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January 1980 · Vol. 9 No. 1 · pp. 3–6 

The Church Can Help Women Choose

Jean Janzen

My seventeen year-old daughter will soon graduate from high school. She and her fellow graduates will have more choices available to them than any other young women before them in history. Professional and career possibilities lie before them in vast profusion. Marriage or the single life? They can choose. Children? They decide. They can join the ranks of the current Superwoman who manages dozens of responsibilities in one day—family, career, church work and more. Or they may choose to concentrate on one area.

This is an exciting time. It is also a bewildering and confusing time. And like every previous age in human history, it is time to choose God—a crucial choice—for the new opportunities, while offering self-discovery, fulfillment and open doors for service, can only result in emptiness without him.

How will the church help my daughter and me with these choices? How can we help each other in the church? Jesus’ words are our command: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” We need help to do this. We need the church to be our stimulus and our support as we journey with God, the journey which flows inward and outward.


Abiding in Christ, practicing the presence of God, becoming rooted and grounded—these describe the journey inward, the journey which often defies description. It is the journey which is ours alone, and on which all else depends. Then why do we neglect it?

My experience has been that one problem lies in deciding priorities. As job opportunities increase, women are challenged to learn and to develop new skills. They are increasingly encouraged to buy, to be ever discontent with furniture, homes, gardens and cooking. Women are urged to improve their parenting, marriages and church work. I know what it feels like to be pulled in a thousand directions at once.

I need the church to help me take responsibility for my inner {4} growth and to encourage me to discipline myself for times of devotion, study and creativity. One of the best ways to do this, I find, is to be involved in a regular Bible study and prayer group which encourages a life of discipline. There is no substitute for this kind of experience.

The corporate worship experience is also essential for inner growth. The entire service strengthens—the lofty hymns, the warmth of sharing, the times of silence, the words, the liturgy, the visual symbols, the ceremonies, the communion, the music. I need it all. It is an opportunity for growth.

The congregation helps me when we covenant together to spend time in daily Bible reading and prayers, when it makes devotional literature available and when if offers seminars and discussion-times about the inner journey.

It helps when it encourages me in creative activity. Creative acts, whether painting, designing a banner, writing music or poetry, or arranging flowers, well up from the innermost parts of our being, and for the Christian, God is there. It is part of my inward journey.

Women help me by modeling the faith life. When my friend takes time to study and pray, and lets the house or laundry wait, she encourages me to do the same. When she tells me how keeping a journal is helping her, I may try it, too. When she is as excited about jogging as a soul-exercise, I catch the spirit. There is much to learn from one another about the concentrated time and ways to be with God.

The church can help me with my life goals. I have so many good ones—to be successful in church work, to produce model children, to be a super-Christian wife, to lead another person to Christ, to develop my God-given abilities. I need to be reminded that goal-reaching makes me overly-anxious and discontent when perspective is lost, when success becomes more important than loving God and desiring him.


To love is to obey. I need the church to support me, shelter me, and stimulate me in my attempt to walk the path of obedience—the journey outward.

I need the church to recognize my gifts and to encourage me to exercise them in mission and service. There is increasing recognition of women’s potential, and I thank God. It is biblical. It is giving integrity to both men and women. Women are surprising themselves and others as they exercise their talents and abilities in the work of the kingdom in traditional roles and in new areas. The result has been both excitement and tension.

My own experience in the new roles has been good. Men and women alike have encouraged me to go “where angels fear to tread”. {5} Being the first woman on the church council and speaking at a morning worship service is frightening. But I believe we need the particular qualities of women in all areas of service, including decision-making and leadership. We need their perspective, intuition, and the potential for compassion.

In primarily male groups I have felt needed in various areas-sometimes to spur people to action when the tendency was to discuss and pontificate, sometimes to soften attitudes when the tendency was to be too forceful and direct, sometimes to speak for the concerns and needs of women and children when these were omitted. Often I make no special contribution except as another person struggling and rejoicing with the others.

As women experience new opportunities to work in the church in unfamiliar areas, they need patience, understanding and support. In my early months on the Fresno Pacific College Board of Directors, I sat silently in awe and some confusion for a number of meetings, gradually gaining enough knowledge and confidence to state an idea or opinion. My heart was pounding the day I found I was the only “no” vote on a motion, and fourteen male heads turned in my direction, amazed. Even then, I felt supported.

Women need the support of criticism. They should be told when they are out of step or in the wrong place, when their attitudes are not Christ-like. When they fail to obey God, they are not excused.

I need the church to help me in my life choices. Women need settings where they can seek help with decisions about career, about marriage or singleness, about children, about time and money management. Never before have women had so many choices. What was before ordained by God and accepted as his will now sometimes becomes an agonizing choice, with added responsibility. No Christian woman (or man) should have to make such choices alone. My husband and I have sat with several married couples in recent months, listening and responding to them about major life decisions. We are slowly learning to do this in our congregation.

I need the church to assist me in my home life. The journey of a wife and mother runs in rough and dark places these days. In spite of all the helpful literature, our society burdens us with a heavy load. How we need God. How we need the church.

Again, much of the problem is a matter of priority. How can families simplify their lives so there is time for the important things? Women often have considerable control over household spending, and need to be challenged to separate themselves from society’s norm.

Women need help in husband-wife relationships. Women’s liberation {6} can both harden and confuse women these days. It has added burdens as well as helped. With freedom comes responsibility. When I was married in the 50’s, the major issues were clear. You married to be a helpmate to your husband, to go with him wherever his career led him, to bear children. No questions. The matter was settled. Many questions and forks in the road await my younger friends. Sometimes I ache for them. “How much weight do my desires, my career, and my wishes carry?” they ask. Decisions become more complex and there are no easy answers.

When we are liberated women and liberated men, freed from the false and artificial images, we are freed for service to each other. Therein lies the key—not liberated for selfish pursuit, but for better service to husbands, children, the church, the world. The church can strengthen such attitudes.

The church can also help the young mother. We had our first baby during my husband’s internship in Los Angeles. We knew two couples in that huge sea of humanity and cars. It is easy to be lonely in Los Angeles, especially when your husband works three days and nights in succession and no one is around to notice your baby. I am grateful to the Homebuilders group in the Lake Avenue Congregational Church in Pasadena. They saved my life by caring for me. Young mothers with little ones need to be surrounded with support and care from church families who are willing to become the extended family.

Mothers with teenagers need special compassion and support. They are not looking for experts during this special time, but someone with a willing shoulder on which to lean, an arm to enfold, and the patience to stand alongside with uncritical eye until this stage has passed. The church helps mothers when it teaches husbands about fatherhood, when homelife is not unduly disrupted by the church program, when my children are taught by loving and caring teachers, when they are encouraged to choose to be followers of Christ. I lean hard on the church as a mother.

The church can encourage women to make their home a place of hospitality. We must take Jesus’ command to love our neighbor as ourselves seriously. We will then open our home not only to conference missionaries, but give time and the cup of hospitality to neighbors, the old, the confused, the searching person, children’s friends, and others. A home is the most natural place to bring others into Christ’s fold.

The willingness of women to follow Christ’s way and the support and caring of the church can work together in both the inner and outer journey—neither a true journey without the other. In the church, we need each other, and as we succeed, we find that joy for which we were made.

Jean Janzen is a board member of Fresno Pacific College, Fresno, California. She participates in a local writers group, edits the College Community Church (Clovis) Newsletter, and is involved in the Auxiliary to the Fresno County Medical Association. Her husband, Louis, is a Fresno pediatrician.

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