In this post, Laura Atwater cleverly uses the structure of the best-selling children’s book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie to illustrate the complexities that women in ministry must navigate.
If you give a woman a Bible, she will sit down and read scripture.
Once she reads 1 Timothy 2:8-15, she will question women’s roles.
In her questioning, she will look to other scriptures.
While looking for other scriptures, she will come across the story of Phoebe and believe she is called to ministry.
When she decides that ministry is open to both men and women, she will want to speak up.
And after she speaks up, she will be offered the life-changing opportunity to be a greeter.
And after she finishes greeting, she will be extended the gracious position of working in the kitchen.
When she is done working in the kitchen, she will be asked to be the children’s pastor.
After she declines this, she will be asked to be a women’s pastor.
And when she declines that offer, she will realize that she wants to be a head pastor.
When she asks to be head pastor, she will be rejected.
When she is rejected, she will decide to start her own church.
Once she starts her own church, she will need some congregants.
After she searches through thousands of Christians and finds those who believe women and men were created equal in every sense of the word, she will want to find a worship band.
And when she hears the band playing and the congregants singing, she will want to find a church building.
Once she finds a church building, she will need elders and deacons.
When she has elders and deacons, she will want to find other pastors who do not find a woman’s leadership intimidating.
After she finds youth, children’s, and women’s pastors, she will still find herself proving her validity in being a pastor.
After long years of fighting to be taken seriously in her field, she will still come home and feel ashamed sometimes.
And after she feels ashamed, she will begin to feel angry.
And while she is angry, she will yell at the One who gave her this calling.
Once she is done yelling, she will try to hide her deep wounds.
After she hides her deep wounds, she still has to go to work.
And once she gets to work, she will stand behind the pulpit and speak.
When she stands behind the pulpit and speaks, she sees her church grow.
And as her church grows, people will give their lives to Jesus.
And when people follow Jesus, she will understand that she had a role in it, but it was ultimately God’s redemptive power.
If you give a woman a Bible, she might not read it.
But if she does read it, prepare for the world to change.
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story of my life… been serving and ‘pressing’ forward for 40+ years. seen some amazing things happen through my following God, even if I was told to always let the men take the lead. You can learn so much from the backseat . But these are amazing times, and gender equality in the ‘call’ is happening – because God said so! thx for writing this, made me cry because the walk has been one of exhaustion because we were serving as second to men… but really, I only kept walking because I love being second to my Lord and Savior. from Bako too!
Laura, this was so refreshing for me to read. Thank you for sharing your gift of writing!
Nice! I’m very grateful for the female pastors in my life.
Superb! Laura, I went to Moody Bible Institute for my undergrad in Church Music in the 1980’s. Of course, since I was a woman (read second-class Christian), I couldn’t preach/teach/lead. Fast forward to 2002, and I attended a UMC seminary, got an MDiv, trained as a chaplain, and became a pastor-by-surprise in March 2014. Ever since, I have been happily pastoring St. Luke’s Church in Morton Grove IL! God is so good.
I agree with the whole post, except the part where you mention the church growing…I am faithful, and I strive to preach the Gospel. My congregation is sweet and welcoming, but small The male-led complementarian churches surrounding our little church are bustling and prosperous. It makes me sad and discouraged. Yet, I continue to work for God. I am responding to that call on my life!
I think this is the next issue to tackle. According to sociologists strict churches grow faster and bigger; people like rules, to be told parameters, They like and need structure and one of the structures these churches develop is to restrict women from preaching/pastoring. The mega-churches have always stumped me, but asking around has led to the usual answers: pop / rock type loud music, lots of programming for all ages, small groups, entertainment/fellowship, authority structures–hiearchies (but why do people want this??).
Where can we read more of Laura’s work?
Pretty sure this is Laura’s first published piece but I’ll check to be sure.
This is exactly the story of so many women, even those in churches that proudly ordain women. People have left our churches when I began preaching end celebrating the Eucharist. But the congregants of churches to whom women pastors have been appointed quickly forgot their pastor was a woman and pulled with her instead of against her. Laura, thank you for knowing so much about the life of women in ministry and sharing it this way!
This is a wonderful message. Thank you for sharing.
Excellent, and so true.
Loved this, Laura! Your words ring with truth and power. And the structure was so creative — we read If You Give a Mouse a Cookie a lot at my house 😉 It worked wonderfully with your piece: you give a woman a Bible, there will be a cause and effect chain of events! Blessings to you in your ministry journey — thanks for stepping out in faith.
This is WOW!!!
Right? 😲 😲 😲
I love this! Keep on with your calling! If I had known someone like you as a teen, I would be a pastor today. I am one of the women in your story. I opened my Bible one day, and started asking the right questions. I am in the line where I rejected pursuing children’s ministry, not of my own choice (I love working with kids!) but from the Lord’s calling. Fortunately, I don’t need to start my own church, the Lord led us to an egal church… but God still calls me to preach. Maybe even pastor, one day. Lord willing, I’ll make it to that last line!
Great stuff. As the dad of two daughters and as a vocational minister, I am so proud to be a member of the church where voices like these are amplified. The struggle is real, but so is the call. Thanks for the humble reminder that faithfulness to God’s calling is above all else. Blessings to you as you continue to discern on your journey.
Right on, Laura. I found your blog both enlightening and very truthful. I too went to Azusa Pacific and graduated with an MA in 1980 in Religion. Keep plugging away. When I was there I did not have any women professors and the majority in the class were men. Hopefully that is changing.