“Women Can’t Be Ushers,” And Other Adventures of a Single Woman in Church

This week, instead of my usual blog, I'm sharing with you an essay by my friend "Leslie," (who asked to be kept anonymous). As I was preparing to write about how the church embraces childless women last week, I reached out to Leslie to get her thoughts, and this is what she shared:

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I am a 28 year old, single female and been a member of my current church for six years. My job is full time, and I work on 100% commission. My work is rewarding, and I enjoy it. I have never been married, have no children and I am not currently in a relationship. However, I would like to have a husband and possibly children at some point in my life.

When I joined my current church, I had recently moved to a new city from college. During my first couple of years at the church, I was brand new to the workforce. In order to prove myself and “make it” in my line of work, I was putting in close to 70-hour workweeks. The only three priorities I thought I could really manage at the time were work, attending church and a Sunday school class once a week (mixed in with some quiet devotional time), eating right and exercising.

I was not focused on finding a husband. But it felt to me like it was the intent of the singles Sunday school class and other, older couples at the church to fix me up with a potential husband as soon as possible. I also felt like most other women in the singles Sunday school class were more concerned about marrying and having three kids before 30 than they were about their careers (not all, but most). When I went on a couple of dates with guys from my singles Sunday school class, I did not get the impression that they liked the fact I worked more than they did or was serious about my career.

I liked the church as a whole though and the people were very nice, welcoming and inclusive, despite the fact I was new to the church and the city. Also, I felt that the sermons at church and bible lessons at Sunday school were good and applicable to my life for the most part. Going to church helped remind me what truly was important.

I still go to church, but I stopped going to Sunday school class after I started to feel like I really didn’t belong there. I remember feeling this way during one class in particular, I believe the topic being discussed had something to do with making work and an idol. The minister specifically spoke to the men in the classroom about this topic. He said, “Guys, we have a tendency to make work an idol and to put this before our families and God.” I nearly fell out of my chair. So a woman would never struggle with this, only a man would??!! I happened to be personally struggling with this very thing but only the men in the class were being addressed about this topic, and the minister went out of his way to address women about something our sex supposedly makes an idol, which I cannot even remember and did not relate to.

Even though I wasn’t going to Sunday school class anymore, I decided to get more involved with the church through volunteering my time to usher at two Sunday services two to three times a month. I am very happy that I did this and have formed some good relationships with Elders in my church who also usher. They have given me good advice when I have sought it. I have made friends with older, professional women who are also ushers. Although I am one of the youngest ushers by far, I feel that I relate to this group better than the singles Sunday school class. I think most of the other ushers understand me and where I am at in life. I think I relate well to them as well.

Not everyone in the church is comfortable with me ushering though. I remember distinctly one Sunday morning while I was cleaning up at the first service, a gentleman who was 75 years+ stopped and stared at me. I asked him if he needed help with anything. He kept staring at me with his mouth open. The gentleman said to me, “You are an usher??!!” I said, “Yes sir.” He said, “Women are NOT allowed to be ushers!!” I smiled, thinking he was kidding at first, but after looking at his very disturbed facial expression and body language, I realized this was not a joke. He was seriously upset. I didn’t really know how to respond, but I shrugged my shoulders and said, “Well, it’s 2010!” Then, I kept walking.

Half of my closest friends are married. Of those that are married, all of them are still working full time and most of them make more income than their husbands do. They are all Christian women. My closest friends who are single all work full time and do not have a man supporting them. Why is the church not addressing these women? Do they even know we exist and that we deal with a lot of the same struggles men have?

In church and in society as a whole, demographics are changing, and if we want to win more people over to the Christian faith, the church needs to be more cognizant of the professional, Christian woman. The church needs to realize that a Christian woman’s number one priority may not be how to marry a guy in 10 days. Perhaps she has skills and experiences she would like to contribute in order to help the betterment of the church. Maybe these skills and experiences are different than volunteering in a nursery or leading the women’s Bible study at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesdays.  Or, a Christian woman may be looking to grow more in her relationship with Christ or resolve other personal issues before she is ready to marry. I believe the church needs to recognize these factors and to look at these women with an open mind without having preconceived notions.

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How does your church treat single ladies? Do you agree with Leslie's take?