Celebrating Women’s History Month
I can’t believe it’s been two years since the beginning of the pandemic.
I can’t believe it’s ONLY been two years since the beginning of the pandemic.
Where do you land?
In late 2021, I spent some time surveying women in church planting and vocational ministry. My goal was to gain their perspective on their experiences in the last two years as they navigate an ever-changing landscape in their own lives and in the world. Women confessed that they are tired and struggling. When asked what has been the hardest part of the last 18 months, women have shared:
- Feeling the need to provide emotional support for all of your people (spouse, children, church coworkers, church families and children, parents, friends, etc.) while you feel lost and uncertain yourself.
- Trying to be wise and have faith- not living In fear- the balance in our words and actions…so hard. The tension Is real.
- Recovery. Dealing with the height of the pandemic was challenging, but I did what had to be done. Now that things have started to “settle down” I realize habits were formed then that are no longer life-giving. Re-adjusting/adjusting/recovering…THAT is where my challenge lies.
- Always feeling unsettled – especially as so many more changes and dynamics continued to unfold. Many things that I felt very ‘sure’ of were stripped away during this time (work, relationships, kids’ school, safety etc.) It’s difficult to feel secure when things are ever changing.
These are just a few of the comments that women shared with me about their experiences. Some common themes that emerged were decision making, balance, tension over perspectives, isolation, and grief. Other noteworthy items that women indicated were financial challenges, academic challenges, helplessness, constant changes, and health challenges.
While I acknowledge that both men and women have experienced the lists above over the last two years, ultimately there are unique challenges that women have faced. For example, recent SHRM data revealed that over 1/4 of female employed Americans with caregiving responsibilities feel their professional development has been stifled during the pandemic (27%), compared to 10% of male employed Americans who feel the same. Additionally, nearly ⅓ of female employed Americans personally know a woman who has voluntarily left the workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic because of caregiving responsibilities (31%) (https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/trends-and-forecasting/research-and-surveys/pages/women-at-work-research.aspx).
All of these factors went into Bloom’s Leadership Team choosing our theme for the year: Press Refresh. In this refresh, the past two years are not forgotten, but it encourages us to make space for rhythms of renewal in 2022, regardless of our circumstances. We can all agree that we could all use a bit of a refresh.
Because of God’s goodness and kindness, we can begin again. Again and again. The Bloom Community is leaning into Lamentations 3 verses 21 – 24 (NIV): Yet I call this to mind, and therefore I have hope: Because of the loving devotion of the LORD we are not consumed, for His mercies never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness! “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him.” As we Press Refresh in 2022, our hope is that our dependence on Jesus and his portion will empower us to lead and serve new churches whatever this next year holds.
Earlier this month, a room full of church planting women at the Exponential East Conference gathered together for the annual Bloom Breakfast. This event, coincidentally, was held on International Women’s Day and the energy was incredible! Three church planting women–Katie Tyndall, Loren Abernathy, and Valarie Grimes–shared their stories of how they Press Refresh even in the midst of a chaotic two years.
Katie talked about leaning into her local community even when it feels easier to escape and avoid.
Loren challenged women to press refresh by not trying to do it all and caring for ourselves as we care for others.
Valarie reminded us that through true dependence on Jesus and the body of Christ, we can say, “It is well with our souls” through our darkest moments.
Each of these women is a beacon of light in her community; an example of what it looks like to embody the hope of Jesus in a world that can feel hopeless. Leaders like Katie, Loren, and Valarie are helping churches thrive, and multiply, so that every child has a church.
As Women’s History Month comes to an end, may we all celebrate the women in our lives who are beacons of light even in the midst of darkness.
DIRECTOR OF DISCOVERY & BLOOM CATALYST
Heidy helps empower women to thrive in all areas of church planting. Prior to church planting and her role in Bloom, Heidy worked for 10 years in Leadership Development and Higher Education. She and her husband Josh planted Movement Church in Newport, KY in March, 2014 and have two amazing kiddos, Isaac and Clara Jo. Heidy is also passionate about storytelling and making any event or activity just a little more fun.