Marginalized. Disenfranchised. These are words I hear often among Christian millennials (18-34 year olds) – my peers.
We are a tad obsessed with justice and equality. I began blogging seriously in 2014 and spend hours upon hours studying my peers; what makes them angry, what makes them happy, what motivates them, and why. I think I have come to believe that if I figure them out, I will figure myself out.
Most of us love the Church, but we are frustrated. Our relationship status with the Church is currently set to “complicated.”
There are some who are fine with the way things are. These are the ones who did not fall into the cracks. The ones who were loved and accepted as they were. The ones who got on board with “church politics” and didn’t question authority. The ones who “made it” in the church world. They are the “privileged church millennials.” A few of them are using their power to fight for those who got left behind, but most get annoyed with those of us who are frustrated. We got on board with the way things are, why can’t the rest of you, sort of thing.
It’s not their fault, really; it’s their reality.
The privileged church men found their places as lead pastors, associate pastors, small group pastors, college pastors, youth pastors, worship leaders, elders, Bible teachers, and spiritual leaders of their home.
The privileged church women found their places as children’s pastors, sometimes youth pastors, sometimes worship leaders, pastors’ wives, Christian school teachers, women’s Bible study leaders, and homemakers.
I wanted to be a “privileged church millennial” and in my mind I should have been. I had all the right ingredients. First of all, the color of my skin is white. In the Church, we like to pretend that we don’t discriminate based on race, but we do. If we are not intentionally searching for people of color to sit at our “important” tables, then we are either knowingly or unknowingly discriminating. We either care to correct racial imbalance in our churches or we don’t. Most of us don’t, because those who are privileged normally lack empathy for those who are not privileged because they never walked in “unprivileged shoes.”
I was born and raised in evangelicalism. My parents were well-known Christians in our community. I knew my Bible. I spent every Sunday in church my entire life and, as a teenager, I went to two youth groups every week. My dad was a worship leader and a preacher. I went to Bible school in the Bible belt. The now famous worship leader, Kari Jobe, was my college roommate. I sat under the greatest preachers in America. I was on the prayer team and the evangelism team. I did overseas mission work. I did what a good church girl who was going into ministry was supposed to do.
After two years of Bible school, I attended university and completed my 4-year ministry degree. I graduated at 22 years old with a BS in Church Ministries and moved to Denver, Colorado.
I was single and had no prospects. I could not be a pastor’s wife.
I lived in the basement of my older sister’s house. I could not be a homemaker.
I don’t really sing all that great. I could not be a worship leader.
I was a very young woman, was new to the area, and did not have a home church. I could not be a woman’s Bible Study leader.
I had no desire to be a children’s pastor.
This left me with two choices in most of the American evangelical church: I could be a children’s/youth pastor or a teacher at a private Christian school. Since I did not go to college to become a teacher, I reasoned that I would become a youth pastor, climb the ministry ladder, and perhaps someday become a woman’s pastor or a pastor of evangelism (which is what I really wanted to do), not realizing that these two positions were extremely rare and often only found at mega churches.
I searched high and low for a job. Many of the youth pastor job descriptions would actually say, “men only should apply.”
For the first time in my life, I was marginalized due to my gender, and it was the Church that did it to me. I did not find a youth pastor job. I found a place at a private Christian school teaching 7th graders. I actually loved it because I got to teach them the Bible every day and I convinced the principal to allow me to plan a spiritual retreat for the kids. I didn’t care all that much if they bettered their math or reading skills, but these kids were going to have an experience with Jesus whether they liked it or not.
I was a minister, walking in “middle-school teacher shoes,” because those were the only shoes I could find.
Those shoes didn’t fit perfectly, but I made them work for one year. I fell in love with my class, but could not imagine taking on a new class the following year. I was not born to be a 7th grade teacher. I was born to be a minister. I know, I reasoned, I will become more educated. Then maybe a church will overlook the fact that I am a woman and hire me and, if not, I will become a theology professor. I was wrong. I graduated with my master’s degree and found myself back in a private Christian school, now teaching 5th graders. As far as I was concerned, I was demoted. Things got worse.
The private school I was working at went out of business, and I became unemployed for eight months. During those eight months, I became depressed and stopped going to church. For the second time in my life I felt disenfranchised, and it was the Church that did it to me. I became so desperate that I decided I would apply for a children’s pastor job.
There was not a bone in my body that wanted to be a children’s pastor, but this was my place in the Church and it was time to accept it, get on board with church politics and submit to “the man.”
I served for two years. I kept my mouth shut and did my job. I loved my team of volunteers. I was a good leader. But I had so much more inside of me that went unnoticed. I submitted to the way things were and began to lose myself. I made $30,000 a year and it was the most money I had ever made. The job was easy and it was helping my husband and me financially, but it was not the job I was made for. It did not challenge me enough and I was not passionate about kids. I turned around a dying children’s ministry in about a year and I became bored. I wanted to preach the Bible to adults, but that was not my place. I accepted it, Sunday after Sunday, until I could not accept it any more.
