Spiritual Growth and Encouragement for Christian Women

6 Things Women In Ministry Wish Would Be Better Understood

  • Meg Gemelli Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2019 23 May
6 Things Women In Ministry Wish Would Be Better Understood

“The angel spoke to the women, ‘There is nothing to fear here. I know you’re looking for Jesus, the One they nailed to the cross. He is not here. He was raised, just as He said. Come and look at the place where he was placed.

Now, get on your way quickly and tell his disciples, He is risen from the dead. He is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. That’s the message.’The women, deep in wonder and full of joy, lost no time in leaving the tomb.” Matthew 28:5-8

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And so it began...

And so it began...

From that awe-inspiring moment in history when Christ demolished the curse of all mankind, women have been commissioned to share the good news. “Get on your way quickly,” the angel told them.

And what a holy sense of responsibility they must have felt!

For the first time in the history of the world, Jesus forgave, and then entrusted females with both little, and much, during His ministry. It was a ground-breaking privilege. Living under the oppression of their social status in that day, women experienced true freedom in His presence. God beckoned the other half of creation into His revelation, and sent them out into the world to testify in response.

“He came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said…

‘...but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’” Luke 10:38-40, 41-42 (paraphrased)

As a woman both greatly forgiven, and humbly called, I can relate to being moved so powerfully by the wonder of the resurrection, that I too have sat hours at the feet of Jesus. And I’ve lost no time abandoning my personal grave.

Maybe you empathize with Mary, and feel the exhilaration of Bible study and theological conversation. Maybe you’re a woman longing to share the faith alongside brothers in your places of worship, in a way that you have yet to experience. Or perhaps you’re a man who’d like to better understand the ministry calling through the lens of womanhood.

Regardless of each of our stances on females teaching from the pulpit, most of us can agree that men and women share the responsibility of working side-by-side to spread the gospel. Jesus Himself travelled and equipped seventy disciples, not just the twelve—many of whom also happened to be women.

Unfortunately, the hearts of some of our sisters have weakened in the condition of hope-deferred. They long for a seat at the ministry table and experience struggles that may sound foreign to their male peers.

I’d like to invite you into a conversation regarding the experiences of some women in ministry. It’s one meant to encourage, and to make ready a full-bodied, Spirit-led, and diversely-gifted group of workers, both male and female.

Here are six ways that women in ministry would love to be better understood:

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1. For many of us, ministry doesn’t feel like a hobby, but a lifelong call.

1. For many of us, ministry doesn’t feel like a hobby, but a lifelong call.

The hours tend to be long, and the sheer number of needs can feel overwhelming when it comes to loving the church well. And though there seems to be an unspoken, societal agreement that men in leadership should be shouldering all the burden, this statement couldn’t feel farther from the truth within the hearts of women in ministry.

We know you’re tired, guys. And strengthened by the Holy Spirit, we’re ready to do our fair share of the heavy lifting.

We don’t want our brothers to go it alone. Many of us have ambitious ideas and long thought-out dreams. And we’re ready to accept feedback and count it all a blessing, because it means that we’re being treated as full members of the team.

Though roughly 28% of women are likely to volunteer, fewer of them are involved in some type of planning and/or decision-making within the church. For women who are willing to risk like this, ministry isn’t just a hobby, it’s a life calling.

You can trust us when we say, “We’ve got your back."

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2. Finances are also a stress for us, but it’s difficult to ask for compensation.

2. Finances are also a stress for us, but it’s difficult to ask for compensation.

Historically women have tended to be less likely to ask for a raise, and more likely to undervalue their work, (though according to the Harvard Business Review, this trend might be changing.) Ladies also donate higher proportions of our income to charity—volunteering time, resources, and professional skills at higher rates than our male peers.

I share these findings, not in an effort to laud women, but to paint a realistic picture of a church culture that could be assuming men need financial incentives more so than do females. Opportunities for trained women in our society’s professional landscapes are ever widening—though more slowly within the church.

Modern day working women are contributing to their households’ incomes in percentages higher than ever before. And many of their families rely on that support. Financial struggle knows no gender, so women in ministry are grateful for any compensation the church can provide for our work—though it can feel difficult for us to ask.

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3. We love our kids, but we would also love to share children’s ministry responsibilities.

3. We love our kids, but we would also love to share children’s ministry responsibilities.

Childcare, meals, and hospitality-type positions still seem to be a woman’s place in the majority of churches today. We get it—this is a trend that’s been decades and decades in the making. Though numbers vary slightly, it’s estimated that approximately 98% of children’s teachers over the course of their lifetimes will be female.

But in the modern day, the doors to the struggles of the world have been thrown wide open. We’ve never been so educated on the issues happening on the other side of the planet, or even in the state next to us. Women are being called to minister to the homeless, addicted, exploited, hungry, enslaved, and abused members of society in droves.

We love our children and we care deeply about their spiritual formation, but many of us also long for men to partner with us to make it happen. Researchers cite that it isn’t a woman’s religious belief or participation that’s most likely to inspire the next generation to remain steadfast in faith, but discipleship by men.

