Refined

girls ministry, women

I’ve been super-busy lately; too busy to really blog or even think sometimes.  But I have made time to read (it helps I conduct a study time with my teens at work).

As I’ve talked about recently, I make it of importance to constantly surround myself, through reading/news/media/etc, with material that challenges my worldview.  A year ago I read “Year of Biblical Womanhood” by Rachel Held Evans.  It was definitely something that challenged my existing worldview, and I was told to check out “Voices of the True Woman Movement: A Call to Counter-Revolution” by Nancy Leigh DeMoss (and others, including John Piper). Can’t get much more polar opposite than that; ha!  Here is an excerpt I loved on page 122, one that anyone can relate to and grow from:

A real stone like (a wedding ring diamond) can take a good scrubbing, you know. Authentic jewelry is not as delicate as we think. That’s why God can say, as He did in Zechariah 13:9, “I will…refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested.” I long to be a jewel that does not cringe when God chooses to give my soul a hard scrubbing every now and then.

Now I’m not glorifying the suffering it takes to polish my faith. But I AM glorifying the God whose image is reflected on the surface of any smile that is forced to fight through pain and problems to get there…It will be the glow of HIS godliness in your life–HIS patience, HIS perseverance, gleaming through your eyes.

The fire hurts. But it really does make things clearer and allow for God to shine through.

3 Things We’re Getting Wrong Reaching Girls

Contributions, girls ministry, women, youth ministry

I had the privilege of guest-posting over on this blog!

I first read Titus’s blog when a mutual friend of ours posted a link. I digged it. I commented. He saw my comment. He messaged me on FB, because he saw we had all of these mutual friends and it freaked him out. Then we realized we literally lived in the same part of St. Louis at the same time, and he pastored some church members who I used to go to church with. Whaaaat? So I had to show some NoCo love and guest post for him. This is one of my favorites! :)

3 Things We’re Getting Wrong Reaching Girls: a Guest Post About Student Ministry.

What do you do when you get hit on by another minister?

Contributions, women, youth ministry

I had the privilege of guest-posting over on WomenInYouthMinistry.Com! I love this blog and think that it is a great resource for women in youth ministry, especially those who are married with children.

Gina asked me to write a post on saying “no” when a single male minister hits on a single lady minister.  What do you do?  Well, I’ve a teeny bit of experience, but it was quite fun to write!  Here ya go!

http://www.womeninyouthministry.com/2013/07/what-to-do-when-single-guy-ministers.html

Do You Believe in Soulmates?

girls ministry, women, youth ministry

In May, I posted this post that explains a little bit of what I have been wrestling with, in regards to how we talk to our teenagers about sex, specifically teenage girls. We have played the shame game for long enough, and I want to redirect youth ministry to a more loving and honest approach to the “sex talk.”

One of my friends that I grew up with posted on my personal Facebook page this article: My Husband Is Not My Soul Mate

This article is one I have read before and orates really well the myth behind having a “soul mate.” Too often we tell our teenage girls to just “Wait for God to put that perfect man in your life” (which I already ranted about) or to “Pray for your future soulmate.”

We say these things with good intentions, and I think there are good principles here; but what are we implying?

  • That they WILL get married. Not necessarily true
  • That there is ONE person out there for them. What a tiring search!
  • That their self-worth is found in a man. Absolutely not.

So what are a a few ways things we can do?

If it happens, it happens.

I think that teaching our teenagers (especially girls) that relationships are beautiful and that if they happen, they happen, that’s wonderful. But not necessarily promised.

First Love isn’t the Only Love

I think we need to teach them that the first person they date is not the one; in fact, there are many potential possibilities of the one! There have been men in my life who I honestly could have lived a good, long life with. But that doesn’t mean they are my “soul mate.” And:

There are other fish in the sea.

If you pass up a “good opportunity” in pursuit of something (or someone) else, that opportunity is not lost forever. Of course, popular music and movies would teach you different.  Like I said, I have passed up some opportunities because:

God may still be preparing you. 

