Motherhood Penalty in the Pulpit

Recently on 60 Minutes, Leslie Stahl reported on Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff’s commitment to closing the wage gap between men and women in his company. I was impressed with Benioff’s decision to raise wages for women employees and create a fair work environment. If only all businesses and organizations were this committed, including religious institutions.

I hear comparable stories from women in ministry. Although things are slowly changing for women in denominations that ordain them, there is still a bias against women being pastors. There is also a separate set of expectations and pay level for women.

In an article in Christianity Today, Kate Shellnutt wrote, “In 2016, married women and moms with kids at home earned 72 cents for every dollar made by men in the clergy. Their pay gap—28 percent less than men—was twice as big as single women’s, which was 12 percent less, or 88 cents on the dollar.”

Stahl also spoke with Ellen Kullman, former CEO of DuPont about gender issues in the workplace. Kullman brought up the phenomenon called the motherhood penalty (she called it “mommy penalty”)—the unconscious bias against pregnant workers and working mothers. She told a story that reminded me of an experience I had when interviewing for a pastoral position.

At the time my first husband and I had two young children, ages seven and two. We were candidates for a co-pastorate. The search committee interviewed us together and then separately. During my interview one of the committee members asked what I would do if my two-year old wandered up to the pulpit while I was preaching. The first thought that came to my mind was, “Did you ask my husband the same question?” I kept my thought to myself and answered the question. I was also asked about who would take care of the children during worship and what I would do if they misbehaved.

My husband was the ideal candidate for most churches—thirty-something male, married with young children. I, on the other hand, was a questionable risk. The underlying assumption was that I would be distracted by my parental responsibilities, but my husband would not. What does that say about him as a father? What does it say about the Church? More important, what does it say about the Church’s theology?

Christians say that they place great value on family. If so, then why do they value mothers less than other women and even more so less than men? Unfortunately, the Bible and our traditions offer little help to change this mindset. Therefore, we need alternative theologies, including feminist theology; we need to hear the voices of those who have been marginalized by our sacred texts and traditions. We need to read and study the Bible through different worldviews. We need to lift up the contributions women have made to our faith, and value today’s female leaders for their unique perspective and gifts for ministry.

Mothers bring great value to pastoral ministry, a value that no one else can. We understand all too well what Jesus meant when he said he wanted to gather his children together like a mother hen gathers her chicks (Luke 13:34). We are nurturers and care-givers, organizers and leaders.

We have seen improvements for women in ministry. The wage gap is smaller, and women now hold more church offices than ever before. In recent years, women have been called to senior positions at large churches. However, we have further to go before we can pat ourselves on the back for being equitable and nonbiased. It takes men and women speaking up when they witness inequity. It takes intentionality in setting policies and salary standards. It takes more women in leadership, and a change of congregational culture.

To judicatory leaders: What policies and procedures need to be created to ensure equitable treatment for all pastors? What can judicatories do to create a shift in congregational culture so that pastoral candidates are considered for pastoral skills and gifts instead of gender and parental status.

To pastor search teams: What are the unconscious assumptions that you bring to the search for your next pastor?

To women clergy: What do you need to value yourself as worthy of the same respect and compensation as men? How can you be empowered to speak up against conscious and unconscious discrimination?

To those who recognize the gifts of all women and value them as equals: Thank you.

 

 

Pastors, Learn to Use This Word

A recent article on thriveglobal.com caught my attention. Sociologist Christine Carter offers three steps to saying “no.” It is a word that pastors and other care-giving types find hard to say. However, learning to say “no” is essential to healthy leadership and pastoring.

Several years ago, I taught a workshop at a national conference titled, Saying No Without Feeling Guilty. I adapted strategies from William Ury’s Power of a Positive No to the experiences of church workers. The workshop was a response to stories I often heard from pastors, educators and other church folk about their struggles with setting boundaries and taking care of themselves.

Today, I work with coaching clients on these same issues. Pastors are people-pleasers and they want parishioners to like them. Too often this translates into over-functioning and taking on responsibilities that belong to others. Sometimes pastors say yes to doing things simply to get them done because they don’t want to ask someone else to do it or they don’t trust that it will get done (the way they want). Unfortunately, this leads to an disempowered laity and a frustrated and exhausted pastor.

When you have clarity about your values, responsibilities and personal goals – what Ury calls your YES – you can make better decisions about your responses to requests. Here are a few coaching questions that can help you learn to say no:

  • What are the values that guide you in deciding to what you will say “yes?”
  • How do you discern what are your responsibilities and what belongs to someone else?
  • What is your YES, and how does it influence your decision-making?
  • What is the worst that can happen if you say “no” to things that do not belong to you?

My goal as a coach is to help pastors be the best they can be personally and professionally. Contact me if I can help you set goals for yourself that will lead to health, happiness and a successful ministry.

 

Asking for Help

Do you have trouble asking for help? I do. It may be because I am an introvert, or I learned at an early age that I could depend on myself more than others. It could also be that I am a minister. People in helping professions often have the hardest time asking for help. They consider themselves to be givers, not receivers.

There are a lot of reasons we give for not asking for help.

