I have been having an ongoing dialog/struggle with myself for the past few years. Mostly it takes place in my head or journal. Occasionally it will spill out and I will include my husband in the conversation. But lately I have gotten just a teeny tiny bit braver and started to share bits and pieces of this conversation with other women. And I realized is that I'm not alone.
In fact, I think a LOT of women are probably having this same conflict with in themselves. But it's not an open conversation yet. It's shared in whispers in the hall, quite sighs in our living rooms and guilt ridden confessions over text messages. More and more I am hearing women cautiously admit that they don't feel like there is a place for them to use their spiritual gifts in their local church.
It's an awkward position to be in.
It can happen for a number of reasons...
*Really big churches where there are so many people that it can be very difficult to really plug into active ministry.
*Smaller churches that are still growing so the ministry opportunities are fewer and less varied.
*Ministry needs don't line up with spiritual gifts.
*Season of life (college, your job schedule, your spouses job schedule, young children ect) make it difficult to serve in an "official" capacity in the church.
And here is the thing none of those things are wrong. But they can be hard to deal with and can lead to a lot of frustrating situations.
*Feeling guilty for not serving.
*Ineffective ministry from serving in an area you aren't meant to.
*Keeping some one ELSE from using their gifts by serving "just to serve".
*Burn out from serving an in area you aren't well suited for.
*Resentment from serving where you feel pressured into serving.
*Pulling away from the church body because you don't feel like you "fit" or "belong".
*Using your gifts out side of your local church, but worrying that people are judging you for not being more involved.
I grew up being actively involved in my home church. I loved serving and was involved in a number of different ministries. But since graduating college and getting married I think I have experienced every single one of those frustrating situations. And, for eight very long years, I thought I was the only one. I kept my mouth shut and my heart closed and played "good little church girl."
And then, in the past few months, I started hearing whisperings from other women and started adding my own. (To the woman who let me speak these things out loud or over text thank you!)
I made room in my life for the conversation and in time an answer.
In many ways that is what this blog post is. This is me putting the conversation out there in hopes that other women will realize that they are not a lone and that it's ok if you don't know where you "fit". God can still use you, He still has a plan for you, and you are still oh so important and valued.
I think answers look different for every one. Maybe you need to step out of your comfort zone and start a new ministry in your church! Maybe you need to push a little hard to get involved in an existing ministry you feel called to be part of. Maybe you need to let go of the guilt of "not serving" and focus on your family or your own healing. Whatever the answer is I am sure it will involve a lot of praying and perhaps some counsel.
Personally my answer involves a few things....
*Serving in my church where I see a need:
I may not be great with kids, but I can change diapers and rock babies. Every church I have ever been part of needs nursery workers. Rather than feel pressured or resent serving there I am choosing to do it with a content heart because
a) I believe in the local church and contributing to the body.
b) I cannot even begin to express my gratitude for the people who love on my kiddos so I can sit in the worship service clear of distractions. Being able to be simply a child of a God for an hour and not worry about the role of "mom" is what keeps me going most weeks. I want to offer that to other parents.
*Letting go of what serving "should" look like:
I am learning so much lately about my spiritual gifts, my love language and, and my God given talents. I'm also learning to accept the limitations (and opportunities) that arise from having two grade school kids, a toddler and a husband who works unconventional hours. The more I embrace all of this and open my eyes to opportunities around me the more ways I am finding to bless others and honor the Lord. They may not look like what I was expecting or even what other's may see as "ministry" but they are the things He has placed in my life.
Colossians 3:23-24 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
Come back tomorrow and I'll share some of what my unconventional "ministry" looks like.