I love to give advice when someone asks for it. Okay, and maybe sometimes when they don’t. The person I’d most love to give advice to is myself, 15 years ago. So, I wrote this list for her, and for other women in their late teens or early 20’s seeking an education or career in Christian ministry, which is what I was doing at the time. If you know someone like that, please share this with them. I’m grateful for all of these lessons and where they’ve brought me; grateful that I know these things now and won’t be making the same mistakes again. Writing this is healing to me because I’m expressing out loud things I’ve kept inside for a long time, not wanting to be shamed by anyone. Writing this is seeing myself and allowing myself to be seen. I also want to share it because I’d be happy if someone could skip over or shorten these experiences by hearing this advice. Let me know what you think, or if you have anything you’d add!
Advice for A Woman Entering Ministry or Non-Profit Religious Work
You ought to be paid. It doesn’t matter if your husband is being paid, YOU ought to be paid. You should have your own retirement account and find out how much you should be saving. You should have a resume that you update regularly. You should have your own role and job description in writing that you have agreed to. You should have specific dreams occupationally. You are an adult, you need to be able to take care of yourself if need be. This is not 1825. If you lose your partner, his brother or cousin will not be taking responsibility for you. I’m guessing you wouldn’t want to move back in with your parents. Unless your org has promised you something, there is no reason to believe they would pay you then if they will not pay you now.
Research what other people are earning. Find out what people (men too!) are earning in similar positions to any job you’re offered, and ask for that. Asking a 23 year old couple for a list of their current expenses and basing their salary off of that is unethical. You should be paid for the value of your work, in proper relationship to the compensation of other employees.
Invest in relationships that challenge and grow your confidence. If you are in relationships where you find yourself having less and less self-confidence, move on.
Follow people you want to be like. If you are in an organization where the leaders who are promoted are not people you want to be more like over time, move on.
Cultural preferences won’t likely change. If you are in an organization where the leaders who are promoted are primarily of one race, class, and gender move on. There is no reason to think this will change.
Invest where your contribution is cultivated and welcomed. If you are in an organization where the leaders take no current interest in the things you are passionate about as related to the job, move on. There is no reason to think this will change.
Respect your elders but realize they may be wrong or uninformed. People who are older than you may know some things, but that doesn’t mean they’re right about everything or about you.
People you want to follow listen to and pay women. As much as men.
Follow people who are on a path of personal growth. People you want to follow are working on their shit- they go to therapy. They are aware of the ways they seek love and security and how that affects their role as a leader of other people.
Follow women who are fully engaged. Women you want to follow read widely and have conversations about challenging topics.
Follow women who invest in themselves. Women you want to follow and be like are broadly excellent- they see themselves more broadly than mothers and wives and expect to share responsibilities and contributions both inside and outside the home with their partner.
Loneliness is not a necessary element of leadership. Leaders can be people with healthy relationships.
You really can trust your intuition- more than you think. If you sense something is off- it probably is. You might not be able to change it. That might not be your role in noticing the problem. Keep in mind that other people are allowed to do and believe whatever they want, and you don’t control anyone. But you don’t have to put up with problems either. You should not stay in a relationship based on the belief that something will change. If you don’t want to accept it exactly the way it is, move on.
Communicate often and early about relational hiccups. If people don’t have the time or don’t want to take the effort to work on things until you have a working relationship, that means they are not able to have a relationship with you. That doesn’t mean they’re bad or you’re bad, it just is. It stings, but changing that expectation quickly will save you a lot of time and effort seeking relationship with people who aren’t seeking it with you.
Red flags are red flags. Noticing ways certain types of people are talked about or left out of the conversation, certain types of people prioritized, core people leaving the organization without a word said about it, and your own feelings of discomfort with financial, relational, and theological practices are red flags.
Thank you for reading my therapeutic advice! I hope it helps someone.