Recently I found myself in the middle of a strange debate with a well meaning guy in youth ministry. He told me the “real” job of women in this type of ministry is to support their husbands who hold paid positions. “What if a woman never gets married?” I asked. His answer was, “As long as they don’t have children, then I guess they can do this full-time.”
I have had these types of conversations before, many times actually. I am not even discussing a theological debate about “where” women can serve in the church. I am discussing the niche specifically of youth ministry. When we get together with other women we talk about it, often. Yet, I think it’s a sticky subject that we tend to avoid in public forums.
For me I think it’s that I tend to avoid topics that can just spiral down into an unhelpful cesspool of complaining. Yet, in light of some recent discussions I think it’s worth sharing with you some “REAL LIFE” stories from myself and others that have happened because of their gender:
“We once lived with a broken water heater for a year in staff housing with a youth ministry, because the caretaker didn’t like that I wouldn’t ‘just stay home and take care of my babies.'”
“I have been told my personality is too passionate, too blunt, too emotional for leading in youth ministry.”
“It’s assumed that because I am a woman, the position I want to hold within the youth ministry is administrative. Not only am I not administrative, I don’t enjoy those types of roles.”
“When students break down I have been told to go be relational, because you know women are just more relational. As an introvert who is shy, I am actually better at organizing programs than getting to know kids.”
From a guy: “Someday when I get married my wife can be paid to do this full time, as long as she understands it’s still her job to have dinner on the table every night at six.”
This is a handful of what we hear daily. There are times when we are treated like “Cinderella.” You can do this ministry thing as long as you tend to your REAL duties as a woman. In the meantime being in ministry does not mean that we ignore the rest of our family or leave our children on the side of the road. We are subject to putting ministry ahead of family and more importantly ahead of Jesus, just like any other PERSON. Women who aren’t married aren’t using their ministry as a “stopgap” until they find a husband.
Women who do feel CALLED to support their husbands who are paid full-time feel as if it is their ministry too. They would say they are partners not “supporters.” Actually, some wives actually support their husbands calling to youth ministry, just like they would support their spouse in anything else. This means they aren’t the “extra volunteer.” They love their spouse and pray for them, but have passions elsewhere.
There is so much to say on this topic and more words in my heart than I have to share in a short post.
There have been attitudes and words said to my face that are simply hurtful. The problem with these types of attitudes is they assume the women in our midst are not seeking the Lord or putting Him first. It makes the presumption they have ignored Christ and are doing what they want, therefore walking in sin. It’s “clear” what the “best” way is in the Bible. Yet, in the very lineage of Jesus there is an ex-prostitute (Rahab), a woman who went to extreme lengths (including deception) to clear her family name (Tamar), another taken advantage of by a King (Bathsheba), one who broke customs and boldly laid at the feet of a man (Ruth) and finally the one called “blessed among women” (Mary). These women are who Jesus CHOSE to be in his family line. This is a lineage of bold, imperfect women who would go to great lengths to see justice prevail.
Today’s point is this: Before you say you don’t have “any” misconceptions about women in youth ministry, think about what’s really in your heart. I was told I “had” to quit when I had children. I did. Honestly, I was miserable. My daughter was 5 months old when I went back.
Now, did I work 60 hour weeks anymore? No.
I took her with me, and when I had to, I worked less hours. I recognized the gift I had in my family, and I wanted to enjoy them. For me I was pushed aside so often I set out on a path to prove myself. When my kids were in elementary school my husband sat me down and told me it was time to stop trying so hard. I was losing my family in my quest to show everyone what I was capable of. I even worked a high profile role once where I was told, “You wanted to show the world a high capacity woman leader, now you have to prove it.”
Why? Jesus doesn’t ask me to prove myself to Him. I think often times we don’t even realize our misconceptions on this topic. Please don’t say it doesn’t happen. It does. It’s important we don’t pretend it’s not there, while at the same time not getting stuck in hurt because it does. He asks us to follow Him. He gave us each a personality and talents on purpose to reflect His glory.
He made me a woman who is a wife, a Mom, and called to family ministry.
There are women who tell me, “I could never do what you do.” You know what I tell them? “Good, because God has called you to be you.” I think this is true of each of us…man or woman.
What are your “truths” about women in youth ministry?