When a Woman Asks, « Should I Be a Pastor? »

This past Saturday, I attended a New Leaf Learning Party in Hamilton, ON.  This gathering of church planters is “designed to be everything good about a conference without the usual rigmarole and much more fun and interactive.  Instead of listening to message after message by “gurus” and being filled with information, our goal is for conversation and genuine connection with those who are walking paths similar to ours.”

I attended with three friends from theStory, a nine year old church plant in Sarnia, ON.  I had no idea what to expect from the day but I was eager to listen, learn and connect.  The speakers were diverse and engaging.  The dialogue was varied – getting to know you stuff mixed with exploring church planting ideas and church as a whole.

male-female-symbol-color-28231166It was after the fourth male presenter I looked around to see how many women were in the room.  6 of the 35 attendees were women – less than 17%.  Then I realized of the 6 women ZERO were pastors and ZERO were church planters.  Jared Siebert, National Director of Church Development and New Leaf guy, confirmed that there are very few female church planters in Canada.

This of course led to an after conference conversation with Jared about women in the church.  I didn’t think to record our conversation but he said a lot of affirming, encouraging, challenging good things.  My summation: women pastors and leaders are needed in the church and we need to cultivate an environment for that to happen.

I am relatively new to church but I am not new to this scenario.  My years in retail management painted a very similar picture – a scarcity of women in leadership roles.  I’m not going to compare a business model with the church.  But I am asking this question, “How does an absence of women in leadership roles in the church impact the Kingdom of God?

This of course leads to barrage of other questions.  But I’m going to sit with this question for now.  I’ll keep you posted on where my research, thoughts and God take me.

After I got home on Saturday night, I texted Nathan Colquhoun, one of my friends who attended the conference, and asked, “Should I be a pastor?

He responded, “Keep doing what you are doing.  You are a pastor and you don’t need anyone to tell you that.”

Colouful speech bubblesTo be fair, I was exhausted and didn’t challenge his comment.  But his words were rolling around in my head when I woke up.  His response felt like a pat on the head – particularly because he is in the process of becoming a pastor himself.  Nathan is pro-feminist as evidenced in all areas of his life including our church so I assumed his comment had less to do with my gender and more to do with other stuff.  He confirmed he meant that I do not need “official knighting” from the denomination to be who I am and do what I do but that if I did decide to go down the ordination path, he would be there every step of the way.

Would his response have been the same if I were a man?  Would it have been harsher, more direct or less dismissive?  For those of you put off by the word dismissive please note: you cannot fully understand this word unless you are a woman in this man’s world.

And yes, I’m going to have this conversation with Nathan.  In our case, conversation = debate = argument = understanding = continued friendship.  But what if hadn’t asked what he meant by his comment.  What if his words had shut me down and that was it?  How would that impact the Kingdom of God?

I was going to end this blog here and close with this:

“So if a woman ever asks you, “Should I be a pastor?”

Talk to her like a man.  Double entendre intended.”

But ending on this note is not helpful and just adds to the gender divide.   Jared emailed me this, “I already want to help.  I assume a majority of FMs want to help too.  So how do we help?  What do you want us to say?”

There is no one right thing to say.  And yes, there are loads of wrong things to say.  But the right response is one that leads to a dialogue.  Jump into any conversation that involves women, leadership and the church even if it gets started by saying the wrong thing.  Don’t leave it there.  Jump with both feet and an open heart and mind.

Yes, there are some good women in leadership conversations happening in the FMCiC world.  But to see change it needs to be more than a one off conversation with one person.  Let’s keep talking.