I think it’s funny that we pray, “And God, I pray for my future husband that you are preparing for me.  One day I realized: Maybe it’s me God is preparing for him. Why do we assume it’s the other person who God is working on?  It’s pretty audacious for me to think that I’m the one waiting, when in reality there may be a guy who God has in mind to run into my path soon, but I’m the one who’s not prepared.  Just. Saying.

Re-define “the perfect mate.”

Bust the bubbles of reality. I used to make lists of what my future husband should be like. I wish I could find the Bible Journal from middle (even high) school that had a points system, including:

  • If he loves Jesus +25 points.
  • Attends church every Sunday +25
  • Nice face +10 points.
  • Nice body +10 points.
  • Abs +10 points
  • Taller than me +15
  • Has a sense of humor +15 points.
  • Plays guitar +10 points.
  • Thinks my parents are stupid too +10 points.
  • Smokes -50 points
  • Does drugs -100 points
  • Must have 90 points in order to date me.

I’m not even kidding.

But as I get older— do I really care that he’s not the best at writing with perfect grammar? Okay, let’s skip that one. But does he HAVE to be over six feet tall? I’m pretty short as it is. Why do I care about things that don’t honestly matter?  What do perfect abs have to do with anything; we’re all gonna get fat when we get old anyway.

All I’m sayin’ is:

Let’s be realistic and honest with our teenagers. Let’s not shame them into thinking that they HAVE to date or have relationships with the opposite sex in one, concrete way. Live life with them, let them experience what marriage is like by having married couples invest in them, and let them see that singleness is not for ugly people and creepers who are miserable.

If this stuff isn’t true, then I am one sad, miserable, 23 year old and I should invest in some cats, liposuction, and therapy.

A Year of Biblical Womanhood

book review, women

I first found out about Rachel Held-Evans from a pastor I was talking with about potentially serving in his church.  I stalked his Twitter page and clicked on every article he tweeted about, and quite a few were about her.  I figured she was worth checking out.  Truthfully, I wasn’t sure what to think.  Her theology wasn’t exactly like mine, but her approach towards people was.  And although I couldn’t agree with her on doctrine, I appreciated her heart and was drawn to her.  She was my dirty liberal secret.

I first read about her new book “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” on some of the other sites I read on a daily basis, sites that are far more conservative.  They pointed out many flaws in her book and in her theology, and some of their remarks made me angry. As a female youth minister in a conservative denomination, I daily struggle with my identity as such. I struggle with remarks made about my gender, even if they are “joking.”  I struggle with being a woman, period, sometimes.  I even struggle with some of the expectations that are in the Bible about women, even though I have always thought of myself who takes the Bible pretty seriously and literally.  Yet many within my congregation who would say that same thing would also say that I don’t belong as a youth leader.

I felt like, because of Rachel’s “liberal” views on certain topics, her book wasn’t given a chance.  I had friends, upon hearing of me reading the book, messaging me links to popular conservative sites, sending me scriptures “condemning” her, and asking me to reconsider inarguable things simply because Rachel said them.

Truthfully, the conservatives reacted very ironically.

Rachel’s book is all about taking the Bible seriously–looking at ALL of the scriptures on what it means to be a woman, and not just pick the ones we like.  Yet many conservatives picked apart her book and found the parts that showed her “liberal” theology*, her literal acting out of the Bible, and her precious vulnerability as comical, depreciating the Bible, and a slap on baby Jesus’ face.

Now look, I don’t agree with it all.  It is kind of weird to me when a lady calls her husband “master” just because the Bible mentioned in like once. But then again, there are other scriptures that we follow and they only said them once too.  Rachel wasn’t making a mockery out of scripture, neither was she saying the Bible wasn’t God-inspired or trustworthy.  Rachel was trying to get her readers to understand that when we look at scripture, we have to consider the cultural and historical contexts.  When we don’t, that is making a mockery of scripture. And you can’t argue with that, as that’s day one of Hermeneutics 101.

Another thing Rachel did for me in this book is soothe my sometimes-crazy tries of trying to be this “biblical” woman.  I don’t have to act out every part of Proverbs 31 in order to be a woman of God.  If I can’t/don’t bear children, I won’t lose my salvation. My primary responsibility is to not preoccupy my time with trying to be a woman of God, but a child of God.  My womanhood is certainly something to be celebrated, but it’s not solely my identity.

