Monday, March 17, 2008

Moving Forward

Sometime in August of last year, it became next to impossible for me to focus during the worship service on Sunday morning. Adam and I attend the Gathering, a non-traditional, more contemporary service offered at our church. There are three Godly teachers who share the teaching responsibilities for the service. It didn’t matter which teacher stood before us with God’s Word, from the time the musical worship ended and we sat to listen, all I could think about was my vision for the Women’s Ministry of my church (PDBC). I would pray about the deficits I saw and yearn to share what I had learned in my 9 years of training. I would present a case in my head for the need to pay the current Women’s Ministry director and pray for wisdom on who to talk to about it. I would also sit and try to coax myself to patience. I told myself over and over, now is not the time for me to be in Women’s Ministry. After all, I am too young. No one wants a 30-year old in charge of their Women’s Ministry. And, I need to wait until Luke and hopefully another child to enter school before I can take on a profession. It is highly important to me to raise my own children, to be the one at home with them, teaching them the basics of life and loving God. At the end of each sermon, there would be a time of response. During this time, all I could do was tell God over and over, “I am your servant. Please show me how to serve you.”

I only shared my heart’s turmoil with God and Adam. My sweet husband was and is a source of encouragement. He is always confident of my abilities. He believes that God has blessed me with talent that must be used for God’s glory. He listened patiently as I poured out my desires and vision and fear over and over again. He prayed.

Then, on Sunday, February 17th, Adam and I were returning from a marriage retreat, driving with our friends. I sat with Debbie in the backseat, chatting away while the men had their own conversation in the front. The feeling that I should share my vision with Debbie grew as the miles passed. I took a deep breath and laid it all out to her. Now, one thing you should now about my friend Debbie is that she can pray. When they thought up the phrase “prayer warrior” it was Debbie they were thinking about. When it comes to prayer, this woman is Maximus in Gladiator. She has the biggest rippling prayer muscles I have ever seen and she knows how to use them. So, I decided if I was going to enlist the aid of a prayer general, it should be her. She listened with excitement as I told her my thoughts, hopes, and worries. She agreed to pray with me about the direction God wants to take PDBC’s Women’s Ministry.

The following week, I felt God urging me to talk with another lady from my church. Donna is the Mentor Mom in our Mothers Reaching Mothers group (the one I have been heading up since July). I met with her on the following Tuesday, February 19th. I presented all my vision to her, emphasizing that I did not want the current Women’s Minister to feel like I thought she was doing a bad job or that I was seeking to take her job. I simply felt that God was calling me to share my training and serve him in PDBC’s Women’s Ministry. I shared with her that I was excited about how far the Women’s Ministry had come since I had left for college twelve years ago. In the time I had been gone, the women of PDBC had created the women’s ministry. It didn’t even exist in the years of my growing up. However, I also shared with her that I thought it was time to take things to the next level, and I had training in this very area.

Donna was excited to hear what I had to say. She revealed to me that she was actually the first Women’s Ministry Director and Leslie, the woman who had taken over for her was one of her best friends. She encouraged me saying that Leslie would be excited to hear my ideas, which was just what I needed to hear to have the courage to take the next step in calling Leslie for a meeting. At this point I was moving in euphoria at how clear God was making each step.

At this point I also felt that there were three big obstacles that only God could clear. First, I was concerned about offending Leslie. I in no way wanted her to feel like I thought she was doing a poor job. As I saw it, PDBC had a Women’s Minister and so it could not be my time. Second, I felt that my age was a huge obstacle. I was afraid they would all look at me and think I am too young to take on such a position. Third, the position is currently not a paid position. I think this is a problem on many different levels, but I also know that only God can work the strings of the church to create a paid staff position for this role.

So, I arranged to meet with Leslie on Saturday, March 1st. As I laid out my heart to her, her smile grew larger and larger. She explained to me that every August she prays and asks God whether or not he wants her to continue in the position of Women’s Ministry Director. This August, she had felt a release, an assurance that her time in the position had come to an end. She had also been searching for a replacement. She strongly felt that she should train a replacement and not leave the ministry unattended. However, every woman she asked told her they were not the one to take over. And, the last woman she had asked even told her that she felt it was time for a younger woman to take the helm.