I had a realization. As a woman in ministry I could accept “my place” or I could dust the dirt off my shoulders, and do my own thing.
I left my safe church job and gave up having a salary. My husband, who has always been very supportive of me as a minister, was scared. He wanted me to stay put in my safe church job. He wanted to see me succeed. I submitted to him for two years and I am glad I did, because those two years are my most valuable ministry experience. But, when God told me to go, I could no longer submit to my husband’s mixture of wisdom and fear. I had “holy rebellion” in my blood and Jesus was saying, “It’s time to fly, girl.” It was either I submit to the Church as is and my husband, or I submit to Jesus. I chose Jesus.
My dry bones were being resurrected. I began to feel alive again. After two years of remaining silent my heart was beating out of my chest for justice and equality. I was ready to say everything I had been keeping inside for years and I would no longer allow gender-based hierarchies to control me with a paycheck or a position. The walls of a church building could no longer confine or define me. I was ready to devote my time to the marginalized and disenfranchised because I now knew what it was like to be at the bottom of a pyramid.
I want to see women as elders and lead pastors and I am fighting for this, but I am no longer waiting for permission to be a minister.
I have decided that I will never again work for a church or even attend a church that does not fully include women at all levels of leadership. When I decided that I was done with submitting to “a woman’s place” and a paycheck and a title, I began to find myself again.
I had no idea how I would start a ministry with no money, so I started a blog. I never run out of things to write about because I remained silent for years. God has honored my holy rebellion. My blog went from about 300 views a month to over 30,000 views a month in one year. Not only this, but my husband and I were asked to join a church planting team made up of marginalized millennials who are focused on equality, social justice, and tearing down ungodly hierarchies in the Church. We want to help others dream again. We don’t want to force men or women into ill-fitting boxes. There is no lead pastor and we get together each week to talk about what church could be and how we can win our generation and those younger to Jesus.
Something is shifting in the Church.
Too many of us have been marginalized – men and women alike. We are tired of it and we feel deep empathy for “the least of these” because we have walked in their shoes. Perhaps it was all for a reason. Perhaps it was God’s plan for me and others to fall into the gap.
Maybe it is in the gap that we find Jesus once again.
(Update 12/22/15: Comments are now closed on this post. Thanks for participating! We love hearing from you.
In the end the real problem is that the only place female pastors can go is to Liberal churches…and there are doubtless a large number who should be leading churches that teach fundamentalist doctrine…but these are the very churches where men have locked the door to women, except to permit them to give money…
Solution: Go, ladies, to the most liberal church you can find where you are given full liberty to lead, and then bring in your faithful Biblical teaching…until this happens there will be no solution to the false dichotomy that only in liberal churches are women permitted to teach and preach.. This is neither a given nor correct. Female leadership has nothing to do with liberalism, it is all about ‘THE LIBERTY BY WHICH CHRIST HAS SET HIS PEOPLE FREE’. AND THE YOKE OF BONDAGE’
LOL, Judy, think about what you just said.
Church history of the past 2,000 years has been characterized by a continual pendulum that goes back and forth between two extremes. How do you think those congregations became liberal? This happened because someone infiltrated a conservative congregation and changed it.
You can do the same.
A thought: (And please read this in the spirit intended)
One of my pet peeves, for decades now, is when I see people stick around in a church where they have many fundamental issues of doctrine and practice. They feel bound by family tradition, or some other force, to stay put anyway. Yet they’re miserable. This neither honors God nor serves their spiritual needs.
If it’s indeed your calling to preach, why do you stick around in a heretical church?
Since the 1970s, American churches have been ordaining women in unprecedented numbers. More and more denominations are appointing women not just as ministers, but also as bishops. If this is your calling, the opportunities for service are out there.
Steven, I can only speak for myself…I remained for over 2 years in a church where I WAS miserable for several reasons. One: I was a teacher in ‘their’ Christian school and loved my ministry. Eventually they didn’t need me any more due to small enrollment. Two: I didn’t want to cause the other teachers problems, because one had already left and I thought two leaving in one year might tilt the barrel too much. Three: a dying friend let me know that he wanted me to stay to ‘comfort’ his wife who would be struggling with them when he was gone. Four: I was beginning to write a book about why I was leaving and decided to take the two years to ask questions that had been plaguing me for 30 years. It was the dying friend who really cinched the deal when I talked to him about leaving…I could see my leaving at that time would bring extra grief and although the request was ‘unspoken’ I knew he wanted me to stay behind for him. It was a great learning experience and I just waited on the Lord to open the exit door…one day, all things lined up perfectly and I KNEW it was time for liberty and escape from the oppression. There is much more I cannot say but sometimes the situations women find themselves in are unbearable…and the men haven’t a clue. Surely each woman has her own reasons for staying a little while longer…Fifth reason was also to protect the pastor (whether or not he deserved it) as I was the only one left who could play the music for the congregation (properly) and needed to know I had a replacement as well because he had a large number of summer visitors and the lack of proper music would have left him with an unpleasant and difficult situation…that was my ‘independence’ day when I was finally able to recognize two who could replace me.
