Well, it seems that I hit a nerve with that post about womens’ ministry. I have read every comment and tweet as they came in and your kind (okay, a few not-so-kind) emails. Brian had a few laughs at my expense because I wrote it in about 20 minutes on a Saturday afternoon, off-the-cuff. Story of my blogging life – the ones I labour over are hardly noticed and the ones where I am emotional, soap-box-y and yell-y bring the masses!
So let’s talk a bit more about this? And I truly mean that – I look forward to your thoughts and comments and ideas. Apparently we are not alone in this and for that, I am thankful. Our collective voice of behalf of women is getting stronger.
First of all, for those that asked, the post was not directed at my current church (where, yes, I am beginning to be involved in womens’ ministry) nor at any other church of my past in particular – I’m not quite as passive-aggressive as that would suggest. As I noted in the post, it truly was an amalgamation of my experiences as well as the experiences of many of my friends and contemporaries within traditional church practices directed for the little ladies.
There is not a thing I wrote in that post that I would not feel comfortable owning up to in real life with real-life pastors or real-life friends. (That’s one of the first rules of blogging – don’t put it up there, if you don’t want your Dad or your pastor to know it. Because trust me, there is no such thing as anonymous and it will be out there.) I like to consider myself as true-faced.
I do speak from within the structures. I’m not an expert, but I have been involved in many of them over the past 20 years, even doing my time as a heavily-made-up “model” for the fashion shows in the 90s (I hope to heaven my mother has lost those photographs…). I’ve spoken at womens’ events, organized a few socials in my time, participated in and then lead Bible studies and home groups for many years.
But I also speak from outside of the Church. Most of you that have been a part of my life the past 10 years know that I have struggled mightily with the nature of corporate church, even taking several years “off.” I left the program-driven church thing as much because of my own burn-out as because I don’t believe in their effectiveness any longer for developing disciples of Jesus. I believe that we are at a crossroads as a global Church, shifting and changing, just as we have done for centuries – from a pragmatic side of “what” we do and also a theological side of “why” we do it. Like it or not, the church is emerging.
Also, just to be clear, I truly don’t delineate between the sacred and the secular in my life. I don’t relegate things into “this is a Christian thing” and “this is not” – no, I am a follower of Christ and therefore whatever I lend my hand or heart towards is a way to honour and know God. So it’s not about whether or not you can consider making cupcakes or pink glitter a Christian thing to do – it certainly can be and I honour the women who have a gift in that area of life, truly. Rather, it seems that only one-type of womanhood is usually the focus on most womens’ ministries, just like a lot of men are rather tired of pancake breakfasts and retreats about shooting guns and refraining from masturbation. Surely there is a way that we can be an affirming and welcoming place for the diverse experiences, personalities, seasons, choices and giftings of women (and men, for that matter).
So let’s pretend you’re here in my home and we’re wrestling a bit with this together, figuring out a few things.
The defensive answer that I most often hear from those within the structure to our critiques is this; Well, if you don’t like it, you lead it. I have to chuckle because, well, no. I am not a womens’ pastor nor do I wish to be one nor do my current life priorities lend themselves to a season of busy vocational ministry.
Besides that is not the point, is it? That’s not a true solution for me, for you or for the church, let alone for women as a whole. Let’s look at the bigger picture perhaps?
Is womens’ ministry necessary? Is womens’ ministry failing women because we ask them to attend something that has really run its course in its current structures, something that isn’t speaking to their deepest needs? Is womens’ ministry truly bringing life to the women of the church in all of their seasons and differences, let alone speaking as a prophetic voice for the Kingdom of God about God’s view of womanhood?
I tend to think that organisation and structures kill off real relationships. It’s no secret that I’d like to see churches stop with all of the programs and be a bit more simple and small by intention. Let relationships develop organically. Be open to new people. And love well. I know it sounds simplistic and idealistic but I truly believe that if we are motivated by the love of Christ, paying attention to the leading of the Holy Spirit and our friends around us, we’ll look after one another well and disciple each other by pointing one another to Jesus as the true Shepherd.
I know one church in my personal sphere that does womens’ ministry incredibly well. (I wish I could get there for their weekly meeting but it’s too far away.) They inspire me with their passion. The women of the church are ferocious for love, beauty, justice, honesty, true relationship and sisterhood. Even though they do the girly-thing sometimes, its balanced out well. And they work tirelessly out in the community, empowering each woman to use her gifts to make space for God in her family, her friendships, her work and her sphere of influence. They truly are a prophetic voice for peace and wholeness and the kingdom of God as a sisterhood.
So it can be done.
Since there are so many of us, waving our hands and saying YES! to my letter, what do you think we can actually do to bring our perspective forward within the context of the Church – with humility, love and a heart to learn?