I received an email from a ministry friend from almost my beginning at LifeWay over 20 years ago. We’ve stayed in touch over the years off and on, but I had not heard from her for quite a while. I want to share with you (without using her name) the journey she has been on and what helped her walk in faith and continue to minister in the midst of such a difficult season. I hope this encourages you either now in a difficult time or prepares you for a future time of ministry when it gets really hard.
Here is part of the email from this leader, edited to be anonymous. (Please do not read this and think I am sharing this to be prideful. That’s definitely not the reason! I just want you to hear from her heart how being equipped to lead, both practically and spiritually, helped her to navigate this season, and I pray this encourages you to not give up leading women in their walk with Christ.)
I want to thank you for all you have done over the last…25?…years for those of us who are women in ministry. When I started the women’s ministry here at my church back in 1992 I was grasping for any help I could get. I was young and overwhelmed that the leaders of the church—male and female—saw the potential in me for the task of growing ministry to women. I realize I do have the gifts of leadership and administration (and I give God the glory and thanks for that) but I needed training, equipping, encouragement, and resources too. There wasn’t much help at that time, and then along came you and your team. The resources and conferences you offered through LifeWay provided me just what I needed. Every time we came to a conference we grew and the impact on the ministry was huge. However, the impact was not just on the ministry, but on the whole church. Because of the strong leadership and team equipping foundation we had, there are women who served on one of our teams and then moved on to other areas of ministry in the church. Many women carried their love for ministering to women to other churches when they moved. I could go on and on, and there is so much to say and so much to tell.
I want to also focus on what has happened to me personally. Little did I know that all the years of growing as a leader were also preparing me spiritually for what I would face in my personal life.
Here goes…five years ago my life took a turn that I never expected. I discovered my husband’s infidelity. He had become involved in online chat rooms which over time became the now very popular relationship match sites. When I discovered what had started online and then turned into a full blown affair, my world was turned upside down. I immediately stepped out of my staff position with women’s ministry to work full time on healing our marriage. We both wanted our marriage to heal and sought help from some of the best counselors available who focus on affair recovery. But, the enemy worked hard too. I could write a book about what happened over the next five years, between my husband and me, and between God and me.
Fast forward…divorce won in March of this year. I can’t even describe the pain, confusion, and sadness. But in it all God has been amazing. The enemy didn’t get my praise or the hope I have in God. I owe that to the foundation that was laid well before the crisis hit and that foundation was built on God’s Word…thanks to the amazing Bible studies I’ve been exposed to over decades. I didn’t know how much I would need to rely on what they taught me one day!
So, what has happened in ministry? Well, that’s been a shock too. I won’t go into the details of how it happened here in this email, but the short version and end result is that I’m in an executive position now at my church! The pastors and elders saw in me leadership abilities that led them to continue bringing me along in bigger and bigger roles. I am honored that they trust me in this role. I work hand in hand with the Senior Pastor and the Strategic Leadership Team. I sit in on the teaching team to help tie other elements of the services together and give a female perspective. I don’t take lightly my role as a female serving in this capacity. I am careful to not overstep the line of spiritual oversight. The pastors and elders trust me, and I trust them to protect me. Our church is a conservative evangelical church, and we have continued to move in the direction of creating roles for women in leadership. I recognize my role in helping that along and feel quite a weight at times needless to say. All this happened in spite of what happened in my marriage and in spite of the divorce, which obviously has been a challenge for me to navigate through all this. You can only imagine what I’ve battled in my mind as I’ve wrestled through my developing role and the divorce.”
Now, let me say, when the first major crisis hit after I began ministry full time my first thought was, “I must get out of leadership during this season.” God may call you to end a season of ministry for a number of reasons, but unless He releases you, you must stay obedient to His assignment. You never know if that is the main thing He will use to touch someone else’s life.
Don’t miss the hope this leader had during her crisis—how she did not give up but faithfully followed God’s direction to take some time off to focus on her marriage, but how He led her right back into leading and serving in a bigger way than she ever imagined. That is what the women in your church need to experience through your leadership.
Will you be faithful to His hand on your life and ministry? Will you equip women with the gospel and the hope that does not fail, no matter the crisis? It will impact countless others if you do!