There are a multitude of reasons to stay: husband pressure, family ties, etc. When the Lord calls us out he makes a way and it isn’t always the timing WE desire…as I learned. I am not a preacher, but have a strong desire to speak to women…but being in a new place it will be a long time before I am accepted enough to speak to women..so changing locations can set a person back as well….another reason to consider staying until the time if ripe…’IN THE FULLNESS OF TIME” as scripture teaches.
Judy, these seem like strange reasons to violate your conscience. Fewer teachers teaching a skewed gospel, sounds like a good thing to me. And you don’t need to maintain your affiliation, in order to support your dying friend.
About 25 years ago, I ditched a church where I had many responsibilities and no successor. Once I realized the many issues in the congregation (and my pleas fell on deaf ears), I could no longer stick around and continue to be a part of the problem.
Clearly, these issues are not unique to women.
Steve, I am sure these are not unique problems for women, nor do I suggest this…in fact many men are abused in the churches as well, as I have witnessed myself, by bullying men. I could not go further regarding my dying friend’s wife except to say I HAD to stay in that particular church for specific reasons…it is complicated and no one’s business..he knew (like others did not) things specific to that church hierarchy that would happen, and that did happen to her…I was glad I stayed to break the blows and give immediate support when they came…it was just more to disgust me about some hierarchical churches and their selfishness, heartlessness and utter coldness!
Steven, I agree with you to an extent. After we are out of these hierarchical churches, we often look back and wonder why we stayed so long. For me, and I think maybe for a lot of Christian women- we are taught to submit from a very young age whether we are happy or not (inside and outside of the Church). Even in so called egalitarian churches, girls and women are often taught to submit. It is cultural and hard to escape.
Then, to add to all of this, women in ministry (like myself) went to college and seminary to be in ministry – yet, the only position I could ever find was among children.
I stayed because the church down the street was going to put me with the children too. There was no ministry place for me (someone who was a woman and needed a paycheck to survive and was only trained in ministerial/biblical studies).
I never wanted to be a lead pastor. I simply hoped to work with teens, then adults as I got older in the Church. I was never permitted to “climb the ladder” because I was never even allowed on the ladder.
I stayed as a children’s pastor for 2 years, hoping I could climb the ladder from there. It took 2 years for me to realize that was never going to happen. I paid my dues and worked with the kiddos, but it didn’t matter. My husband encouraged me to stick it out. Again, women are taught to submit to their husbands. I stayed because he told me I should and I trust him because he loves me.
So, in my head, there were no churches that would hire me to do anything but what I am doing, I was drowning in student loan debt and needed the paycheck, my husband was telling me to give it more time, and I was afraid to leave. I had every reason to be afraid. So many women are afraid to leave and have many reasons.
I now don’t make a paycheck. It was a huge sacrifice. I have lived with my folks for the past year with my hubby. I don’t know what will happen. I am still afraid. But I am hoping God will continue to be faithful to me and I am faithful to God’s call on my life.
Leaving means sacrifice. Sacrifice is hard and painful, but I think after we do get out, we realize it was worth it all! 🙂
Well, when I became a Christian 25 years ago, I learned that submission and sacrifice are normal components of discipleship. I’m not ashamed to say that I make regular sacrifices in service to God, and I submit to my church leaders.
Steve said: “Well, when I became a Christian 25 years ago, I learned that submission and sacrifice are normal components of discipleship. I’m not ashamed to say that I make regular sacrifices in service to God, and I submit to my church leaders.”
I suspect you are talking about different things…the Bible tells us to submit ourselves “one to another”…not singularly to church leaders! That includes everyone, does it not? Have you done this? I also suspect your sacrifices may be of a different sort from those of women…like our whole lives… our BODIES a living sacrifice unto God which is our reasonable service…how can we really do this well when we are told our bodies don’t belong ‘here’ or ‘there’ in certain fields as delineated by the whims of certain groups of men…In which areas are you forbidden from serving, Steve, might I ask?
Judy, the NT tells us to submit to human authorities (several places), including church leaders (Hebrews 13:17). Yes, I do this, as a regular practice.
You might be surprised at the sacrifices I make.
Only women sacrifice their bodies? A few martyrs might beg to differ there.
Me, I don’t ask anyone’s permission to serve. I just do it.
Steve, just found this comment in our spam file! Sorry for the delay in publishing it.
Steve, your comment here indicates to me that you still are not recognizing that men hold a place of privilege in the church, and conversely, that women do not have that same privilege. I say that because you affirm that we are to submit to church leaders but then also say that you don’t ask anyone’s permission to serve, you “just do it”. In a church that restricts women’s places of service a woman cannot just serve without permission – that would be the opposite of submitting to her church leaders. Unfortunately, this kind of mixed message is one a lot of us get from the church.
