Lonely. That’s how I started to feel when I realized that my bold personality didn’t seem to fit into many of the church groups I knew. I’m known for being outspoken, loud, opinionated, and I would rather lead than follow in most situations. I question practices and events that only exist in the name of tradition. And I would argue with anyone who thinks my only ability to serve in the church is food preparation or child care. It seems that those qualities in women of faith, most specifically young women of faith, are really hard to swallow sometimes. Especially in the church.
Journeying through loneliness in the church was one of the hardest seasons I’ve walked through. And knowing that it was because of my personality made it that much more difficult — I couldn’t change my personality to suit the preferences of the majority. In fact, I downright refused to. I would not allow myself to shrink just to please PEOPLE when I knew that my boldness could be used to please GOD.
This is probably the most sensitive topic I’ve addressed here. I’ve thought about it many times but held back for multiple reasons. One reason being that I never want to push people away from the church — especially women with similar personalities to my own. So, please know that this honesty is meant to show you how you can thrive in a church setting if you are a bold woman of faith. My goal here is to lift up the women who have been shrinking and encourage the women who fear being the odd one out at bible study.
Rather than argue why we are ALLOWED to be bold in the church I would rather spend this time explaining why we SHOULD be bold in the church. But, let me just say that you were not created with a bold personality or with leadership qualities just to hide them. God wants to use that part of you! Never believe the lie that to be meek is to be small, quiet, and unquestioning. You have a voice and you are allowed to use it — even in the church. This isn’t meant to be a debate over what leadership roles women should have, when they should or shouldn’t speak up. This is meant to demonstrate that your boldness is NEEDED in the church — it MATTERS. And whatever your interpretation of women’s role in the church, you can still show up in a big way and make a difference. Never let anyone, even a church member, convince you that you can only show up in one capacity: you do not need to be the silent childcare worker if that is not what God has called you to. And if you see something wrong in the church, you are allowed (in fact, REQUIRED) to speak up.
I come from a long line of women with bold personalities. My grandmother is everything you would expect from her generation: she is the stereotypical church grandmother. In fact, a lot of the kids in her church call her by such name. She is the head nursery worker, the best at bringing food to functions, and she always has a purse full of candy. She is a strong advocate for respect and dignity in a church setting and she was always the first to firmly grip my leg when I chewed my gum too loudly during a sermon. But one thing she is not: quiet. I have never known her to not speak up if she sees something wrong, something inefficient, or something just plain useless in the church. In fact, she will call out a complete stranger in public if she thinks they are in need of counsel. And she does not back down. She is barely five feet tall but I would guess there are men out there twice her size that would rather go up against a giant than my grandmother.
My aunt is exactly the same way. Only she’s even louder. And she would be the first one to invite criminals, addicts, and provocatively-dressed women to sit right next to her in church. She is always pushing back when the church suggests that people should look and dress a certain way to worship Jesus. She loves everyone — no exceptions. And for some insane reason I can never understand….people of the church don’t like her for that. They don’t like the unfamiliar, the tainted reputations, and the awkward gazes.
My mom questions everything about traditional church practices. She taught me to follow Jesus, not tradition. My great-aunt is the loudest person you will ever meet — a woman whose bold personality was shaped by her 6 brothers. And she has never missed a Sunday service. My closest cousin is the sweetest, most generous person I know but she couldn’t be quiet if you paid her — and I love her for it because everyone knows exactly where she stands. And me? Well, I’m a mix of all of them. Loud. Bossy. Compassionate. Joyful. Questioning. Stubborn. And more concerned with what Jesus thinks than what an entire auditorium of people think.
I know I am not the only one like this. In fact, I have seen many women just like myself — ones with a lot to say — become the most quiet people in the church community. They are the ones sitting alone or standing off to the side while everyone else “fellowships.” They are the women that never offer their opinion when asked because they have been taught that to have a quiet spirit is the same thing as never speaking up.
Well, friend, I want you to know that if you are one of these women it is 100% okay to fully embrace your personality and all of the qualities God has blessed you with in a church setting. You can offer up ideas, thoughts, and opinions. You are allowed to speak up. You are allowed to follow God’s leading even if it means you reject tradition. If you identify as a “bold woman” or a “big personality,” I want to encourage you to step into that part of yourself. Because God can use it.
Bold women of faith are the ones that inspire change. They build businesses that impact the community. They befriend the unwanted. They give to the rejected. They question tradition for tradition’s sake. They speak for those who do not have a voice. They change the world.
Embrace your boldness, woman of faith. Step into your leadership qualities & your go-getter attitude. You are allowed to be a bold woman and a strong woman of faith at the same time. We could talk forever about the biblical roles of men and women in the church — and I would guess that there are multiple reasons we could agree and a few we could disagree. But those things don’t matter. What matters is that you are letting God’s voice speak louder than all of the voices telling you what you are allowed to say, do, and create in His name.
So, we know that we SHOULD be bold women of faith….but what if we take it too far? What if we step outside of the parameters God has placed on our role as women? Well, I thought I might share a few simple ways you can be a bold woman of faith and still be respectful, meek, pleasing to God, and have a quiet or humble spirit….
- Know what God says — stay submerged in His Word and let Him show you what you need to know.
- Respect authority — we know that all authority comes from God and that He calls us to pay respect to those He places in authority over us. This includes husbands, pastors, fathers, elders, deacons, professors, and other leaders.
- Pray — ask God to USE your personality qualities and help you to step into them for His purposes and not for your own.
- Know the things that matter — hold firm to the beliefs that God has placed heavily on your heart to take a stand for. Make sure you know why God stands for them too.
- Speak with gentleness — always remember who you represent every time you open your mouth to voice an opinion or idea. And always, always speak with love.
- Speak up, then sit down — never push your point. Make it known, give your reasoning and scriptural explanation, and then trust God with the rest. Don’t push your own way.
- Know when to walk away — it is never an easy choice but sometimes we are able to thrive more in a different setting (as in a different church). Know when God is calling you to speak up but also know when He is calling you to walk away and move on.
I hope you know how important you are — how much your ideas and thoughts are meant to impact this world. Everything about you has a purpose. Never let anyone force you to hide your light. Let it shine. Not to illuminate you — but rather to cast the light on Him.