  When you are constantly told from the pulpit how much value you have to the Lord and His kingdom work… so long as your calling is Children’s Ministry, Coffee/Bagel Ministry, VBS, and working in the nursery.

I had thought these experiences were unique to myself.  However in the last umpteen months I’ve learned that this is not the case.  I’ve listened to women share how they were dismissed from their volunteer position because the church could finally afford to pay someone to do that job and hired a man.  Do you have any idea how that feels to be told that you are only valued for the free work you do, but not enough to get paid to do the same job?  It doesn’t feel good.

You can’t imagine how I felt when a Pastor, at my suggestion of using women in the church to share the load of responsibilities that were overwhelming him, said to me:

“The greatest gift the women in my church can give me is to serve their husbands and children.”

What about the women who don’t have children or are not married?  What about the women who are capable of managing their homes and serving in ministry?  How dismissive.  What an assumption that women can’t lead in ministry and serve the Kingdom at the same time?  This may have been the first time I was speechless in my life.

I’ve known to many women accused of having a Jezebel spirit or being divisive for standing up for themselves (their calling) and their ministry.  I’ve known too many women who have had their gifts and callings dismissed.  I’ve known too many women who have sat quietly despite their experience and education, simply because they knew better than to speak up.  I’ve watched churches hire men from other states when there were women in the body who could not only do the work, but even needed the income the job would provide.

To come from a world where I was trusted to oversee so much and into a world where I seemingly can be trusted with anything (for no other reason than my gender), it is incredibly saddening… and frustrating.  Women with strong leadership skills are seen as difficult and controlling, yet men with those same leadership qualities would be considered assertive and driven.

And, I think what hit me so hard about Beth Moore’s open letter was this…

If Beth Moore feels silenced, what hope is there for me?  If Beth Moore is still fighting against all of these things, what hope is there for me?  If Beth Moore has been afraid to speak up, what hope is there for me?

If the few women in the world of ministry that actually do have any real significant influence are speaking this way… what can ever change for me?  For my churches?  For my community?  For the Women’s Ministry leaders whom I serve?

If they are not even willing to listen to Beth Moore, what hope will I ever have of getting Pastors to hear my heart for Women’s Ministry?  My deep desire to disciple women, intentionally?  My calling to do Women’s Ministry differently than the preconceived notions they have in the mind of days past?  Can they even hear that?  Do they even want to?  Is it possible?

I realized the number of times over the years I have had to defend myself to people because I support Women’s Ministry.  The number of times I have had to caveat a point I was making on leadership with a disclaimer that I don’t desire nor feel called to the pulpit.  Why should I have to give a disclaimer about myself in order to speak about ministry leadership?

Why?  For the very reasons Moore states in her open letter.  For the very things that Anyabwile apologizes for in his response.  Because this is the every day battle of a woman in ministry leadership.  Moore’s letter reminded me that the wounds of ministry leadership for women are still pretty raw (even if there is healing happening).  Anyabwile’s response was another apology from someone who never slighted me… but yet I needed to hear.

And, that is the hope for me.  The hope that as more people speak up, that more change can happen.  Hope that our 30% of seminary graduates that are women will have jobs in ministry.  Hope that when jobs open at local churches that they would not only welcome but seek applications from women.  Hope that Women’s Ministry would be seen as equally valuable as other ministries in the church.  Hope that our leaders and staff would recognize the gifts of women and intentionally develop and implement those gifts into their church.

For me to have such hope, it means that I too much be willing to speak on the subject.  I can’t let Beth Moore be the only chicken willing to be fried.  We can’t let a few voices speak up and take all the heat, but instead be willing to speak up as well.  In doing so we illustrate the real scope of the problem we need to address, the hurdles we must overcome.

The more I look into the broad picture of leadership in the Scriptures, the less exclusive it appears to be.   The deeper I dig, the more I learn about the women that God trusted … that Jesus taught… the disciples co-labored with.  We can’t toss aside the gifting and anointing of half the body, or try to force those gifts into a small segment of volunteer positions in the church that we have decided are “ok” for women.

