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Looking for answers about your life and ministry from a woman’s perspective? Geared for professionals and volunteers alike, Help! I’m a Woman in Youth Ministry! focuses on the unique ministry issues that you wrestle with every day, including: The challenges of singleness, marriage, and parenthood Mentoring and counseling Making your voice heard Fair treatment and fair pay Working with men …and much more! Regardless of age, marital status, church size, or denomination, Help! I’m a Woman in Youth Ministry! will ...
Looking for answers about your life and ministry from a woman’s perspective? Geared for professionals and volunteers alike, Help! I’m a Woman in Youth Ministry! focuses on the unique ministry issues that you wrestle with every day, including: The challenges of singleness, marriage, and parenthood Mentoring and counseling Making your voice heard Fair treatment and fair pay Working with men …and much more! Regardless of age, marital status, church size, or denomination, Help! I’m a Woman in Youth Ministry! will transform how you approach your unique, vital place in the youth ministry world.
What's Paul Got to Do With It? Your Theology about Men and Women
As soon as I read these two words in the Ph.D. catalog, I knew it was the degree for me: practical theology. I had never seen the phrase before, but it immediately resonated with me. Some people joke that "practical theology" is an oxymoron, just like "military intelligence" or "jumbo shrimp." Instead, I counter that it's a redundancy. Our theology is inherently practical. Every aspect of our lives, from how we treat the planet to how we treat other drivers, is shaped by what we think about God.
When it comes to women in ministry, our theology and our practices are intricately connected to one another. So if we're going to have better practices, we need better theology. Whether you're a theological novice or a veteran fluent in the original Greek, it's time to wrestle with the tough questions about women in leadership until you pin down some answers.
Have you ever looked your senior pastor right in the eyes and asked him or her what they think about women in ministry? Are there any positions of leadership they think women shouldn't hold? If so, why? If not, why not? Make it your goal to listen, ask some questions, and then listen some more.
The Wesleyan Quad
John Wesley, the wise nineteenth-century pastor and theologian, taught that there are four ways to experience divine revelation: through Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience (see, I told you he was wise). We now call these four resources the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. When you're talking to folks about theology, try to see what side of the quadrilateral they use the most. Is it the Bible? Church tradition? Their own common sense? Or their own experience? Decide for yourself if any one side of the Quadrilateral is more important than the others, and weigh the evidence accordingly.
It's Greek to Me
How much time have you spent studying the key passages about women in leadership? Less time than you've spent shopping for shoes in the last month? If so, then it's time to bust out some books and do your homework.
There are two basic positions. On one extreme, the Complementarian view argues that while men and women are equal, women have different leadership and teaching responsibilities in the church. On the other extreme, the Egalitarian view believes that gender does not influence divine call; God can (and does) call men and women to serve in any and every church leadership position.
Both sides are committed to the authority of Scripture. Both sides have tried to figure out the meaning of the original Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament. The Complementarian view usually focuses on four texts, starting with 1 Corinthians 11:2-6, which teaches that the "head" of the woman is the man. Other primary texts are 1 Corinthians 14:33-35, which says women are to keep silent in the church; 1 Timothy 2:11-15, where keeping silent in the church is defined as refraining from teaching; and Ephesians 5:22-23, where Paul argues for different roles in a marriage.
The Egalitarian view also takes these texts seriously, but it begins from a different starting point. In Genesis 1-2, God makes both male and female in his image. In Genesis 3:16, the subordination of women is not prescribed as ideal, but rather predicted as a consequence of sin. Moving to the New Testament, in Galatians 3:28, Paul teaches that the hierarchies between Jew and Greek, slave and free, and male and female evaporate in light of Jesus Christ. In 1 Corinthians 11 and Acts 21:8-9, women are allowed to pray and prophesy in the early church. Given these texts, the Egalitarian view argues that the passages often used by the Complementarian view are heavily influenced by the particular culture involved in those epistles. Regulations on women in leadership are the exception, not the norm.
Which of these views is closest to your own? Why? Or do you have a completely different way of looking at it? Whatever you decide, your brain will be grateful for its aerobic workout.
