By Diane Paddison

Alone in a (Church) Crowd

Feeling isolated at church?

I go to a great church, one where I feel spiritually fed and uplifted every Sunday. But even though my church does a lot of things right, there have been times when I feel like people there, including the church leadership, just don’t “get” me. Yes, I take my profession seriously, but I’m not all that unique: around 50% of all advanced degrees are going to women, and 70% of women with children under 18 are working moms (according to Shaunti Feldhahn’s book, The Life Ready Woman ).

So why are there 6:00 am Bible studies for men, but not for women?

Why am I encouraged to volunteer in the nursery every year, but never with the church finance committee? I love babies as much as the next person, but I have real gifts with business plans and numbers. Why is that part of me not recognized or acknowledged?

I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. Women — young women especially — are giving up on church at an alarming rate. Barna research group reports that 27% of professional women leave church altogether because they feel isolated and marginalized there.

I used to take this kind of thing personally, as if “the church” was out to get me and force me to conform to some cookie-cutter picture of Christian femininity. But over time I’ve realized that, for the most part, it’s not personal at all. Most “church people” don’t disapprove of me and aren’t out to change who I am, they’re just used to doing things a certain way. Many churches are open to change. They just might need a little help.

I witnessed this first-hand last week when I met with the director of women’s ministry at a large Dallas church. We were discussing some of the needs and desires of working women when the director had a “light-bulb” moment. She realized that the church offers a regular ministry breakfast focused on meeting the unique pressures of working in the business world (something a lot of women could benefit from), and yet only men have been invited. And why? No reason at all, except that that’s the way it’s been done in the past.

If you’re feeling isolated at church, don’t give up!

You are not alone, and you are not powerless.

It’s okay to look for another church if you need to, but you should consider trying to help your church change to better serve academic and professional women. Here are some tips for getting started.

Raise your concerns. It’s really not fair to expect change if you’ve never made your discomfort known. Ask to meet with your pastor and/or director of women’s ministry, and take a few friends with you if you can. Don’t waste time complaining. Instead, focus on the positive: the opportunity to better minister to academic and working women. Start with something small. Ask to plan a special weekday luncheon, early-morning coffee hour, or Sunday afternoon meeting and have a woman executive or woman academic speak.

Make your church aware of resources like www.4wordwomen.org and The Well . Encourage the church to sponsor a 4word chapter, start one on your own (contact hello@4wordwomen.org for more information), or connect with 4word on Facebook.

 

This post was originally published at the 4Word blog.

About the Author

Diane Paddison has an MBA from Harvard Business School and is the author of Work, Love, Pray. She has held several executive positions for corporations, including two Fortune 500 companies and is currently the Chief Strategy Officer at the commercial real estate firm Cassidy. Diane gathers professional women for connection and mentoring time whenever she travels for business. This passion for mentoring women inspired her to found 4word™, a national nonprofit designed to connect, lead, and support young professional Christian women to fulfill their God-given potential. Diane and her husband have four children and live in Dallas, Texas, and Portland, Oregon.

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