As a leader within the Christian church, I’m applying this in so many ways.  I’m comfortable with my theological understanding that I can lead teenagers. The conservative in me admittedly still shouts against woman senior pastors, but I am comfortable with my theology for youth ministry.

It bothers me that so many people can have such strong views against a book that says “I don’t have all the answers.”  Rachel is transparent and shares her struggles and meltdowns. Any woman can relate.  But Rachel is solid in her exegesis.

*By the way, Rachel considers herself as an Evangelical.

Discipling Girls: A @youth_min Roundtable with Neely, Elle, and Bekah

girls ministry, women, youth ministry, youthmin.org

Today I had the privilege of hosting a hangout with Elle Campbell, Neely McQueen, and Bekah Miller!

 

 

Go watch and interact. I’m telling you, these women make me look like a genius for having them on this Roundtable! These ladies are L.E.G.I.T.

Two articles that changed the way I think and minister to teens about sex and relationships.

love, Relationships, women, youth ministry

Link: I DON’T WAIT ANYMORE.

A little over a year ago, I took my purity ring off. Not because I was swearing off the idea of ever getting married… I just didn’t want it on anymore.

For one, I’m tired of the awkward conversations.  I was tired of people asking me questions about it, because what was I supposed to say?

“I’m waiting until marriage to have sex.” Great, a post-graduate virgin that no one wants to have sex with.

“I’m giving my heart to Jesus until he brings me a man.” Great, yet another young woman “waiting” for a man.

“I’m waiting for God to finish working on a man that will be perfect for me.” Yeah, because I obviously have no work to be done.

So here, a year later, I still have it off. Why?

Waiting assumes that one’s coming…and God may be calling me to singleness. And I mean, I have to be okay with that. Additionally, I have to minister to teen girls and show them that I’m okay with that, because God may be calling any one of them as well. To constantly preach the message to young girls that they need to “wait?” And to celebrate in that waiting? What? Have you every seen a teenager like to wait for anything?

I used to love the song by Superchick called “Average Girl.” The chorus goes “No more dating, I’m just waiting. Like Sleeping Beauty, my prince will come for me, he’ll come for me. No more dating, I’m just waiting. ‘Cause God is writing my love story, my love story.” I used to love that song as a teenager, because I would think “God is preparing someone for me. My prince is going to come. It’s going to happen.”

I feel like teaching our young ladies to “wait” is setting them up for disaster. Have you talked to a young woman about relationships lately?  She will tell you how ticked she is, because she has been waiting like she was told to do, yet no one is coming.  And don’t dare tell her that she needs to trust God more, or that she needs to clean some sin from her life. Because although in some cases that may be true, that’s not true for every case. Some women aren’t supposed to wait…we need to teach that as a reality and not as an alternative lifestyle.

Link: DO CHRISTIANS IDOLIZE VIRGINITY?

I stocked up on True Love Waits material ever since I signed that pink card and put it on the bulletin board at church at age of 13. I requested a personalized purity ring for my 16th birthday. I even made my own students at church sign that card as well.

So when I started working with at-risk teens, many of whom are teen mothers, and began learning about the way the church has handled their “promiscuity,” “debauchery,” and “fornication” (crazy how they know these words and can’t even read past the 5th grade) I began changing my view of how we teach about sex.

Dr. Kara Powell said at SYMC conference in March 2013: “We have made sexual purity the litmus test for Christianity.” We have taught this to our teens: Once you have sex, it’s over. You’re done. When a teenager comes to us and says they have had sex, we put them at arm’s length and pray for their sweet lost soul.

We teach that if a teenager has sex, they are like a piece of gum that has been chewed. Once chewed, it will never be the same again. We tell them that they’ve given away a piece of their self away that they can never retrieve. We tell them that if they have any sexual contact outside of marriage, they are cheating on their future spouse, and that spouse may not want them if the hear of that person’s sin.

