Friday, March 9, 2018

Do Churches Still Have "Mean Girls" Who "Rule" in Children's Ministry?

Yesterday I asked if Children's Ministry is sexist because, sadly, there are times when women are labeled as, "bossy" or "pushy" as they use the gifts God gave them, but a man who did the exact same things would be labeled as, "a strong leader" or as "someone who knows what he is talking about". Please know, I have had the joy to serve in several churches where I was truly valued and not treated in a sexist way, but sadly, there have been times when I experienced this in churches. Clearly not all churches are, "sexist", but there are some where women who serve are treated badly.

I'm not upset or trying to be negative about Children's Ministry, but if we do not identify and acknowledge things which need to be changed, they will not be changed. And, definitely any church which treats women in a sexist way, needs to make changes.

I said I'd share ways this "sexism" might show up, so today I'd like us to think about if we experience this poor behavior the most from an, "unexpected" source; other women. I think in most cases the "mean girl" mind-set from junior high and high school is something most women grow out of and come to see as behavior not to be embraced; but there are some who continue this behavior and who gossip well into their adult lives. So, what might this look like in a church? Consider the following questions -

  • Are there women - in, "power" positions, who pretty much decide what happens, who does it, when it is done and how it is done?
  • Do these women tend to gossip?
  • Do they exclude people who do not agree with them - especially other women?
  • Do they aggressively "label" others who do not agree with them?
  • Do they submit to the decisions of men/pastors, but turn their "meanness" towards other women who they do not agree with?
I have experienced this behavior. At one church I used to be part of, a couple ladies pretty much decided everything which happened in the Children's Ministry. If they did not like an idea, they spread the "word" among their friends to refuse to cooperate with the person with whom they did not agree. I actually had them stand a few steps from me after a Children's Board meeting one night and whisper, point and laugh at me with a crowd of their friends. Why? Because I thought we should bring more active learning into our Children's Ministry and they liked the way they were doing things. 

If we are honest with ourselves, there can be a "mean-girl mentality" in our churches and it does show up in our Children's Ministries. Stop and consider if your church does this. Doing so will have several consequences . . . 
  • It causes pain to the woman who is trying to serve and use the gifts and abilities God has given her.
  • It leaves the woman feeling, at the least, hesitant to use her gifts and abilities and at the worst, afraid to do so.
  • It causes the church to pay a high price; they lose out on the gifts and abilities God sent them.
  • It allows the people who gossiped and behaved as, "mean girls" to continue to treat others badly and go on to continue to do this with other women and in so doing, they create a "poisonous" atmosphere in their Children's Ministry.
  • It harms other volunteers and sets a terrible example for children to see.
So, what do you do if you recognize this as something which happens, or has happened at your church? The very first thing you should do is pray and ask God for forgiveness as you have treated badly a person God gifted your ministry with. Secondly, you need to go to the woman who was treated badly and sincerely apologize. Thirdly, you need to go to any others at your church who had a part in treating the woman badly; those who behave as, "mean girls", and call on them to be accountable for what they did as well. You also need to go to anyone who saw and or heard what was said and done and set the record straight with them to restore the woman in the view of others. And finally, you need to be focused on not doing this, or allowing it to happen again. Ever.

So, what has your experience been in this area?

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