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Jenni Catron: The Church's Next Great Crisis

What does it cost us when half the church’s gifts go untapped?

I’ve been wrestling with this question quite a lot lately.

Conversations are stirring in the church world about our inability to engage the 21st century female.

“I don’t know where I fit in the church.”

“I feel like I don’t belong because I’m a single woman, and everything the church does is for wives and mothers.”

“I don’t want to just serve in the nursery or kids’ ministry, but I don’t know how to get involved in other ways.”

These are statements that I hear repeatedly.

Before I came on ministry staff full-time, I felt this way, too. I wrestled with identifying ways that I could serve using my gifts of leadership and administration. Many of the obvious opportunities to serve weren’t places where I felt comfortable or gifted to serve. So while I served out of obligation, I never felt like I was fully alive in service to God. I remained silent thinking I was simply the unusual one.

The truth is that the majority of the 20- and 30-something women in our churches feel this way, too. They may be attending regularly, but they are sitting quietly back out of respect and uncertainty. They wrestle with whether they fit in the church at all anymore.

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Carolyn Custis James describes this well in her recent book Half the Church:

But culture shock awaits many women who migrate from the academy or the secular workplace to the church. In the former, opportunities are vast, and their contributions valued and pursued. In the church, what they have to offer often goes unnoticed or is restricted to “appropriate” zones within the church.

I believe the church is on the verge of a new crisis: failing to engage the young women in the church.

Today’s modern young woman does not see her place inside the church. Her talents, gifts, and God-given calling are walking out of our doors and into the hands of businesses and other non-profits where her gifts are welcomed and celebrated.

Are we as church leaders creating a culture where women feel like their gifts, even those gifts that might stereotypically be thought of as more commonly belonging to men, are welcomed and valued?

My guess is that we want to. We never intended to alienate half of the population, but my fear is that our lack of intentionality is leading to a crisis that could be devastating to those we are called to reach.

Let me challenge you to consider two things:

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A self-proclaimed “leadership junkie,” Jenni spends her days serving the local church. Most recently she served for nine years as the Executive Director of Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN, where she led the staff and oversaw the ministry of its five campuses. Jenni is the founder of Cultivate Her. She loves great books, the perfect cup of tea, playing a game of tennis with her husband and hanging with her dog Mick.