There is so much work to be done, so many people to reach, so many to serve, why are we handicapping ourselves?

So, I write this fully expecting to be added to the list of heretics and false teachers by the critics.  If you would have asked me twenty years ago if I expected this moment, I would tell you there was no way.  Yet, here I am.  Sharing the truth of my experiences (really a fraction of it), and a willingness to be part of change and growth.  For years I was in the camp of stay and pray.  I’ve prayed for change, I served outside of my calling in order to be supportive, and truly thought that this was the right pathway.

But today, after conversations and reflections… it’s a time to speak up.

We, the women who have been hurt, still love the church… local and global.  We still love our church leaders and church family.  We have been praying a long time.  We are still praying.  We will not stop praying.  Our hearts have not been bent from our mission and calling, we await the opportunity to use it in it’s fullness.

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Chronicling 40: Day 89 of 365

awakenReally excited to start off a new devotion, and to do this along with some other local ladies.

It’s been a while since I’ve led or participated this kind of a group, as I’ve been busy leading other projects.

We must feed our soul, nourish ourselves with the Word and in fellowship with other believers.

If you are a leader, you can sometimes forget to feed yourself.  Sometimes, as a leader, we need to be a part of a group instead of leading it.  It helps us remember what it is like to be a participate and gives us a glimpse of a perspective we may have lost over all the years of leading.  Sometimes it feels good to be just “one of the girls” instead of the lady in charge.

So, instead of leading an official study group, we’ve come together for “Conversations and Coffee” where we are going to share how the devotion is impacting us, how these words each day are driving us to a deeper relationship with the God who speaks.

Center Stage

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It was nearly twenty five years ago, that I walked into a new theatre class.  The instructor had everyone begin physical warm ups, followed by vocal warm ups.  He began an exercise where we were supposed to move around the room, walking … running… skipping… dancing… any movement we chose, and he would pop up from behind us and ask us questions about ourselves.

What is your favorite color? 

Who do you love more your mother, or your father?

Why are you in this class?

What kind of car do you drive?

All very random.  An exercise to help us feel the ease of answering some questions versus the difficulty of others.  How did answering change the way we moved across the room as we answered?  How did answering change our body mannerisms, our vocal tone?  Then he asked this poor girl…

Why do you want to be an actress?

She replied:  I want to be famous.  I want people to know who I am.

He told her to leave his classroom, this class was for serious actors only.

I thought her answer said so very much more.  It spoke to me of a girl with insecurities, looking for validation in success.  Famous would mean that her work was good.  Famous would mean she was known, respected, seen.  Famous would mean that she was not being looked over any longer.  She was fragile. And yet, she was brave.  I believe a lot can be said for her honest answer, even if the teacher didn’t see it.  I saw it.

I have loved the theatre and performing as far back as I can remember.  It all began in a Kindergarten Circus.  We built costumes, putting on a show for our family members and other students.  It was amazing.  I received such accolades for my lion costume, my teacher took me around to the other teachers to show off my curly mane constructed from several shades of brown construction paper.  I was an excellent lion.  Years later, I was an excellent snobby heiress.  Many years later, I received my first newspaper review for a stunning performance… followed by one that identified me as hilarious.

As much as I have loved the on stage aspects of theatre, I have always had a special affinity for the backstage happenings.  Planning, staging, building sets, lighting design, costume construction, special effects make up.  I’ve directed more shows than I have been cast in, received recognition and awards for my work.  Yet, one of the most valuable things I’ve taken away from all of these experiences came from the moment I understood what that teacher really meant when he sent that student out of his classroom.

I can tell immediately when someone “belongs on the stage”.  There is something about them that feels natural, at home, on the stage.  I can tell when someone doesn’t belong too.  Sometimes, they were cast because they looked the part but lacked the talent.  Other times they wanted to be in the show for the attention, but lacked the commitment to the part.  I’ve even seen incredibly talented actors look so out of place on the stage simply because their passion was something incredibly different.

