Monday, 25 February 2013

Women in Kids Work

Please be careful with the following blog post - The stories in it needed to be told because things NEED to change. I may disagree with the people in the stories but I don't want to cause them un-necessary hurt.
I am only telling these stories now because all around me I can see the damage this theology is doing. Godly women with God given gifts are being hurt, and some leaving kids work for good...... and that is wrong.

There’s a lot in the news about the decline of women in leadership roles across the country.

I’ve also spent a lot of time being cross at some points of view on women and leadership from some corners of ‘The Church’ where it is said that even out side of the church women should not take jobs that put them in charge of men.

I’ve had a bit of a journey in my own life on this, but a couple of incidents really stick out.

Having just started out in my role as a children’s evangelist, I was invited to go to a local church’s children’s outreach group - I assumed this was to do what I do! Apparently I  was only expected to tell I nice story….. Instead I did the whole gospel talk bit, presented in a way that was suitable to the age and stage of the non church children there. I was not aware that women are not allowed to do this - especially if there are men present. I was never invited back. At that time, I was also doing quite a few all age services, and the pastor of that church went to the minister’s get together and recommend that they don’t use me, mainly because I dared to share the gospel with men present. This hurt me a lot. I couldn’t get my head around it: I can tell a story, but I’m not allowed to explain to the children what it means? That didn’t make sense!

But the best was to come……

Since the age of 14 I had been helping on a camp for children with disabilities - a camp that shaped my life and where my passion for having an accessible church that is inclusive to any child began.
I had a couple of years out to do my nurses training and then returned. There was a new leadership team in place, which was fine. Circumstances came together in an unusual way: At the same time I started out as a children’s evangelist, the speaker on the camp stepped down. This coincided with my health beginning to fail meaning doing the one to one care was becoming difficult. I was invited to come as the person in charge of teaching the children. Wow! Everything I loved doing rolled up in one week. I really enjoyed finding ways of teaching the kids in a way they found accessible and fun.

Then one Sunday - a man walked into the meeting. This was a camp for KIDS, but people on holiday locally would come into to Sunday meeting because they thought it would be safe (Heaven forbid they went into a charismatic church by mistake whilst on holiday!!)

I had already raised child protection concerns on this - because of how vulnerable the children were, but what happened next came right out of left field.

The man (Someone I had been to school with - so it made it so much more painful) complained that he had been taught by a woman!! But…. This is a camp for kids said I, but to no avail. After that, the teaching was to be done by my husband  on the Sunday - just in case any men came in wanting a church service. I’d only just got married that year - and Steve found it both silly and maddening. So I prepared the teaching and Steve delivered it…. On the Sunday.

A couple of years later, one of the young leaders answered me back when I asked him to do some thing. I remember it as clearly as yesterday. He stopped reading his Oswald Chambers book “My Upmost For His Highest” and said “My dad says I don’t have to do what you say because you’re a women”. Each year it got more and more difficult, and I was afraid the children would start to be affected by the negative atmosphere. There were other women on the leadership team - but they weren’t teaching and were serving in the perceived correct way.

We eventually made the very difficult decision to leave the camp. We went to the next preparation meeting and explained that although it broke our hearts, we felt it was best for both the kids and the camp for us to step down. Steve had been the treasurer and handed over all the up to date accounts.

No one prayed with us, no one said thankyou. That night I walked away from that meeting sobbing -  after 20 years of serving these most precious kids I felt as though I had been thrown out like garbage….. Just because I was I woman.

God has brought out a lot of good from this situation though - that camp was, and STILL IS doing amazing work. People who go to it as leaders come back changed, and children hear and understand the gospel. And we have gone on to make a difference for many more children with disabilities and additional needs that we may not have done if we had stayed. Proof that God is above our theology debates.

Many years later, we still have people not comfortable with asking us to do all age services because of their position on women speaking. Some say yes, because I am under my husband’s authority. But some do actually recognise the gift that God has given me. 

I feel for my female colleagues - also gifted kids workers, who are told that they can’t do something because they are women. I feel even more angry when they are told that it would have been ok if they were married! Gender and marital status should have nothing to do with doing what God has called us to do.

I don’t speak and teach because I want to (I’m a shy introvert), I teach because God has compelled me to.

4 comments:

  1. I am glad that Jesus is the head of His church and a little sad that people can be so legalistic that they forget his commission to tell the gospel was given to all believers! You keep going Kay!
    Lynn McCann

    ps. thanks for the link to my blog on your page - so appreciated but it doesn't seem to be working!

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  2. I've come here via Tanya Marlow, my previous attempts to follow your blog not having been successful. I'll try again. Thank you for sharing this. I'm so sorry how you got treated. Sometimes these are well meaning honourable men sincerely trying to to what's "right" and yet it's so thoughtless, hurtful and basically silly. "Gender and marital status should have nothing to do with doing what God has called us to do." Exactly. The person who is competent for the task and in the right relationship with the team is the right person.

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  3. Thanks for your comment Liz.
    The stories I wrote about happened some time ago, but I see them happening over and over again - which is why I finally plucked up the courage to blog about it.
    I still 'honour' those who have hurt me, because they are also doing great work. I don't argue with them as it wouldn't work - I just divert my 'fight' into positively supporting and facilitating other female kids workers.
    Let me know if you still can't follow the blog - I may have a privacy box clicked somewhere!

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