WHAT DO YOU MEAN: “THIS AIN’T YOUR GRANDMA’S CHURCH LADY?”
If you are from my generation and possibly if you are a big Saturday Night Live fan, you have heard of the comedian Dana Carvey’s famous Church Lady skit. If you’ve never seen it, you can check it out on YouTube.
Dana Carvey’s interpretation of the Church Lady is funny in part because it has been too often true. Carvey’s Church Lady was harsh, judgmental, accusatory, impatient, “holier than you,” and seemed to be perpetually unhappy. Her demeanor caused fear in those she interviewed, or at least made them feel bad about themselves. Sometimes they had it coming.
But what about real life church ladies? I don’t mean young women who attend (if your church has any). I mean, gasp, me and my generation. I am now about Church Lady age (as imitated by Carvey). Am I entitled to make younger women (or men) toe the line (whatever line I make up)? Should I strike fear in others? Should I be difficult, judgemental or make others feel less than me? Of course, no one would say that I should. However, it seems to me that the image so many non-churched people think of when they conjure up the image of a devout church lady is exactly what Carvey mocked.
That image and even the reality that these church lady types exist has driven church-goers away and kept non-members from darkening the local church doors. Why would any non-Christian be attracted to that? Far too often, the Church Lady of our grandmother’s era, of our mother’s era and even today, was/is the result of a system of worship that focuses on doing and achieving; a sense of entitlement and earning one’s place in God’s heart and (seemingly more importantly) in the church structure. Often, the oppression coming from Church Ladies was or even today can be just a trickle-down from the church leaders above her. But that is not an excuse.
This blog is not for Carvey’s Church Lady (unless she wants to change). It is about taking back the image of the Church Lady – back to the type of women we find in the early New Testament Church.
Allow me introduce you to the N.E.W. Church Lady.
The N.E.W. Church Lady is:
Nice to everyone, EVERYONE – nice to the church mom who was promoted to head Sabbath school teacher above her – nice to the cliquish group that only barely tolerates her – nice to that “perfect” family who makes her own look bad – nice to the poor, ragged-looking family that skulks in each week, clearly ashamed – nice to the woman struggling with alcoholism – nice to the ex-con who was made a deacon – nice to the unmarried, pregnant teen – nice to the grumpy old man who wants to discuss his prostate -- nice to the saggy-pants-wearing counter help at the local fast food restaurant and to the tattooed bagger at the grocery store. Nice to everyone – even herself.
Empowered – she is no hot-house flower.
Engaged – she is involved in the growth of her church, the success of the company she works for (or runs), and the education of her family.
Enthusiastic – whether at home, at church or on the job, she never just phones it in.
Educated – she puts in the time with the scriptures so she can always give an answer of the hope that lies within her AND so she doesn’t spout off inaccurate quotes. She may have a college degree or may not, but she also takes the time to research the facts about any concern or issue or need. She puts in the work be educated about social issues in her country and in the world around her. She knows the facts, so she doesn’t spout of inaccuracies about social issues either.
Empathetic – she is truly concerned for those in need and those suffering around her and she does what she can about it.
Wise – Knowledge is good, but wisdom is required to use that knowledge righteously and for the greater good. Just knowing about something can lead to pride or vanity and she is neither vain nor prideful. She wisely applies knowledge to action and uses all her resources wisely. ALL her resources: not just knowledge, but also income, time and health.
Please join me in revising the image of the Church Lady.
I’d love to hear your thoughts too. Write me at Nancy@DynamicChristianMinistries.org
Next time: We’ll look at some examples of the N.E.W Church Lady in the New Testament scriptures in a blog title: “I Know the Proverbs 31 Woman and I am not her.”
About this N.E.W. Church Lady – She is just an average middle aged woman who has been a believer and church attender all her life. She is married with three grown children. She lives in a small town and works in sales. Her hobbies are fitness, reading, cooking, writing and travel.