Editor’s note: Today we introduce Sandra Crawford Williamson, the newest contributor to the IFWE blog. She is the COO of 4word, a national/global organization with the mission to connect, lead, and support professional women to reach their God-given potential.
When we look in the pews on Sunday morning, what kinds of women do we see?
Wives with their husbands? Mothers with their children? The single women sitting alone in the back rows?
Yes, they are all of those things and so much more. How do we use these women to grow and serve the church?
Camouflaged in Church
In America, 47% of the workforce is made up of women, and the percentage has doubled in every age category since 1950, according to the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee. The Committee also reports that 83% of women raising children work outside of the home, compared to 47% in 1975. AND a whopping 75% of them work full-time!
These women are out there. In fact, we may not realize that half of the women in the church are working women, because they are camouflaged.
We’re not talking about green outfits. No, her camouflage looks different. Her camouflage is her Sunday-best, children calling her “Mommy,” and maybe a strong, spiritual husband beside her. She blends with others because there is no other group for her.
And what about the single women who don’t get married until later in life? They don’t fit into the different affinity groups: “moms”, “married”, “divorced.” And the “singles” are often college-aged/recent graduates that don’t relate to them either.
Many of these women haven chosen to not marry yet and are in the workplace, but they often quietly slip in and out of church to avoid the sympathy, advice, and blind dates that are thrown their way. Sadly, they may end up seeing themselves as “not-mothers” and “not-wives” instead of someone who is pursuing her Ephesians 2:10 calling in the workplace.
What the Church Isn’t Seeing
In the church, there is no way for us to see that one of these women may wake up Monday morning and run a multi-billion dollar firm, argue a legal case, or manage a $500 million investment portfolio.
There’s no way for us to see the constant spiritual warfare she faces in the workplace, her mission field. They are game-changers, bravely facing the corporate world and all the challenges that it holds.
We don’t see them this way because of the camouflage, but these working women are not hiding intentionally.
They are busy balancing the three-legged stool of family, faith, and career without falling over. They are trying to find a place to fit in on Sundays so they may hear your sermon, receive God’s word, be encouraged by group prayer, and accept Jesus as their savior.
These women are also in need of encouragement and support as they leave the church walls after the service and get thrown into the competitive, often harsh corporate world.
Let’s change our view of them, see them for all they are, and help them.
Why are Working Women Starting to Unplug from Their Churches?
We need to figure out quickly how to recognize, encourage, and spiritually lead these women. Barna and others say as many as 27% of professional Christian women are starting to choose to unplug from church all together. Why is that?
Evidence says four reasons are given as to why she chooses to stay home from church.
1. The examples from the pulpit don’t pertain to me because they are often about men in business and women in the home.
Psychology tells us that if a human doesn’t see themselves in a picture, they will put it down and be uninterested. The professional women in the pew need to see and hear themselves painted into the spiritual message picture on Sunday morning, and beyond, in a way that pertains to her life.
Takeaway: Messages could include more examples of women doing things outside of the home.
2. I am underutilized at church so I don’t feel my spiritual gifts are recognized or respected.
Even though these women have giftedness outside of traditional home skills, they are often only asked to make casseroles and work in the church nursery.
These women may not be asked to serve on church committees, even though the topics may be her Monday – Friday areas of expertise. Add this example to the facts that she is already very busy and that only 20% of humans respond to a need when asked to volunteer, and you get a major untapped resource inside your church that may leave because she is not called upon to use her gifts.
Takeaway: Find her and her gifts and use her for God’s glory INSIDE the church.
3. I feel isolated at church because there is no bucket into which I fit.
These women look around and see all of the buckets of people that are being served, such as “the young marrieds,” “the singles,” “the youth,” “the married with children,” “empty-nesters,” “divorced,” “retired,” etc., and do not find a label that fully encompasses all they are.
She is a woman AND a business leader. Her daily challenges are unique. Yet, there is no unique group that addresses all of the life parts with which she is faced.
Takeaway: Start an authentic Women in Business movement in your church by tapping into a few key women and give them the appropriate support.
4. The existing programs for women don’t align with my work schedule or my needs.
We often hear professional women in the church say they would rather go to the men’s 6:30 a.m. group events because of scheduling and content, but can you imagine if they went strolling into one?
At lots of churches, the women’s events are scheduled during the workday or at other times that a busy working woman who is putting in 40+ hours at work plus running a home plus often mothering children and getting them to school, arts and athletics, etc. just can’t make it.
Takeaway: Make a point to creatively schedule opportunities for these women that coincide with their busy lives, such as Saturday mornings, Sunday afternoons, or a weeknight at 8:00 p.m. after children are settled, and ensure the topics are tailored to this audience.
We have seen churches across the country not only serve these women, but attract new people into church by offering messages, curriculum, community, and programming for professional women because new programs for working women grow a church.
The Importance of Working Women in the Church
We have heard “If Mama Ain’t Happy, No One is Happy.” In fact, Barna Group indicates that 80% of the time, women make the decision on whether a family attends church.
This statistic is eerily familiar to the stat that makes this elusive consumer group so critical to product companies, too. She also controls 80% of the household spending, including charitable giving. If the woman doesn’t get up on Sunday morning and get out the door, the odds are they stay home. Once they stay home one week, it is easier to do so the next week.
The camouflaged Christian woman in the workforce is in your church. Today.
She is there in the pew, anxious to be included, spoken to, and encouraged. And when she is, she responds in a big way, plugging in, bringing friends, and keeping her family and her tithing strong.
Please see her and keep her there.
Interested in exploring in exploring this issue and learning more about 4word? Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.