I’ve had the privilege of getting to share a bit of my hopes and dreams on this blog for a short time now. I have loved the connection, camaraderie, and joint hearts for Jesus and how He fleshes out His church through the SBC.
As I have watched many of the women express gratitude for the new wind of conversation and even gotten to speak with several new friends who are faithfully serving within the SBC, there has been a repeated emphasis on how women are not to hold the position of senior pastor.
Respectfully, the women that I have recently collaborated with, along with the heart and tone of all my posts have had nothing to do with women in senior pastor/elder roles.
Maybe we are missing the conversation because we only have one endpoint? If women aren’t able to hold conversations and speak into areas that we can influence without it only being firmly pointed out to what we are not “allowed to do” we further the silencing of gifts and even hopes of change. The SBC, both locally and globally, will continue to see valuable, educated, well-gifted women exit the back door to other denominations and churches who will value, esteem, and use their gifts for the sake of the Kingdom.
If every conversation about women in ministry is only rebutted with an argument against the senior pastorate we are missing 98% of the conversation. So to get past this 2 percent, I’d like to open up a couple more points and questions, not exhaustive by any means, for us to think through while holding onto the truth that women aren’t trying to steal the pulpit.
Are women being used only as admin, children’s, or nursery workers? These are great roles to fill, and there are women who faithfully use their gifts to help train, care for, and build up your younger generation, but is it a box we are putting women in?
Are women encouraged and applauded from the pulpit in their areas of service? A simple example from our church recently would be how a woman hosted a summer Bible study in her home. A friend of hers came to salvation through the study and at the woman’s baptism she was able to share her story, and our pastor applauded and challenged the congregation to be on mission in their homes and neighborhoods.
Are men and women seen on the platform and used during worship gatherings? Singing, praying, welcoming, or reading Scripture. There are a lot of different aspects of the worship gathering within each church that women can be used to help lead the congregation in worship.
Is there planned training for women in the church to build teaching abilities and then opportunities to use those gifts? There doesn’t seem to be a debate that women can hold the spiritual gift of teaching. The problem comes in when, unlike their male counterparts, they have no real avenue for how to develop those gifts. Sometimes women who have the gift of teaching haven’t been taught proper exegesis and end up with wrong application and/or weak topical teaching. If we want our women to feed/teach meat they need to be taught how to study, the keys to building a message, and how to properly deliver the text.
Are staff meetings predominantly just led by male leadership? Women’s voices can and should help set the pathway for how ministry will be lived out in the community and church body. What better way to reach young families than to hear the perspective of a young mom. The experiences, relationships, and ideas women have can minister to a whole different mindset that you didn’t think of.
Have you looked into what positions women can hold and how that complements your church’s specific polity? A lot of female ministry leaders are only part-time, if paid at all. Have we explored the ideas of how our polity & staffing along with our view of elder/pastoral leadership automatically negates the opportunity for women to be on staff outside of admin positions? Due to the array of different leadership structures within our churches, we have used terms like ‘pastor’, ‘deacon’, or ‘minister’ to mean what our specific church wants it to mean. There has to be a hard look at what polity we hold and the verbiage we use so that we can then explore what areas are restricted to male leadership, and what is not.
Can we women lead in areas of missions, outreach, assimilation? If our congregations are more than half the amount of women, shouldn’t we be trying to create staff positions for women’s discipleship? Many churches try to offer internship positions and programs for young ministers in training before they will think about hiring a women’s minister. For example within a student ministry context, my husband and I served in student ministry, he was hired and then it was expected for me to follow along and be involved without being part of the ‘staff’. Our churches tend to hold to the idea that they are getting a two for one deal with leadership instead of purposefully hiring a student minister and a girls minister to serve beside him.
In regards to pay are we compensating women at the same standard men are being paid? An example would be a close friend who serves as a missions coordinator. She was brought on staff under the missions pastor to follow in his position after his retirement. She has served with the IMB, holds an M.Div. from one of our seminaries, and gone on/lead countless trips, and yet she is paid only part-time, where her predecessor made full-time pay and benefits.
I recognize that there are so many churches that are unique in their culture, mission, and leadership which is why you can’t prescribe a certain list for every pastor on the role of women in his context. I do however think that we have women all across the globe who are faithfully committed to, serving alongside, and eager to join in the work of the local church. For the fear of going ‘too far’ in our practice, we have limited what God can do through the work of both men and women working side by side for the sake of the Gospel.
And just for kicks, if you throw out the “women can’t be senior pastors” in the comments below, we can acknowledge you didn’t read the post in the first place. 🙂 So let’s start again… We don’t want your pulpits….just a seat at the table and a lane on the track to run beside you.
A note to my sisters,
This is not an overnight conversation, and we must remember that our goal is Jesus, not women or even men. Don’t bail, keep having the conversation both graciously and humbly. We win no ground in raised arguments and white flags of retreat. We need women who are characterized by grace, faithfulness, and grit. Listen well, speak lovingly, serve sacrificially.