As a woman in seminary and fully engaged in pursuing God’s call to vocational ministry, I decided to run with the conversation…
Old school: Women wrestling with the issue of whether they should be in ministy.
New school: Women are in ministry and wondering how to do it best.
When I google “Women in ministry” 97% of the articles (yes, that’s super scientific 🙂 are on whether or not women should be in ministry. But when I talk to women who are in ministry, that’s not what they’re asking about. They want to know:
Now – her questions…
-I’m a single woman in ministry–how do I draw boundaries so my work doesn’t become my life?
Get a life… a hobby. Seriously! What is it that you like to do besides “ministry”?? — go and do that. It is especially good if you find something that lets you be with real people… people outside of your church. Rock climbing. Pot throwing. Ballroom dancing. Fencing. Painting. Quilting. Javelin-throwing. It should be something that energizes you, and is a frequent place to “have” to be.
-I’m one of the few women on staff and sometimes it seems the males don’t know how to respond to me. They’ll go to lunch but I’m not invited. At times, I feel left out for being a woman, how do I handle it?
Hmmmm… well. Is it a working lunch? Are they doing planning sessions that you need to be in on? Or, are they just going to let loose some testosterone? If it is the latter, smile and make your own plans. If it is the former, talk to your boss and gently tell him that when they “talk shop” that is part of your work and don’t include you, it feels like you are not respected for your role in the church’s mission. I faced this at “Church of the Holy and Totally Coolness” when I was on staff there. In my case, my boss told me I was “over-reacting” and then later would wonder why I didn’t know that I was tasked with this assignment or that. Uh. Yeah. They “decided” it at their dude meetings. Go figure. I am not faced with that at the church where I am interning currently, and I am grateful!
-Where can I connect with other women who are assuming similar roles in their churches?
Professional groups like Christians for Biblical Equality… their seminars, conferences and networking groups are a great source of encouragement to me. They are not fashion consultants (i.e. “should I wear heels or flats with my ecclesiastical robes?” puhleez) but deal with ministry and theological questions with research, dialogue and determination.
-Where do I find a Godly woman who can mentor me, encourage me and hold me accountable?
Start with your seminary or college… ask a woman professor you admire for a recommendation. Make sure she knows you would like a woman working in vocational ministry… not a pastor’s wife. (I’m not dissing pastor’s wives here so don’t throw tomatoes… because I do know some amazing “Mrs. Rev’s.” It is just a different role in the church!) If you are in the Mid-Atlantic region, get in touch with me… and I will pass along any names I have gathered. 🙂
-Why does some of the stiffest opposition for doing what I do (whether it’s leading small groups, the worship team et) come from other women rather than men?
Because we can be such cats? Estrogen wars? Because they have been told for a long time that women didn’t “do” x or y? I am not sure. But I do know that I’ve experienced it as well. I rely on friends who are truly there for me, and my mentors to give me honest and clear feedback. I also take criticisms I get to people I trust and say, “I am getting some pushback from ________ on this issue. Can we talk about it?”
-Though the senior pastor and board supports me with this leadership role, there are some on staff who aren’t as supportive. They won’t come out and say it–but it shows up in their comments and attitudes. How can I win their hearts and represent Jesus well in the doors as I respond to the calling on my life?
If the senior pastor is truly your advocate and your boss, then this again is something I would take to him. You don’t have to mention names. He probably already knows. But, when you combine it with “the lunch” issue, it is hard to know what is going on under the surface. You probably already know to be professional, handle your part of the teamwork, etc. Some people are insecure — male or female — and will act out accordingly.
And, to be brutally honest? This kind of “I-don’t-know-if-people-with-ovaries-should-be-pastors-attitude” is among the reasons why my husband and I left “The Church of We are Always Right.” We are raising two daughters to be godly women, you see, and it was pretty clear what kind of ministry and support the three of us would get. (Um. That would be “none.”) I hope you don’t have to go there because it sounds like you love what you are doing… when you can do it.
So what do you think are some of the “real issues” of women in ministry?
– Like our male counterparts, keeping a balance between our personal lives and our professional lives.
– Getting caught up in “the work week” vs. God’s work.
– Not feeding our Soul’s relationship — stopping for refreshment and prayer with our Abba, resting at the feet of Jesus, being renewed by the Holy Spirit. Keep your spiritual tank full!
– Not clarifying what is a REQUIRED church event vs. what is an OPTIONAL event; not being clear on what your work week should include. No, you may not have kids with sports commitments or birthday parties… but you still should be able to have a ‘life’ — AND a day off.
– Guilt, discouragement, worry, exhaustion…
– Forgetting that we don’t have to please everyone, only God. People are going to disagree, disaprove, and try to disenchant you. That’s a gender-free reality.
– Being blamed for all that is wrong with the church… (if you don’t believe me, visit here and here. (That’s just for starters. If you need to get really depressed, just Google “women preachers” — or better yet, DON’T!)
– Finding encouragement from folks like Singing Owl, Rev. Abi, Reverend Mommy and other RevGals who are blogging down the path beside and ahead of me… Just don’t go it alone!
A final thought…
God does not call all women to vocational ministry. (He does not call all men either!) Since you are set apart for this, there is going to be a sense of ‘aloneness’ in the Call — realizing it is for you and YOU alone. No one else has been tasked to do what God is asking you to do. But you showed up to do it!
Sara Groves wrote a song called “Just Showed Up (For My Own Life)” which I commend to you…
Look for the holy in the common place
Open the windows and feel all that’s honest
and real until I’m truly amazed
I’m going to feel all my emotions
I’m going to look you in the eyes
I’m going to listen and hear until it’s finally clear
and it changes our lives
There are so many ways to hide
There are so many ways not to feel
There are so many ways to deny what is real
And I just showed up for my own life
And I’m standing here taking it in and it sure looks bright
Bloom where you are planted…
Watch God do the work!