Letter to the church as a millennial: set your women free!

Dear Church,

I love you. And I am disappointed. I’m disappointed that you’ve not only been responsible for historic oppression of women, but currently, so few of you have set your women free. As long as women are told to “play small” in church, we won’t see the Kingdom come on earth like it is in heaven. And we’ll continue to see less and less millennials in our pews or chairs. Millennials are good at picking up scents of oppression and running the other way. More than just attracting millennials to our churches, we want to be churches that are busy about loving God and others well. With love as the motive, here are three areas that you can work on as a congregation to help set your women free:

1)Let’s start with the “first lady” of your church, if you have one. The Pastor’s wife. Oh how Pastors’ wives need to be set free. They must not be seen as a 2-for-1 package.  Just like everyone else in the church, the pastor’s wife needs to be free to serve out of her unique gifting, passion and personality. When you do this, you will be a church that appeals to millennials. Why? By setting your pastor’s wife free to be who God created her to be, your church will be a refuge. You will be demonstrating that this is a safe place for all – even, and especially, the pastor’s wife. And you’ll be ridding your congregation from a yucky part of church history that involves sexism in how pastors’ wives have been pigeonholed and unfairly treated.

2) Women need to be free to serve in positions of leadership in the church and encouraged to do so. If we study the life of Jesus, keeping in mind historical context, we see that Jesus was a radical in his inclusion of women in his life and ministry. And women were in positions of leadership in early Christianity , building and growing the church alongside the apostle Paul. If you already are a church that supports women in leadership on paper, great! Just make sure that you demonstrate this support in practice, too. Millennials want to experience evidence to the effect, not just a statement on paper.

3) The third area of consideration is mostly for the pastors and teachers in the church. How you can help is to be intentional about using examples of women from the Bible and throughout history in Sunday School lessons, Bible Studies and in Sermons. Millennials don’t desire for biblical and historical lessons of men to be pushed aside, rather, they ask that leaders in the church remember to teach about female role models, too.

I realize that it’s a bit bold of me to write a letter to the Church on behalf of millennials. And yes, I know that I don’t speak for every millennial who is connected to a church. But I’m also not the first millennial to think of or express these thoughts. Not the first to ask for our churches to do a better job at setting women free. And I’m fairly certain that I won’t be the last.

With best regards,
a church-loving millennial

Women in Church Leadership

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Our daughter has a set of toy people who are each of a different occupation. We weren’t sure which occupation this lady is. Teacher? Hubby suggested, “Pastor”. Yes. Yes, of course. She’s a Pastor.

As a young girl, I remember asking my dad why he was so committed to attending a Free Methodist church. His reply was, “I have 4 daughters. I want each of you to fully understand that you can serve in leadership at church, too.”

In the little and big ways, we desire for our daughter to know that she can serve in leadership and even be a pastor one day, too (should she feel called). Today that lesson comes in the form of a toy woman with the occupation of pastor.

On raising my daughter to be a feminist

It’s a shame that many cringe when they hear the word feminist. People are often confused by what a person means when they say, “I’m a feminist”. The dictionary definition is such:

Feminist: advocating social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men.

You don’t have to be a female to be a feminist. I love this clip where our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau identifies as a feminist and speaks about raising his sons to be feminists. It’s a one minute clip and worth the watch: Justin Trudeau Urges Men to be Feminists

How exactly do I plan to raise my daughter to be a feminist? The question gives me pause. It certainly won’t be a one time event but an on-going process. The following are a couple examples that come to mind. It’s not an exhaustive list but its a start.

  1. I plan to always raise her in a church that supports women in leadership and ministry. Thankfully, the Free Methodist Church is such a place. (p.s. Jesus was a radical feminist, I look forward to pointing this out to her!)
  2. I hope to instill in her the ability to ask, “why?” Example: why are baby showers only for the mothers and not also for the fathers? Where does that come from? And what do I think about that for today?
  3. I plan to instill in her a voice and knowledge re: finances. If she marries one day and decides to have her husband do the finances, that’s OK. That will be out of choice rather than inability to have an opinion on financial matters.
  4. Whether she decides to work or stay home with the kids, that will be her choice. I’ll remind her that the ability to choose is empowerment. (I’d also support dad being a stay-at-home dad if that’s what they want!).
  5. I’d want her to be aware of the inequality between males and females. The unspoken & spoken expectations that are rooted in sexism. But I’d want to do so in such a way that she is informed but not bitter. Passionate about justice but not poisoned by injustice. There’s a fine line — we must do what we can, when we can. But we will also face great disappointments in how others think & operate. This discouragement can cause us to not act at all. I hope that our daughter will be a feminist who will do what she can, when she can and will also remember the wise words of Mother Teresa:

People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered; Forgive them anyway.

 

Stop Saying That You Don’t Want A Daughter

It costs more to have a daughter. Girls are more work. And the drama! Those are just a few of the sayings I’ve heard re: having a girl. I’ve had people say that they wouldn’t want to have a girl or wouldn’t want two girls or three girls, etc. As the oldest of 4 girls, I used to have similar thoughts. But that all changed when…when we had a daughter.

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Whether you have a son or a daughter, a child costs a lot to raise. And you can’t put a price tag on the joy it is to have a daughter. Having a daddy’s girl is absolutely priceless.

