| March 18, 2012
When I think back on all the churches I've attended--and there are many, there is one that sticks out. It's a small church in southern California where they allowed me to lead. They didn't care that I was 23, desperately single, and a girl with strong emotions.
Before that, I wrestled a lot with the church clique. I felt like churches I attended in the past were more concerned with how much a person could give financially, their gender, or the right relationship status.
Without coming out with it or saying it to my face, the typical response to my desire to serve at a church was, "Hey, you can help out with kids ministry! We need lots of volunteers." But I was tired of leading Sunday School, Kindergarten, and Third/Fourth grade.
What about worship?
What about youth group?
And what about a singles or 20-somethings group?
I knew I was asking a lot for the first two questions. Much to my shock and delight, I found a smaller church that had all three. It felt like heaven on earth. Because the church met next to the ocean, it was a mixed bag of people. Rich people, smart people, and lots of homeless and recovery people who made this small church their home. They welcomed everyone.
Soon I dusted off my piano skills and they let me lead worship on Sunday mornings! They weren't too concerned with me getting the music perfect as they were at my other church. A few of the worship leaders were also willing to teach me how to lead worship. At the age of 24, I bought the most expensive purchase ever--a Roland Stage Piano. Because of their support, I was motivated to be able to spend my first real paycheck toward something that mattered so I could pursue my gifts.
I enjoyed serving so much--they let me take on more responsibility when I asked. They never defined me by my singleness or how much I could tithe. I never felt like a second-class citizen for being without a husband and a family, which was a first.
While I was while trying out various leadership positions. I found out, rather quickly, that I didn't actually like teaching Kindergarten. Little kids annoy me! I like interacting with awkward and depressed Jr. High kids. That I could handle because I used to be one!
The church wasn't perfect, but I'm so grateful for the quality of leaders that took the time to mentor me. I never felt hindered but rather empowered to go out and change the world. They never limited me to my relationship status, instead they encouraged me to use my singleness for God's glory. They allowed me to lead and showed me how to be led.
They paired me with my first ever mentor. She challenged me to go for the two things that excited me most--writing and missions.
So I did!
I moved. I embarked on missions trip. I started a two-year writing program. When I came back, I found I had changed and so had the church in my absence. They didn't pressure me to get married and stick around. They released me with their blessing to find a new church that would allow the same things they so graciously offered to me when I first came.
If you find yourself alone or in a similar situation at your church, have no fear. If you are struggling to find a place to lead--don't be afraid to venture out and find a safe place to lead. Churches like that do exist!
Renee Johnson Fisher is a spirited speaker and writer to twenty-somethings. She graduated from Biola University and worked with nationally known Christian speakers and writers at Outreach Events. She is the author of Faithbook of Jesus and Not Another Dating Book. She and her husband Marc live in Escondido, CA where they hope to adopt a big dog soon.