Pursuing Partnership, Part 28: Engaging our “Hidden” Women

By Rebecca Hopkins, Paraclete Mission Group

This article is part of the series Pursuing Partnership: Men and Women in Ministry.

Part 28: Engaging our “Hidden” Women

Some women in missions are slipping through the cracks. Here’s what helps.

It’s a common scenario. A husband-wife team joins a ministry. In the beginning, she’s involved, has her own calling, and is part of a ministry that is life-giving. But then the kids are born and the role she filled before isn’t compatible with changing diapers and juggling feedings. So, she steps back.

Then one day, the kids are all in school and she looks around and wonders if she could return to a role outside the home. All she has to do is pick up the phone and tell someone she’s ready. Right?

Not exactly.

“A lot of the women have been hurt in some way or overlooked or not felt like there was a place,” said Angie Bentley, who works in US staff care for Cru.

The obstacles are many. She has time but not enough time for a full-time job, which is what is normally advertised with her organization. Or having kids has changed her. She doesn’t even know what she’s good at anymore. Or she tries to reach out to someone in Human Resources, but they’re unsure what to do with someone with limited hours and lack of clarity.

She ends up feeling lost. Stuck. Unseen.

“(Her husband) is getting all these great opportunities and feels a part of things and she’s holding down the fort,” Bentley said.

But Bentley and her team are trying to change that.

“We’re holding a flag saying, ‘If you’re stuck and you don’t know where to go, come to us and we’ll figure it out,’” Bentley said.

Bentley has formed The Concierge Team,” a team that connects with “unengaged” Cru women in various stages who deserve to stay connected. It starts with a cup of coffee and a question: What’s your story?

“Just that hour with coffee (is a chance) to get away and rekindle why she came on staff with Cru, what God had done and offers space that—by the end—says, ‘I see you. I hear you,’” said Bentley. “’You matter and there’s a place for you and we need you and we will be better because of you.’ We can start seeing the stirrings as we watch her face, her body language. There might not have been the mirror to reflect that back to her and say, ‘I never met anybody like you.’”

It’s a good problem that mission organizations have, she said. What other companies have untapped resources of women—often wives of full-time leaders, headquarters staff and field staff—who have both giftings and callings to serve?

“Our mission is to help women explore their giftings, then move towards their best contribution in Cru,” Bentley said.

But as they re-engage, starting with relationship is key for these women who haven’t had official roles for awhile.

“You can’t demand something from somebody if you don’t have a relationship,” Bentley said. “It can’t be in a vacuum, and it can’t be the first thing that they hear from you after years.”

The Concierge Team listens, helps with assessments, gives resources for development and coaches to help create a one-page document that describes what the woman can offer when she’s ready to put herself back out there.

“The idea is for a woman to put in one document what has been her life reality, what have been her past experiences, what are her giftings, and the feedback from others,” she said.

Organizationally, it also takes helping human resource departments and leaders to understand that previously unengaged women may not be able to work full-time. And organizations should be flexible with work-from-home options. But the pandemic has actually opened up some opportunities for these women to join teams by working virtually, Bentley said.

While some of these women haven’t been able to access specific development opportunities while home with kids, their life experience has been rich, she said. These can spark new passions that fit well with ministry.

“God doesn’t waste that and sometimes we just need a mirror to say, ‘What pain or what joy happened in those years since you have worked full time?’” she said. “Many times that pain or joy will move into a passion.”

The Concierge Team is Cru-specific, she said. But other ministries could use it as a model for stewarding their own resources. That’s a great honor and responsibility.

“We will be held accountable for how we steward the men and the women that God has given us,” she said. “That’s a great honor and responsibility.”

Interested in a Zoom interaction with Angie about how what’s she’s doing in her org might be helpful to you in your org? Contact Wendy if you want to participate with peers around this topic early in 2022!

Wendy@WomensDevelopmentTrack.com   subject line: Zoom with Angie

This article is submitted by Wendy Wilson of Missio Nexus and of Women’s Development Track.  Women’s Development Track is a Missio Nexus member.  Member organizations can provide content to the Missio Nexus website. See how by clicking here.

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