Yes, absolutely Steven. Submission is a key aspect of the Christian life, but when power is out of balance, submission can steal from our lives and even become dangerous. This is why we must always be submitted to Christ and the Bible over humans. Thank you for your engagement. God bless.
Jory, you want to serve as a pastor? Well, the opportunities for women to serve (at least in USA) are greater than at any time in history. Dozens of denominations now ordain women regularly, even as bishops.
But as for the notion of power? I’m not interested in gaining power in my church, and I will not affiliate with a pastor who is.
Jory…yes when we leave we feel much better….BUT…when you start in a new group you are starting all over again! That is the other Catch 22…we are driven out because we are not expressing our faith to adults, as the Lord is leading…so we go somewhere they don’t know us and they have to get to know us before we can even have a chance to minister there…so it is SO time consuming…and all because some men simply have to get their own way…
Listening to Handel’s Messiah reminded me of several verses that support the equalizing that God is doing in our culture and in the churches…”every mountain will be made low, and the crooked places straight and the rough places plain and every valley shall be exalted”… I truly believe this is the word of God toward hierarchy of any kind and the degradation of slaves, women and anyone else…(This also is corroborated when Jesus said :”The princes of the Gentiles lord it over one another, BUT IT SHALL NOT BE SO AMONG YOU”…). God will iron out all our inequities because, as he says in Ezekiel 3 x “as for me My way is Equal…is not your way unequal?” And so God will level the ground everywhere…and ‘we shall all be changed’…”Comfort ye, Comfort ye my people” saith the Lord…some people are simply not on the same page as God…
All great points Judy!
Well…yeah. If I moved to a new congregation, I wouldn’t expect to be put in charge of anything right away. Should it be different?
Again, doing the right thing out of conviction, will always carry a cost.
Well for women the cost is much higher. She has already left a church that will not hear her and now she must go somewhere else where the chances she will have the ear of anyone is also iffy…as I said, Catch 22 for women…frustration upon frustration…it’s not like a man who gets a degree and can fit in anywhere because he is not a women.
“Only women sacrifice their bodies?”….I didn’t say that at all, Steve…. I said women ‘aren’t permitted’ to sacrifice their bodies as God commands, and they are not permitted to use their ‘talents’ except in very narrow circumstances…so they have to disobey God because they are told to do so…they are TOLD what sacrifice they are permitted to take part in even if it is something they have no leading to do…such as children’s ministry. Why are women only allowed to sacrifice their bodies by permission and according to someone else’s will, Steven? My exact words were:
“how can we really do this (SACRIFICE OUR BODIES) when we are told our bodies don’t belong ‘here’ or ‘there’ in certain fields as delineated by the whims of certain groups of men…In which areas are you forbidden from serving, Steve, might I ask?” How about this suggestion I propose, as a hypothetical leader of a church :” Let it be instituted that men not be permitted to function in any area where women are in the congregation as they might tempt the women”…what do you say to that, Steve? A good idea? What if your women elders told you this?..Oh yeah…you don’t have women elders, deacons, ministers, pastors…right, female bodies only belong where YOU tell them they may go…now how is that liberty in Christ? Like I think you might ever get it!
I always love Jory’s posts, and I always love the Junia posts, so double whammy here.
I’ve read through many of the responses, especially the ones about mum and junior coming to church and dad staying home.
I think it’s important to point out that this may be the case where the churches are failing. In general I have noted that in many contexts where women are not allowed to lead, there is a predominant amount of women in the congregation, but where women are given equal place (as in all the churches I have attended over the past 30 years) there are equal numbers of men and women and the men are strong, as are the women.
I have been c0-leading churches with my husband, and then a church planting network which raised female and male leaders and sent them out to plant and pastor churches and we have seen those churches with empowered leaders of both genders to be much stronger.
Bev, that has been my experience as well – the egalitarian churches we’ve been a part of have had very balanced congregations and leadership. This would be such an interesting research study!
I so agree Bev and Gail! Seems like churches who embrace female leadership are very healthy. New lead pastors (even though mostly male) are beginning to plant churches and are really including women as equal leaders. Slowly but surely we are turning this ship around! 🙂
Amen to that…I have never found such a ‘living’ church as the Salvation Army congregation where I am at present…very healthy relationships and the husband and wife share preaching…very vibrant ministry to the community at large as well…great fellowship and wonderful praise services…also enjoy the brass band that plays the more traditional music along with some less traditional music as well…but well considered music that we all seem to enjoy singing without turning some off.
Without any judgments about how things should be:
Patti points out (correctly) that women constitute a huge majority of the membership in most churches. There are many reasons for this situation, and I’ve seen a couple of books on the subject. Talk about an imbalance. Now, would you like to see the sisters bring in their husbands?
