ihate it when someone from our church family dies. I’m not talking about hating grief. Grief is a normal part of life. I’m talking about hating guilt.
And when someone I don’t know from our church
passes away, I invariably receive that guilt-inducing phone
call: “Can you make sandwiches for the funeral?”
I must have missed the Sunday School lesson when
they taught girls how to make funeral sandwiches, because
I don’t know where to start. I don’t like tuna or salmon
sandwiches to begin with. I’m more
of a soup-for-lunch kind of gal. And I
hate mustard. Sandwiches at funerals
always have mustard.
But it’s not the fact that my palate
doesn’t suit the typical church funeral
that bothers me. It’s that I have no
time. I understand that someone has
to make the sandwiches, but does it
have to be me?
Life is certainly busy, but I think one of the biggest sources
of stress isn’t the amount of work on our plate – it’s that
nagging feeling that one more straw is going to cause the
whole thing to come crashing down. And for many Christian
women, church commitments feel like that final straw.
If I’m superorganized and superenergetic, it is possible to
keep my house clean and get all my work done and, hopefully, to head to the grocery store before we discover that all
we have in the cupboards are tins of cranberry sauce and
cream of mushroom soup. But if an emergency – or a funeral – comes up, I’m in trouble. I have no margins in my life.
I don’t think I’m unusual. Most women are pulled in
so many different directions that we’re seriously in danger
of burning out. Women who don’t work outside the home
are often as busy as anyone else. Their husbands may have
shift work, or the kids are in activities, or they’re babysit-ting their grandchildren. When most adults started working outside the home, it affected those inside the home too.
There’s more work to go around and fewer hands to do it.
Women have become busier, but church life hasn’t
adapted to this new reality. It’s still expected that women
will teach Sunday School, run the nursery, cook for the
potlucks and supply the funeral sandwiches. That’s what
When Women Start
What women need to stop doing in the
a church community is all about, right?
Now, most churches do have a dedicated army of
older women who have given selflessly over the years to
create community. They’ve cooked more casseroles than
President’s Choice, they’ve decorated for Christmas and
Easter longer than I’ve been alive, and they’ve made church
homey and inviting. We couldn’t function without them.
Unfortunately, there aren’t very many of them left, and my
generation isn’t exactly clamouring to fill their spots. And so
these ladies, who have given tirelessly for decades, have even
more thrown at them. They “overfunction,” as Geri Scazzero,
author of The Emotionally Healthy Woman: Eight Things You
Have to Quit to Change Your Life (Zondervan, 2013) says, filling in the gaps so that other people – including many of the
men – can get away with underfunctioning. Churches tend to
take advantage of those who consistently say yes, instead of
telling them, “You’ve done enough.” And this dysfunctional
system can’t right itself until the overfunctioning people start saying no.
Looking around, I think we’re just
about at that point. Women are just too
tired, and few men will willingly take
on the jobs women have been doing in
the background for years. If churches
want to support the women in their
midst, then they must start adapting
to the new reality.
We all still crave a vibrant community life, but let’s think
outside the box about how to create it. Host community
events that don’t require work, but just let us put our feet
up and relax. Hold more family game nights – after the dinner hour, so we don’t have to bring food. Invite women to
simple scrapbooking and craft get-togethers where we can
relax doing things we long to do – rather than organizing
a big women’s day that requires a ton of volunteer hours.
Instead of focusing on church programming that
adds “extras” to our lives, incorporate things we already
do. Host homework clubs on Saturday morning where
parents can pool their knowledge, or host once-a-month
freezer cooking days where parents can all gather together
and cook meals to last a month.
And, please, ask people to throw money into a pot to
have the funeral catered, rather than requiring women to
make sandwiches. I’d much rather give $20 than an hour
of my time.
In other words, meet us where we’re at. And don’t expect me to buy any mustard. FT
ShEila Wra Y grEgOirE is an author and inspirational
speaker ( www.sheilawraygregoire.com).
Women’sColumn n BY ShEILA WrAY GrEGoIrE
Most women are pulled
in so many different
directions that we’re
seriously in danger
of burning out.