Let’s be honest here. I am writing a column that I could use more than I could write. I am a woman in ministry who could use some encouragement and exhortation! Mine isn’t the voice of a wise sage, but one running the race along side of you. Being a church worker isn’t easy for anyone. Being a female church worker has a unique set of challenges, temptations and blessings. We need each other! How could we use each others experiences to better serve our Lord? How can we love and serve each other? We will never know if we don’t listen to our sisters. Just as men, women in ministry often feel isolated, marginalized and lonely. Let’s share our stories, listen and learn from each other. You are not alone. The God who formed you entrusted you with talents and enables your ministry. He has done the same for other men and women throughout the history of His Church. We can learn from one another.
Growing up, my ministry role models were men pastors, professors, DCEs and youth workers, who made an impact on my life and in the lives of others. These amazing men are still my role models and I continue to learn from them. Their guidance and leadership is essential to my growth. Yet, back then and still today I find myself needing a woman’s voice as well. As I grew in faith, I began having different questions and I saw no female example to guide me: How do I be a good wife and a good youth worker at the same time? How do I operate as the only woman on my ministry team? What are the best ways to use the gifts God has given me as a woman? There were no female church workers to guide me and I could only emulate my male role models up to a point. I discovered that I needed women role models and mentors and I’m not the only one.
The powerful ministry of mentorship was evident in the seven summers I spent working in outdoor ministry. In my setting, college aged women signed up to live in tents or cabins for three months in order to mentor a group of little girls, given into their care for a week at a time. These young women knew that these girls needed spiritual role models. The girls clung to their counselor like fabric softener sheets! They emulated their leader in every way imaginable–hair style, mannerisms, attitude and yes, even in their faith walk. Girls who never read the Bible at home would sit together with their Bibles open and faces intent on the words of their camp counselor. It’s a beautiful and mutually beneficial relationship!
While mentoring the young girls, it was evident that the college age women also yearned for female role models. These young women had already learned much about what it meant to be a Christian (and praise God for that!), but they were looking for examples of how to be Christian women. Are there examples out there? Of course! Unfortunately, all too often their voice isn’t heard and opportunities for mentoring are missed by those who crave these relationships.
Over the last two summers, I was blessed to mentor the young women on our staff. The goal of spending one-on-one time with each of them in prayer, goal setting and sharing led to the start of a mentorship program. The issues and concerns we discussed were often ones these young women would not share with a man, not even a man they trusted and respected. For some women, certain issues need to be shared with other women. I am not just talking about a nice chat with a friend, but time spent with someone who is ahead of you on the road, a woman who has been where you are and has continued on the journey. No matter our age or experience level, we need role models and mentors to look to, be like and learn from.
There are many amazing women in our church body. We need venues in which their voices can be heard! One of my intentions with this column is to share interviews and writings from women in ministry in the hopes that we can learn from them. Walk with me and listen to their voice. Find your role models and mentors…we have so much to learn from each other!