A few days ago a friend sent me a text. She had seen me promoting a new women’s event at our church and had heard that I was actually VERY EXCITED about the whole thing. “Really proud of you… considering all your hang ups with women’s ministry stuff!” she said.
Let’s pause for just a sec. I married a guy who became a pastor. Like, at a church. Which means I’m a pastor’s wife. A pastor’s wife who has “hang ups with women’s ministry stuff.” Special.
Special but true. Pastor’s wife or not, I have been known to feel a bit… antsy… about large gatherings of women at church. As someone who was practically birthed into a pew, it all felt very odd to me. “I should feel comfortable in the church! Church has always been my second home! Why do I feel so disconnected now?”
The demands of mothering littles and navigating a new career depleted the energy needed to invest in real, deep friendships. I’d show up at church, only to see everyone else with their people. And when I was home, social media kindly informed me that everyone else was hanging out without me.
I felt duped. No one had told me that making friends as an adult could be hard. Messy. Awkward. This whole “living in community” deal we heard about all the time didn’t always come naturally. And I certainly was not prepared for these weirdly ambivalent feelings every time I stepped into a room of church-going-Jesus-loving women.
What?? Who even was I?
I really wanted to find someone to blame. Because pointing fingers at others tends to come a lot more naturally than pointing fingers at one’s own self. But, as this trend continued, that’s exactly where I landed. In the awareness that this was about me. My own ugly heart.
My jealousy. My feelings of inadequacy. That nasty habit of comparison that makes me feel like an angsty middle schooler all over again. My unceasing desire to measure up and the inevitable letdown when I don’t.
It was all colliding in the arena of women’s ministry.
God’s brought me a long way. He’s taken a girl with legit “hangups about women’s ministry stuff” and has given her a mounting sense of excitement about this very thing. About women. Women loving Jesus and loving His people and loving His Word.
Y’all, He’s done this. I have friends texting in surprise. I have a husband chuckling as I chatter on in my giddy excitement, for he knows the irony all too well.
I guess this is what I’m saying- if you feel like church stuff can be hard, you’re not alone. Maybe you feel like you’re on the fringes and just can’t get in. Or you desperately want to feel known and understood and loved, and a room full of strangers feels exceptionally daunting. Or maybe you show up at women’s events and immediately want to turn back around because everyone else already seems to have their little huddle of friends. And you’re not in it. Again. I get it.
But from one girl-with-hangups to the next, may I just offer a few quick suggestions?
1. Believe the best about others.
I know a lot of women who have been burned by the church. Who have experienced very real hurt at the hands of church people. If that’s you, I’m so sorry.
But you know what I have realized over the years? Most people have good intentions. They’re not out to get you. Or to hurt. Or exclude.
Most people in the church are doing their best. They genuinely want to be loving and inclusive and welcoming. Maybe they’re in that huddle because life is imploding for one of their people, and, for them, this is precisely what love looks like in this moment.
Maybe they’re just having a horrible day, and the fact that they’re at church at all is an act of God in itself.
Or perhaps you’re waiting around for someone else to take the initiative and to welcome you in, while it’s quite possible they’re in the exact same boat. Waiting to be welcomed. Waiting for someone else to take the initiative.
2. Take the initiative.
Stop waiting around for someone else to make the first move. Put on your big girl pants, embrace the awkwardness, and do it yourself. Chance are, the other person will be so glad you did. And if she’s not, it’s her loss. Which reminds me of my next point…
3. Don’t make me a liar, church people. For the love, DO YOUR BEST.
Be nice. Smile. Introduce yourself to people who look new. Hang out with that person sitting alone. Come on now, we’ve got this. This should be a no-brainer.
4. Deal with your own junk.
I know I’m not the only woman who feels the jealousy. Who compares. Who has felt resentment toward others. Who has taken things entirely too personally. Who has made church about ME rather than HIM.
Y’all, own up to it. And then, turn the other way. Confess, repent, and MOVE ON.
5. Keep showing up.
Even if you want to run for the hills, show up. Even if you feel like everyone else has it all together, show up. Even if you feel anonymous, like no one would even miss your absence, show up.
Because eventually, you’ll see that you’re not alone. You’ll find that women’s ministry is messy and intimidating for many. You’ll see that it can stir up all kinds of insecurities in all kinds of women. No doubt, you’ll see that no one has it all together.
Hopefully, as you keep showing up and you keep worshipping together and you keep digging into His Word in community, your view of Jesus will begin to grow larger and greater. And, as this happens, His greatness will surely begin to crowd out your insecurities and mess.
That’s the goal. That’s the real win, people.
For the church to love others really ridiculously well because we’ve been loved first.
For the insiders and the well-connected to rush to the fringes because God welcomed us into His family and spared nothing in the process.
And for every one of us to remember that, no matter how well-connected we may be or how many hangups and issues we may have, we were ALL far off when He came near. That not one of us exists outside of His grace. And, from that place and out of that understanding, we worship. Together. As one body made up of a lot of jacked-up, saved-by-grace sinners.
One final note. If you’re in the Raleigh area and are looking for a place to connect with other women… to gather together in worship and teaching and prayer… I’ve got you covered. The North Raleigh Campus of The Summit Church is launching The Gathering- a monthly coming together of women to do just that. Gather. Worship. Learn. Pray. Our inaugural Gathering is TOMORROW, Friday May 13th, at the Summit’s North Raleigh Campus. Doors open at 6:30.
If you feel well-connected, this is for you.
If you feel like you’re on the fringes and women’s ministry stuff scares the mess out of you, this is for you.
Whether you grew up in the church or are completely creeped out by churchy things, this is for you.
We’d be SO THRILLED to see you there!