She’s reluctant to say the title, but Katelyn Beaty, Editor at Large of Christianity Today, wants to transform the image of professional women from “Sex and the City” to something closer to the reality she sees in her life.
And in the process, she believes the church needs to take a more modern approach in the way it both serves the needs and optimizes the skills of working women. In rough terms—for pastors, if one of your congregation is a marketing executive or high-level accountant, asking her to make cookies for a bake sale probably isn’t the best way to acknowledge her achievements and resource her gifts.
Though family and home are to be respected, the demographics of cities like New York are often heavily skewed toward women, with many neighborhoods sometimes 70% female. “Just on the upper east side (of Manhattan), women outnumber men two to one. This is not a great place to move if you’re a woman and want to get married.”
“These numerical disparities are true in cities around the world,” Beaty emphasized in a presentation at Movement Day Global Cities in New York City. “Many of these women are foregoing marriage and children—often by choice, but not always. Even for women who do have families, they’re continuing to invest in their careers.”
Acknowledging a Role Model
“’Career woman’ is not typically a compliment we pay,” says Beaty, who wants to rebrand the image of a “career women” from someone “too ambitious” or “too focused on money” to something more positive, more balanced. Her role model is Katherine Leary Alsdorf, Founder & Executive Director of Redeemer Presbyterian Center for Faith & Work, a church-based program for young professionals in New York.
As a single woman who focused about 90% of her energies into her work life, Alsdorf discovered the gospel through Redeemer Presbyterian Church. Beaty believes what drew her role model to this message was the respect Redeemer showed to the full scope of its members’ lives. “Redeemer presents a whole life gospel, a positive vision of our professional work and professional lives,” she says.
Beaty believes it’s up to church leaders to create a welcoming environment that accepts and nurtures professional women, addresses their concerns and makes use of their skills in the same way it would men in similar professions. In her address, she made three recommendations for pastors seeking to grow their congregations:
- “Pastors, you have tremendous power when you are preaching to shape the minds of people in your church and if you honored one woman deeply invested in her work, it would have impact,” says Beaty, who draws from scripture, including Paul and Proverbs 31, for examples of industrious women in the Bible. “Find women in your church community to raise up and honor.”
- Frequently gifted women are left off our leadership roles. “Start with the Christian women in your church community. Empower them for evangelism,” she suggests. “Many will be the first wave of Christian women to reach out to non-Christian women in their (social and professional) circles.”
- Honor Them by Using Their Gifts. “Finally, when you see the gifts of professional women, say ‘We need your gifts.’ I guarantee you that all of the women in your church have some gift or talent or experience or story or educational experience that can be used in service of the church or Christian mission in your community.”
Salvation and the City
All of Beaty’s presentation led back to one overriding thought—professional women need a gospel that acknowledges and celebrates their work.
“The church needs professional women too as they come to know Christ,” she says. “With more than 4.5 million women in New York City alone, what would happen if a quarter of those women came to know Jesus and took his message to the spheres of influence they inhabit.”
She adds, “If Jesus’ name were to be brought into those places, this city would look less like that HBO Show (Sex and the City) and more like the kingdom of God in all its power.”