During the first half of our 35-year marriage, my husband and I had weekly discussions on the injustices women face in ministry. Ever since my teen years, when I would stomp into the principal’s office over an injustice in school, I’ve had a bent towards advocating for others. Looking back, I’m not surprised at the direction my life has taken in starting Parakaleo.

Couples go into church planting together and during the assessment process, the importance and value each brings to this endeavor is recognized. Yet, there is still a vast inequality in both partners being recognized, trained and supported. Women often tell me how excited they were to go into ministry with their husbands, and how they dreamed of working together. They recognize the advantages of men and women co-laboring for the common good and its impact on the church and community. Yet, once they enter ministry, the focus, the training, the seminars, even the ministry budget is for the men.

When we birthed Parakaleo, the Greek word for “coming alongside”, I was surprised when pastors and church planters asked why their wives needed training. Okay, to be more honest, I was offended. At the time, it seemed that the swirling debate on what women and men could or couldn’t do in ministry was clouding the real issue.

When young men exhibit skills and interest in ministry, they are usually encouraged and pursued. When young women display a similar interest, they are more likely to be questioned about it, and even their motives doubted.

Ministry spouses are “all in”, yet receive little support or training. It’s common for women to spend thousands of dollars yearly on hospitality for the church without reimbursement. Years ago, I asked one woman to total the amount for that year. It was over $10,000. In light of this, it’s no surprise that when her budget lacks sufficient funds to buy school clothes, she becomes resentful. In small or new churches, women married to the pastor frequently lead Bible studies and small groups, yet receive little to no training. If they do get training, it’s most often paid for out of their personal budgets. And these are just two of the top twelve issues women commonly face in ministry and for which they seek help!

This week I participated in Parakaleo’s Group Leadership Training Intensive. It’s just one of many courses we’ve designed specifically for women married to the pastor or planter. We learned how to help every group member find and use her voice, and deal with difficult group members. We rehearsed advanced listening skills to capture the underlying issues and feelings of a group. We learned to model appropriate group behavior. And we practiced clearly stating and holding our boundaries—a hard skill indeed, but a much needed one especially when planting churches in high-risk areas. And most importantly, we brought each of these topics back to an understanding of how the gospel changes lives and hearts—especially our own.

Let me challenge you to check organizations such as Redeemer City to City to see the differences new churches are making in their communities. Behind every church and its impact is a woman who humanly speaking holds the future of that work in her hands. Am I exaggerating? Think about it. If she doesn’t survive the rigors of planting, that couple will not stay. Their departure could throw a fledgling church into a tailspin, or cause it to close. No, this isn’t her responsibility and yet she wrestles with the pressure of what will happen if she can’t take the ambiguity, financial insecurity, expectations, and constant demands of starting a new church. She doesn’t want to be the reason her husband resigns from ministry.

We have already witnessed a significant increase in couples who report that they have stayed in ministry because of God’s work through what Parakaleo offers.

Parakaleo is raising awareness and funds to be Here For Her in 2018. We have until midnight on December 31st to reach our goal. Every dollar given will be matched. Give $5 now and it becomes $10. Give $50 and it becomes $100.

I wouldn’t recommend stomping into a person’s office as the best way to correct an injustice. But I ask you:

Will you be Here For Her in 2018?

Shari