One of my favorite things about living in Chicago is that it’s the kind of city where there’s always something going on. There are always amazing people coming and going, which has afforded me the opportunity to meet many people with whom our paths might have never crossed–some of whom are my readers!
Today I got to hang out with one of those amazing people: Jenni Catron. After working in the music industry Jenni left her non-ministry job to become the Executive Director of Cross Point Church in Nashville. She has also started a new ministry for women called Cultivate Her, which is aimed at developing the gifts of women as they serve and grow the church.
I LOVE the vision behind Cultivate Her. It addresses a need that I have long desired to see tackled. Namely, where does the growing number of women with extensive educational and professional experience fit in the church? Jenni and I discussed this topic for some time, so I later did a little perusing of current statistics for women and education and the workplace. What I found was surprising, as well as telling for the future of the church:
- 46.8% of the total U.S. Labor Force is composed of women. That equates to 59.2% of all women age 16 and over in the U.S., and the number is growing. (The U.S. Dept. of Labor)
- Women-owned firms employ more people than all the Fortune 500 companies combined. (The National Association of Women Business Owners)
- 70% of American families include a working mom. (npr.org)
- Since 1980 there has been a 40% increase in the number of women getting bachelor’s degrees, masters, and doctorates. (“The Changing Role of Women in the Workplace,” Sneha Kalyan, 2009)
- In 2006-2007, the number of women attaining bachelor’s and master’s degrees was greater than that of men, and the number of women attaining doctorates was equal to that of men. It is projected that in 2018, women will continue to outnumber men in the achievement of advanced degrees, including doctorates. (National Center for Education Statistics)
These statistics provide us with a glimpse of the future church and the future of women’s ministries, especially in educational and economic centers. The question is, how will the church reach these women? How will the church welcome these women? How will the church use the education and skills that these women have gained in the secular workforce to build up the Body of Christ? How will women’s ministries meet their needs?
As the majority of women move in a completely new direction, churches will have to think creatively about utilizing their gifts and offering a high quality of teaching for women. While respecting every church’s view of women in leadership, we must also work toward a robust understanding of the Body of Christ in which all gifts are not only valued but implemented for the edification of the church. Depending on your church context that will play out in any number of ways. Perhaps women’s ministries will need to offer more theologically engaging teaching, thereby creating even more opportunities for women with the gifts of teaching and leading; if you’re a woman like Jenni with business and managerial skills, you might consider offering your experience to the church.
The changing face of the American woman has some short-comings, to be sure, but we can’t miss out on the fact that women are being equipped to serve the church in ways that they never were before. Let’s not miss that opportunity. And let us not underestimate the grave and long-term consequences of failing to evangelize these women strategically. As women, we need to have a missional mindset towards this growing generation of professional and highly educated women. Otherwise, we might end up with an equal yet opposite dilemma to the last decade–instead of missing men in the pews, we might be missing women.