On Friday, I went shoe shopping in a store with over 100,000 pairs of shoes. I need this store because I wear a size 12, which is not widely available. This foot frustration made me think about filling the shoes of the women who preceded me in ministry.
I’ve followed two very different women. It was easier to follow the first one because she was not a regular church attendee (I was.), and I had a two-month-old child (I was needed at home.). I had much less life experience than the predecessor in our second church. This Senior Citizen grew up in a pastor’s family, attended seminary, relished theological debates and counted Francis Schaeffer as a close friend. She was gracious to me. See You Can Follow in Another Woman's Footsteps.
What have I learned? You can’t fill another woman’s shoes. You shouldn’t try. There are some things you can do, though.
You should be as honestly transparent as possible when applying (or, your husband is applying) for your next church or ministry assignment. Churches can be very different in their expectations. According to a song I heard about ministry marriages, some churches think they are getting “two people for the price of one.” Other churches do not want to hear from the wife because the call is for the husband only. In my opinion, both of these are unbalanced approaches. You need to tell the church as much as possible about yourself so that they won’t expect a clone of your predecessor.
When you get to a new place, realize that you are equipped for the ministry God gives you. He uses experiences from your past as well as what you are learning from Him today. In fact, as His children, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” These are the ultimate resources for doing what He calls us to do in our lives and ministry.
We can’t work outside the biblical framework God gives, but we can use our minds to evaluate how to minister in His name. Think about the church’s needs and how to match that with the spiritual gifts and graces God has given you. It is quite possible that you have exactly what the church needs at this time. This might be a unique quality that was lacking in the predecessor.
I have come to terms with my big feet. It is wishful thinking that I could squeeze into a size 10. I don’t even try. In the same way, I am usually content with the way God made me and with the gifts He has given me. I don’t even try to be the woman who went before me. Her shoes wouldn’t fit me anyway.