1. I don’t want to be a burden.
2. I don’t want to look weak or helpless.
3. I want to be independent and self-reliant.
4. I don’t need anyone else.
5. I can do it myself.

Some of these reasons are conscious decisions. Others are sub-conscious messages left over from some past relationship or event, such as messages received growing up in a toxic environment. For others, it might be an experience of being abused or taken advantage of by a loved one. Whatever the trigger, we learn to distrust others’ motives or kindnesses, and we think that the only way to succeed is to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and do it ourselves.

Consider alternative reasons to ask and receive help from others.

  1. Most people are kind, and they typically want to help. Being in a relationship means caring and doing for one another. It is how we show affection and concern. Refusing to ask for help only isolates us from one another.
  2. There is strength in numbers. Even those known as loners (the Lone Ranger and numerous superheroes) had sidekicks or supporters. We show strength when we engage others and share in accomplishments. Asking for help is helping ourselves, and we can enjoy our tasks much more when we do them together.
  3. Employers want employees who can work with a team. In today’s world, collaboration and group-processing are essential to success. Mutual dependence and reliance are vital for creativity and innovation.
  4. Diversity improves creativity and performance. Other people help us expand our horizons and think outside of our box. We also need others to care for ourselves. Loneliness causes depression, self-doubt, despair and even death. People who believe they are better off by themselves or working on their own hurt their potential for success and happiness.
  5. Working alone for long hours leads to burn out, depression, and ill-health. It is also a sign of poor boundaries. We suffer, our work suffers, and our families suffer. By asking others to help, we not only give them an opportunity, but we lighten our load. We can set more reasonable expectations for ourselves and others. It also enables us to be more present, energized and focused on the tasks at hand.

Understanding the positive outcomes of asking and graciously receiving help makes it easier for those of us who are uncomfortable doing so. It takes intentionality and practice to let down our guard and allow ourselves to be dependent on others. As we get more comfortable with the practice, we will reap the benefits and learn that we are our best selves with the help of others.

helping hand

 

A Happy Ending

I started writing a novel when I was in the eleventh grade. It was about a teenage girl named Angie (The name came from the Rolling Stones ballad.) who falls for a twenty-something man with a drug addiction. She has a difficult home life and eagerly accepts his invitation to run away with him. She believes that with enough love she can cure him of his addiction. She soon learns that love is not enough, and that she cannot change him. She begins to seek a way out of her predicament.

That’s where I stopped writing. My interests went in other directions (probably a boy), and the notebook was stored away. Years later, while cleaning out the closet in my old bedroom I found the notebook among some others. I read a few pages and contemplated what I should do with it. I don’t know why, but I was afraid someone else would find it and read it. I don’t remember thinking it was terrible. It was more about keeping something so personal to myself, or not wanting to be judged. I decided to trash it.

I think about that story every so often. I regret throwing it away because it would be fun to read it again. In many ways it was my story. I never dated a drug addict, but I did run away with a guy, the year before I created Angie. The character shared my gloom and my idealism. Thinking back on it now, I realized that Angie learned something that I must have known but had not yet internalized. We cannot love another into being better, and that we can only change ourselves.

Its easy to see this in retrospect, after many years of relationships and self-examination. As a survivor of childhood abuse, I had to do a lot of work on myself to find acceptance and healing. I tried to find it through others for too many years. I am grateful for teachers, mentors, coaches and friends who have helped me along the way. Simply stated, I learned that acceptance and healing could only come from within me. I had to let go of guilt, anger and self-doubt and embrace the person that God created me to be.

I also had to forgive. I had to forgive my abusers and those whom I thought complicit in the abuse. I also had to forgive myself for being a victim and for all the failed attempts at trying to find what I needed in the wrong places. Victims of abuse always blame themselves, for being vulnerable and not fighting back, and for not telling. We must be able to forgive ourselves before we can truly forgive others and complete the healing process.

One of the reasons I am grateful to be a professional coach is the opportunity to help others accept and love themselves. Very few of my clients are victims of childhood abuse, but they have other issues — parents who were too harsh and too neglectful, unhealthy relationships, low self-esteem, imposter syndrome …. Through coaching, I can help them to discover the amazing person that they are within, the wisdom and passions that are too often buried underneath negative self-talk and lack of confidence.

Unfortunately, there are very few people in this world who live a charmed life. We all have family-of-origin issues. We all struggle at some time with upsetting relationships or self-doubt. The good news is that we do not have to stay in the gloom. We can make the personal choice to be different, to be happy.

What kind of life do you want for yourself? What barriers are keeping you from having that kind of life? What are you willing to invest to find healing and wholeness? The first step in having the life you want is to name that which holds you back and decide what you want to do with it. You have the power to overcome victimization, negative self-image and doubt. You can choose to be happy.

Contact me for a free consultation to find out if coaching is right for you.

A New Year, A New You?

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. They are fine for people who believe in them, particularly if they have the perseverance to stay with them throughout the year. I prefer on-going self-awareness and evaluation that leads to improvement and habit-change throughout the year.