We need to change how we talk about sex:  Not treating it as the unforgivable sin. Sure we talk about a “second virginity” and being a “born-again virgin.” But that doesn’t do anything for the morale; because although we say they are redeemed, we say in the exact same Sunday School lesson that they are that chewed-up piece of gum.

Especially since many of our young ladies may become victims of sexual abuse. Pushing this message actually tells them that they aren’t worthy of ever being loved. That they will never be able to have a marriage with good, Godly sex because a piece of them was given away, whether they wanted it to or not. So why pursue Godliness? Why wait for this perfect man when they aren’t worthy of him? Might as well continue a life of “fornication.”

I have a close friend who believes she is damaged goods: She made a mistake and had sex. And she can’t stop. She, too, was a fan of True Love Waits and advocated it. She had the purity ring, she read “Lady in Waiting.” But she can’t stop. She started because she had low self-esteem, but now she believes she has no value at all, because she gave what was meant for her husband to other men.  I have other friends who have left the church because they were told they were whores; they weren’t told to their faces, but they were taught through the way we teach about sex.

Andy Mineo raps in “You Will” : “You’re never too far to be made new. They said you damaged goods? That ain’t true.”

Dang. How much do women need to hear this?

You are not damaged goods.

I don’t even know how to begin fixing the damage we’ve done, but I’m trying to do one thing: Love my teenagers (and my single girl friends) and show them that they are still worthy of love, and that it’s never too late to be pure in God’s eyes. That I won’t treat you any differently because you messed up, because you got pregnant at 14, or because you were a victim of sexual abuse. You’re not just some piece of gum. You are God’s crowning work of creation.

Can a Woman Be a Youth Pastor? @youth_min

Contributions, leadership, women, youthmin.org

female youth pastor

This post originally appeared here: http://www.youthmin.org/can-a-woman-be-a-youth-pastor-yes/

I have grown up in the Southern Baptist Convention, a denomination of Christianity that has more conservative and traditional views of leadership.  I was always told that as a disciple of Jesus Christ, it was my responsibility to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth.  However, I saw no women leading in my church to provide this example.  The SBC states in The Baptist Faith and Message, “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.” The SBC is very specific that women are not allowed to pastor, based on verses that say women are not allowed to have authority over men. However, it says nothing about youth pastor.

When many within my church convicted me and convinced me that youth ministry was my vocational calling, I was confused.  I thought that women couldn’t do it because I hadn’t seen it, yet those with the same theology were affirming it.  So I sought it out for myself.  Here’s what I came up with.

Biblically

1 Timothy 2:11-12, perhaps the strongest argument for women not pastoring, says, “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness.  I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.”  I would like to briefly exegete this for you, but of course I encourage you to look at it for yourself.  There is one command in this passage—“Let a woman learn with all submissiveness.”  “Woman” can mean a woman of any age, but 92/221 times it means specifically “wife.”  “Learn” means to learn by use and practice; to be in the habit of.  “Quietly” does not mean quiet in speech, but humble in spirit; it is one who does not bossily meddle with the affairs of others.  As you may know, women have problems with this, ha!  “Submissiveness” means obedience and meekness.  In verse 22, “to exercise authority” has a very dark connotation: one who kills another with his own hands, one who acts on his own authority, an absolute master, or to exercise dominion.  It is only used once in the Bible, in this passage.  It is very interesting that Paul uses authenteō instead of didaskō, which he usually uses when talking about teaching.  We can turn to other classical literature and we see that 67% of the time, the term is used very negatively as well.  Therefore one can tell that Paul isn’t commanding women not to have any authority over men, but to not have an undue authority.  Once again, Paul uses the same word for “silence” meaning humility.  So altogether, the verses read, “Let a woman learn by practice in humble obedience.  I do not permit women to teach heresy or to be in manipulative authority, but she is to be humble.” Paul isn’t prohibiting women from leading, but encouraging women to learn and avoid being deceived. “Learn” is an active kind of learning that implies action, yet Paul reminds women to do it in humility.