Don't Know Much About History
An important principle in understanding scriptural passages about women in leadership is the principle of history. Divine revelation always occurs in the context of a specific culture. The ultimate divine revelation, Jesus himself, modeled this by entering into Palestinian culture and adopting its dress, language, and metaphors. For each city Paul wrote to in his epistles, take some time to understand the culture and their explicit and implicit guidelines for Jewish women. That knowledge just might unlock some of the mysteries that surround women in leadership.
Inside the Boundaries
What boundaries do you have for women in leadership? Are you comfortable with-
Women serving in the background?
Women meeting one on one with other girls or women?
Women being small group leaders?
Women "sharing" in front of a group?
Women being teachers?
Women being youth pastors?
Women being senior pastors?
Women being czars of the world?
Regardless of your answers, do your best to help women develop WITHIN those boundaries. Develop the best female small group leaders you can. Coach women how to speak to youth or to the entire church. Encourage girls to consider becoming senior pastors. Given the width of your boundaries, what can YOU do to encourage and empower women?
Start a Book Club
If you're like me, you learn best when you study alongside others. Invite some others to join you in a theological book club. Photocopy articles or swap relevant books about women in ministry and then meet monthly to discuss them. You might like it so much that you move to other topics and meet indefinitely.
Be Passionate, Not Mad
Once you've decided what you believe about women in youth ministry, let others know about it. But speak the truth in LOVE. In God's eyes, how you treat others who disagree with you is probably more important than whether or not you "win them over to your side."
When preparing for a potentially difficult conversation, Abraham Lincoln spent a third of his time thinking about what he was going to say and two-thirds of his time thinking about what the other person was going to say. I can't think of better advice when it comes to talking about the theology of women in leadership. Know your own position, but also think ahead about what the other person might say. How would you respond to their position? What are its strong points? What are its potential weaknesses? Thinking this through in advance will bring greater depth to your conversation.
Be Prepared for Mixed Messages
It's amazing how many men have "no theological problem" with women in leadership yet they "don't feel comfortable with it" themselves. Or vice versa-they want women to serve in leadership positions in their own ministries and churches, but they don't think Scripture supports it. While none of us is 100 percent consistent in our beliefs and actions, gently point out the mixed messages and see what they say. You might just start a great conversation.
Your First Family: Husbands and Children
What Do a PDA and a Pacifier Have in Common?
Do you know? Can you guess? Give up? Okay, I'll tell you-ME! For the last three years, the two items most vital to my very survival have been my Palm Pilot and a Nuk. I don't leave home without them. One keeps my schedule in order; one keeps my babies in order. Okay, Okay, pseudo-order.
If you have kids, this section will help you make sense of the topsy-turvy world of mom and ministry. And if you don't have kids yet, flip through the pages anyway. You know others who do. The moms of the girls you work with are hip deep in the delight and despair of family life. The more you understand them, the more you can speak their language. Plus, someday you might have your own kids, and it's never too soon to pick up a few pointers.
True/False: Marriage Hurts Your Ministry
I love asking college students this question. They almost always say true. Being married means less time out with students and fewer late-night donut runs. So yes, I spend about 30 percent less time with students now that I'm married.
But here's the catch: the time I spend is so much richer. Why? Because my relationship with my husband makes me a deeper person. So while I spend 30 percent less time with others, the time I do spend is doubly effective. So in reality, marriage CAN help your ministry. Do the math.
Check In Often
My husband and I talk three or four times each day while one or both of us are at work. I gather that's rare, but it shouldn't be. If we didn't touch base with each other during the day, then by the time I came home from my girls' small group at 9 p.m., I'd have to recap the whole day-starting with the fact that our two year old watched his first Sesame Street episode that morning and ending with the tough questions my girls asked about oral sex. I'd never remember everything, and I'd miss important details-about both our family and our ministry. Plus I'd get agitated or resentful that he wasn't with me to share it all. A few 10-minute phone calls each day make all the difference.
