Valuing Women in Church Planting
Our VISION IS TO SEE EVERY WOMAN IN CHURCH PLANTING TRAINED, SUPPORTED AND VALUED.
PARAKALEŌ: (VERB) TO COME ALONGSIDE, TO ENCOURAGE AND STRENGTHEN,TO INSTRUCT AND TEACH
Who we are,
what we do,
& why we do it.
Parakaleo creates relational space for women in ministry to engage a robust gospel that frees them to embrace and to live their truest identity. We normalize the confusing and often painful experiences of ministry, inviting women to entrust their lives to the Guardian of their souls and to each other. We analyze scripture as well as our stories, giving women permission to unearth idolatries and chosen bondages. As trust is built and hearts shift, women begin to move from a life of fear to one of freedom, transforming how they live in community as kingdom‐building partners.
Parakaleo creates relational space for women in ministry to engage a robust gospel that frees them to embrace and to live their truest identity.
What do you mean by a robust gospel?
The finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross is not only for eternal salvation but also for living our daily lives. A robust gospel perspective sees Jesus as the central figure, the hero of all of scripture and our lives. This view aligns our understanding of self and scripture with the overarching story God is telling in history. It brings all of our thinking in line with the truth of the gospel-the finished work of JC on our behalf.
What do you mean by your truest identity?
As female image bearers, we know intellectually we are created in the Imago Dei, reflecting God’s image. As Christians we know Christ’s finished work on the cross means just that: it is finished. There is nothing we have to do or not do to receive God’s acceptance. Yet when we add full-time ministry to our lives, our levels of expectations, ambiguity and stress increase. We easily succumb to finding our identity in our roles, successes, or what others think. As we come to embrace this creation, and apply Christ’s completed work on our behalf, we begin to live out of our truest identity, not one based on what others would like or think of us.
We normalize the confusing and often painful experiences of ministry, inviting women to entrust their lives to the Guardian of their souls and each other.
Why are ministry experiences confusing and painful?
Scripture promises trials and hardships to all believers, but in the book of Acts, we see an increase in spiritual warfare against those who are beginning new works. We expect this hardship to come from outside the church and we are surprised when we encounter it within the church as well. Yet even when know to expect opposition, most church hierarchies do not have systems in place to support their leaders’ wives. Not knowing where to turn, most wives suffer in silence and isolation.
What are some experiences wives encounter?
- loss of friendship because of her husband’s role
- ambiguity regarding her role and what her husband, church leaders or congregants expect of her
- sharing her husband with another woman (the church)
- bitter gossip regarding her husband
- becoming a dumping ground for disgruntled congregants and leaders
- being viewed as “on call” 24/7 with her husband
- being seen as a conduit to her husband
- being given responsibility without role or authority to accomplish that responsibility
We analyze scripture as well as our stories, giving women permission to unearth idolatries and chosen bondages.
What do you teach?
We have three curriculum tracks, all of which apply a gospel paradigm to the stresses women in ministry face. From research conducted by our founder, Shari Thomas, we discovered the primary sources of stress faced by women in church planting. From this research, Shari and co‐founder Tami Resch designed training tracks and tools to address these needs. We knew women needed practical solutions. Yet, since every person’s unique backstory influences her responses to ministry challenges, we knew the training could not be prescriptive. Instead, we designed a training system that helps women first see their own story in light of God’s bigger story of redemption. The curriculum then goes deeper into an understanding of the gospel, idolatries, community etc. Our approach is unique in that it processes current life situations through this unique grid of story, gospel, identity, calling, idolatry, and community.
Thus, the training helps women unpack any current life or ministry challenge through the lens of the gospel, giving them a grid for how to see and live.
Can you give me an example of how that works?
Sure, would you like to try it out on something you are facing? (Each person representing Parakaleo should write up how you would use one of our tools, such as Fruit to the Root, showing how story, gospel, identity, calling, idolatry, community could influence the situation.)
As trust is built and hearts shift, women begin to move from a life of fear to one of freedom, transforming how they live in community as kingdom-‐building partners.
What is holding women in ministry in fear?
To clarify, all people wrestle with fear: fear of what others think, of losing our security, losing our reputations or relationships, etc. However, women in ministry, especially those married to church planters, have an increased sense of fear from the reality of their situation. Most church planting funds run out in three years. If the church is not established within that time frame, there is a good chance the church will close. The husband will not have a job. They will most likely have to move, uproot their children from their schools and so forth. The wife feels tremendous pressure to help this church succeed for even more reasons than seeing people come to Christ.
How do you see women living differently because of what you offer?
To clarify, change is the result of understanding the everydayness of the gospel combined with the work of the Spirit. We provide the space, environment, and structure for this to happen. We see women released from the obligation of ministry tasks, from doing what they think a good wife ought to do, to truly exploring what God may have for them. This thrusts some women more boldly into ministry, and gives others the courage to be less active.
Ministry begins to flow out of the heart—not because of need but because of desire. Women begin to see unique ways they are called in their current situation to join Christ and his church in bringing his kingdom to earth.