Invisible Christian Women

Does this sound familiar, ladies?   Although I don’t fall into the 30-something single career woman category mentioned in Camerin’s post, I was a working-outside-the-home career mom for nearly a dozen years.  This article epitomizes why I don’t do “women’s ministries” – or women’s retreats – as discussed in prior posts under Cleaver & Conondrums.  For full text of Camerin’s article, please click on the link provided to Today’s Christian Woman.

Why do I feel like an outsider at many women’s ministry functions?

August 13, 2007 | The evening was supposed to be encouraging. Instead it ended with tears—mine.

My mom and I were attending a women’s ministry event—a weekend retreat dubbed an escape. To us busy career women, this sounded like just what we needed—time away from the daily grind. And connecting with one another on this getaway was the biggest draw of all.

So on a Friday afternoon we flew to this national conference anticipating encouragement, togetherness, and a sense of belonging to the larger community of Christian women.

But by Saturday night I simply felt invisible.

The event was certainly well planned and executed. I enjoyed the great worship music, the chit-chat with women from around the country, the chance to hear some top-notch speakers. But the entire weekend seemed geared toward young married moms. And as a single 30something with no kids, I felt like an outsider. Even my mom, an empty-nester nearing retirement, felt a bit out of the loop.

Much of the explanation for why we women needed to get away was couched in terms of us getting away from our husbands and kids. Nearly all the speakers told multiple stories about their families and centered their points on being good wives and moms. I certainly don’t begrudge the women in those demographics this needed advice. But if this was an event aimed specifically at wives and moms, it probably should’ve been advertised that way. Instead, it had been marketed simply as a women’s ministry event.

I don’t think this evening would’ve bothered me if its narrow focus had been an isolated instance. But I’ve been to many women’s ministry events over the years—teas, luncheons, weekend retreats, national conferences—and many of them have had a very homogeneous demographic in mind: young married moms.

I know we never-married singles aren’t the only ones who feel left out in this equation. In the past couple years I’ve become friends with a newly widowed 60something and a newly divorced mom of two grade-school-age kids. Given their new status, both these women have talked about the challenge of knowing where they fit into the body of Christ as a whole and women’s ministry niches more specifically. … I’ve heard similar rumblings from women who are older, disabled, of an ethnic background, or more into tattoos and extreme sports than capris and casseroles.

Of course many women’s ministries across the country are wonderfully diverse, innovative, and inclusive. …. But I fear too much of what’s done in the name of women’s ministry is by and large still exclusive. And hurtful to those of us who feel on the outside. Like the black sheep of God’s family.

I completely understand why the church is so traditional-family focused. The roles of wife and mom are all encompassing, and women need constant encouragement and equipping to live these roles well. And with the family unit taking many hits in society, those serving the God who created family are compelled to act and advocate. But in these years when the church has taken on the cause of the family, society has seen some huge demographic shifts as well.  … 

 I never imagined I’d be 36 and still single. Contrary to some common thinking, I never made a conscious choice of career over family. I simply haven’t met a man who’s a good, godly match for me. For my friends who’ve wrestled with infertility, their empty arms ache for little ones to call their own. For those of us longing for these “missing people” in our lives, the blanket assumption that all Christian women are wives and moms stings. We already can feel invisible to men, to God, and to women in the demographics we thought we’d occupy by now. Adding the church to this list is painful. Of all the places to feel like an outsider, our communities of faith are probably one of the most difficult….

 I think women’s ministries should be celebrating this unique way God crafted each of his daughters and the myriad ways he’s writing our life stories. And they should be encouraging us in whatever season of life we’re experiencing—whether by design or by surprise—to find strength in our fellow women of faith and hope in our unconditionally loving God.

Camerin Courtney


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Tomorrow we turn a corner into a special series of Christmas-themed posts.  Check out the link here manana!


2 Responses

  1. Wow. I can relate to what you are saying here. I have felt the same way for many years. I am married, but I didn’t get married until I was 35. My husband and I do not plan on having children, and it seems that much (most?) women’s ministry is directed at moms with kids, homeschoolers, etc. Thanks for posting something different, and stating your thoughts in such a loving & reasonable way.

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