You can be good at something, but that doesn’t mean it is your passion or calling.  You can be terrible at something, but forced into that position to fill a void or because someone else thinks you are perfect for the role.  You can even thrust yourself into the fray because you think it will give you what you are looking for, but your attempts are misguided.  This student was told to leave the class because she was looking for attention and validation, and the teacher knew it would never happen.  He knew that she was throwing herself into the shark infested waters, hoping that her talent would save her.  He knew that throngs of people, critics, and the industry would eat her alive.

I thought he was cruel that day.  Now, I see him as being merciful.  As I think about her now, I remember we shared another class a few years later.  She was different, more confident in herself.  I’m not sure what happened after she walked out of that first class… but this was not the same girl.  If I had to take an educated guess, it would be that her motives changed.

Now I am in a different “industry”, filled with writers, speakers, and ministry leaders.  In the last six months, I have had multiple people tell me they feel called to writing, public speaking, etc.   I often find myself asking (in my head) as similar questions as my old teacher.

Why do you want to write?  Why do you want to speak at events, conferences?

Why are you moving toward center stage?

We must examine our own motives and desires.

Are we putting Christ center stage, or ourselves?

Are we sharing our words, opinions, perspectives or God’s truth?

Do we want people to look at us, see us, validate us?  Or, are we giving God the spotlight acting as His humble messenger?

If we enter a public arena with faulty motives, we are throwing ourselves in among the shark hoping that our gifts will save us from the feeding frenzy.  However, when our motives are in line with God’s desires then He is given center stage.  We don’t have to rely on our gifts to save us, because we have already been saved.  Our joy comes in sharing not our own selves with the world, but instead sharing the life changing power of Jesus Christ.

Book Tour! Day 8 – Leadership Promises

Welcome to my 10 Day Book Tour.  I love to read, and I am often given books to read for review.  Over the last year, I determined that I didn’t want to turn my blog into a book review site.  However, I can’t help that I LOVE books.  I truly do.  They add so much value to my life, because I learn from them and glean new perspectives from the authors who put their hearts to the page.  So, I’ve decided that each quarter, I’m going to do a 10 Day Book Tour.  What have I been reading, what do I honestly think about the book, and to whom I would recommend it.  Each day, for ten days, you will get a peak into my bookshelf.

I received a copy of Leadership Promises for Every Day, Daily Devotional by John C. Maxwell for the purpose of reviewing.  My thoughts and opinions are my own.

DAY EIGHT:  LEADERSHIP PROMISES FOR EVERY DAY by John C. Maxwell

Leaders really do need to be encouraged.   Leaders, good ones, are constantly pouring out into others.  We can’t pour out of an empty vessel, so leaders need to have someone who is pouring into their lives.  This isn’t always easy though, especially if you happen to the be at the top of the ministry ladder.  I love this devotional, where John C. Maxwell pours a daily dose of scripture and leadership wisdom into my life.

I’ve enjoyed the book so much, I have in turn found myself giving it as a gift to other leaders.  I would have preferred a “Day 1”, “Day 2″… format over a calendar dated format.  But, that may be my OCD talking… because despite flipping through it… I literally waiting until January 1st to official start using it.

Additionally, I get a lot of great feedback from those who received it as a gift.  Which really spurs me on to continue gifting it, knowing that it’s not just me… but various leaders who are benefiting from these devotions. 

Recommendations:  Pastor Appreciation Gift,  Ministry Leader Birthday, Anniversary, or “Just Because” gift, Speaker Gifts, etc.

 

Women’s Ministry Resource – #Write31Days

If you are a Women’s Ministry Leader, or thinking of starting one at your church…  there is a great website that is full of resources that may be helpful and an online forum where you can ask questions.   For the next 2 weeks they are offering this free download ebook, with contributions from Women’s Ministry Leaders around the country.

