Editor’s Note: This is another installment in our “Single and…” series where we will interview singles from all walks of life. It is our hope that you are encouraged by the stories of people who have a similar journey as you, who share the same dreams you have, who face the same hurdles you do, and who can remind you that you are not alone.
It’s really cool to hear stories of singles who don’t just sit back and complain about a wrong, but instead decide to be an agent of change—especially when it deals with the Church.
Upon graduation from college, Holly Stallcup didn’t neatly fit into any of the groups the church tried to put her in, so she founded Mended Women’s Ministry to teach and equip women leaders to lead the women of their local church well.
We caught up with Holly recently to learn more about what it’s like to be single and running a non-profit. Here’s what she had to say:
Tell us about your calling to begin Mended. How did you end up where you are now?
Holly: Mended came originally from a place of frustration towards the church. In particular, anger and hurt about how the church related to (or didn’t relate to) single women. I had always imagined my life with a “ring by spring” and a husband, white-picket fence and dog by the fall after I graduated college. When this did not come to pass I felt like I had fallen through the cracks of the local church. I didn’t have the ring and baby on my hip to fit in in women’s ministry and I was past college ministry.
I grew up in a home where we confronted problems head on. My parents didn’t gossip or complain, they confronted and built. So I started Mended with the intention to confront how the local church interacted with single women in their twenties and to help them build out better women’s ministries. What happened over the next 6 to 9 months was that God put me across the table from widowed women and divorced women and women who couldn’t have kids or who had chosen not to. I heard the stories of the married working mother who didn’t fit in with her church’s women’s ministry and I talked to the stay at home mom who was the perfect candidate for traditional women’s ministry and yet she would tell me that she would not be caught dead at a women’s bible study. And so by the time Mended turned one, we had a vision to Cultivate Redemptive Communities for Women.
In other words we want to help local churches minister to their women in a way that is redemptive and that finds them doing day in and day out life with other women who love Jesus. We think that happens by building women’s ministries that are Christ-centered, equipping and unifying.
Do you work as part of a team? What is your role?
Holly: Oh goodness, yes, I work as part of a team! That first year I was insane thinking I could do this alone. On Mended’s first birthday, my much-better counterpart Allison began as the other Executive Director at Mended. It really freaks some people out that we have two Executive Directors at Mended both with equal power and say so. I got part of my degree in Servant Leadership, which, in short, is teaching and exploring the idea of leading all business, organizations, etc. like Christ would. Less top-down leadership and more circular leadership. That is why I chose to “give up” 50% of my power at Mended. That was scary and it is still hard. Now we have a board of directors who actually has the power to fire me! I know that I am susceptible to corruption and pride and stubbornness and so many other ugly things and anchoring myself to Allison and the board helps guard against those ways the Enemy could tear Mended apart.
Do you think your singleness presents any disadvantages that a married person in your role might not experience?
Holly: I cannot count the number of times have I asked (often yelled) the question, “Where is my husband?!” over the last four years. For me this frustration has often been on a very practical level. Starting Mended required everything of me. I left my well-paying job, gave up my apartment and ran through my savings (Dave Ramsey would not approve). Mended has struggled to get off the ground financially and so I have battled not looking jealousy and judgmentally at women who have or are starting ministries while under the financial covering of a husband. That is not to say that I expect my husband to be the sole provider, but simply that I just started making minimum wage a few months ago. Where my husband has been missing (have any of you seen him?), my parents have been ever present. It is one of my hopes that our generation will take this ridiculous American nonsense that to succeed in parenting is to raise “independent” children who the day after college graduation can be a “grown-up” and throw it out the window. I have battled to accept my parent’s financial support and they have wrestled with how much and when to give it but at the end of the day we have come to the realization that we (my parents and I) are in the Body of Christ together. My parents believe in Mended as an organization outside of me and they want to see it flourish and build the Kingdom.
