I truly enjoy the Gifted for Leadership blog, and if you watch the “interesting reads” section in the right-side column of this blog you’ll frequently see that I’ve shared items from there. It’s wonderful and insightful material for all Christian leaders and the applicability of this intended “by women, for women” wisdom is unaffected by the gender of the Christian reader. It’s just good.
Yesterday, that blog posted a piece on the results of Denise George’s research purposed “To help today’s pastor better understand women in the congregation so the pastor can better minister to them.” Compiled and published as What Women Wish Pastors Knew, the research verifies several important points about the majority gender in the pews.
1. Women are tired. Almost every returned survey included words like “exhausted,” “stressed-out,” “too much to do,” and “worn out.” We’re trying to juggle too many jobs at once. Author John Eldredge writes in Wild at Heart: “Walk into most churches in America, have a look around, and ask yourself this question: ‘What is a Christian woman?’ Don’t listen to what is said, look at what you find there. There is no doubt about it. You’d have to admit, a Christian woman is tired.”
2. Women are hurting. I often received eight to ten pages of hand-written letters from women describing personal painful situations. They mentioned infertility, a child’s suicide, an unmarried pregnant teenaged daughter, “post-abortion syndrome,” a parent with Alzheimer’s Disease, and childhood sexual abuse. They described deep depression, thoughts of suicide, spouse abuse in their marriages, husbands with “dirty little secrets” and secret addictions, the pain of divorce or becoming a widow, intense loneliness, etc. They begged for biblically-based counseling—with another female—sponsored by the church. They also yearned for a church-supported network of women to “tend and befriend” them.
3. Women want to grow spiritually. The majority of women told me they craved church-sponsored Bible study. They complained about “spiritual fluff” in churches today, and yearned for “spiritual meat.” I discovered a deep hunger for theology among women today.
4. Women want to raise godly children. Moms admitted they were “swimming upstream” trying to rear up Christian children in today’s secular society. Many were single moms who needed practical help from the church. Married moms complained about “spiritually-inept” husbands who refused to take spiritual leadership in the home. They asked for the church’s help in teaching their husbands how to be spiritual leaders, good husbands, and loving fathers.
5. Women often feel like “second-class citizens” in church. I heard that expression a lot from singles, divorcees, widows, and also from the young and the elderly who felt they had no place in the church. Women want to use their God-given spiritual gifts to serve God and others through the church. Many, however, are not allowed to serve in what they called traditional “male-dominated positions.” (I found it interesting, however, that those women wanting other women in church leadership roles was equally balanced by those women who didn’t want other women in church leadership roles.)
Women also told me they wanted respect from male church leaders, to serve (in harmony) with men on church committees, to have their insights and opinions valued, to be empowered, equipped, and encouraged by the church to use their unique God-given gifts for God’s Kingdom, and many other things.
I don’t think that these results, however, are a cry for “women’s ministry.” I believe they are a cry for safe, healing community
- where individual brokenness is recognized and restoration really possible (and not forced under by shame, ignorance or judgement);
- where families are ministered to in whatever form they take and with whatever physical, emotional and spiritual need they bring (and not pushed aside if not the idyllic-but-non-existent “normal” Christian family);
- where people of all ages are led to discover and put to use their giftedness through solid, biblical teaching in a variety of formats creatively designed (not stereotypical or traditional programmatic roles for which they are unsuited);
- where saying yes to service is life-giving for everyone (not a life-sentence);
- and where anyone can see that people truly, obviously and willingly belong to one another in the Body of believers (and people don’t fall through the cracks when life’s circumstances press in).
I’m fairly certain men, women and children would want to be part of something like that. What do you think?