Sarah Bessey, a gifted thirty-something writer, noted in her post last week at Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics blog that as she was pulling together research for an upcoming book, she discovered how many midlife women felt marginalized by church and culture alike. She noted that the church often mirrors culture in way that cause pain for those of a certain age:
Sadly, perhaps we need to admit that we don’t honor age in our churches either, particularly for women. Once a woman reaches a certain age or if a woman is not considered beautiful or outgoing or charming, she often disappears in the eyes of her community.
Few of us who’ve reached the midlife would disagree with this contention. But I wonder how we might begin to think and act in kingdom terms about this issue. I’ll toss out a “case study” based on the experience of a friend of mine, along with a couple of questions, for your consideration:
Jeanette*, age 58, has spent spent about a decade working as an administrative assistant for a faith-based nonprofit organization. She’s been divorced for many years, and lives on her own. Her adult children have long ago launched from her nest.
She’s attended a large non-denominational church with about 1500 in attendance on Sunday morning for the last 7 years or so. She’d been in a couple of small groups over the years, but these groups were typically short in duration (12 weeks or less). She would occasionally volunteer to help out at special events the church hosted, serving as a greeter or on the clean-up crew. In other words, she was a bit more involved than many who simply attended Sunday morning services, but she was not deeply involved in the life of the congregation.
A few months ago, Jeanette decided to take step toward greater involvement at church when she responded to a bulletin notice inviting people to come audition to be a part of the church’s worship ministry. The church’s young worship pastor told her that though her singing voice was lovely and he sensed she had a true worshipper’s heart, the grandmotherly figure was “too old” for the platform team. “You can be a part of the worship team who sings in our preschool ministry if you’re interested,” he told her.
She beat herself up for days afterward: How could she have missed it all these years? She’d honestly never noticed that everyone on that platform each week was attractive, young, thin and stylishly dressed.
What would you do next if you were Jeanette? Why? Do you think the worship pastor may have been justified in his choices?
*Jeanette is a composite of two women I’ve known who’ve had experiences like this in their churches.