Strangers In Their Own Church

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A hot topic among Christians lately has been single or childless women in the church and how they "fit in." Church small groups, classes, and weekly activities seem to cater either to men or stay-at-home moms. Everyone else in the congregation either gets clumped together into a generic class on Sunday morning or forgotten altogether. Professional Christian women fall into many categories: single, married without children, single working mother, or married working mother. These women make up a surprising portion of churches, yet hardly anyone has taken strides to cater a class or small group toward them and their unique needs and schedules.

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 10.21.00 AMWhat concerns me is that this is a "problem." Why do churches have portions of their congregations feeling alienated? Why haven't more churches taken notice of these women and done something to make them feel like part of the flock?

4word's main passion and drive is to provide professional Christian women the opportunity to connect. I want 4word to be a safe haven for women who can't seem to find their footing in their workplace or in their church. Through 4word: Local Groups and the 4word: Mentor Program, we are well on our way to bringing these women together, but we still have women sitting quietly in the back row of their Sunday morning service, just waiting for the dismissal so they can hightail it to their car and avoid the onslaught of questions like:

“When are you going to have kids?" 

"Don't you want to enjoy some of the best experiences in life?" 

"You work WAY too much, you need to have a kid!"

"Remember, not everything is career, that won't take care of you when you're old!”

So how can churches start to mend this broken or non-existent bridge to professional Christian women? Below are two women in two different circumstances. Read their stories and see what I think their churches could do to embrace them.

Laurie: Single lawyer who used to wonder what was "wrong"

Laurie is a professional Christian women in her late-50s. She's a successful lawyer for a Fortune 100 Company and has left her mark in her field. She's single, never been married, and has not Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 10.21.13 AMhad any children. While she is lauded and included among her peers in the workplace, she struggled for years at her church with a feeling that her church family didn't "get" her.

She wondered if they thought she was selfish for seemingly choosing career over family. She wondered why her identity and worth as a woman seemed to only be defined by her marital status and the amount of children she'd had. Eventually, Laurie was able to find JOY in her relationship with the Lord and not in living up to others' expectations.

Laurie could have been saved years of turmoil if her church had realized what it was (probably unintentionally) doing to her and other single, childless professional women in the congregation. Something as simple as a small group for single women at any age would have provided Laurie and others a place to call theirs in the church. This connection would have cultivated a sense of unity and growth among these women, leading to unknown blessings and opportunities both within the church body and beyond.

Ashley: Part of a dual-career couple and feeling under appreciated in the church

Ashley is a happily married mother of two. She and her husband both work and Ashley has made a name for herself as a filmmaker. Ashley has distanced herself from her church because she feels like no one their understands her gifts in the workplace or sees a place for them as a service to the church. Her faith is truly her foundation, but she doesn't feel "wanted" by her former church.

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 10.20.42 AMSo often we hear about using our God-given gifts to serve in our church. But what if your gift isn't volunteering in the nursery or greeting people as they walk in the door? In Ashley's situation, her church could have used her skills behind the camera to help broaden their multi-media reach. She could have organized a filming of Sunday morning services for streaming or recorded special series to be made available online.

Another important idea that Ashley's church could have done a better job of "hitting home" to her is the fact that men and women who go to the office on Monday are entering a mission field of their own. Just because Ashley's skills aren't being used at church doesn't mean that God isn't using her. He can work through her in her workplace and potentially reach lives that would have never been presented with the Gospel otherwise.

How can the church fix this? How can professional Christian women start to feel like they belong in their church family? I think part of the problem lies in the way that many Christians approach church in general. We get caught up in our routines. We want to sit near our friends, we want to hear worship music we like, we want to hear a message that resonates with us where we are. Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 10.21.29 AMAnd we don’t want to get trapped in a parking lot traffic jam afterwards.

It's just human nature and it is true that part of the reason you go to church is to learn about God’s word and to worship Him on a very personal level. But it is good to be reminded sometimes that “church” is about a lot more than our own individual growth. It’s also about our growth as a community. It’s about loving each other and about taking the time to really see each other.

Join us in being intentional in loving that woman on the back row. 4word COO, Sandra Crawford Williamson, has weighed in on this in an article on The Institute for Faith, Work & Economics and lists the following four things that churches can do to embrace their professional Christian women.

1. Messages, graphics, curriculum could include more examples of women doing things outside of the home.
2. Find her and her gifts and use her for God’s glory INSIDE the church.
3. Start an authentic Women in Business movement in your church by tapping into a few key women and give them the appropriate support to get going.
4. Make a point to creatively schedule opportunities for these women that coincide with their busy lives, such as Saturday mornings, Sunday afternoons, or a weeknight at 8:00 p.m. after children are settled, and ensure the topics are tailored to this audience.

If you are that woman on the back row, reach out to other women in your shoes at church and form a small group or after-work study. Church is a place built on love and compassion for each other, so let's live that every day.

 

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