I sat stunned. God had just obliterated obstacles one and two. In fact, the people on the other side of the issue had been praying the same prayers only from the other perspective as me. They had been praying for a replacement for Leslie, and that this replacement would be young.

It was made official when the Minister of Education, Leslie, and I met with the Women’s Ministry Team on Sunday, March 9th. I am PDBC’s new Women’s Minister. I am so excited about this. Sometime during the day I met with Leslie, God showed me that this is what he has been preparing me for. This is why he took me to Biola and DTS for training. This is part of why he brought Adam and I back to Abilene. All the training I have received while away from home was so I could bring that training back to minister to my home church. I am blown away by the blessing of being able to give back to the church that has been such an elemental part of my upbringing and faith.

There is still one obstacle left – the issue of salary. Please understand, I do not want to belittle my church in any way. This is an issue now because it has never been an issue before. As I already said, when I left twelve years ago, PDBC didn’t even have a Women’s Ministry. The whole area of Women’s Ministry is new. The women who started PDBC’s Women’s Ministry already had jobs and were happy to volunteer their time for the church. I am the first to come along with the credentials and training and calling for vocational ministry. It is just new territory for the church, and it is an unexpected expense. The church leadership is not opposed to paying a Women’s Minister. It will just take some time and going through the right channels. I would appreciate your prayers for this. Yes, my family could certainly use the money. Living on one teacher’s income is not easy. More importantly, I think it is vital for this to be a paid position to give legitimacy to the ministry. The Women’s Ministry has always been well supported by the staff, but I think it is time that the women of the church had their own representation on the church staff. God has blown the other obstacles apart, and I know that he can take care of this one, too.

Praise God for he is so good!


heather said...

Christin--how exciting to see God leading you and opening the doors! I can't wait to see how you grow through this and how He'll use you to lead the women of the church.
It's funny how God has been intersecting women in my life with similar burdens. I've been thinking through women's ministry issues, what my role (if my role) is within ministering to women and if so, in what way? In fact, over the past couple of weeks, I've been talking about it on my blog. I'm taking a break for Holy Week, but will pick the conversation back up.
I'm looking forward to hearing more about your experience.

Christianne said...

Christin, this is So. Amazing. Whoa, dude. I got goose bumps on my arms as I got to the part about your meeting with Leslie on March 1! Dang, God is amazing!!

I was totally thinking about Heather as I read this post, too, because of the series she is conducting on her blog right now, asking lots of good questions about the larger purpose of the church and how that relates to women's ministry. She also kicked off that series with a few posts that asked people what they have liked or not liked about their experiences with women's ministries at their churches, and there were definitely some strong opinions on this out there!

I've been meeting with a small group of women on Saturdays over this past month or so to start something at our church, too. And we feel a bit overwhelmed by the sheer task of doing something to honor Jesus at our church, which is so large and already has groups that support women's Bible study and prayer. We feel a need for something different, and we're just now starting to get a sense of what that is. But we also feel inadequate because of our age -- all of us are 28, 29, or 30 years old. Who the heck are we?!?! But we keep thinking of Paul's admonishment to Timothy to not let others look down on us for our youth, especially if the Lord has called us together for his purposes at such a time as this.

I would really, really love to hear more about what you have felt a need to have at your church in this area. What do you think the women's ministry needs? What do you feel needs to be different than what is already being done? How are you going to start?

Lots of big questions, I know, but I would really value hearing whatever you feel able to share in this public space, as me and my girls are also grappling with these questions and what something like this could look like.

Love you! And congratulations! God is so, so amazing.

Jen said...

Hi, Christin.
Thanks so much for sharing about this exciting turn of events in your life. I would also enjoy hearing your thoughts about what a women's ministry should be and how to go about it. I am also curious to know how you are resolving the stay-at-home mommy desire with your new vocation. Questions about vocation are high up there on my list of mental occupations, too.



The Bergers said...

