I had the sort of day today that felt like a Cathy cartoon: unexpected and heavy demands at work, preparation for emergencies that never actually materialized and thus rendered the work meaningless, errands both before and after my time in-office, and a house covered in toilet paper shreds, courtesy of my kittens.
As I stood in the kitchen and soaked up the fifteen minutes of silence I had before I would need to start dinner and clean up the clutter and pack my lunch for tomorrow and get out my clothes for tomorrow and start a load of laundry, I wondered:
How many working women are desperate for fellowship and community?
I know so many women, like me, who balance home life and careers and children: some single, and some married but with husbands who also work. Like me, I imagine they look at the church bulletin to scour out opportunities and find…
- Small groups that meet when they’re mid-morning commute, or mid-evening commute.
- Short-term Bible studies that kick up during the day when the little ones are back in school and “everybody” has free time.
- Couples’ events that assume two married people work the same job hours.
- Family- or child-centered events that require volunteerism or additional resources
- Events or groups that require significant and consistent time commitments
I know that, at least in my church, not many working women can participate much or even benefit from ministries and community. They can’t physically be present for them, or they can’t coordinate schedules properly with a spouse, or they don’t have the time or energy to commit to an 18-week something-or-other that meets every single Monday at the same time and does not care about overtime or the dirty house or sudden emergencies or Bobby’s day care running late.
In lieu of that, and in light of the needs of the working woman and families where both parents work or the only parent works, here’s what churches can offer to help:
- Some groups, events, and opportunities that meet outside of working hours and that value the scarce time available to those who live by those hours
- Service in the form of child care or home care. Many working parents – especially single parents – find their schedules blown apart by a child’s snow day or by no spare time to grocery shop or sweep the floor or help with Jr’s English paper. Kind assistance from loving brothers and sisters in Christ can go a long way.
- Small groups or Bible studies that center the struggles faced by working women: conflict with managers, hitting the brick wall of career stagnation, drawing boundaries, balancing work life and home life, working-mother guilt, managing finances and schedules
- Support and outreach: a text, an email or a call that says “we miss you,” an encouraging note before a big presentation, a sympathetic ear after a long day
And there’s one final service that believers can do not just for women who work outside the home, but for men and women both: be considerate and kind. My husband once struggled to maintain a friendship with a fellow believer who always wanted to go out to lunch with him but who refused to call my husband more than five minutes before he was ready to meet up – an impossibility for someone, like my husband, with a schedule jam-packed with meetings and demands. Simply promising to set up a lunch date and time a week in advance would have made all the difference in the world.
I believe with all my heart that the church is built to serve families. But as we serve and create community, we’d be well served to remember that the lives and needs of every family look different and may require different outreach and care.