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Girls are more work they say. Why? Because they like to talk? Work through their feelings? I guess as a social worker, I don’t see this as being a bad thing.

IMG_7411 webDrama? Yes, the teenage years can be rough for girls. It sucks that girls have to get periods and grow breasts and the like. But despite everything (yes, even despite the pain of childbirth!) I’m glad to be a girl. And I wouldn’t trade the experience of having our girl for ANYTHING.

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It’s not the clothing. Or the tea parties. Or pink. Or shopping. None of that really appeals to me. Having a girl is a precious gift that I can’t fully put into words. While it’s a shame that she’ll have to fight for gender equality and will face our culture’s sexualisation of women + warped view of beauty, I think she’ll be okay. For women are strong. Brave. Smart. Caring. And it’s a joy to be part of the club! Periods and all.

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Plus I hear that a daughter is more likely to look after you in your old age 😉 Don’t worry sweetie, that’s not the reason why we had you! We love you, our daughter. And if you had a girl, you’d understand. Please stop saying that you don’t want a daughter. Trust me, you do. Or you would. You’d change your mind as soon as she’s in your arms. And your life would never be the same. For you have a daughter!

** I want to be sensitive to those who really want to have a daughter but aren’t able to for whatever reason. I in no way want to belittle your pain. This is a post for those who say they wouldn’t want a daughter. Or pity those with only girls.

If I could have coffee with Anna Duggar

Since the breaking news of the Ashley Madison hack, FB posts and blog articles have exploded re: Josh Duggar’s infidelity and opinions on what Anna Duggar will do, should do, etc. Many feel that Anna’s family and religious circle will encourage her to over-look his infidelity and stay with Josh. Online, there’s a strong plea from women and men who are encouraging Anna to leave Josh and never look back. No matter what she does, she won’t please everyone. And that’s exactly why I want to sit down with Anna to have coffee.

Did you know that Anna just had a baby? The couple’s 4th child? They welcomed a baby girl on July 19th, 2015. Can you even imagine finding out that your husband has been unfaithful one month after giving birth? The following would be hard enough: recovery of birth + postpartum emotions + sleep deprivation + taking care of 3 older children and a newborn. Now add to all of this finding out that your husband paid money to be unfaithful. Anna, in addition to having coffee with you, I want to clean your house/make you meals/help take care of your older children so you can just focus on the baby + rest. I hope someone is doing that for you right now.

Anna: I want to have coffee with you. And my goal is to do one thing: listen. I mean truly listen. The kind of listening that doesn’t come naturally to most of us. To be quiet and help you block out all the voices and focus on one: your own. I want your voice to dominate the conversation. I want you to feel free to be mad, laugh and cry all in one sitting. I won’t be able to refrain from giving you a hug. A whole bunch of them.

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IF over coffee, you stopped the conversation and asked me for my opinionI would encourage you to take a separation from Josh. You may start to panic when I suggest this and I would remind you that separation is most often the healthiest response at a time like this. A period of separation doesn’t have to mean forever. Sometimes separation is the only way to achieve healthy reconciliation. I’d hope that I wouldn’t stop there. I’d hope that I’d be the type of friend who would not only offer my opinion but also help with logistics (I understand that Anna is unemployed and uneducated with 4 children).

In the past week, I’ve read several posts re: Anna and women’s rights. While I agree with the principles at heart, we must remember that it’s easy for us to say “she should do this or that” but it’s a lot harder to put those values into action. What good is it for us to tell a woman that she should leave her abusive husband and not back that up with practical support? What good comes from writing fiery posts about how Anna should be a better role model for women + how we’d do better if in her situation? Would we really? How do we know this (not having lived a day in her shoes)?

I want to have coffee with Anna Duggar. The likelihood of that ever happening is…slim. But guess what? There are women who are broken and need support all around me. They live in my community. Yours too. Almost every town has a shelter for women who are extremely vulnerable. No, these women may not be associated with a super large family that had a reality show. But there are women who are at rock bottom with very few who will listen. There are women who would make a change if someone would help them to do this practically speaking. Women who need to hear less “you just leave him” and more, “I will listen AND HELP you.”

Let’s remember that it’s easy for us to say what we think Anna Duggar should do. It’s easy for us to assume that if we were in someone else’s shoes we’d do this or that. Talk is cheap. Action – action is hard. Action hurts. Action costs us (time, money). Action means becoming a better listener to help another woman find her voice. Action means financially and practically supporting a vulnerable woman in getting on her feet.  Action means hugs. Not virtual ones. Real life, tears streaming down your face hugs. And sitting down to coffee with someone that you normally wouldn’t have rubbed shoulders with.

My heart is broken for Anna Duggar. And for their children. It’s one thing to find out that your husband has been unfaithful – I’d imagine that it’s quite another to find out along side millions of people that you’ve never met. To have the world anxiously awaiting word on what you will do. I’m sure that it adds a painful layer to a hurt that’s so dark and deep already. Anna, while it’s unlikely that you and I will have coffee – I will pray for you. I will hope for you. And I will attempt to practically support a woman who is going through heartache in my own community. To support her not just with words but with action. To live out 1 John 3:18: “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth”. Empowering women practically speaking is the change this world desperately needs. We’ve all heard the speech. It’s time for action.