We’re down to our last guest blogger, before we have a Q and A and book giveaway on Wednesday. I’m happy to introduce to you Jessica Bowman, author of Bohemian Bowmans and the ebook on parenting ‘Parenting Wild Things: Embracing the Rumpus.” Today, Jessica shares her experience of actually trying to teach and lead young people toward Christ.
Dropouts, teenage mothers, family-less vagabonds bouncing from house to house of whoever would take them. Until that person tired of their drama and bounced them on again. Not a good fit for the youth group and hopelessly disinterested in the adult class, they had no place there. And yet they still caught the church bus every week, just bored enough to show up.
They were being nothing but a distraction and spiritual drain on the Sunday School class they had been plunked into. It was a painfully bad fit. And they sure weren’t going to open up in there. They desperately needed a safe place to speak, to question. To do anything but feign sleep or giggle during the lesson.
So I offered to take them on, to do my best with them.
A Room Full of Misfits
We found our own tiny room in the church to claim. Cinder block walls and uncomfortable folding chairs, a tiny space for the church of misfit souls. It wasn’t much but it was theirs and they loved the freedom found in the four stark white walls. Tattoos, lip rings, foul mouths, hangovers, and babies, they all walked in the door.
They had questions like “What is ‘sexual immorality’? Is it just sex or does, like, other stuff count, too?” They weren’t ready to take responsibility yet for the answers but they were at least willing to ask the questions. I told them from the beginning, “I’m probably going to piss you off at some point but I’m going to tell you the truth. And I want to be your friend.” They seemed up to the challenge.
Are We Doing This “Biblical?”
And it didn’t take long, not with a powder keg crowd like this. It happened one Sunday morning when examining a scripture that clearly defines the fruit that will be in a Christian’s life. Their own fruitlessness pissed them off more than anything, I think. And so they pouted and spread half-truths about the lesson.
I was approached by church leadership – all men, and questioned. I was up front about every word, every scripture.
They found no flaw with my message or my method but instead questioned my authority. After all, weren’t the young men in the class too old to be taught by a woman? Were they men? Were they boys? “I just want to make sure we’re doing this Biblical,” one said.
Are Church Splits Biblical?
The next Sunday I was called out of the room by the pastor before class started and asked not go back in. I stood there, tears of indignation spilling over, and respectfully defended my right to help these kids. I think it was a people-pleasing maneuver more than anything else but I was denied and it hurt. Deeply. I retreated to my car where I spent the remainder of the hour crying slow angry tears.
That was the beginning of the end in more than one respect. Not longer after, those same kids would be a cog in the wheel of a major split in the church. And not much longer after that we would also choose to leave for different reasons.
I don’t regret my short time there – I made some deep friends and learned some hard lessons. But I do regret that a budding ministry was crushed all because of an outdated understanding of gender roles in the church. Those kids deserved a space to feel safe, even when the truth hurt.
They deserved a teacher – man or a woman.
Tell us if you’ve ever run into the limitations placed on you in a church, whether you’re a man or a woman. And then go read Jessica’s blog, Bohemian Bowmans.