Monday, September 11, 2017

Guest Post: Church Ladies

Our daughter, Paige Lowe, posted this on her Facebook page, but we thought it had ideas that others in churches -- and church leadership -- need to hear. She gave us permission to post it here. 

The photos are from a variety of churches across the country, but not from the one Paige visited this week. 
Dear American church,

I love you. Let's talk.

I went to a church this morning (that shall remain nameless. They seemed like nice people) and when I opened the bulletin, I was greeted by an insert listing all their life groups (Bible studies in hip modern church speak).

I was impressed by the sheer number of groups, but as I began to look, I got more and more frustrated. There were 20 groups. Five of those groups were focused on parents or moms (moms, working moms, parents, parents of young kids). None of them were specifically for dads, but don't worry, men. Four other groups were just for you, and none of them take place during work hours. Are you 30+? There's a group for you. If you're in recovery, there are 3 groups for you (two of those specifically for women). Couples? There are a few groups for you, too (unclear whether or not any of them apply to those who are couples with someone who watches Dragon Ball Super instead of going to church on Sunday mornings).

Women's groups for the weird non-moms in non-crisis? There's a women's group for women at "all ages and stages" on 9:30 am on a Wednesday, so I guess you’re welcome as long as your age and stage isn't "employed in a standard weekday job.”

The problem isn't just this church. Most churches I've been to seem to forget there are working women without children. And this church isn't awful. After my initial frustration, I noticed two meetings for "Families of all ages, couples, and singles," which helps. But still, I have beef.

When someone walks into a church and sees everyone catered to but them, it makes them feel like they don't belong there. The women who aren't in a lovely Christian couple might have even more desire for a Christian community than moms who get together with their husbands for devotions every morning (is that what you guys do? I assume it's what you guys do. It sounds adorable).

I don't expect any church to have a group specifically for "25 year old women who married heathens and like to watch sitcoms," (although if your church does have that, call me), but I think we can do better.

The fact that women are the church's largest demographic, and single working women make up a huge chunk of that but aren't covered under any targeted groups like men or moms, says a lot about who the church is focusing on. Those women with free time, energy and skills. They want to care about your congregation and can contribute *so much*. The fact that I've seen churches across the country who KNOW it's the 21st century, but still plan women's Bible studies as if none of us work says that we still have a long way to go.

How do we solve it? Thanks for asking! There's a ton of ways. Here’s a few ideas:

1. Stop having your only women's group during the workday. Just. Stop. Or at least stop pretending that group is a viable option for every woman in the church.*

2. Have more groups that aren't focused on demographics. Maybe I missed it, but I don't remember Paul ever saying that the church is best when sectioned off into "30 something couples" and "Men 50 and older." Although I can see the value of having people who understand your life experience, that experience isn't defined solely through the US Census demographics. Sure, men probably don't understand your problems with patriarchy, and women might not understand guys’ issues, emotions? The draft? We'll probably understand better if we meet and talk about life together.

3. Have interest groups! I've heard of churches that have board game groups. I had a ton of fun meeting with friends and talking about God in Doctor Who. Some churches have knitting groups that sound super boring to me, but are a great way to meet and talk and share. Interests don't have any built in "you can't come," just a built in "You might not care." If people find things that they're passionate about, it can help other people come in.

Whew. That was long. And probably didn't cover everything. BUT if you took nothing else from this:

Where are the women? Not your Bible studies if you only put them on weekday mornings.

*Dean and Mindy’s note: If your goal is to reach only women 70 years and older, this is a perfectly reasonable time. If you want to get older women out at night, suggesting that younger women share rides could be a solution. What are your ideas?