It is baseball season in the Craig home. That comes with rain or shine cheering sections, grass and dirt stained white baseball paints that seem to require at least one-half bottle of Spray-n-Wash per game, a lot of carpooling, and many life lessons of team work and character building.

Recently, our youngest son, Bret had the worst batting game of the season when he faced a left handed pitcher. Bret struck out all three times he was up to bat. At home, after the game, feeling demoralized and ready to climb into his PJs before 12:00 pm even rounded the clock, Bret lamented about the curve balls that he couldn’t hit with his bat.

The rest of our family tried to cheer him on with kind words and at-a-boys with no avail. Bret’s sadness persisted. So we talked about what he could do in the future to overcome defeat. We told him that the secret to hitting a left-handed pitchers curve ball is to anticipate its arrival. With that advice, Bret felt some hope for the future and was off to play basketball with his brother.

So it is with the church. There are many curve-balls being thrown at us. Many are from the world, but I am also convinced that God is also at the pitcher’s mound, throwing left-handed, to see if He can get our attention! Balls that God would have us anticipate and prepare for so that we hit it out of the park for His Kingdom.

Here is the curve-ball I see God throwing to the church. A major shift is happening in our churches today with our youth, young adults, and our women. There is a rumble of a fire burning in the hearts of God’s people to serve Him and build His Kingdom. The research gathered by the Barna Group and by our own Network also indicates their strong desire to know their purpose, hear the call of God on their lives, and be equipped to live that out in their churches and communities.

Unfortunately, many of our youth, young-adults, and many women who are on fire to serve God are facing role designation in the church. (Role designation is created when there is a belief by a leader/leadership team or a congregation that a particular role can only be held by a specific gender or age group.) Role designation will leave our on-fire Christian people to do one of three things. Volunteer in a position outside of what God has designed them for, leaving them ineffective. Engage their gifts and talents outside the church in another non-profit or social enterprise organization, or leave the church all together. This is clearly not how God planned to build His church.

In a recent survey administered by the Women’s Department, when leaders were asked how we, at the Northwest Ministry Network could help in their spiritual or ministry development, the overwhelming response indicated that women who lead in ministry desire to be equipped in leadership training and would like to have a coaching or mentoring relationship to help them achieve their goals. This is the most exciting response we could have received since this matches the vision of the Northwest Ministry Network and our department: to strengthen and develop empowered leaders and churches.

As an organization, the Northwest Ministry Network and the Women’s Department uphold the belief that the scriptures plainly teach that divinely called and qualified men and women should serve and minister in all areas of the church (Joel 2:20; Acts 21:9, 1 Corinthians 11:5, 1 Corinthians 12:12-26, Gal 3:28, Gen 1:27). A person’s ministry and service should be determined by their God-given gifts, not by their gender or age. When each member of our church body is equipped to minister and serve in their unique area of gifting, the church will thrive instead of strive. It is our desire and goal to help each individual and our churches achieve this.

I believe, if we would anticipate the curve-ball as the positive change we need to build His Kingdom, and come out swinging by following God’s leading, by praying, and by reading and applying His word, we will engage and equip all leaders in their call on their life, and in unity, the church will multiply (Ephesians 4:11-12)!