It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused quite the balancing act for many of us. We are figuring out how to juggle digital learning or homeschooling while simultaneously working full-time jobs, keeping our houses livable, and trying to keep our own mental, physical, and spiritual well-being in check. It is no small task for anyone! However, recent studies are showing that women are the ones shouldering the bulk of the additional work at home. These studies have shown that professional women are finding that this time of quarantine has negatively impacted their work due to the extra responsibilities placed on them at home. While there are always outliers in these studies, in conversations with women clergy around the country has shown this research to reflect their stories accurately. They feel an immense amount of strain trying to balance their various responsibilities without childcare or school to help with their children while they work.
Because of the extra strain on women in particular right now, it would be easy for them to fade into the background—but this would be detrimental to the church, which needs a full-bodied representation of the kingdom of God in all facets. So how can we elevate, encourage, and support women clergy in these trying times? I’ve asked women clergy over the years for ideas on how to support and encourage them in their ministries, and now is a great time to put some of these plans to action. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but here are eight ways to support and appreciate women clergy:
1. Invite a woman to preach. If your church is still hosting digital services, then now is easier than ever to host a woman in your pulpit. There are many talented women preachers who would love the opportunity to share their gifts through preaching if they were asked. This is especially easy to do if you record sermons ahead of time or if you are in a different time zone than the pastor you are asking to step in. If you have returned to in-person services, make a plan to add a woman pastor to your preaching schedule a few times a year. This is a great way to affirm and support women and elevate their voices.
2. Offer a practical, safe, and helpful childcare solution or school help. Though it may not always be safe to meet in large groups, consider adding your pastor’s children to the school pod you are creating, offer to tutor a child who is struggling, or gift an activity box for your pastor’s kids to work on at home independently. The need for childcare extends to denominational events as well. While many in-person events have been canceled, we need to remember to intentionally provide childcare at every event we expect pastors to attend once these gatherings resume.
3. Gift the pastor’s family a house cleaning, lawn care, grocery delivery, or a meal-planning service. These routine household chores have been incredibly difficult to maintain with kids home all day, every day. Offering to help in any of these areas would come as a huge blessing to women pastors who are trying to juggle all the components of ministry and family life.
4. Send notes of encouragement. Often we think of the people who have impacted us and who have made a difference in our lives, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to telling them. Sending a note, whether handwritten or simply a text message, is a great way to help a pastor remember they are making a difference.
5. Volunteer at the church. This might seem simple or easy, but it often gets overlooked as a way to value your pastor. These days, getting ready for church often involves a few extra steps. Offer to disinfect railings and doorknobs after an in-person service. Ask if you can help run sound or set something up for a digital service. Offer to set up chairs before an outdoor service. In many churches, pastors are figuring out how to do these things on their own. Taking on one of these responsibilities would be a meaningful way to show you appreciate your pastor and to participate in the life of the church.
6. Give her a gift that is just for her. Take time to find out what she likes and is interested in. Does she love coffee? Find a local roaster and get her some coffee beans. Does she love to spend time outdoors? Consider purchasing a park pass for her. Does she love to garden? She might love new gardening gloves and heirloom seeds. Does she love to read? Consider a bookstore gift card, or an art print with a quote from her favorite book on it. The important thing is taking the time to recognize and value her uniqueness.
7. Advocate for her. Would she be a great fit for a district position? Nominate her. Vote for her. Would she be a great speaker for an event? Bring up her name. Would she make a phenomenal district superintendent? Let it be known to districts that are looking. Is she a talented writer? Give her opportunities to write. The greatest form of encouragement and support is to do everything in your power to make space for her to live into the call of God on her life.
8. Above all else, pray for women clergy. Pray for strength, for wisdom, for grace. Pray for courage when the days are hard. Pray for comfort when the way is rocky. Pray for bold voices and soft hearts. Pray that they would love their churches. Pray that they would have passion for whatever God is calling them to do. Pray that they might not grow weary in doing good but would continue to do good for the sake of the kingdom of God.