That is so exciting, Christin!! DO you remember all the talks that me, you, Heather and Lisa had about this stuff? It is so awesome to see God's hand in it all and his leading. I am very excited for you!!

kirsten said...

oh christin! i have been an absentee blogger lately & i am so late to this party, but i am one ENTHUSIASTIC guest!! it was so exciting to read the course of events as they unfolded. i remember our conversation when you were here about your desire for vocational ministry, about your training & wanting to use it for the glory of God & for other women.

it's so exciting to see others stepping out, taking the risk to trust God with things that are too big for us. i just want to jump up & down & say WAHOOO!!!!!!! go God, & go Christin!

the way you tell this story, it is so apparent God has been leading you step by step into this place & that this is something he has for you right now. i rejoice with you & your family & will be another in the band of prayer warriors around you, praying that God will bless the next step & the next, praying that He'll provide the salary you need.

blessings, girl. all sorts of blessings on you!!

love you,

Christin said...

Thank you, Heather. I haven't had a chance to get over to your blog yet, but I am excited to see what you hvae been thinking in the area of women's ministry.

Christianne - God is amazing! That is my theme lately. I am excited to hear that you are working to start something more in the area of women's ministry in your church. I have been blown away by the support I have been receiving, and the fact that they are excited to have someone my age in the position. To briefly answer your questions:

The immediate needs I see for our women's ministry are visibility - while there has been an established ministry going on, most of the women in the church don't really know what's happening and are therefore not involved, and cohesiveness - I want to bring the generations together to minister to one another, to really create an atmosphere in which Titus 2:3-5 ministry can happen.

We are starting with much prayer. I think it is vital that every step be bathed in prayer. There is a small leadership team already in place. I plan to expand this team and include women from generations not already represented. I am also working on ways to make the ministry more visual: keeping announcements in the church bulletin and slides up to date, I am going to write a letter to the women of the church to inform them on what is taking place, etc. I hope to soon start a Spiritual Formation group using the DTS curriculum. I will also start attending the church staff meetings once a month, so that I can learn how the church opperates and know what is going on in the church.

Am I answering your questions, please ask more if you would like more details. Also, I have some good resources for starting women's ministry if you would like to know more.

Jen - In all honesty, I still think of myself as a stay at home mommy. Luke is already attending Mother's Day Out (we call it school) on Tuesdays and Thursdays. So, I usually tackle ministry stuff on Tuesdays and Thursdays, or during his nap time. Also, one of the blessings of this being a volunteer position at this time is that I have the freedom to spend as much or as little time doing it as I see fit. I don't feel like I am sacrificing my family at all. I do feel that I am actually being a better mommy, because I am finally serving God in the capacity I feel I was created to serve. Not that raising a family isn't a great service to God. It is still my greatest act of service and ministry. However, I am not the woman who is fulfilled as a mommy. I am called to serve in the church as well. I think that not doing so for the last few years has left an emptiness and tug that caused me to be restless and down. Obeying the call gives me an inner peace and joy that translates into my home life. Does that make sense? The trick will always be to maintain the balance.

Thanks Christi - It seems like forever ago that we sat around dreaming about what God was going to do with us. I am excited to finally be doing.

Kirsten - your enthusiasm and prayer are much appreciated. I guess God has been pulling on my heart about this since before August, if we were talking about it in Washington.

In brief update - I met with our head pastor last week. I am blown away by the support of the church staff. They are all excited to have me on board and agree that women's ministry is an important part of the church. I was also suprised as I talked with the head pastor and the minister of education that they both are quite egalitarian when it comes to the position of women in ministry. However, I must admit that I was discouraged to find out the behind the scenes info on the prospect of getting a paycheck. Although the staff is not against paying me, I was reminded that my church is an old church, and Abilene is not the metroplex. The decision is not really up to the staff. It will probably be a couple of years or so before payment is an option. I don't think anyone wants to be told that they will have to do what they have spent 9 years of formal training to learn to do as a volunteer. However, I firmly think that the responsibility of this decision lies with God. God has called me to this position, and he is in control of my finances. I still believe that he will bring about a paycheck when the time is right. So, I pray for humility and joy in serving. I am not in anyway upset or irritated with my church staff. On the contrary, I have great respect for them and am excited to work with them. I am still excited to see what God is going to do.