By Jenni Catron
“Until I saw you, I didn’t know there was a place for me here.”
I had just finished hosting our services on Sunday morning, and a young woman came rushing up to me in the lobby to share this thought. I was a bit caught off guard. After all, I was simply facilitating the transition moments within the service. I wasn’t leading worship. I wasn’t preaching the message. I was for all intents and purposes doing the announcements.
Later that day her comment was still echoing in my mind. Something about a female being present on stage, sharing information, leading the congregation through something as simple as announcements spoke to her.
A few weeks later, I invited her to coffee because I needed to better understand what was resonating with her. Why did my presence on stage matter? As she drank her latte, she expressed that although she grew up in the local church, she never really felt like her gifts had a place. Her experience with church suggested that the opportunities for women to serve were limited to children’s ministry or hospitality. While she respected and valued those ministries, they weren’t areas where she felt like her gifts were a great fit. As a young professional she loved communicating and leading. She flourished in sales presentations and leading teams. While she loved her local church, she had grown comfortable with attending regularly but found herself less and less involved.
She expressed to me that seeing another woman serving in a different capacity within the church helped her envision a place for her beyond her past experiences. This gave her hope that there was a place in church where she could contribute and thrive in her gifting.
Over the years I’ve heard countless stories like this one. I’ve also heard stories of women who didn’t see opportunities for them to serve inside their local church, so they devote their time and energy to other organizations in their community where their gifts are more visibly valued.
A place for all
These stories all point to the same reverberating question: “Is there a place for me?” As network and church leaders, this is a question we must address.
Do the women in our churches and in our communities know there is a place for their gifts and their talents to be unleashed in the local church?
Have we made it obvious in our network or church that every individual, male or female, is valued and vital to the church family? Can someone walk in on any Sunday and see women serving and flourishing in various areas within your church? Is your network incorporating the gifts of women to maximize the efforts for Kingdom growth?
Today’s modern young woman does not see her place inside the church or church planting. Her talents, gifts and God-given calling are walking out our doors and into the hands of businesses and other non-profits where all her gifts are welcomed and celebrated.
Creating a culture of value
Are you creating a culture at your network or church where women feel like their gifts are welcomed and valued? I want to challenge you to be intentional and create a plan to more actively involve women in ministry.
Young women operate under the assumption that hospitality and kid’s ministries are the only areas for them to serve. These were the opportunities they saw when they grew up in the church, and so they assume that those are still the acceptable options.
Will you accept the challenge to show them differently? Will you show them that the church is eager for them to be a part of God’s Kingdom work through a variety of facets?
Women leaders will only know of other opportunities if we are actively showing them innovative and creative pathways for women to serve and flourish in their giftedness.
Wondering where to start? Here are some questions for your leadership team to consider:
- Where do women most visibly serve in your network or church? The café, the nursery? How about production, on stage, on leadership teams? How can we incorporate women into various facets of your network or church plant?
- What percentage of your key leaders are women?
- When do you offer women’s groups or training, and at what times? Are they mostly during the day and targeted to moms? Or do you have evening groups and subjects that connect with professional women and singles? If you are not consciously creating opportunities for women, then you’re subconsciously marginalizing their value.
- If you were a single, professional young woman would you be able to easily identify where you fit inside your church or network?
These questions will help you identify where you may be unintentionally communicating that there is very limited space for women to lead. I encourage you to think through these questions, discuss them with your leadership team, invite some women in your church or network to share their perspective, and then build a plan to more clearly create opportunities for women to serve.
Jenni Catron is a leadership coach, author, and speaker. Her passion is to lead well and to inspire, equip and encourage others to do the same. As Founder and CEO of The 4Sight Group, she consults organizations on leadership, team culture, and organizational health.
This article was originally published on Send Institute and is used with permission.
Published February 12, 2020