This is part of a series of life stories written in response to the #SheNeeds series. She Needs is a series of blogs that encourage conversation about what women need to flourish in the church. This post is written by a friend in response to the blog She needs you to fix the leaky pipe.
Life in my mid twenties
It all seemed so simple in my mid-twenties. The world was my oyster! I had done two years of a Ministry Apprentice scheme, spent 2 years abroad doing student ministry and 3 in the UK. I loved it and lapped up all the training I could get. I appreciated the training I received and I could see myself, 10 or 15 years down the line passing on what I had learnt. I could imagine speaking at training courses, supervising staff or writing training material.
When the student job came to an end, there was nothing obvious for me to move on to. I did apply for a student worker job in a church, but nothing came of it. It seemed that the break from a full time job came at a good time because my husband and I were ready to start a family. Over the course of the next 7 or so years there wasn’t much time to think about what I was going to move on to next. I was trying to be present with my kids and enjoy every moment. I do not have any regrets about this, I have loved being a mum. It’s the best way I have ever spent my time and I would not change how I spent those years for anything. But when our youngest was due to start full time school I started to wonder what was next for me. I questioned if there was a way back to ministry?
Life in my mid thirties
I was full of optimism at the start, it felt so exciting to think of all the time I would have and hopeful of all the ways I could serve. I was grateful for the wealth of experience that I had gained over those years at home with my kids. I started to talk to folk in my church who were nothing but supportive. The suggestion came up about doing some further training. There was even talk about there being a training budget that people in my position could make use of. I needed to make a plan, find a training course, something to study, and a long term aim. And finally I needed bring my idea to the church leaders.
This is where things started to unravel. I thought that the best route back in to ministry was to do some sort of training course. But there didn’t seem to be much out there for people in my position, who wanted a way back into ministry after a break. Travelling or time away wasn’t going to be possible for me with family life. Some of the shorter, more introductory courses were more possible, but felt like a step back. I could have bought course materials and tried to study something by myself. But that felt too demoralising and isolating.
Trying to find my way back
I didn’t know where to take things from there, I knew that there would always be something to learn and enjoy doing an introductory course. I didn’t want to be proud, but when someone suggested me doing the course that I had already done in 2006 I was reeling. Hadn’t I progressed since then? Was all my training and experience to that point worth nothing? Had it somehow expired so that I needed to start all over again? I had imagined that I would be teaching on courses like this by the time I was 37. Rather I was invited to take the course again because there was nothing else for me to move onto! What had gone wrong?
I am sure if I was driven enough I could carve out a path for myself in this new phase of life. But I am not sure that is me, and it doesn’t seem fair that that’s the only way to make it in ministry as a woman. It all makes me wonder if it is worth it, and if my gifts, skills and experience would be better used elsewhere.
“It all makes me wonder if it is worth it, and if my gifts, skills and experience would be better used elsewhere”Tweet
To be honest, I am enjoying using this extra time when my kids are at school in a variety of ways. All are worthwhile and valuable – and maybe a full time ministry job wouldn’t suit me now. But I don’t want to give up on the idea because there is no well-worn path to follow. And I am curious – what has happened to all the women who started out on this training path with 16 years ago? Would many of them also have loved to return to a ministry job after their kids started school? Or could they not find their ways back either?
Read more in this series – She Needs – helping women flourish in the church