I hate the argument “well maybe he was just talking to their culture and not ours,” because it can often cheapen Scripture.  Yet, if we were to literally enforce this entire chapter in our culture as we have traditionally enforced these few verses, let’s think about this:  A few verses before Paul commands women to dress modestly, yet no one in the church condemns me for my braided hair or my signature pearl earrings.  If verses literally stand the cultural test of time, then we have a lot to change.  The cultural context is clear: There were many teachers in the early church who were deceiving Christians and convincing them of false teachings.  Paul wanted to make sure that women, who weren’t being educated like men, weren’t teaching if they weren’t equipped to.  It would make sense that he commands them to actively learn.

The passage must also be looked within the context of Paul’s teachings as a whole.  Paul consistently said that in Christ, there is no distinction between gender, race, or socioeconomic status (Galatians 3:28, 1 Corinthians 12:13, Colossians 3:11). Paul acknowledged the importance of many women in his ministry.  The Bible has tons of women serving in important roles as teachers and leaders:  Miriam, a prophet (Exodus 15); Deborah, a nation’s leader and judge (Judges 4-5); Esther, an advocate for the Jews (Esther); Priscilla, a teacher (Acts 18:18-26, Romans 1:3); Lydia, Chloe, and Nympha, leaders of the church (Acts 16:13-15, 40; 1 Corinthians 1:1; Colossians 4:15); Phoebe, a deaconess (Romans 16:1); Junia, an apostle (Romans 16:7); Philip’s daughters and other women prophets (Acts 21:9; 1 Corinthians 11:5); etc.

Where is the distinction then?  Why are women allowed to be Sunday School teachers or Children’s Ministers, but not Youth Ministers?  What is the difference?  If you want to argue that women canteach, but not be the main leader: Female youth pastors aren’t running the whole church; there is still someone presiding over her.  If you want to argue that adolescent teenage boys are men andthat’s why a woman can’t teach over them, then we need to figure out the distinguishing characteristics between a child in Sunday School and a man in “big church.”  Our culture hasadded adolescence, and the Bible doesn’t address it.  So how can we assume that the Bible states a particular gender is supposed to serve that role?

Culturally

I strongly believe that culture needs to be considered when choosing leaders.  There are cultures around the world that have female-dominant leaders.  If we were to evangelize in those countries and try to set up churches there, we should not expect for our Westernized church to fit their culture.  It would not work, it would be too uncomfortable, and people wouldn’t want to join such a weird religion.  In America we have women becoming CEOs of major companies, making influential speeches at national political conventions, and being named as some of the most influential people in the world.  Yet, our church does not reflect our culture—we are still very male-dominated in major leadership roles.  I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing; I think our cultureneeds strong men as leaders.  We are plagued by examples of men who are abusive or absent, and I strongly believe we need stronger men in our churches.  In fact, culturally and Biblically, I personally think the head of the church needs to be a man (see, I’m not a total feminist!).

Traditionally, a male youth leader has made sense: he was the head pastor of the group.  But youth ministry isn’t so much pastor-centered as it was initially, it is volunteer-centered.  Youth ministry is moving more towards discipleship-centered small groups.  Each discipleship group has either its same gender discipling them or a male-female team.  I love this.  Therefore I personally think that the main leader of the program does not matter—either a male or a woman can efficiently lead a program.  And culturally, it makes sense.

But maybe it doesn’t make sense for your culture.  If you are in a more conservative culture, why stir up the pot and have leaders in your church who don’t fit your culture?  When I worked in small town Missouri, I was actually very surprised that I was hired in an SBC church.  Yet I made sense for their culture because they were very discipleship and fellowship-centered and as a woman I have some natural giftings for that sort of thing.

Hormonally

As for the argument that a female cannot complete the role because of her extra estrogen: A female’s estrogen is a gift.  God made men and women in his image, and women reflect God’s more empathetic and caring side.  It’s inarguable that men and women are different and bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table.  We need strong protective leaders just as much as we need empathetic nurturing ones.  Women can get overemotional at times; trust me, there have been times when I have struggled.  I have taken comments too personally, over-invested, and have (yes) cried in youth group before.  But those aren’t completely negative things.  What these qualities show is God’s nurturing, empathetic, gracious side of Him.  God takes our sin too personally, he invests in us even when we don’t invest back, and we are constantly breaking His heart.  Men have beautiful “weaknesses” too—men can be aggressive, tough on their disciples, and can harden in times when people hurt them.  This show’s God’s more judicial and strong side of his character.  Men and women need each other in order to provide a more perfect picture of who God is, and this picture is needed when leading teenagers.  Teenagers need both male and female role models to lead them.

