A couple of years ago, I took it upon myself to inspire other women in leadership roles within the church. As I look back to that time, there is so much I wish I would have known and come to terms with but every opportunity is a learning opportunity. It is a chance for God to correct, to teach and guide us on His path. I don’t regret my years in leadership. And I am revisiting this blog series with some fresh perspective and Biblical insight. Some of it you may not agree with but, I hope as we dive into scripture, you will be awakened to what I have learned this past year.
For as long as I can remember, leading and taking control has come easily for me. Some of my need for control has come from an unhealthy place but that is for another post. So, it has made sense that, over the years, I have held roles of leadership. From youth group president to school project leader to small group leader to ministry leader. If the role wasn’t assigned to me, I eventually slid into the role naturally. In my younger years, being in a leadership role came from that unhealthy place of needing control. I didn’t trust others to make the right decisions and I didn’t like the unknown. Again, details behind that will be saved for another day but, I find it important to make the distinction between leading in my younger years and leading in my later years to now.
My history of leading and realizing it could be a gift led me to be in a leadership role at a church I attended for many years. It was an exciting season as I was learning how faithful God is and how I can trust in His plan, His wiring of me, and His guidance. One phrase I repeated over and over was “God doesn’t call the qualified, He equips the called.” I came into the role of leading not because I had an education to go with it or a degree in theology but because it was clear that the Lord opened the door to serve in that capacity. Leading came naturally and it was exciting to be supported and encouraged to lead.
For about five years, I served as the Women’s Ministry Director at a church I once attended and while that may not seem like enough years of experience to shower you with wisdom, it was enough to be able to share what I’m about to.
Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness.Psalm 115:1 ESV
Only One God Deserves Praise.
As stated earlier, a mantra I embraced while being a ministry leader was “God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called”. In Exodus 4, we get to see this demonstrated in the conversation between Moses and God. Moses expresses his concerns and hesitation in giving the signs God is instructing him to do. Throughout the dialogue, God makes it clear to Moses that He will equip him, He will do the tasks for him and He will send help (Aaron).
God does the same for us. So, I began my role as the women’s ministry leader with this thought in mind. Because I certainly did not have the education or experience to be in this role. Had it been a paid position for which I needed to interview, I highly doubt I would have gotten in. Instead, it is an open door and a very God-timed situation. When I began leading, I had these grand visions of what the ministry could look like. Taking into consideration the conferences and Bible Studies I had attended at other churches, I had ideas and vision!
Over the five years, there were some amazing highs and some frustrating lows. It was amazing to see women embrace their faith and step out of a place of comfort and into a place of courage. I was constantly in awe of how God would put me in situations that I had never been before; situations that scared me but I knew, deep down, that God gave me a “helper” – the Holy Spirit, to do what He was calling me to do.
The lows were no fun! Are they ever? But, they are learning gold mines. The lows can be rich opportunities for the Lord to humble us and remind us Who is in charge and Who is in control. From relational drama to hardly anyone showing up to something I had prepared so hard for to women not connecting in a way I had dreamed about – the lows were very real. Leading a ministry can be a very lonely place too. As an extrovert, this was an extremely challenging component in that, oftentimes, I wondered if others assumed I was fine and was busy with my friends. In reality, I spent many nights alone or uninvited to gatherings and the like. Thankfully, I did have some wonderful close friends who were also leading ministries or in unique positions within the church that had them feeling similar things. It was life-giving to be able to relate to one another in our roles.
The real challenge came when March 2020 came around and everything shut down. Our church chose to remain closed and so we had to conduct any type of gathering online. This just doesn’t do it for me, at all, and I will save that for another post as well. I will pause for a moment and say that yes, I do believe the illness is real and everyone was uncertain and trying to make the best decisions that they knew to make. Everyone was scrambling and trying to be creative with ways to keep people connected. It was no different with women’s ministry. I don’t blame anyone for easily becoming disconnected. It’s so easy to do when there is no personal connection happening and I found it very easy to disengage as well.