Click on the cover below, and it will take your right to the page to register for the ebook.

wmnetpasotrs

Tend the Orchard – #Write31Days

This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit,

showing yourselves to be my disciples.  John 15:8

Oh, to bear much fruit.  Good fruit.  This is a good thing for the body of believers.  In order to bear much fruit we need a few things to happen.

  • Seeds of the Word planted in good, fertile soil.
  • Daily exposure to the Son.
  • Nourishment through the Living Waters.

Our roots grow deep in the word, our tender shoots are fostered the God and the Pastors who lead the church we sit in from week to week.   We grow stronger, and then it is time for us to begin bearing good fruit, much fruit, and fruit that is long lasting.

Whether you are leading a church, a women’s ministry, or a small group… you will have an impact on how much fruit your members produce.

A careless orchardist will trim back the trees too far, which can limit their growth, limit their fruit, and even kill the tree.

A good orchardist will know how to trim to tree in a way that will encourage growth, foster repeated burst of fruit, and tend to the tree so that it continues to produce fruit for many years to come.

A few years ago, a woman I know approached a Pastor.  She had a gift and talent, and she wanted use it in her church.  He didn’t spend anytime talking with her about her offer, he responded swiftly:  “We don’t do that here. Thanks for offering.”

This past summer, I was speaking with a Pastor about the role of women’s ministry in the church.  As I shared my view on the need for women’s ministries to come up along side the Pastor’s vision, he placed his hand on my shoulder and said:  “What I want the women in my church to do, to help me the most, is to serve their husband and children well.”

A man I know spent years evangelizing on the streets of his city.  By the time he moved to a new city, he had gotten wrapped up in life, and a bit complacent.  After attending a men’s conference, he was convicted of his lukewarm Christianity and was ready to step back up to the plate.  He met with his new Pastor, confessed his complacency, and said he wanted to serve in the church.  The Pastor didn’t even take a moment to learn about this man’s background, but instead responded:  “No, brother.  Let us serve you.” 

I’ve listened to women share ideas at Women’s Ministry meetings only to have their suggestion dismissed for a myriad of reasons.  A leader who can’t see the value others can add to the ministry, looking for workers to do her bidding vs. Kingdom work.  Dismissing ideas without even listening to them in entirety.  Dismissing people who want to serve without knowing their background, credentials, or heart to serve.

In the last several years, I have spoken with many men and women who have stepped up to the plate to bear fruit, only to be trimmed back sometimes to the point of death of their dream or calling.  A person can only be rejected so many times before they stop offering.  A person can only be dismissed so many times before they stop feeling valuable.

The Bible tells us that every believe is given gifts, fruit bearing gifts.  These gifts will vary, and how they will be used will vary as well.  A leaders we have a responsibility to help those we lead identify their gift, develop that gift, and find a place to serve with that gift.

Not just some believers, but all believers.  That means when a Pastor looks over his podium to the 50 people or 5,000 people who are in his flock… each person has a gift to bear fruit.  If your body is not bearing fruit, it’s imperative to determine WHY.  If you are leading a Women’s Ministry of 15 women or 150 women, and your ladies are not bearing fruit, there must be a reason.

Before we look out to the faces we serve to place blame, we must examine ourselves as the leaders first.  Am I guilty of dismissing the gifts of service that have been offered to the ministry?  Am I guilty of dismissing people who have sought to step up to the plate and serve? Am I guilty of not recognizing the gifts in all of our members, helping to develop those gifts, and finding a place for those gifts to be used in our church or community?

A tree that has the gift of bearing fruit, can only bear good, plentiful, long lasting fruit if the conditions for this success are met.  If the Lord has planted a good seed in fertile soil, light from the Son, showers of Living Water… the roots will grow.  However, if that tree is continuously neglected by those charged to care for it and trimmed too far back, the fruit will be minimal … if any at all.

40 Under 40 – Nominations Are Open

4040camp

WomensMinistry.net has begun a campaign to celebrate 40 Women’s Ministry Leaders under the age of 40, who are making impact in their community and churches through their Women’s Ministry leadership.

Click on the Forty Under 40 image above, and you’ll be taken to the nomination process.