By Jolly Mokorosi
With the rise of women in the marketplace it should be no surprise that churches are seeing in increasing numbers members who reflect this demographic in the communities they serve. But it seems like the church in its approach has been left behind by the world. Sometimes the church seems out of touch with what happens in the lives of their congregants from Monday to Friday. Moreover in the case of working women there seems to be an even greater disconnect.
All this is puzzling when one reflects on a biblical culture that included powerful women. For example Deborah was a judge in Old Testament Israel (the era’s equivalent of serving in the land’s highest office). In new testament times Paul and Silas reach out to these powerful women “…And some of them were persuaded; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas.” Acts 17:4. Businesswomen like Lydia helped finance the early church. So how can the contribution of modern leading women be more elevated in the church?
Elizabeth Knox posses the same question but asks it differently. In her article entitled – Where are the strong professional women in your church?, she contends, “Girls today can see examples of women in many fields, such as pro sports, entertainment, and health care. But do they see a variety of inspiring examples here in our churches?”
In Diane Paddison’s article, Alone in a (church) crowd, she quotes an alarming statistic. According to the Barna research group reports, 27% of professional women leave church altogether because they feel isolated and marginalized there. After years of dragging myself to church with the niggling feeling of being a square peg in a round hole and at the encouragement of one of my own church’s female leaders, I gathered a group of like-minded professional women and we made some recommendations to our church leaders that could help change the status quo. Although my local church had made great strides long before these recommendations, the outcomes and changes have been very encouraging. Here are 5 suggestions that you could take to your leadership.
Testimonies of powerful marketplace women
Testimonies glorify God, bless others and spur faith. The more relevant a testimony is to your situation, the more your faith is likely to be propelled forward. What more when you hear the testimonies of women who you aspire to emulate?
Speak to your leadership about hearing more testimonies of God’s goodness in the workplace from leading women in the church.
Single sex dialogues
Sometimes the importance of honest single sex dialogues is underrated in a world that appears to be converging towards a unisex culture. But women are very different from men. Sisters need safe and nonjudgmental environments, platforms and opportunities to explore issues unique to being a woman with other women. Women lead, perceive, experience and respond very differently from men in similar situations.
Ask the leadership to help facilitate and encourage single sex platforms and even create platforms for women who are professionals, entrepreneurs or who serve in corporates.
Appointment of capable women on relevant committees and ministries
Again Elizabeth Knox sums up this suggestion fittingly when she calls on the church to invite women to serve the church in ways that are related to their professional field. Instead of assuming a woman would be a good fit for children’s ministries, why not ask that CPA (or CA) to serve on the finance board? Rather than have that architect organize the clothing drive, why not ask her to offer input on the new building plans?
Avoiding stereotyping from the pulpit
A church that does not recognize the strength of diversity in its midst soon becomes myopic and irrelevant. Not only is there a generational and gender diversity in the church today, there is also race, ethnicity and experience to contend with. This is not an anomaly but a reflection of society. However it seems many churches only honour the stereotypical image of the “barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen” woman. This dutiful wife is part of an intercessors team and mother’s group that meets weekly. She also served in children’s and ushering ministry. When she is older she will mentor younger mothers to do the same. Although these roles are all good, critical and laudable, they are not typical of all women in the church and neither will they be for the foreseeable future.
Sermons that reflect and encourage the diversity within the church support the acceptance of the individual callings and seasons of life of members as well as glorify a God who knows and made us as individuals. Ask your church leadership to reflect greater diversity in their sermons. It will build the church as a whole and not just the women.
Affirmation from the pulpit
Finally, as those that lead us recognise and affirm our calling from their places of authority, they release/commission us into that calling. Ask the leadership in your church to explicitly encourage and affirm individual callings, as well as celebrate achievements in all areas.
Be blessed as you grow where God has placed you and in the season you are in.
Alone in a (church) crowd by Diane Paddison
Where are all the strong professional women in your church? by Elizabeth Knox
The theology of empowered women: Part 1 by Kris Vallatton
The book of Acts
Do you have any more recommendations for other women in this situation? Have you tried and succeeded or failed? Please leave us a comment below.