At Work & Theology 101

How Can the Church Better Support Women in Their Work & Calling?

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Today we are excited to feature part 2 of an interview with Joanna Meyer, founder of Women, Work & Calling, director of public engagement at the Denver Institute for Faith & Work, and author of the new book, Women, Work, & Calling: Step into Your Place in God’s World. Read part 1 here.

The book recently won the 2023 Readers’ Choice Award by Intervarsity Press in the category of Church Ministry and Leadership. We published an excerpt of Meyer’s book before it was released, and we are excited to catch up with her now to dive deeper into the ideas and impact of the book.

Where do you think the church has fallen short in terms of supporting women in their work and calling? How do you think the church can better support women in this area?

Meyer: I see the church as the headwaters in this conversation about vocational discipleship for women. If conversations about faith and work are rare (but thankfully, growing) at the local level, they are virtually non-existent in women’s ministries. Many churches do great work establishing women in their understanding of God’s word and spiritual disciplines or support women in their relational roles as wives and mothers but offer little to prepare women for their roles in public life. We must start by asking, why not? What cultural or theological dynamics have narrowed our approach to developing women?

In addition to examining the existing dynamics in their local congregation, I encourage faith leaders to become students of the women in their churches. What percentage work outside the home? In what types of work, levels of leadership, or industries do they labor? 

You’d be amazed by the number of women involved with Women, Work, & Calling (the national initiative I lead through Denver Institute for Faith & Work), say “I feel seen” after attending our events. Women approach me with tears in their eyes or express a deep sense of relief because it may be the first time that they feel affirmed for their God-given gifts and ambitions.

At WWC we say, “The world needs who God made you to be,” so why aren’t we (the church) fully equipping women to bring their full selves and skills to the world’s toughest challenges?

What are two important things that working women can do to “build strength from within,” to increase their emotional and spiritual health? How will this support them in their work and interactions with others?

Meyer: I encourage women to listen to the inner conversation they have with themselves throughout the day. How might they be amplifying the stress they feel by ruminating on problems? How do they undermine their confidence through self-critique? If we don’t learn to spot unhealthy thought patterns we waste energy that could be spent doing good, impactful work on insecurity or competitiveness.

A second principle to build inner strength is to see the work itself as an opportunity for spiritual growth. God is as present in our work as he is in a church sanctuary, so turning to God in tense moments, infusing prayer throughout the day, or learning spiritual disciplines suited to our style of work can make the workplace a powerful setting for growth.

Describe your journey in building a successful career. Who were the people who influenced you and how have you influenced others in your various professional roles? What has had the biggest impact on you? 

Meyer: In my thirty-years of working life, I have had what I call a “patchwork career.” My vocational journey has flowed through work in college ministry (Cru), the corporate sector, independent contracting, nonprofit leadership, copywriting, and more. I’ve been a small-business owner, an adjunct seminary professor, and even a sewing instructor, yet each stop along the way has provided critical skills I need for my roles today. Having a broad view of calling means that even the roles that felt like a temporary detour on my career path were opportunities the Lord used to form me for what lay ahead.

Throughout my career, I have been shaped by a community of mature women who invested in me as friends and unofficial mentors. I cannot imagine who I would be without them, but to be clear, these relationships are the fruit of faithfully building friendships. In the book, I write about becoming a relationally generous woman. Learning to build mutually beneficial relationships–and let me be clear, this is a skill I gained through time and practice—has been the most strategic, enriching thing that I’ve done in my career.

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