One of the things I have been challenged with in recent years is the question of whether or not as a pastor I help create an environment where it’s natural for girls to see themselves in ministry. I think it became a bigger question for me the first time one of my former female students became a youth pastor – it hit me then that I have a list of guys that I have seen go on to study and pursue ministry, but not girls. And if I’m honest, the couple that have probably did so in spite of my leadership, not because of it.
It wasn’t an intentional thing – the reality is that as a guy it’s more appropriate for me to have deeper relationships with male students and allow the women leaders to invest in the girls. However, there are subtle ways we send messages on roles as well, things we don’t verbalize and yet create an environment that very clearly teaches something nonetheless. Who is regularly up front? How do we hire? What message does it send to young ladies when they see the majority of pastoral staff are men, but the majority of administrative staff are women? Who do we put in charge of events? Who are the speakers and theologians that we praise and recommend?
One of my goals at my current church has been to intentionally normalize the role of women in ministry. In other words, I don’t make a big deal out of it. I don’t draw attention to it. But behind the scenes I make intentional decisions to highlight women in our student ministry so that ideally, our students graduate without it being a question – of course women can and should do ministry. What this looks like practically is that I try to recruit women teachers on a regular basis – I’m actually not happy that lately our senior high has mostly been hearing male voices on Sunday mornings. It means that if we do a student led Sunday I will always have some of the voices from up front be female students. At our fall retreat, I made the decision to have Chris and myself do the Friday and Saturday night talks specifically so that Melissa would be the Sunday morning speaker and be the one to lead communion. And I loved that no one batted an eye at it – that means it’s normal.
It’s all little things. And any time the topic does come up, I strongly push against viewpoints that limit the role of women in our churches. Maybe it doesn’t seem like I do much – but after growing up in much more conservative and role limiting churches means one of my personal challenges is pushing back on a lifetime of lessons and habits I see as incorrect now.