If you’re a Christian woman in the workplace, you know (unfortunately) all too well how hard it is to feel at home in your church. Small groups don’t usually meet at a time that works with your 9-5 schedule, and volunteering in the nursery just doesn’t feel like a beneficial use of your professional talents. Lisa Adams, coach, pastor’s wife, and leader of 4word: Saratoga Springs, talks about how she has learned to carve out a place for herself as a professional woman in a church family, and how you can do the same thing!
Tell us a little about yourself!
My family and I live in Saratoga Springs, NY. We moved here for my husband’s work seven years ago from the Boston area. Mike was hired to launch a church campus here in Saratoga Springs. We have two teenage sons who are in high school and very active in sports and music. My husband and I have spent most of our lives in central or eastern Massachusetts, which makes us all avid Red Sox and Patriots fans. This adds an interesting twist when living in New York State!
I grew up in the Northeast but have a heart for the South and if I could live in jeans and flip-flops by the beach every day I would. Not only am I raising my family and supporting my husband but I’ve been a businesswoman for 30 years. I have worked with firms such as Ceridian, American Express, Monster.com, Lycos.com, and Lawson Software. My roles have spanned from human resources, to sales, sales support, training, and strategic client management.
Currently I run my own coaching, speaking, and consulting firm. My day to day involves juggling my business life, caring for our two dogs, and keeping track of the crazy schedule my boys and husband have.
I love helping professionals figure out their next moves in their life and career when they hit that wall and get stuck. I have been stuck several times over my career and felt frustrated and undervalued. I had to continually reevaluate where I was and what I was doing, specifically how the Lord had called me. I felt uniquely gifted to lead and coach which is exactly what I did during my corporate career. Currently, I have the flexibility to work from home when I’m not with my clients which has given me a great gift to be there for my boys, my husband, our church family and of course the dogs (Rex and Ridley).
For fun, my husband and I are usually with the boys at their practices and games for this season of life, which we love and feel very blessed by!
Is it hard to be a working woman and also a pastor’s wife?
Being a working woman and a pastor’s wife has its blessings and challenges. I actually really love being in this situation in this season of my life because it is so unique, and God has uniquely called me to it. I think it gives me a unique perspective on other professional women and how they interact in the church world. I get to see both sides: professional women and church life. Mike and I have just transitioned over to our fourth church (a congregation of over 800) and are slowly getting to know the congregation. Life in full-time ministry can be a wild and blessed ride.
Mike has been a pastor for 25 years. We have been married for 21 of those 25 years. We actually met serving in youth ministry at our first church. In each church, my role as a pastor’s wife and my career have been unique and have changed with our seasons of life as a family and couple.
In our first church, I was involved heavily with our youth ministry and mentoring the middle school girls plus working in a full-time corporate leadership job. In our second church, I was working part-time, having our kids, and serving mostly in children’s and youth ministry. At our most recent church (#3), I’ve been running my business part-time (26 hrs. a week), being there for our sons and their schedules while Mike worked many hours. I did, however, get the blessing of leading our annual women’s retreat and a monthly women’s group. I don’t know what the Lord has in store for our current church (#4) and where he will lead me to serve.
The other challenge with being a businesswoman and a pastor’s wife is the expectations that tend to get passed on to pastors’ wives. There’s usually an expectation that we are always serving in the local church ministry such as women’s, worship, or children. Also, the expectation is that we do it all for free. That is not how the Lord has gifted me or whom He has called me to be. In my many years of church and business life, I’ve seen very few pastors’ wives that have also been in business. Gratefully, there have been some that the Lord gave to me as friends. We now support and encourage each other in our business lives and church lives.
Why do Christian professional women have such a hard time finding their place within their church?
I think some of the challenges for Christian professional women finding their place in church is that the women’s role at church has been focused on traditional roles such as helping in childcare. I am seeing that mindset change and churches are beginning to utilize the gifting of the people in their congregation. I think the strongest churches value that gifting and empower it through the paid church staff and through their volunteers.
