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Wednesday, August 29, 2007
The Real Issues of Women in Ministry
I recently got an email that directed me to this post at Margaret Feinberg's blog. I think she's asking some good questions and wanted to post them here. Join in the conversation here or over at her blog.

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:

-I'm a single woman in ministry--how do I draw boundaries so my work doesn't become my life?

-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?

-Where can I connect with other women who are assuming similar roles in their churches?

-Where do I find a Godly woman who can mentor me, encourage me and hold me accountable?

-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?

-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?

So what do you think are some of the "real issues" of women in ministry?


posted by Julie at 9:07 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 8/30/2007 07:40:00 AM, Blogger Lydia

    You actually covered most of the issues that I've seen in your original post. :)

    But here's one that I've seen many families struggle with:

    For those in ministry who have young children - who is going to watch the kids next weekend if mom goes to that ministry conference? In many families it seems much easier for the father to take time off for ministry-related stuff than it is for the mom. Especially if the children are younger than 5.


  • At 8/30/2007 08:38:00 AM, Blogger Sarah

    Amen, Lydia!

    There's also the question for pastors' wives of...

    How do I serve God with my own gifts and talents (rather than being just an extension of my husband)?

    How do I help people understand that I am not an off-shoot of my husband and they didn't get a two for one deal when they hired him?

  • At 8/30/2007 07:13:00 PM, Blogger Heather Weber

    Hi everyone, those are such great questions. at our church there are three people with the title of "pastor"--and they're all male. I happen to be one of the worship leaders and the leader of the prayer/ministry team after the service. I have no official title, but a close enough relationship (I think) with the senior pastor that he keeps me up to date on what's going on in the church and I give him my input. I don't have an official title that is advertised anywhere, I just function in this stuff, and am also planning the women's retreat this fall. A part of me has an inkling that God has made me pastoral and I often have a strong desire to get in on the conversation with the guys about where the church is going, etc, but sometimes i wonder if the reason I'm not being invited has to do with the fact that it doesn't occur to him, or that the idea of inviting me out to lunch to talk about stuff the way he does with the guys and the youth leader (also male) would immediately feel odd and out of place to him, or uncomfortable. Even though in theory he's a proponent of women in ministry. Because I don't get the face-time with him the same way the guys do, it ends up that I don't get the sort of pastoring I desire as I lead the prayer team. email and a staticky cell phone connection doesn't always cut it, let's face it.
    This is a global issue I've been wondering about for a long time: do women lose on being pastored in their own ministries b/c the people over them are male and there is discomfort when it comes to spending the time necessary to nurture those women leaders in the church? I'd love to know what some of your experiences are with that.

    The other thought that tempers all of the above is also this notion that i could be being presumptuous in my thinking that my function and giftings merit the things I long for, thinking more highly of myself than I ought, full of blind spots. That self-doubt is a doozy. And I don't know what to do with it a lot of the times.

    By the way, I'm new. And jumping right in. Sorry I haven't taken the time yet to fully introduce myself. I'm happy to be here...


  • At 8/30/2007 09:37:00 PM, Blogger Betsy Whaley

    I think the "real issues" for a woman in ministry are always contextual. The issues facing a woman in ministry (WIM) in a denomination that has a long history of recognizing the equal partnership of women might be very different than those facing a WIM in a more conservative or patriarchial denomination or congregation. The issues of a WIM in an emergent church plant might be quite different than both of the contexts mentioned above. As Lydia said, the stage of life a WIM is in also determines what her 'real issues' are. It seems to me that whatever issues, questions or problems a WIM is dealing with in her context are the 'real issues' for her.

    By the way, I'm Betsy. I met Julie at the Emergent Cohort Gathering this summer and she was gracious enough to add me to the blog. As a WIM I look forward to conversation with others struggling to emerge into our postmodern context.

  • At 8/31/2007 08:56:00 AM, Blogger Deb

    I rambled and rumbled about this HERE!


  • At 8/31/2007 10:18:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous

    I think some of you might also be on the RevGals list. Did any of you see the Ask the Matriarchs question this week. Here's the link to the post. To sum up ... a member of the congregation inappropriately took note of a pastors shapely legs and she asked for advice from "the Matriarchs."

    I was stunned because to me the appropriate response is either nothing, or something to the effect of ... "Would you say something like that to me if I were a man?" No one ever even *considers* telling a male pastor he has "nice legs." So what if it's a compliment. It is not appropriate or professional to comment on someone's appearance regardless of their gender.


  • At 8/31/2007 10:59:00 AM, Blogger Julie

    well Sonja - my husband once wore jeans and a t-shirt to church at our old church (he was the youth pastor, thats what the youth wore). Within a couple of days we got an anonymous letter in the mail asking him to go buy clothes that are more suitable for church. I was seriously pissed off - they should of at least sent money with the note if they wanted us to shop for clothes on a youth pastor's salary...

    But I understand with the whole appearance thing. It happens all the time. have you ever heard a female speaker/pastor/or pastor's wife introduced without her being called "beautiful"? The guys are never introduced as handsome.

  • At 8/31/2007 03:06:00 PM, Blogger Deb

    Yes, I read the post on Revgals (I am one, BTW.) The key was that she felt "creeped out" and in that situation you do NOT want to antagonize or react when someone is acting that way. You avoid and ignore initially, but you also REPORT it to someone so that it is on record.

    Quite honestly, sometimes people are better served with a weird look than a reactive comment. Rude people are there. And our culture thinks that it is always appropriate to compliment a woman on how she looks. I'm not saying it's right. It's a fact. You deal with it. You teach your kids differently (BOY HOWDY) and you move on.

    It's like the saying that says you keep your mouth shut and THEY are the ones who look like the fool. Not you.


  • At 9/13/2007 05:31:00 PM, Blogger Margaret Feinberg

    These are great thoughts and insights. Thank you all!