Tuesday, January 24, 2017

on being women in church leadership

Yesterday, one of my children lay in the hallway of the YMCA, in rebellion to the suggestion that he go play in the gym. Another yelled in my face when my gentle teasing was found incredibly annoying. A third child was offended deeply by the dinner they were forced to accept. 

I know everyone else's kids are perfect angels, but mine seem to be full-blown human beings grappling with all sorts of soulishness.

My people are tired. My people are grouchy. We are straining against the currents of our weary souls. We trudge upstream every day, and we are making it through the week one bad attitude adjustment at a time.

All along the way, words keep accumulating in my heart. I know I have pages and pages to write before I am done. I feel the book growing inside me. It taps my shoulder and pulls my mind away from all this mothering and ministry. It is a beloved burden, and I treasure its presence in my life.

The burden I treasure the least is the call to subdue the mess in our house. That is a responsibility I would like to shirk completely, thanks so much.

Every night, Morgan and I have strategic church conversations, strategic children conversations, and a schedule to organize. We sit close and cozy in the quiet of our home and focus on everything except that schedule so romance can catch us up above the crowded calendar.

Life is good. Life is full. Life is hard.

When I hear women say that their only real priority is their family, I want to applaud them. They seem so sure. It seems so obvious and simple to have a singular focus. I sometimes wish my own journey could be as clearly defined as that. Most days I am a piece of saran wrap stretched over a compartmentalized cafeteria plate that God filled a little too full. I'm just trying get through lunch with everything still in the spot God dished it.

God's loving call will not relent until the work is done- in my soul, in my marriage, in my kids, in my writing, in ministry, and in His Kingdom. Some days, it's more than I know how to manage.

But the truth is I love the spontaneity and unpredictability of our life. I (mostly) enjoy hopping from homeschooling to writing a chapter to baseball practice to baking cookies to reading for Bible study to planning meetings to folding laundry to blogging to painting the kitchen to praying with someone in need. I cherish each moment one role at a time: wife, mom, minister. I cram it all in but don't do it all at once- that would be soul suicide.

This method of living is insane and wonderful. Along the way, though, arises a general inadequacy in understanding what it means to be a married mother in the ministry. I've tried dumping a responsibility here and there, but it's impossible. God delights in creeping up on me and tenderly laying the responsibilities back at my feet every time.

Here lies the challenging part of the woman+ministry equation: there is no playbook to follow. Many of us are the first women in our families to attempt this hat trick of leadership.

We are the first generation of women collectively attempting to lead well as we also correctly grasp the biblical definition of submission. We grapple with the strange call on our lives to bear the full glory of womanhood in the modern world. Hopefully our people see the tension we face, and can muster the courage to help us find our way when leadership roles, schedules, and church/family structures are difficult for us to navigate.

We are among the first to preach in the pulpit, to publicly lead men as well as women in worship and in wisdom. We have the eyes of our culture locked on us in search of answers to the dilemma birthed by the desire to represent women well and mother graciously in the midst of other leadership roles and responsibilities.

It isn't that it hasn't ever been done, it's just that it hasn't ever been attempted so publicly, or by so many.

I stand in wonder at the sight of all the women who long to be everything God has called them to be.

I believe in all of you. 

It takes work and sacrifice and a magnitude of love to make your life happen. I see you up late writing sermons and up early packing lunches. I feel your despair when you have to choose who to lovingly disappoint: the woman who needs counsel or the child who wants his mama at home all the time. I know the strain of laying aside your own plan because your husband has to work late after all. I can even smell the rottenness of criticism levied against you by people who could love you better if they tried. You are brave to patiently wait as they find their own way through the darkness.

You are all my heroes, and the words I spoke to myself today, I also give to you: God's plan is to love you forever, and nothing can ever stop His plan. No matter what. Not even if you are Saran Wrap that has come a little loose and made a bit of a mess. You are a pioneer in the Kingdom, and if you follow well, Jesus will lead you right where you need to go.

It's a privilege to walk beside you and to be a small part of what God is doing in the earth through His daughters. May His Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven, and may our hearts thrill as His presence meets our perseverance and we see His glory expand.


  1. We have never met, but you know me so well. Thank you for writing this.

  2. Thank you Carrie for your wise words. I am so encouraged by this post. I so often struggle with the very things you've mentioned. You've just put into words what so many of us struggle with as leaders, mothers, wives, etc. Saving this for when I need more encouragement!

  3. You are always spot on for me. Can't wait to read your book! Shoot for the planets, you've got a lot of good stuff to say! :) Hope you guys are well. Sounds like it....This makes me happy. "We sit close and cozy in the quiet of our home and focus on everything except.....so romance can catch us up above the crowded calendar."

    1. Jen, we are doing well. It has taken a lot of work and a lot of Jesus, but we're growing through the hard parts of life, closer to God and to each other. All worth it. I wouldn't change a thing.