Survey after survey has shown that when women preach, Mom and Junior come out to church, but Dad stays home. But when men preach, Dad leads the way and brings everyone.
Survey after survey? Can you give some sources? I’ve studied this issue a long time and have never seen anything that makes that conclusion.
Here’s a couple.
The first blog you site is merely stating one man’s opinion, with no stats. It is ripe with harmful language toward women. I’ve responded to similar accusations on Junia before, pointing out that according to Barna research, women are the largest group of people leaving the Church, not men. I also address the accusation that the Church is too “feminine”. Here is that blog: https://juniaproject.com/say-church-feminine/
The second source you sited claims that the church “caters to women”. Pretty hard to believe when women aren’t allowed to serve as pastors, elders, worship leaders, ushers, or communion servers, and they have to listen week after week to men preaching out of a Bible that mostly uses male pronouns.
Kate, check out the book. It’s an interesting read.
And it’s not particularly about men leaving church. It’s about why they don’t join up in the first place.
Thanks for taking the time to send the links. I didn’t see any survey data in the 15 reasons post, just anecdotal. As for the second link – I think Murrow draws conclusions from the data that are not supported. Neither of these links supports your claim that “Survey after survey has shown that when women preach, Mom and Junior come out to church, but Dad stays home. But when men preach, Dad leads the way and brings everyone”. I don’t disagree that women are more likely to attend church than men, but I strongly doubt that women pastors or preachers are to blame.
Not blaming anyone, Gail, seeing as I’m not the guy that got chased away. But I hope you will check out the book. The reasons men give for avoiding church might seem like flimsy excuses, but they’re valid and (in most cases) fixable.
My earliest experience with church, was with a Catholic parish. Even as a child, I recognized that the priests (who aren’t allowed to marry) seemed different from other men I knew. They were wimpy guys who spoke softly and lived in an artificially contrived closed society. I never wanted their life.
This was a far cry from the angry Jesus who turned over the tables in the Temple. Not that preachers should always be angry, but he showed a fitting indignation for the occasion.
I sat at the feet of a girly preacher (which wouldn’t be so bad, except that he wasn’t a girl.) I learned devotion to Mary, more than to Jesus. My teachers were all women. Who was going to teach me how to grow up to be a Christian man? (My dad was an atheist.) So when I hear people speak of a feminized church (which chases away men), I get it.
OK, that was a bit far afield from our topic.
Steven I relate to the ‘girly’ male preachers….I started out Anglican and so many of the ‘priests’ there were very feminine…so wouldn’t it be better for female preachers who really are female to preach than that?…so much of the problem in the mainline Catholic and Anglican was related to pedophilia, I am afraid and just confirms my belief that when men only run things the sin multiplies…we need the balance of male and female leadership that counteracts the old boy’s club atmosphere in most churches…I am now in the Salvation Army and the atmosphere is SO much better when both genders work together instead of in competition (the competition being mainly men trying to keep women out.).
Steven, you claim not be be blaming anyone, but making statements like “when women preach, Mom and Junior come out to church, but Dad stays home” and “when I hear people speak of a feminized church (which chases away men), I get it” make it clear that you believe that women should not be in leadership, as that would cause a problem. As our comments section notes, this site is not a place for debating egalitarian theology, so any further comments that go down this road will not be approved. And I need to say that the phrase “a feminized church” always baffles me. Aside from being demeaning to women, I think it’s based on false assumptions and flawed logic. I appreciate what Doug Bursch wrote on this some time ago:
“If you believe men don’t go to church because the church doesn’t meet their needs, then you are implying that women go because more of their needs are being met. What if more women go to church because their faith has a greater integrity? What if more women go to church because they have chosen to persevere and demonstrate a moral fortitude that contrasts the weaknesses of men? What if women are more willing to work in community, more willing to repent, apologize and forgive? Maybe men are so emotional they are unwilling to learn how to abide in complex community. Maybe instead of following the moral lead of women, men have isolated themselves from the church to keep from having to mature and grow up.” http://www.patheos.com/blogs/evangelicalpulpit/2014/10/the-masculinity-myth-the-real-reason-men-dont-go-to-church/
in your one article, Steven Matera implies that women in the pulpit make the church appear wimpy and effeminate…sorry that is so pathetic…I know hundreds of women and they are neither wimpy nor effeminate…they are full of womanliness (is that so scary) and wisdom…warmth and inner strength…their honesty and directness are the opposite of wimpy and they retain their femininity with Godliness…We need much more of all this.
Gail, I didn’t state an opinion or preference there. I just pointed out the situation.
