The subtext title of this post is “Women in
Women’s Ministry”, so I hope y’all are ready to get a little shady with me. This week started off discouraging (especially considering we lost internet for a week– hence the late post) as I laid in bed spinning through what I am ever going to do with my life. My spiritual giftings aren’t uncommon, but they are typically uplifted and fostered in my male counterparts. I love to teach and shepherd, which falls into the “pastoral” category. Throughout my life I have found myself pigeon-holed into children’s ministry (I don’t really like kids unless they’re related to me), youth ministry (“We could really use a female leader to bring more girls into the youth group!”), or women’s ministry (because that audience is the only plausible one). In each of these, I found myself disappointed, burnt out, and unsatisfied.
These ministries are all incredible, and with the right person with the right passions, they will excel.
I am not that person.
For a long time, I assumed my passions and giftings were misguided. “I just need to embrace more of the home-maker hobbies to fit in” or “I have too many guy friends, but I’m not fit to disciple them.” The wild thing is that I witnessed God move as I served in places I “wasn’t supposed to”. He gave me a prophecy of one of my guy friend’s conversion, and He had me invest in that relationship and bring him to Christ. My deepest discipling relationships are with men in my life. I led a summer ministry team of 12 by myself, with 7 male members, and met weekly with and discipled each of them. I have ministered more through video games and beer than I have rom-coms and husband-hunting, and it reminds me how hurtful those stereotypes are.
Yet they exist in the church, as we gender ministries and bind certain participants in ways that the Gospel doesn’t. We’re beginning to witness the change that has been fought over for years, as more and more women are being welcomed to the pulpit, in front of the whole congregation. However, there is still a long ways to go.
In Romans 16, Paul sends his greetings to a lengthy list of his beloved friends that have supported his ministry and continued their own. The first to be recognized is Phoebe, who was a deacon in the church. He also recognizes Junia, a female disciple (the argument over the translation of Junia as a female name is fascinating, and worth a Google search). He praises not only the husbands leading household churches, but their wives as equals. The chapter reminded me that even when it seemed like there wasn’t a place for these women to minister, they made one.
A mentor of mine told me how at her Seminary, she had men ignore her existence, scream at her, and tell her she had a “spirit of Jezebel”. Her response to the disdain was, “Whom do I fear? Men, or my God?”
Men, I know there are many of you who consider yourselves one of the “good ones”. Maybe you’re a great husband, or you care a lot about your lady friends, or you would never intentionally hurt a woman. I’m not going to applaud you for decency. The questions I have are, Do you actively empower your female friends in their ministry? Do you encourage them to minister, even when it’s outside of what is the norm? Do you pass your mic to the women in your life? Do you ever submit to a woman’s giftings in your life? And if my use of “submit” just now made you uncomfortable, do you fully know why?
Progress should be celebrated, but we don’t stop working until we reach the goal. Historically, women had to prove themselves as nearly divine to be considered valuable in a theological setting. St. Catherine of Siena is a perfect example of this. If you want to understand in depth what was required of her, I’ve attached my work on her below.
I’m ending this week inspired by the trail-blazing women who have gotten this far, and whose footsteps we can follow in. With each generation, it gets a little easier. As for me, I’m going to keep going. I’m going to keep teaching, speaking, and writing, which is what ultimately led to Problems 31 in the first place (along with my faithful and patient co-blogger). So let’s keep doing ministry, shall we?