I remember it as if it were yesterday. I was sitting on the stage at my church waiting for my rowdy group of kids to be picked up. We had just wrapped up another night of Awana ministry and the kids were running wild around our sanctuary. My coworker came to sit beside me and say hello before departing with a “see you Thursday night!” I must have looked confused because he stopped and gestured assuringly, “You know, at the pastor’s Christmas dinner party.”
I simply shook my head as my heart sunk: I hadn’t been invited.
There is a really cool God-story connected with how I got this job as Children’s Ministry Director. (When I tell it now I usually call myself a Children’s Pastor, but that’s another story for another day. As is the one about how I got the job.) It was my first “real” job after college graduation if you don’t count my internship that turned into a 6-month contract and a summer spent at day camp as a women’s lead counselor. I loved this job working with kids (and their parents, and leaders, and volunteers, and paid staff) and was passionate about growing the ministry and myself as a leader. I worked hard and it showed with glowing reviews both from parents and my supervisor.
But during my first months there I began to realize that there was something different about me in my role. These differences became especially clear as a new youth pastor was hired. While I had a similar education, led a similar-sized ministry, and worked just as many hours as he did there was things he was included in that I was not (including a higher salary and a housing allowance). Was it because he had children and I did not? Was it because he was a man and I was a woman? Was it because his role was labeled “pastor” and mine was only “director?” I had a lot of questions that went unanswered, mostly because they went unvoiced. I was new and I was young and never felt confident enough to push. So I just prayed a lot and kept doing my work with excellence.
But that night sitting on that stage my youth pastor friend reacted strongly to my admission that I hadn’t been invited. He took it upon himself to call up our senior pastor who was hosting the dinner and make sure my name (and my husband’s) was on the invitation list. And I don’t know what kind of back-room deals went on regarding me, but it didn’t take much longer for me to be included in the weekly pastoral staff meetings and the monthly pastoral staff lunches. Even when I was the only woman in the room for years, I worked hard to do more listening than speaking. I learned to use my voice wisely so that when I spoke up, those guys listened. And because I was in the room I was able to advocate for my ministry, for the kids and the families I was charged with the care of. And I got to read the prayer cards each week, bow my head, and enter into pastoral care for the families I loved.
And all it took was one man standing up and saying “she needs to be included. Her voice is important and we need to hear it.” I am forever grateful for this man who stopped long enough to see me, and then went to work on my behalf.
Christian men, we need you. Your sisters are working hard and faithfully living out our callings in the building of God’s kingdom. We need you to be our friend, and our advocate. Speak up. Invite us into the room. Tell the stories of how our words or actions have mattered to you. We need you on our team, fighting with us and for us.
Because we all benefit when leaders are unleashed. When men and women work together based on giftedness and not on gender. When a multitude of voices are included and encouraged.
Who has been an advocate in your life? How can you be such an advocate for someone else today?