Women in Ministry Series: A Tale of Two Callings

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Catherine McNiel tells a story that will resonate with so many people called to ministry - especially so many women called to ministry.

I was at a minister’s conference recently, chatting with my tablemate at lunch. She is an ordained Pastor, Spiritual Director, Chaplain, Licensed Therapist, and Healing Prayer Minister. I was excited to talk with her because her schooling and interests so closely line up with my own. But then she asked about my ministry. I stumbled around for words but came up short, mumbling something about being busy with my kids while supporting my husband in his work. I left the conversation feeling that somehow my life had gone terribly wrong.

I’ve always seen myself as someone “in ministry.” Raised a Pastor’s daughter in a small rural church, it was all-hands-on-deck. If you had a gift, it was needed and used. I was contributing on Sunday mornings earlier than I can remember, helping out wherever there was need. Being “in ministry” was part of being me.

In college I chose my studies accordingly, majoring in Bible/Theology and Intercultural Christian Ed/Min. I led prayer groups and service teams, and later pursued an MA in Counseling. I met my husband and joked that we could imagine me a Pastor and him a Pastor’s wife, but not the other way around - I loved theology and studied Koine in my spare time, while he was an expert cook and host. Free from conventional gender roles, for us the sky seemed the limit.

Fast forward ten years: I work part time, stay home with our three young children, and have ordered my life around my husband’s wonderful ministry. I can point to the very moment God called me to this shocking vocation - using my energies to support my husband in his work. Our family rearranged home, school, and church to do so.

But when push comes to shove, it is my husband who drives to work every day, making an impact on our community in God’s name. The bulk of my role is being home with the kids, and in the margins finding time for my part time jobs and “ministries.” When I find spare time I fill it with theology, studying ancient religions, or writing books and articles I’m not certain anyone will ever read. I look at PhD and Chaplain programs or consider what it would take to become ordained, wondering how I could head down these paths given the realities of my family responsibilities. I look at positions “in ministry” and consider applying, but my family and I feel God’s calling to be fully committed where we are.

Approaching 40, I find myself chafing, wondering why I haven’t managed to live my adult life “in ministry.” Another sort of person would see a robust calling in supporting a husband’s ministry and raising the next generation in the Lord, but I am not that person. Though I confirm God’s calling on my life to do these things, He has given me other wings I long to stretch as well.

After leaving the conversation with my fellow conference-goer I reflected on the paths we each have taken. I too could have made her choices but chose for now to pursue the one thing I did not want to miss - raising my children and heeding the clear voice of God in my life. So why not wear these choices proudly, attending this minister’s conference in the spirit of who I am rather than by the titles (not) bestowed upon me during this season?

That same weekend, my Grandmother died. At her funeral I had the honor of reading a compilation of thoughts from my cousins, her grandchildren, including these words:
When she was young, Grandma wanted to be a minister. I think there must have been times on the farm when she felt God had asked her to set aside that dream. But if you look around right now at the family and friends gathered here, you will see that God did, indeed, make her a minister. In what might seem like a small corner of the world, she made a huge impact. And we are so thankful that she was faithful in the tasks she was given.
In reading these words I believe God confirmed once again my two callings. In my Grandmother I find a kindred spirit – one with a calling to ministry, but also to a life of service that precluded a formal position. I pray that someday I will hold a role “in ministry,” one that allows me to use my gifts, education, and passions to help my community and glorify the Lord. In the meantime I remind myself each day that I am a woman in ministry, serving those around me with every skill I have, being faithful in the tasks I have been given today.

About Today's Contributor
Catherine McNiel writes to open eyes to the creative and redemptive work of God in our daily lives. She is striving to see beauty, learning to expand her perspective, and praying to keep her eyes and heart open. She is a member of the Redbuds Writer's Guild, and blogs at www.catherinemcniel.com.

About the Women in Ministry Series
The Women in Ministry Series is a collection of guest posts that aims to provide an alternative to the women in ministry debates by telling the stories of women in ministry and encourage women to explore their God-given callings.

Contributions Welcome
Contact Katherine at katherinepershey[at]gmail.com to pitch your post idea in 2-4 sentences. You can stay updated on the latest post each week by signing up for the e-mail list.

Comment Policy
Everyone is welcome to leave a comment. However, this series takes for granted that women are called by God into every facet of ministry. This is not the place to debate that point and such comments will be removed. Women have been told “no” in far too many places. This is one place that is committed to saying “yes.”

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