My time leading women’s ministry ended in August 2020. One could blame the shutdown but, if I am going to be honest, the shutdown just provided the opportunity to make a decision that I knew had been coming for quite some time already. It was easy to avoid with all the distractions but, when you can’t go anywhere or do what you usually do, the distractions are gone and you are forced to face what God has been patiently waiting for you to reckon with. I had felt the burnout creeping in and I thought it was just God pulling me away from ministry because of His plan for me to return to school. That was a component but, after over a year out of the ministry, I have gained so much more clarity.
I shared earlier that when I began leading the ministry, I came with ideas and visions based on other conferences and studies I attended at other churches. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it does become one when you get caught up in the fads and “cool” ways of doing things. The further away I have gotten from vocational ministry, the more I am seeing the big picture of what was happening. Instead of tapping into what God was wanting, and instead of getting into His word, I was more concerned with what the latest cool thing was for ministry. What were other churches doing? How were they decorating for events? What was “on trend”? I wanted to be current and relevant. There is a difference between mimicking and wanting to be like other ministries and using what other ministries do as a learning opportunity. Because it is Biblical to learn, to be mentored, to seek wise counsel, etc.
One of my mantras throughout leading was “we’ve got to move from a place of comfort to a place of courage!” Again, not a bad thing – at all. But what was I really after with that phrase? Yes, my prayer was for women to be engaged and not let fear hinder them from doing whatever God was leading them to do. But there was something else that I was fighting and it was the answer to these questions – “Where are all my women at like the other ministries and churches seem to have? Why don’t I have women running to serve with me or be engaged the way that I would like them to be?”
I was dancing in some dangerous waters here. Was I practicing what I so often preached? Who am I serving here and who am I aiming to please? It wasn’t God. My ministry measurement stick was comparing my ministry with other ones in the area, and beyond. As I read through these sentences, I’m not seeing God’s name very much. Most of the direction is towards me. And boy did He remind me so well Who deserves the glory, honor, and praise. It’s not Melissa.
The sad part of all this is that nobody knew I was struggling. My pride took over and, if you ask anyone, I’m sure they would not have had a clue this was a battle. While that battle was going on there was another one deep within me that I knew had to be between myself and the Lord. It took a ton of humility and repentance on my part and a whole lotta grace on His part. Through the breaking down of my pride, the Lord revealed it was time to let it go. Man, I’m so thankful for a God who is gracious and merciful to His children.
I could sit here and list a million regrets from all those years of leading a ministry. There was confession time with the Lord but I know that there were also some very sweet, amazing Holy Spirit-led moments. Women grew in their faith, relationships were formed, discipleship and community happened and women embraced courage over comfort and fear. That was all the Lord’s doing because this imperfect, prideful human woman couldn’t have done all that on her own.
Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?”Psalm 115:2-4 ESV
Our God is in the heavens;
He does all that He pleases.
Their idols are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
May all that I do be pleasing to the Lord.
Silver and gold are beautiful. But, as the Psalm goes on to say, these idols have all the body parts but not the functions of the God-created body parts. And when one becomes infatuated with the idols, they become like them. The event decorations, trendy music, and special effects, the latest worship or activity fad can be attractive. But if it is not honoring God, it might as well be dust.
I want to be more like Jesus.
Forget the fads and trendy activities.
Let’s focus on the Bible. Every single word of it and study it. Hunger for it. And not waver from the truth within it. We’ve been gifted with the Living Word of God and it is the only manual, inspiration, and directive we should be receiving from. I love the church I call home now. Every Sunday I sit with my Bible wide open and every Sunday I notice my hunger to learn and read becomes more intense. As I read, the more my focus is directed towards my Heavenly Father and away from myself. He is sovereign. I am not. It’s not to myself but to Him be all the glory and honor and praise forever and ever.
So, does this mean there shouldn’t be a women’s ministry with cute décor and fun activities? Absolutely not. But, instead of going to Pinterest and social media to gain ideas and see what the latest trends are, let’s go to the Bible for inspiration and dive deep into those holy, ancient words that are so very relevant and important for today.