Still, approaching a new year does cause us to reflect on the past year, and think about things we would like to be different in the coming year. I offer here a few questions that may help you with this kind of self-reflection:

  • What happened in my life this past year that gave me the most energy or joy? How can I create more of these kinds of happenings in the coming year?
  • What in the past year has drained me of energy? How can I have less of these kinds of experiences in the next year?
  • What did I accomplish this past year that gave my life more meaning?
  • What do I want to do next year that will give my life more meaning?
  • What did I do this year to help someone else have a better life?
  • What would I like to do next year to make the world a better place?
  • Of what do I need to let go next year to create something new or be more focused on what I really want?
  • What can I do (or not do) each day/week/month to be more self-aware and more engaged in the kind of life I want for myself?
  • What wrongs do I need to forgive, or bridges do I need to build, to have better relationships in the coming year?
  • If I could accomplish only one thing next year, what would it be?

If coaching is one of the things you would like to consider doing for yourself, contact me for a free, no-obligation, no-pressure consultation.

Stressed Out?

Wish we could turn back time, to the good old days
When our momma sang us to sleep but now we’re stressed out.

Many of us can relate to these words from the Twenty One Pilots song Stressed Out. We don’t like stress. We try to avoid it, and when we feel it we try to get rid of it. We blame stress for keeping us from doing things that challenge us. We use it as an excuse when we don’t want to take on another project or activity. Stress has become a buzzword in our conversations:

  • I’m so stressed!
  • The stress is killing me!
  • Don’t stress me out!

Actually, stress is a natural part of who we are. It is simply a physiological change in our bodies when we experience fear, discomfort, or challenge. Stress can be bad for us, but it can also be good.

In her book, The Upside of Stress, Kelly McGonigal talks about the benefits of stress. “The latest science reveals that stress can make you smarter, stronger, and more successful. It helps you learn and grow. It can even inspire courage and compassion.” She adds,

The best way to manage stress isn’t to reduce or avoid it, but rather to rethink and even embrace it.

This seems contradictory to everything we have been taught about stress, and is therefore difficult to believe. However, the research supports her claim.

My own experience tells me that she is right.

I remember being afraid to speak in front of groups, and even more fearful of dealing with conflict situations. However, my career depended upon me doing these things on a regular basis. When I learned to think differently about the stress I experienced before any of these activities, I found that it gave me more energy and focus. The stress didn’t go away. Even after years of doing these things, I still feel stress. But instead of be avoiding it or trying to get rid of it, I try to embrace it.

How do you make this shift? According to McGonigal, its quite simple. You change your mindset about stress. “Adopting a more positive view of stress reduces what we usually think of stress-related problems and helps people thrive under high levels of stress.”

Dictionary.com list these synonyms for stress: significance, meaning, emphasis, consequence; weight, value, worth. When we feel stress, it is a sign that what is causing the stress has meaning for us, or else we would not be stressed about it. Studies also show that people who experience stress have a more meaningful life and a stronger sense of purpose.

If you avoid stress, you will never accomplish anything of significance.

Try shifting your thinking about stress with these five ideas:

  1. When you feel stress about something, ask yourself, “What is the significance of this for me?  or What is the value that it holds?
  2. Take a values assessment. You can find one here, or create your own. Knowing your core values will help you rethink why you experience stress.
  3. Put this message on your laptop or bathroom mirror, “A little stress can be a good thing.”
  4. When you have to do something that makes you stressed, embrace the stress as a positive energy to help you succeed.
  5. Find a coach to help you shift your thinking about the stressors in your life. A good coach will guide you through a process of changing your mindset about your fears, self-doubt, and barriers to success. Contact me for a free consultation to learn more.

We all get stress out. It is how we view that stress that can either help us or harm us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Attitude of Gratitude

I have been keeping a gratitude journal for several years now. A firm believer in its benefits, I recommend it whenever I have the opportunity. Spending time each day thinking about things and people for which I am grateful, and actually writing them down, helps me remember how great my life is.

The practice is particularly helpful during hard times, and we’ve had a number of those lately. On these days, it is sometimes difficult to come up with five things to write down, but doing so shifts my focus from what is going wrong to what is going well. Again, I am reminded that even in hard times, I am fortunate.

I haven’t gotten bored with the practice of keeping a gratitude journal, but I do sometimes wonder if I’m going deep enough. This morning, I was grateful to come across an article by Master Coach Melody Wilding. In this article, Wilding gives twelves prompts to help boost a gratitude practice. They are excellent suggestions for engaging in deeper thinking about gratefulness.

For instance, number 11 asks what mistake or failure might you be grateful for. If you’re like me, you could write quite a few pages on this topic!

My first marriage ended in divorce. Going through the process of separation and divorce was difficult, My husband and I were believers in “until death do us part,” and we are both ministers. It was difficult for us to admit that we had failed at our marriage vows. Practicing gratitude helped me make peace with our decision, and become a happier person.

I have always believed that every experience in life has something to offer us if we are willing to learn from it. Even our worst lapse in judgement, or the most devastating crisis can provide something for which to be thankful.

What are you grateful for today?

*Photo taken at the Spirit in the Desert Retreat Center in Phoenix, AZ