The great thing about being part of a second generation of women ministers is that the church-at-large needs us. We now make up a large percentage of pastors. And I’ve been hearing more stories about churches that would not consider a woman pastor, but when they went swimming in the pool of available candidates, they decided that a woman was the best match for them.
Although we still get paid less, our burnout rate is higher, and we have less chance of being called to a head of staff position, we are making progress. We can negotiate our salaries, instead of just being grateful that we got a job. We no longer have to work twice as hard to get half the credit. We no longer have to hide the differences between women and men, and we can begin thinking about things like maternity leave. Moms can even make things a bit easier for Dads so that we can start imagining family leave. And other things… like child care.
Most religious leaders have to work when the rest of the world is off. You know, we need to be available for meetings in the evenings, sometimes on Saturdays, and (of course) on Sunday. But a problem arises for families in all of this. What if I was a single parent? What if my spouse also works? What about childcare in those odd hours of the evening? After we have paid for childcare all day, should we also be expected to pay for care in the evenings?
We had this situation in our congregation—a Wednesday evening dinner where my daughter was the only one to show up. Because my husband also had a meeting on that evening, we had to negotiate childcare. It was a tough call, and being a pastor and a mother, I felt pulled in several directions.
To open the nursery, we usually have to keep two people on staff, so the cost to the church was huge. Was it worth it?
There was resistance to opening the nursery up for only my child, but I wondered… if it was someone else’s child, would there be any debate? Should my child be treated any less than any one else’s? She is, after all, a child of our church. Our congregation has a responsibility for her that extends beyond the fact that she is my daughter.
Finally, I knew that the church was trying to get young families to attend Wednesday night, but how could any parents go if there was no childcare available? Not having childcare because there are no children ensures that we will never have any kids.
We resolved the issue… sort of. We had childcare for a month or so, until it became clear that my daughter was the only one who was going to show. Then, we relieved the child care workers, and I quit going to Wednesday nights. Occasionally, if I’m really needed, I either bring my daughter with me or I hire a sitter at home.
So what do you think? What childcare situations have you encountered? Have you found a solution that’s fair for the church and fair for you? How much should a congregation be responsible for the care?