Practically

If I minister to teenagers, am I really going against God’s will?  Can God possibly believe that I am sinning when I minister the Gospel?  I have a lot of issue with this.  Having a relationship with God isnot about doing x, y, and z.  It’s about a heart that seeks to serve Him.  In Christ, we are free.  How can God send me away for sending so many to Him?

I originally wrote this post 6 months ago and put it off because this is essentially my identity that I’m arguing for. I know that I will receive a lot of flack for this post, so I ask that you create discourse in the comments and not dissension   Remember that I’m not saying that women can be the head of the church, but the head of a youth ministry program. I want to create a culture of youth ministry that has men and women working together to minister to our student Saints.  

5 Reasons Your Ministry Needs Women Leaders @youth_min

Contributions, leadership, women, youth ministry, youthmin.org

Youth Ministry girl leaders

This post originally appeared here: http://www.youthmin.org/5-reasons-your-ministry-needs-women-leaders/

Your youth ministry needs women leaders.  Before we start arguing the theology of women in ministry, I want you to hear me out:  The purpose of this post is not to advocate for ordained women, or women pastors, or to argue the Pauline view of women.

The purpose of this post is to convince you why you need more women in roles of discipleship, worship, and (yes) teaching.  We need to have a spread of leaders who represent the spread of the audience in gender, color, and background.  So if your youth group is 60% female and 40% male, you should have about that amount of male/female leaders.  I empathize that it may never be perfectly that way, but you should strive for that representation.

Girls need women leaders.

Seems like a no-brainer, yes?  Young girls need to have examples of women who are leading. If we are teaching our young ladies that they need to advance the gospel, then we need to have examples of women who are actively advancing the gospel in their lives personally.  Additionally, girls desperately need to hear from a variety of women.  Girls need to see a picture of themselves in these roles so that they can do it, too.

Boys need women leaders.

For so long, we’ve been doing ministry so that boys can only lead boys, and girls can only lead girls.  However, there are wonderful things that boys need from both men and women, just as girls need both in their development.  When I began my first youth ministry position, a mother came to me and told me that her son was going to be my toughest case, because he doesn’t respect women, and that included his mother.  I remember that first night of youth group–this eighth grader challenged me with every “tough question” he could muster on women, homosexuality, and president Obama.  When I left two years later, that same mother said to me that her son not only respected women, but valued their leadership in his life.  He became more sensitive, more respectful, and even more affectionate towards his own mother.  Boys need men to mentor them, yes; yet having women as leaders will lead them to holding greater value of women.

Male leaders need women leaders.

Men and women compliment each other.  You have a variety of leaders who are more playful, some more disciplinary, some more empathetic, some more protective, some more approachable, and others more on a pedestal; not to mention the variety of skills: building sets, making snacks, teaching, discipling, etc.  Put people in their sweet spots, and play off their strengths. I serve in a ministry where the co-directors are an unrelated male and female, and it’s beautiful watching how the strengths play off of each other, and where one is weak another fills in strong.  Think about it: why does God give children both a mother and a father?  Both are beautiful and have roles that are necessary in leadership.

Women leaders need women leaders.

I will be the first to admit that I need support.  I need examples of strong women in ministry so that I can do ministry, and I definitely see the effects as I begin mentoring women in ministry.  We need discipleship and community, especially as a part of our female identity.  Personally, it can be difficult as a female in a male-dominated profession, and I crave interaction with other ladies.  So ladies, step it up! And… let’s be friends.

God needs women leaders.