I was simply responding to Steve Matera’s concern that “women in the pulpit make the church appear wimpy and effeminate”..I’m not blaming Steve Hutson for the other man’s views….but Matera’s view of women seems so un-Christlike…I just cannot imagine Jesus saying such a thing ever…can you? Was Jesus concerned that his disciples would be offended when He sent Mary Magdalene to tell them He had risen from the dead? Why was Jesus so intent on meeting the Samaritan woman at the well, knowing she would be proclaiming the He is the Messiah to her people if he was concerned her message would be too ‘wimpy and effeminate”? And how about the parable of the woman sweeping until she found the lost coin (a lost sinner)… Are we talking about the church of Jesus or a men’s club with too many women seeking membership, incidentally, women who are expected to give of their substance …didn’t that start a war when men had to do it i.e. “taxation without representation” ? Funny men wouldn’t settle for that!
‘Steven” If this were true, then it would illustrate how self indulgent and infantile some men can be…(they just won’t go where their wives go? How childish!…and their wives MUST go where they go…so they are also sulky and peevish? ) However, since the majority of churchgoers ARE women we will find that the Complementarian church, as it is, will likely disappear in a few generations, for most women have had it, and those whose patience is longer will soon learn their acceptance is creating more sin in men than holiness. Women are leaving churches, either altogether, or they have left for Egalitarian churches. The numbers leaving will suck the life out of Complementarianism. The day is over that women will continue to buy their own bouquets of bondage. We are no longer impressed with the narcissistic man who will not share his life with a woman but who must always have his own way…there is no scripture to justify such childish and petulant masculinity… ☺ “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” This scripture is the bottom line…”It shall not be so (hierarchical) among you”
Awesome article! Thank you for writing it and sharing it. So blessed to know you. I don’t have a *pastor* in an official building. So I’ll just call you my pastor!
(Also known as MtnShepherdess on Twitter)
Awe, I love that! Thank you! 🙂
I am so happy that the next generation of women is continuing where we left off. Yet it saddens me as well, I was so praying and hoping that it would happen in my generation.
I so understand being called to something higher than teaching women(although those who are called, there is a need for these and I respect those who do this) and children(ditto first parenthesis), but while we settle for this, there is a longing to reach more people of both genders, a restlessness that those positions just do not fill.
For me, the beauty of the internet was that I could do what I could not in my church. I could write about anything I wanted. I could preach, teach, or write on things that just were not right. It was so freeing. I truly hope that your generation will be able to accomplish what my generation could not.
This does not apply to my present church who is allowing women in positions, and while it is slow progress, it is happening.
Thanks for sharing Debbie. I agree, it is sad that we are still facing this battle. I think we are changing things, but it just takes so darn long, doesn’t it? So glad we have women like you to look up to who have gone before us! XoXo
This is the last word, men! I have said EXACTLY THE SAME…in fact so many women are feeling this way that I am sure this is a movement of God on the hearts of His women:We are all saying this:
“I have decided that I will never again work for a church or even attend a church that does not fully include women at all levels of leadership. When I decided that I was done with submitting to “a woman’s place” and a paycheck and a title, I began to find myself again.”
It is interesting to me that women ARE statisticallly leaving churches in droves now…this is a NEW thing…and I am so glad to be part of it…Of course the man above is right that you weren’t necessarily READY for being a senior pastor, BUT WHAT HE MISSED IS THAT A WOMAN IS NEVER READY in the minds of men to be a senior pastor…after decades of work and training…it is never enough for most men in the churches…THAT IS THE PROBLEM THAT THEY WILL NOT FACE OR CONSIDER…It is nothing short of evil arrogance and disobedience to God that they are BOLDLY RESPECTERS OF PERSONS (James 2:9) despite the command and warning that this is sin.
The fact is that when enough women have left the churches they will still stubbornly hold to their entitlement..but they will have to find more men to join them because women like me WILL NEVER GO BACK…the day is at hand and we are FREE…the men can do what they like…but they can’t take that away from us…because we “stand fast in the liberty whereby Christ has MADE us free…and we will NOT BE ENTANGLED AGAIN IN THE YOKE OF BONDAGE…Amen!
Haha, LOVE your passion!!! The only thing that I would add is that I never expected or even wanted to be a senior pastor. I simply wanted a place of leadership to grow in that was not children’s ministry. I found that as a woman, I can’t “climb the ladder” in the church world if I am not allowed on the ladder in the first place.
You see…women have a Catch 22 problem…due to misinterpretations of scripture that lock us out of discussion, questioning or even getting the ear of a man…the problem is women are expected to be SILENT in the churches…kinda hard to explain our situation then isn’t it? Men are told not to listen to female teachers…so it is kinda hard to be heard when they have fingers in their ears…women are required to submit to men while men are required to be in charge, so it is kinda hard to suggest that men submit also, according to Ephesians 5:21…because they can’t obey this when they haven’t even read it, having skipped to verse 22 without bothering to check it out. Even worse, they can’t learn verse 21 because only women are quoting it and they are forbidden to listen to a woman teach…it all sounds like a conspiracy to me…and it works very well…the only solution is the one women have found…to leave the churches to the men and start our own elsewhere under the full-orbed teaching of scripture, where the real Jesus is taught…
Question: is this what Jesus and Paul were teaching? Did Jesus ever silence women, refuse to teach them and permit them to speak, or give them an ultimatum that they must never teach men? I would say he taught a lot of men that Mary of Bethany had more insight into who he was than they did and by inference that she would be a better teacher for them…only Mary realized he was going to the cross and only she anointed him for the burial while they were still looking for a political leader…makes you wonder if this Catch 22 isn’t just plain green eyed envy at the wisdom of women? Bet the disciples were a bit green eyed when Mary Magdalene was SENT by Jesus to tell them He was risen…he they had been sleeping while she was desperately searching for Him…sounds like the same story today…☺
HA, so true Judy!