Your Husband's Calling
Since you're active in ministry, it's easy to forget that your husband has his own ministry calling. His call to work with two year olds, or international missions in Zimbabwe, or two year olds in Zimbabwe, can easily get pushed aside by the in-your-face demands of youth ministry. Make sure your husband is using his spiritual gifts in tangible ways every week. And if that means you go to one less Bible study or spend an hour less working on your Wednesday night talk, it's worth it-both for the kingdom and for your marriage.
My Husband Dislikes Youth Ministry
True confession time: My husband Dave, who is just about flawless, doesn't like junior high ministry. It's not that he doesn't believe in it; it's not that he doesn't think it's vital. It's just that he doesn't particularly like junior highers-at least not in large numbers. While he likes the girls in my small group when they come over to our house, junior highers in larger numbers scare him. When he walks into our junior high room, his spine stiffens and his voice changes. My husband, who can skillfully navigate his way through any executive board meeting or complicated engineering procedure, gets freaked out by eighth graders.
If the same is true for your husband, that's okay. If your husband is like mine, he likes and loves YOU. He likes and loves that you are called to work with students. So while he may hardly ever peer into the youth room, he can still support you every minute before you step into that room and every minute after you step out of it. Pray together, strategize together, brainstorm together. Your husband can and should be your number one fan even if he's rarely in the room with you when you're doing ministry.
The "Bring With" Principle
One of my favorite verses about ministry comes from the Apostle Paul. He writes to the people in 1 Thessalonians 2:8 that he loved the Thessalonians so much that he shared more than just the gospel, he shared his very life.
I love that phrase: "our very lives." As much as you can, combine your time spent with teenagers with family time. Do you have to go grocery shopping? Invite someone you're mentoring to go with you. Are you going to spend an hour at your nine-year-old's soccer game? Take a teenager with you. Not only are they spending time with you, but they're also seeing your family in action. And depending on their family background, that might be even more valuable to them than time spent alone with you.
"I Don't Know How You Do It"
Have those words ever been directed at you? "I don't know how you do it." A husband, kids (your own, not the students), more kids (the students, not your own), a house to manage, a career to build, a family calendar to keep, friends to maintain ... just making the list is exhausting, let alone living it.
More than most, Kate Redman knows just how exhausting it can be. She's the fictional character in Allison Pearson's hit novel, I Don't Know How She Does It. The opening scene captures the tension between the job you do in your house and the job you do outside of it.
Monday, 1:37 a.m. How did I get here? Can someone please tell me that? Not this kitchen. I mean in this life. It is the morning of the school carol concert, and I am hitting mince pies. No, let us be quite clear about this, I am distressing mince pies, an altogether more demanding and subtle process.
Discarding the luxury packaging, I winkle the (store bought) pies out of their pleated foil cups, place them on a chopping board and bring down a rolling pin on their blameless floury faces. This is not as easy as it sounds, believe me. Hit the pies too hard and they drop a kind of fat-lady curtsy, skirts of pastry bulging out at the sides, and the fruit starts to ooze. But with a firm downward motion-imagine enough pressure to crush a small beetle-you can start a crumbly little landslide, giving the pastry a pleasing homemade appearance. And homemade is what I'm after here. Home is where the heart is. Home is where the good mother is, baking for her children.
I wish I could sit down with Kate over Mocha Frosted Lattes and tell her that the pace she's trying (emphasis on trying) to keep is insanity. That she can only be great, truly great, in a few things. Pick those few things wisely, and let everything else slide. If you bring store-bought desserts to your child's school (or-gasp, shudder-no dessert at all), who cares? In the light of eternity, does it really matter if you have Lego Duplo blocks strewn around your living room and your kid's bacteria colony science project sprawled across your dining room table when the in-laws come over? I want to be a great lover of Jesus, Dave, and my kids (in that order). Everything else is just gravy.
Creative Ways to Get a Few Hours with Your Kids
With 24 hours a day, seven nights a week, and two days off a week, why is it still so hard to find time with your own kids? Here are a few ideas to get you some quality and quantity time with your family.
Excerpted from Help! I'm a Woman in Youth Ministry! by Kara Eckmann Powell Megan Hutchinson Heather Flies Copyright © 2004 by Youth Specialties. Excerpted by permission.
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