Sometimes the church staff doesn’t know how to foster the energy of results-driven professional women and utilize that strength. That energy can sometimes be seen as fearful and overpowering. It’s up to church staff and leaders of ministries to not be afraid of that strong energy and leadership potential, and it’s up to the professional women to know when they need to adapt and tone down their workplace energy.
One way to hook into helping at church is to understand your strengths and weaknesses. Knowing your spiritual gifts, your personality, your strengths and your weaknesses, and even your ministry passions can really help drive where you put your focus energy into serving in church. For instance, I love to inspire professionals to find meaningful work, so I’ve helped my husband teach classes at our church about personality and spiritual gifting and having a ministry focus and passion.
We have utilized that class to help get volunteers plugged into the existing ministries of the church. If someone has a passion for a ministry that the church does not have, we encourage them to find that calling even if that service will be outside of the church. God will still totally use their gifting for the glory of the Lord and His people. If you feel called to do a certain ministry and your church doesn’t have it or maybe they don’t want to add another ministry (which I get!), go outside of the church. Find another organization that you can make a difference in and still serve the Lord and His people.
How can you know whom the best person is to approach about a potential role for yourself in your church?
When it comes to approaching people about a potential role for yourself in your church, I tend to point people to a person on staff that may be overseeing a particular ministry that you’re interested in or someone who might teach some of those classes that I mentioned about personality and spiritual gifting. Many times, there is a person on staff who oversees discipleship. They are good to speak to as well.
In addition to staff, you could go to other women professionals who you see are serving. They are a great resource to find out how they got plugged into serving in the church. What’s their gifting? Who’s been a good point person for them to talk to? As you can see, there are lots of options and you might need to do some research and reach out.
As you get to know your church, spend some time paying attention to the announcements, what events are happening, and any newsletters going out. Usually there’s a contact person to talk to about each and every one of the ministries or events. If one of those ministries or events interests you, go and talk to that person! Just try volunteering at several different ministries over the course of your time at your church and see where there’s a fit. When I first became a believer, I helped out in the middle school youth ministry and I loved it. I loved helping the girls and I loved the volunteer staff. There were 25 adult leaders and we became a family.
Anything else you’d like to share?
The one thing I would say is don’t be afraid to try. Make connections because the local church needs gifted professionals who can help serve and grow the church. Remember we’re all called to spread the Gospel and to make more and better disciples. We are all called to go deeper in our faith, in our service, and in our love for one another. We are called to be unified in Christ and to serve. We’re meant to live in community and the local church needs you as much as you need it. As a pastor’s wife and a professional woman, I commission you to go and serve and love on the local church. Be a blessing and be blessed!
Lisa Adams has a contagious enthusiasm for training and coaching leaders at all levels of an organization. She utilizes her 20+ years in management to coach leaders to intentionally develop their own leadership skills and mentor their teams for long term success.
Her career spans from various marketing and small business ownership opportunities to corporate human resources at American Express, training and development at Ceridian, software sales at Lawson Software, and strategic partner management and business development at Lycos.com and Monster.com. In 2009, Lisa decided to begin her formal coaching work. Since then, Lisa has coached a variety of professionals, from young leaders fresh out of college to senior executives.
Lisa is an active mentor through 4word. She has been a preferred expert with Keystone Partners and Work It Daily.com. At one time, Lisa co-hosted a leadership podcast called LEADTHIS!
Lisa is a graduate of the Paul College / Whittemore School of Business at the University of New Hampshire. Her coaching certifications were received through Career Coach Academy and Susan Whitcomb, one of the premier career experts in the field today.
Personally, she and her husband, Mike, have been married for 20 years. They have 2 teenage sons in high school. Mike has been a pastor for 23 years for 3 different churches. Lisa understands a life in ministry and business. In her free time, she attends the boys’ football, baseball and volleyball games, and spends time with her girlfriends. She and Mike love to vacation on warm ocean beaches.