God uses women for multiple tasks in the Bible, and in Acts it is said that God will use both sons and daughters to prophesy in his name.  God uses some of the most random people to accomplish His tasks, so never discredit a potential leader based on their gender, age, race, or background.  From Abel to Moses to Deborah to David to Esther to John the Baptizer to Jesus to the Woman at the Well to Paul… (anyone else out of breath?)… God has a knack of loving and using people who just don’t fit the standard mold.

Prenancy in Youth Ministry @youth_min

church, Contributions, leadership, women, youth ministry, youthmin.org

pregnant volunteers

This post originally appeared here: http://www.youthmin.org/pregnancy-in-youth-ministry/

Pregnancy in youth ministry:  Nope, I am not talking about your teenagers, I am talking about your ministers.  Starting a family is an intimidating thought to begin with, but trying to balance it with ministry is even more difficult.  Imagine being a woman in ministry: having to deal with morning sickness in Sunday School, the pregnancy leave from the ministry, the breastfeeding at church camp.  Trying to figure out the whole pregnancy thing brings so many questions, but mainly How can I do this?  

Women ministers, are you pregnant or thinking about starting a family?  While I have never been pregnant myself, I have done some research and talked with the fine ladies in our Facebook group.  Please chime in with additional advice in the comment section!

While You’re Pregnant

  • Decide how you’re going to inform your pastor, the church, and the youth group.  It is probably not the best idea to post it on Facebook and let everyone go crazy.  It will be much more professional and personal to do it in person.
  • Start preparing your volunteers to take charge of the ministry while you leave on pregnancy leave.  As the pregnancy progresses, you are going to have days where you are not going to be as reliable as you once were.  Prepare them so that if you have to leave the lesson to relieve your bursting bladder, they will be able to pick it up.
  • Make a plan with your husband.  How is this all going to look when the baby gets here?  Will one of you take a little extra time off?  What is your schedule going to look like once the baby gets here?
  • Realize that you can’t do the same activities you could before.  But just because you cannot zip-line or ski does not mean your students cannot!  There are ways for you to be able to go on trips with them without having to do the activities; and if you just can’t go, no one will blame you.  Do not feel like your level of commitment lessens—your students will understand why you do not want to tube on your pregnant belly (well, you might have to explain it to the middle school boys).

The Pregnancy Leave

  • Know your laws about maternity leaves.  Investigate what that looks like and talk to your church about how they will accommodate that.
  • Do as much preparation as you can in as much advance as you can.  Will your church hire a temporary youth minister, or will you have to equip volunteers to run the ministry while you are gone?  Whatever you choose, you will have to decide early on in your pregnancy; you do not want to have to decide these things and prepare volunteers to do your job when your hormones are raging, your back is hurting, and you feel exhausted and burned-out from a baby kicking your insides.
  • Decide your level of commitment beforehand—how involved will you be?  Will you be around and available to volunteers, or will you be strict about your maternity leave?  Will you even come near your church during this time?  You will need to decide these things.  Typically a maternity leave means “no contact,” but will that work for your ministry?  Most importantly—stick to your plan!  There will be people calling you up while you are still in the hospital unless you make it clear exactly your level of involvement during this period.
  • Do not be afraid to ask for help; you are performing life’s greatest miracle and need time to recover as well as spend time with your precious newborn.  You do not need to worry about a ministry on top of breastfeeding.  Relax and trust that everything will be fine while you’re gone.

After You’ve Returned to the Ministry

  • Realize that it will take some time to adjust, even after you return to the church.  Many women struggle with their emotions following having a baby.
  • Do not be discouraged when you find you cannot commit the same way you used to.  Fortunately you work for the church, a building full of God’s saints.  Even though the church may not always be pretty, no one can resist a baby.  No teenager will be mad because you missed the mud tug-o-war because you were taking care of your baby.  In fact, having a baby might unite your students in ways you never expected.  Realize that you have a youth group full of babysitters who will take your baby off your hands (and if not your students, their parents will be willing to help).  Every woman I have talked to has talked about how great their church was to them throughout their pregnancy and after the baby was born.  Trust that it will be fine.

Remember: You can be a minister AND a mom.  You will show your youth how to prioritize and balance God, your marriage, your new family, and your ministry.  Allow the Holy Spirit to lead your motherly senses. :)