Why I walked away from my leadership position at a megachurch (and why I’m ready to talk about it now).
There has been momentum when it comes to women in the church serving in positions where their voice is not only heard, but influential in making decisions amongst leadership. I am so happy about that. The more I serve in the church, the more I see men and women fighting to make the necessary and difficult changes to make more room at the table (both figuratively and like for real, getting bigger tables!)
It’s with that one word – improvement – however, in my experience things tend to slow down or all together stop. There has been improvement…so let’s stop talking about it. It’s this idea alone that frustrates me more than anything else. In the course of any movement to create meaningful change, if you were to stop at the “there has been improvement” phase, where would we be in history. In fact, I believe the appearance or the shallow attempts of change are perhaps the biggest threat to any sort of challenge against established ideas of inequality. That is where many church leadership teams sit today.
I had the privilege to be a part of a team from various backgrounds and beliefs. It was exciting at first to learn how the team operated and to get a look “behind the curtain”. It’s like anything else, complexity leads to simplicity and I believe the church world is quite good at that. For a female on the team, its complexity is mind blowing. Knowing who to turn to and even who to trust. Who is for you and who is maybe for you, but not behind the idea of you. I learned it quickly, and let me just say there are so many people who are not only for me, but for YOU as well. You’ll find few places in this world that can truly boast that.
Of course, people who are not for you can make things tricky and I had my share of obstacles. My story is not unique, it’s so typical of many women who are trying to find their position and use their gifts in uncharted territory. Places not used to having strong women who would have their voices heard.
There were the inappropriate jokes, the sarcasm, the “women should be making us sandwiches” or “home with the children” rubs. The laughter that would immediately stop when I walked in the room. This was a part of my daily environment and I know that if you ask most women in ministry positions they would agree, that they too, have experienced something similar. Again, I’m not unique.
There were the comments on my voice, my body, my clothes, my hair. That I wasn’t old enough – young enough – male enough. Again, there were people who were for me, those people kept me sane and kept me going.
There was the day when I was inappropriately touched by a male coworker, one in leadership. One who knew better. His words after the fact told me he knew better and it shook me to my core. I walked to a meeting after the incident crying. I carried it with me for a few days before I broke and reached out to someone. The camera in the building provided both the audio and video. It was deemed inappropriate. Beyond what I can imagine was a slightly awkward conversation, no consequences were given that I was ever made aware of. In later months, I would learn that my calling out of this person set me up for some pretty brutal treatment. Name calling and being ostracized from leadership, major changes made that involved me and my team made without me knowing it. Those involved would receive pay increases and promotions. It wasn’t obvious to most, but to me it was like neon lights flashing in my face…don’t mess with the boys club.
It’s funny, when I gave my resignation, a few people in senior leadership asked me the same question: “is it death by a million cuts”? The short answer was and still is yes.
Life teaches us when to stay quiet and when to listen and the last 6 months have been mostly listening for me. I’ve listened to so many women (and men) both in my community and abroad, who’ve felt these same hurts and struggles. Who have wanted to share their story, but haven’t done so out of fear. I decided that it was not ok to be silent anymore. As I step into what God would have me do next, I take this with me and insist on change in whatever environment I am in. I speak for you, dear sister. I speak for my brothers, too. As long as I have breath in my lungs, I will stand silent no more.
So, when you see me, know I am broken hearted. My heart still aches, but God says He is close to those who are broken hearted, therefore, God is very much with me. As I heal, I still love and believe in THE CHURCH. The church is not to blame for the bad choices made by a few individuals. God will have His name glorified, it is up to us to worship in Spirit and Truth.