I know of up-and-coming young MALE ministers. That is all very well. But, I agree with Tim–“maybe a church will overlook the fact that I am a woman and hire me.” SO sad, and demeaning. Almost like saying that as females, we are second-class people, as well as second-class Christians. (On second thought, yeah. It is saying exactly that.)
I, too, attended a respected Bible Institute, and have an undergraduate degree in Church Music. But, I never settled. I kept questing, searching for what God had for me, which led me to an MDiv, two units of chaplain internship, and almost ten years as an on call chaplain. God has now placed me in a position as a small church pastor. I teach and preach and serve God each and every day. Thank you, thank you for your continuing searching and questing, Jori. May God lead you to wonderful places of service, too. @chaplaineliza
Thank you for your encouragement!
Jory, I am in the same place you are, in that I would never be able to be a part of a church that does not recognize the equal gifting and status of women. And its not just about equality for equality’s sake. I’ve realized that to be spiritually healthy I need to be in a church that is intentional about things like including women on the platform, serving communion, leading worship, preaching, and having representation on decision-making boards. And a note about representation – one token woman on your board is not enough! Research shows that to get the benefit of gender diversity you need at least 30% women. Thanks for sharing your heart!
Awesome info Gail. Thanks for sharing! This is why we must continue to push for boards of 50/50 gender ratios. So then maybe we will at least get the 30 percent needed to see real change! 😉
Well, I wasn’t there when you were turned down for those other positions, so I can’t speak to those reasons. All that I can respond to here, is the information presented in this post. In my view, there are many issues here.
I too was frustrated by the progress of my career for many years. I believed that I was unjustly denied many positions I wanted. And after a while, I need to examine myself to see what might be going wrong. I will tackle your topics roughly in order.
Ethnic balance? If anything, I think it’s unjust that only white folks are called upon to bear this burden. If the church (and the leadership) is 99% black or Chinese or Armenian, no one seems to think anything of it.
In my life, I have known hundreds of ministers. None but a handful started at the top, and in those cases it was an “emergency” situation where someone died and no one else came forward.
If I had any say in the matter (and I have, a few times), I would not hire a 22 year-old ANYONE for a position of senior leadership. These roles require a depth of experience, both vocationally and in life. If I need advice in my marriage, I (generally) don’t go to a childless single. I want someone who has been married for a while, and has some experience in the issues I face, including parenting.
Much of a pastor’s job has to do with managing a staff. Overseeing the business affairs. Instructing new members and meting out church discipline. Babyfaces don’t scream maturity, in such a way that people will respond to it well. Grampa Jones might not readily accept instruction from a preacher who looks like his grandchild.
All of those positions you mentioned (worship leader, youth pastor, Sunday school teacher, etc.) are perfectly respectable avenues of service. None of them are beneath me.
I define my Christianity in terms of service. Not entitlement.
Steven, you have made a lot of great points about the need for mature, experienced leaders in positions of senior leadership. Unfortunately, that standard seems to be upheld for women more than for men. In my decades of church involvement I have seen many young men being placed in staff positions in churches (though not senior pastor) who do not have those characteristics. This is how young men are groomed for senior leadership. I think it is unfair for you to infer that Jory’s attitude is one of entitlement. Your comment reminded me of a quote from Dallas Willard on this:
“It is not the rights of women to occupy “official” ministerial roles, nor their equality to men in those roles that set the terms of their service to God and their neighbors. It is their obligations that do so: obligations which derive from their human abilities empowered by divine gifting. It is the good they can do, and the duty to serve that comes from that, which impels them to serve in all ways possible. Women and men are indeed very different, and those differences are essential to how God empowers each to induce the Kingdom of God into their specific life setting and ministry. What we lose by excluding the distinctively feminine from “official” ministries of teaching and preaching is of incalculable value. That loss is one of a few fundamental factors which account for the astonishing weakness of “the Church” in the contemporary context.” http://www.dwillard.org/articles/artview.asp?artID=154
I agree with you that worship leader, youth pastor, and Sunday School teacher are respectable avenues of service – for those who have the gifting, passion, and calling for those things. Some of us have leadership, administration, and teaching gifts that would be better used in other pastoral positions. All we ask is for equal opportunity to serve the body with those gifts, as Paul instructs us to.
Thanks Gail. I could not have answered the response better myself!
