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August 22, 2012

Column # 1,617

Today’s Christian Women

By Mike McManus

Three-quarters of Christian women in America, the backbone of most churches, say they are mature in their faith, feel they are making the most of their gifts and potential and believe they are doing meaningful ministry according to Barna Group polls.

Six out of 10 say they have substantial influence in their church and two-thirds feel supported by the men in their lives – husbands and pastors.

That’s a lot of satisfied women – much higher than I would have expected.

True, about a third of women feel a lack of opportunity at church, feel misunderstood or undervalued by their leaders and resigned to low expectations.

That’s 70 million churched adult women who are unhappy in their church roles.

However, contrary to a widely shared perception, Christian women are as likely as Christian men to consider themselves to be leaders, Barna reports.  About a third of both genders see themselves as leaders.  Further, most women (52%) believe the church is receptive to their leadership, while only about 30% serve as leaders at work, at home or in their community. 

Here is concrete evidence America’s churches are living up to the ideal Paul outlined in Galatians (4:28), “Gone is the distinction between Jew and Greek, slave and free men, male and female – you are all one in Christ Jesus,” as the Phillips translation puts it.

Contrast this genuine equality of the genders and openness to female leadership among Christians with the utter male domination of women in the Muslim world.  Muslim females are much less likely to be able to go to school, to work outside the home, or even to be able to drive in some countries such as Saudi Arabia.

It is no accident that countries influenced by Christianity are far more developed economically and politically because women are deemed to be as important as men. America and Europe have prospered in part because we invest in developing the whole human race. 

Interestingly, Barna found women more likely to identify themselves as a servant than as a leader, “a label embraced by half of today’s Christian women.”  How do they serve?  By praying for others, encouraging others, helping the needy, sharing the Gospel and volunteering. 

Most Christian women want to do more with their life.  Three-quarters of women say they “can and should be doing more to serve God.” 

Sincere Christians are genuinely humble. 

What’s the source of this commitment of Christian women? 

Nearly eight of ten feel spiritually nurtured by their faith.  “The vast majority of women claim to have an `extremely close’ or a `pretty close’ relationship with God,” Barna reports.  Half of women surveyed say they take time every day to evaluate the quality of their relationship with God.

Furthermore, three out of four women say their faith is characterized by joy and equal numbers experience a lot of spiritual freedom in their faith. Two-thirds feel fulfilled by their spiritual lives.

However, their spiritual lives are rarely “their most important source of identity. That role is taken up by the strong priority Christian women place on family.”

Fully 53% of women say their highest priority is family, vs. only 16% who rate their faith as their top priority.

Two-thirds believe their most important role in life is as a mother or parent.  Jesus came next, with 13% believing their most important role is as a follower of Christ.  In third place is their role as a wife (11%).  Only 3% say their work as an employee or executive is their highest priority.

Their most important goal?  Raising their children well. However, Barna deduced “their marriages may be suffering from a lack of intentionality, with only 2% saying their most important goal in life is to enhance their relationship with their partner.

I disagree. One reason few women cite marriage-related goals is that they are “quite satisfied in their marriages.”  Six of ten women are pleased with their marriages v. half who are pleased with their parenting.

Asked what they most struggle with, women cited “disorganization” and “inefficiency” most often.  Anger and selfishness ranked third and fourth, with excessive arguing next in line. Only 13% said they struggled with envy and 8% with lust.

What has been their “biggest disappointment in life?”  Three in ten cited the death of a loved one as their biggest concern, 20% cited family or children, while 9% said a divorce or bad marriage was their biggest disappointment.

However, three-fourths of women are happy in their faith and in using their gifts to serve others.

That’s what matters.

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