Beyond Cupcake Ministries
After the church service, we will have the women stay behind for a brief meeting’. This scenario is the same world over, and the narration can fit, word-for-word, in any context, on almost every continent, in most Christian congregations.
I am surrounded by a group of women who are committed to Christ and to service in the world, but most of them would never stay behind when such a call is made. Some may have stayed for one meeting in days gone by, but could not wait for it to be over, to bolt from the room never to return.
During one of our many conversations with a friend, she said, ‘Carol, I am not built for ‘Cupcake Ministry’. It may be for some, but not me.’ Let me pause and explain what ‘Cupcake Ministry’ is: Cupcake Ministries are created around homemaking, hospitality, knitting, baking and cooking, fashion, modesty, and other traditionally ‘feminine’ activities. They tend to only empower women in those areas and not explore other passions outside the home and housekeeping type work.
When I spoke to my friend that day, I finally found a term that expressed my struggle with church ministries for women or by women. Most of these ministries are incubated and run by well-meaning pastors’ wives, who are expected by society to run such ministries regardless of whether it’s their calling or not. I always wonder if pastors’ husbands feel this same pressure to start and run similar ministries for men in the churches their wives lead in, and if they do, what kind of ministries do pastors’ husbands come up with?
Most church initiatives have boxed women in with programs and ministries that are so far removed from truth and the reality of our calling, experiences, and interests. So, for those of us who do not find our place in ‘Cupcake ministries’, where do we explore our humanity and femininity beyond society’s expectation of what a Christian woman is? Many of us have stepped out to create our own conversations, experiences and communities outside of the institutional church. We might not readily volunteer to cook meals for a bereaved family, but as one of my friends would, we’ll readily volunteer to drill holes in walls, help repurpose furniture and organise any event with her eyes closed. Another friend is, in my humble opinion, the best graphic designer hands down, in the country. She can hold her own against any other designer and chooses to serve God in that way. Another can do amazing stuff with computers that I still cannot understand and in the same breath run youth camps with a hand tied behind her back. I am sure she has planned many camps in her sleep.
With an impeccable gift of writing curriculums and training, another friend is our resident globe trotter; teaching in spaces globally where women have never had a voice to teach with authority in the church. Some of my friends are therapists, others want to plant churches, others make bold decisions to leave the country to earn PhD’s so that they can better serve the world.
Most of these women have had their struggles with being boxed in and expected by institutional churches to colour within the lines set for women. They could have easily given up, but they relentlessly pursue what God has called them to and dare to be different.
Don’t misunderstand me; I am not vilifying ‘Cupcake ministries’. Many women are drawn to them and have found a space and community there to express their love for God and to serve - and it is okay. What I am saying is that we need to create spaces within our congregations where the rest of us who are not inclined this way to participate in and enrich the Body of Christ within our interests, gifts, hobbies and skills.
When we base our church ministries on a single truth of what we think women are or are supposed to be, we lose out on the multi-faceted gifts and talents that we all bring to the table. We miss out on the joy of seeing women flourish fully within the family of believers. We miss out on experiencing the multiplication and expression of various gifts and talents.
As I reflect on the parable of the sower, all the seeds that were planted were genuine seed and all had the capacity to grow, yet the seed that thrived was the seed that fell on fertile ground. For some women, fertile ground could be in the pulpit teaching and preaching, for some it could be on drum sets making beautiful music and for some it could be in the kitchen making delicious cupcakes. As stewards of God’s people, church leaders should consistently enrich the soil around their members so that they venture out to grow and bear fruit; fruit that will last.
To the church, I dare us to dream of a church that frees all to serve, gives equal opportunity to all to serve God in the best way that they know how. I dream that because of the love of Christ that covers us all, we will not gloss over training and equipping women for ministry, we will not believe that the only thing that women can do in ministry is in hospitality, providing cupcakes for the meeting - women can do that and so much more to enrich the body of Christ.
To all women, I pray that we will have the guts and grace to keep striving to be what God has called us to be. That we will be bold enough to go beyond the conventional, to break barriers and create inroads for the sisters coming behind us. May we prop up those who are falling and allow them to climb mountains, scale heights and do great exploits for God. That we will serve fully and freely, love God truly and deeply. That at the end of it all, when all is said and done, when we meet our Lord and Savior, He’ll receive us with a smile, and say ‘ Well done, good and faithful servant!’
Carol Ng’ang’a is a community development practitioner. She has spent the last 8 years walking alongside various communities towards interventions for their empowerment. In July 2017, she founded Msingi Trust whose aim is to ‘Mobilize,Inspire, Equip and Network Christians and community leaders towards Social Justice, Social Activism and Social Transformation ‘ Carol is an ardent believer of justice, equality and empowerment for all and has special interest in working with faith leaders to fight injustice within their community contexts. Follow her work on Facebook @Msingi Trust on instagram @Msingi Trust and on Twitter @ndutahnganga