Women called to ministry are ready and able to help in a variety of ways. But based on this knowledge, kids care might not always be the best assignment. 

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4. We want to support and work alongside our brothers, but feel awkward regarding issues that are often beyond our control.

4. We want to support and work alongside our brothers, but feel awkward regarding issues that are often beyond our control.

I ran into a fellow ministry friend while running errands a few months ago. “I miss seeing you at church, girl!” I said to her with a hug. “What have you been up to?”

There was an awkward pause, and she asked with a frown, “You honestly want to know?”

“Sure,” I responded with a nod. She took a deep breath before speaking, “It’s sounds crazy, but we’ve been visiting other churches…I stopped volunteering.”

Having sensed my surprise, she continued, “When I was at the office decorating or planning, the girls had to stay until the last one of us finished. The guys sort of avoided us, you know, with our ‘meetings happen with the door open’ and ‘never be alone with the opposite sex’ rule, which I totally get. I felt like you’d understand, or I wouldn’t have said anything.

But it was really uncomfortable, like I did something wrong. I always dressed well and had professional boundaries. And some of the family issues we had in kids care needed to be discussed behind closed doors—not where everybody could hear the gossip. It seemed like my being there caused more tiptoeing around for the male staff than what it was worth, so I stepped down. I couldn’t do it anymore.”

In light of the “me too” era, and with an often painful awareness of our femininity, women in ministry understand the delicate nature of working well together in a church setting. But sometimes we feel awkward and pushed aside due to circumstances beyond our control. We feel driven to carry out God’s will, and long to be seen as fellow workers on a mission, instead of extra circumstances to work around, or “sin waiting to happen.”

We want nothing more than to work comfortably alongside our brothers in Christ, and feel sad and lonely when awkwardness or insecurity gets in the way of teamwork.

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5. Many of us deeply crave intellectual engagement (especially in motherhood).

5. Many of us deeply crave intellectual engagement (especially in motherhood).

Becoming the mother of young children was one of the most difficult transitions I’ve personally experienced. Please don’t misconstrue my admission—I loved motherhood, and still do! I was a stay-at-home-mom for years, and all the while, struggled to reign in an extremely active mind teeming with ideas, what-if’s, and possible contributions when it came to ministry.

In my experience, women with young children were often seen as too busy to minister with any depth of commitment. We were encouraged to care for children, plan meals and social events, and pray, among other things, but our brains felt like they were gathering dust when not intellectually engaged.

Women wired for ministry and leadership can feel stir crazy when their creativity is left untapped, so opportunities to solve problems and to take on interesting challenges feel incredibly fulfilling. And while motherhood is a holy, amazing gift, it doesn’t erase our desire to stay spiritually, intellectually sharp.

When we offer to create programs or tackle a project, we mean it. Although we will continue to seek out for ourselves opportunities to serve, please don’t hesitate to put our minds to work, along with our hands. We’re excited and ready to help.

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6. We worry about speaking honestly, and fear being seen as “pushy” or “confrontational.”

6. We worry about speaking honestly, and fear being seen as “pushy” or “confrontational.”

I can remember the moment as if it were yesterday. He complimented me for having a “sweet spirit,” and it was intoxicating. I’d never heard that phase before, so maybe it was a Southern thing. A transplant from the Midwest, I’d always had a sure personality and a driven mindset. I absorbed the new expectation into my sense of belonging that day: Feminine faith is sweet and meek.

Holy Spirit could certainly show me how to be that...

I spent the next ten years of my life obsessively choosing my words, as not to “out” the passionate, not-so-sweet side of me—afraid to speak true, hard things with any sense of conviction. It seemed as though an invitation to the ministry table required secret, quiet acts of obedience, the earning of one’s voice over time, rather than the bold faith I’d read about in the gospels.

I wish I could have reclaimed that crippled God-confidence sooner...

I wish I’d embraced the sure-footed “knowing” from Holy Spirit I was afraid to trust...

Found the guts to voice my “yes’s and no’s.”

The fear of being seen as overbearing or imperfect quiets the voices of female ministry leaders. Finally spoken aloud, I wonder how their messages from the Lord might change the landscape of the church in ways we have yet to discover.

Are you a woman longing to be better understood as a ministry leader? Or are you a man of compassion who has a female in your life who’s gifted, but who feels uncertain about following God’s call?

If so, it’s my hope that you’ve found encouragement here to embrace and bolster a fellow sister in Christ—for in the strengthening of the one, grows the fortitude of the whole. No truer words could be spoken, “As iron sharpens iron, so one friend sharpens another.” I thank God that none of us have to journey alone.

Father God, may you find us faithful in the shared work of spreading Your good news, and in doing so, make us whole in You. Amen.

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Meg Gemelli is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, a wife and mama to three crazy-brave guys, and an unfortunate disaster in the kitchen. Join conversations about faith, health, and family at www.TheGrittyPearl.com.




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