During our annual national board meeting in Columbus a couple of weeks ago we were discussing our movement’s lack of women in their twenties through early middle-age.
Someone mentioned that many women feel that their only opportunity to commit to a ministry or cause is after their kids are grown, before the kids boomerang back, and/or before becoming the caretakers of elderly parents. Since this time is also usually the most productive for a career, movements such as ours are being squeezed out of these women’s lives.
Most of us discussing this issue had been actively involved in various causes and ministries at every stage of our lives, never having considered waiting for the optimal moment to pursue our passions.
It was suggested during our board meeting discussion that perhaps we need to show the younger women, those who are waiting to find a convenient opportunity to pursue their passion to serve, that it is possible to integrate these activities into their life, now, rather than later. In fact, it is rare for one to add such ministries to one’s life in later years if the habit hasn’t been established earlier.
As a working single mother in my twenties and early thirties I had been a youth leader, choir director, Sunday school teacher and a member of my local women’s group. From my mid-thirties to late fifties (while raising two children born in my late thirties and early 40’s) I had been a working pastor’s wife, active in various levels of women’s ministries, a state officer of Church Women United, wrote devotions and Sunday school curricula, served on my son’s school site counsel and a community advisory committee and even home-schooled my youngest son for a time. All this while relocating to a new community every few years.
At my current stage of life, once again single, I am serving as a National Officer of AB Women’s Ministries while working at a demanding full-time job in the field of education, sharing my home with my 96 year-old mother, putting my two twenty-something sons through college and trying to keep connected with my oldest son and his family who live in Italy.
I don’t set myself up as the paradigm of a balanced life. I admit that there were times when my family suffered because of my outside commitments and times when I was unable to do my best work for those commitments because of the needs of my family. In the past few years I have come to see that I sometimes failed to pursue personal interests or cultivate some of my talents and gifts to their fullest because of all the demands upon my time and energy.
However, while all of my choices may not constitute the best options possible, they seemed to me to be the best ones at the time and they have enabled me to continue to grow and serve throughout my life. My experience illustrates that if a woman feels a desire to become active outside her job and family it is doable. It does not require any extraordinary portion of energy or even an especially supportive family.
What is required is a desire to serve and a decision to accept each appropriate opportunity that presents itself, whatever your current circumstance may be.
If that is true, then our task, as a women’s ministry, is to present women of all ages with opportunities to serve in ways that are compatible with their lifestyles.
We must do this while demonstrating our own genuine joy in following Jesus’ example of service to others in God’s name.