I think the other place where singleness has been hard is when ministry is hard and I simply want to go home and have someone care for me. I battle chronic illness and so does Allison so there are days where things in the office (which is in our home we share with three other women and a baby) are just mass chaos. I don’t feel well. Allison doesn’t feel well. Someone is loudly blending something in the kitchen and I have emails up to my eyeballs that need returning. And so in my idealized view of marriage I want to escape. I want my husband to use his big paying job to pick up dinner and a bottle of wine on the way home, and I want to cuddle and rest and forget Mended for a second.
There is some truth to the above desire. When marriage comes I will have extra support as I lead Mended. I will have someone waiting when I return from a trip ready to serve me as I rest and recover. But there are a lot of problems with the above idea. First the idea that my husband will never have a bad day or needs or that he will conveniently schedule them around my bad days is ridiculous and will leave me crushed if I don’t constantly reframe. Second the idea that I can only find this support and rest through marriage is a lie from the pit of hell. The community I live with has blasted this lie out of the water. They serve me well, regularly sacrifice their home for Mended (like when we have two interns live with us every summer) and support and encourage me however they can. They pick up my chores on long weeks and care for me when I am sick in bed. It is not good for woman to be alone, and even in my singleness I am not alone. Is running a non-profit as a single hard? Sure. But it will be hard in different ways come marriage.
What safeguards do you have in place as a single person who runs a non-profit?
Holly: I am so glad you asked this question! One of the safeguards that we are passionate about at Mended—and that we would encourage more ministries to put into place—is something simple we do with event contracts and sleeping arrangements. We always request two beds for Allison and I at events. The church is still pretty uncomfortable talking about this stuff, but in the light is where we find freedom. When I first met Allison and realized she was supposed to work for Mended, God quickly spoke to me that Satan would try to tear Mended down through our partnership. It makes complete sense. When Allison and I are doing Kingdom work together the fruit is incredibly sweet, so of course Satan hates it. We are not just co-workers. We are best friends and walk in intimate community with each other. Especially when we are out doing hands-on ministry we are vulnerable to attack and our hearts are laid bare as we use our gifts, not to mention the fact that we are usually physically exhausted. We do not want to think we are above the temptation to cross from Godly intimacy to sinful intimacy and so we require separate sleeping arrangements.
Obviously our board of directors and our set up with Co-Executive Directors are other safeguards we have in place to protect against the mishandling of money, and for me, these safeguards make sure I have to stop and pray through decisions instead of just getting emotionally excited and jumping in to a million things. Lastly, and maybe most importantly, I am covered by my local church. I am serving there and plugging into community. The leaders of our church know about Mended and are supportive and invested. I am covered, shepherded and loved well by them. They model for me humble, open, wise leadership and Mended is better for it.
What is the most challenging part of running a non-profit?
Holly: Money and direction. When you are a visionary like me you are always seeing gaps. It is not that I am negative or cynical (quite the opposite) but rather that I see so much potential everywhere I look. There are days where Allison asks me what I am hoping to do that day and my literal answer is, “I want to do everything! I am going to get it all done today.”
I have to surround myself with people who make me take hard looks at the needs of the world, our gifts and passions at Mended, and the opportunities being presented to us and find the small space where all of those things collide. The rest has to go in the trash—or if I am lucky—the “not yet” pile. Not because they are bad ideas but because they are not what God is calling Mended to in this moment. The need for Christ-centered women’s ministry is massive. The opportunities and needs before us on a weekly basis are too great for Allison and I to handle. A lack of funding to add more staff is really difficult for me. To feel like we could be making so much more progress if only money was no object irritates me to no end.
The last thing I would say is really challenging is balancing a good desire to be an influencer. We want to change the face of women’s ministry after all, with the truth that celebrity is not the goal. It is difficult to write words you know are from the Spirit and not see many people read them. It is hard to know you have tools to help local churches minister to their women better but not to have the “name” or the platform to be invited in to bring change. We have made the size of platform the marker of importance in the church which is problematic on a lot of fronts—not the least of which is discouraging the new up-and-comer that they have to “earn it” before they can use their God-given gifts in meaningful ways.
For more info on Holly and Mended, visit Mended Ministry or follow Holly on Twitter @hollystallcup.
If you know someone who is single and running a non-profit or ministry, would you email them this post to encourage them?