“How about we try you out for a few months before making a decision?”
It seemed an odd end to a job interview, especially from a mega-church whose parking lot boasted sections named after the books of the Bible. The advertisement for a position ministering to teenage girls had mentioned pay.
“Didn’t the ad include compensation?” I willed myself to speak calmly though I felt like snapping: Do you think my life is an infomercial with a 90-day trial period?!
“We’ve had some changes,” the coordinator of youth ministry explained.
“Volunteering is great,” I responded, “but it’s a luxury. I’m not sure how I could afford driving here … or clothes, food, and a roof.”
I resisted an urge to joke that I’d throw in a free keychain if the church tried me out.
I didn’t mean to be snarky. But I wondered if a male candidate would hear such a discouraging offer. A woman graduating from medical school would surely receive compensation. Why not a professionally trained woman in ministry?
My heart fell as I walked to my car in the Nehemiah lot. According to that church’s theology, a woman couldn’t instruct boys (a paid position). And she needed other employment to support her ministry to girls (a volunteer position). Why, I wondered, was a man’s investment in boys worth more than a woman’s investment in girls? Should I have pursued a more marketable master’s degree?
The idea that women’s leadership was worth less than men’s perplexed me. Growing up, I’d taken for granted the idea that the best outcomes in any work come from both sexes working together.
Once, when I was eight, I organized neighborhood kids to build a park. The idea had zipped through my head one afternoon after stumbling on an old tire buried in grass. Leaving it there seemed a waste of a tire. So I raced to my father’s workshop for a rope. A boy and I strung the tire in a tree. We tied a messy knot, securing it to the trunk, imagining what to build next.
Serendipitously, we acquired a discarded garage door. The kids and I coated it in leftover yellow paint from my family’s farm house. We nailed it to a tree stump to make a slide. The neighborhood kids and I went on to build a seesaw and swing from lumber scraps.
Opening day coincided with Easter weekend. I loved Easter, so in my mind, it made sense to hop a quarter mile in a bunny costume to the event. I’d do anything for the younger kids still to believe in the Easter Bunny.
I doubt our park project would have come to much if someone had insisted on blue versus pink jobs. For one, the boys wouldn’t have listened to me, or executed on my lead as a girl. If they’d insisted on being in charge, the girls would have told them to stop being bossy. And if the boys had refused to collaborate, the girls would have abandoned the project. No swings. No slide. No seesaw. No Bunny. No Easter celebration.
Since childhood, I have continued re-purposing things. But my devotion to the Easter Bunny has evolved into a deep love for Jesus. I’d do about anything for people to know him. That’s why I went to seminary.
The failed job interview hurt and discouraged me. I continued looking for work in a church, but nothing sustainable turned up. I longed to organize, teach, and create, and I lamented the fact that most churches don’t open spaces for entrepreneurial women.
According to a Barna study, many women are “frustrated by the lack of opportunities at church and feel misunderstood and undervalued by their church leaders.” One in five women feel under-utilized. Thirty-seven percent of women believe their church would have more effective ministry if women were given more opportunities to lead. And 41% of women say they have more opportunities to lead outside of their church.
As a woman who relates, I’ve long scouted to invest in other opportunities. God—being God—hasn’t wasted a thing. Over fifteen years, doors have opened for challenging, satisfying work in non-profit ministry, writing, and—most recently—a real estate business. Finally, I’m finding my niche. Now I’m itching to encourage others to persevere in the full expression of God’s life.
Knowing God wants both women and men to thrive, I have created a group to encourage one another’s talents. The Ezer Group offers free tools to help us flourish in and outside faith communities.
Periodically, you will find free tools designed to encourage one another as we spotlight different members. For example, this month you will find downloadable note cards drawn by Idaho artist Heather Kozup. She invites you to give them with a note encouraging a friend in her/his gifts. Heather has also created three bookmarks with a challenge to read a new book, maybe even three. Upcoming tools include a free book chapter, podcasts & more!
Let’s honor what God pours into the world through each of us. After all, Jesus’ spirit invigorates fuller, richer lives than we could live alone. And there’s no trial period before we can truly step into helping build God’s Realm.