She doesn’t want to be treated like a child

Stories written in response to the #SheNeeds series

This is an anonymous story written by a friend.

“A while ago I read an article by Jen Wilkin about the Three Female Ghosts who haunt the church. Jen wrote about the three different ways that women are treated by people in the church; the usurper, the temptress and the child. Looking back on my life in the church I can identify moments when I have been treated as all three. The most common being the temptress and usurper. But the most damaging was the year I was treated as the child.

Of the three female ghosts that haunt the church, I was treated most often as the temptress and usurper. But the most damaging was the year I was treated as the child.


I was twenty-one, fresh out of university and full of excitement, I moved to Holland to work in an international Anglican church. I loved Jesus and excited to share him with the youth in the community. I knew that God had called me to that place and had no sense of what was to unfold. I’d been appointed by a vicar on his way out newly appointed vicar would start in the autumn. I settled in as best I could; getting to know people, joining a home group, meeting up with youths and their families and getting the programmes started.


I was excited for the new vicar to join us and anxious to get to know him. Everything seemed fine when he arrived. He didn’t make much effort to get to know me, we didn’t have regular meetings, he never gave me any idea of what he was expecting of me. I bumbled along as best I could. There were a few times when he let the church wardens shout at me and send me abusive emails always taking their side.

I was meeting up with an older woman in the church and one morning instead of meeting at my house, she asked me to come to the church with her. I went in and there he was. I had no idea what he wanted. He sat me down and told me he wanted me to leave. He told me people were complaining about me, parents were unhappy with me. He provided no evidence of this, nor could he name one person who had said this. Instead he treated me like a child.

He told me that he had been unable to say anything to me about this. He said this was because I was too homesick, too sensitive and too vulnerable to cope with this information. If he had respected me, if he had behaved professionally, none of this would have been new information. He should have been presenting me with the information and offering me opportunities to improve. He should have been setting me targets, helping me to plan how I was going to tackle the difficulties. But he didn’t, and I am still recovering from that conversation.

Fourteen years on I fear my boss asking to speak me. I need to be told what every meeting is about because I know you can walk into a meeting with a man you trust and he can sack you. I know because it happened to me. It was only when I began the discernment process that I realised from the open mouth listening to my tale that this was not my fault. I realised that I did nothing to deserve this treatment. That what I had considered to be infantalisation of me in a difficult context, was in fact a form of spiritual abuse. The experiences I had of being treated like a child sapped me of professional confidence. It is only through God’s grace that I have been able to rebuild myself”.

Read more in this series

She needs you to fix the leaky pipe

She needs brothers for her to speak in your church

She doesn’t feel good enough to serve in your church

She needs help failing in order to serve in your church

Published by Nay Dawson

Nay works with IFES Europe as their Regional Training Co-ordinator, training staff and students across Europe. She works on the European Regional leadership team for the charity. She was the Revive Extra Plenary Director for one of largest Student Conferences in Europe. Nay is the founder of Passion for Evangelism. PfE is a network of creative, public female speakers. Helping hundereds of women grow in confidence in public communication. Nay set up an initiative called Community in a crisis. CIAC has been helping churches and charities across Europe get online during the pandemic.

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