I echo Gail’s reply to Steven and add one observation. Interestingly, while disputing the validity of “ethnic” balance, the topic of “gender” balance is entirely ignored, neither challenged or affirmed The vast majority of most church congregations are women, so if you are looking for leadership to be reflective of the congregation, we have a huge problem.
Steven says : “I define my Christianity in terms of service. Not entitlement.”
Honestly Steven, how can you be so callous! And what kind of service can you take part in?…anything, because as a man you are entitled to do anything you feel God leads you to do, already. You are blind to the plight of women…You can’t even see our situation, can you? No woman here is entitled to any kind of service…she is strictly limited by the whims of men and how they choose to interpret scripture. There are as many interpretations of how women may serve as there are men in the churches. How is it men feel entitled to stand between women and God as Mediators when the Bible tells me I have one God and one mediator between me and God – Jesus Christ – not any man?
“maybe a church will overlook the fact that I am a woman and hire me” – that is one of the saddest lines I’ve read this week when it comes to women in the church, Jory. I’m glad you didn’t settle.
I guess it is kind of sad Tim, but we will get there! Thanks for reading!
Thank you for having me. Always an honor to be here! 🙂
THIS. I think sometimes- trying to even bring up that things aren’t equal in the church is seen as an attack on those who have traditionally been among the privileged in church congregations. It’s difficult, but I too feel the winds of changed and am hopeful for the future. 🙂 Thank you for your beautiful post.
Thank you Kayla! Change is coming. Women are out there fighting for it to happen and when women’s hearts are on fire for Jesus, watch out world! XoXo
Kayla, I so agree with you! Why is it that if you even mention that there might be gender discrimination people (men usually) go into a defensive posture and immediately start trying to prove that you are wrong? Why don’t Christian men believe Christian women? It is something that makes me sad 🙁
It can be so discouraging when we, as women, are told we are not qualified to tell our own stories and experiences. I LOVE that my church has both women and minorities on staff. It makes me feel like my voice is more likely to be heard and I can hear the gospel in a language that is relevant to me. Also, I’m so thankful for safe places like The Junia Project!
In further reply to Steven regarding why people stay in a church they don’t like…I found this remarkable insight from “Living Love” Newsletter at lifestream.org website>>>>
Actually Wayne Jacobsen says: “What does it take for someone to leave a congregation of people they have loved and served alongside often for decades?Why would they suddenly break away from close friends and lifetime traditions to wander into a lonely and uncertain future only to be accused of being selfish, bitter, or rebellious?
Except that it generally isn’t sudden at all, and not at all what they had hoped for.Yes, there came a time when they stopped attending, but none of “The Dones” I’ve met over the past twenty years left easily or suddenly.In fact most have wrestled with the decision for years in the face of some concern or unmet hunger.Initially they thought others around them would resonate with their passion, or be grateful if they identified a problem that needed attention. To their shock, they found their repeated attempts to discuss their concerns or hopes fell on unsympathetic ears.
Try as they might to bring positive changes, they only meet resistance and eventually disrespect and frustration.“That’s not the way we do things around here.”Many give up trying to convince others, but their hunger continues to until sitting in the congregation becomes painful.After years of struggle they finally feel they have no other choice but to follow their hunger instead of quietly going along.As much as they want to stay with people they care so much about they find they can no longer participate in meetings that have become a detriment to their spiritual passions.” see “The Phenomenon of the Dones” to read further on this lengthy article.
Thanks for sharing that fantastic article. It rings true for me, unfortunately.
Judy, doing the right thing will always carry a cost.
My Christian conversion, caused many old friends to distance themselves from me.
My whistle-blowing has caused me to lose a couple of jobs.
When I fingered a felon next door, he and his friends tried to drown me in our apartment swimming pool. Nearly cost me my life.
Sticking around in a heretical church, only prolongs the heresy and hurts more and more people.
Steven, Christian conversion is a one day thing. Discovering crime in the workplace is a one day thing. When you discover a felon living next door, you do the right thing, if you can prove your point. You are not dealing with 30,000 verses of Biblical teaching.
Heresy is not as easy to prove…why did it take 1500 years before the Christian church BEGAN THE PROCESS OF a Reformation? Why wasn’t it over in a day? Why did slavery take so long to root out? Why is Egalitarianism not the norm in Christianity? Why is there a sudden resurgence of radical Complementarian teaching in the 21st century after a century of dormancy?
Yes the Bible says “A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject”, but after centuries of bloodshed and now the battles within Islam around the globe where heresy is the ‘flavour’ of the day…women, especially, having never been allowed to take any leadership, and are certainly not ‘trained’ in the mindset of deciding who is and who is not a heretic. We have been told to be silent. We have been told to leave the leadership to the men from our childhood. And you want us to suddenly become like you men who are able to make rash decisions because that is what you were taught to do…to “take the helm” because you are a man. Well we have seen many mistakes made by men as we ‘watched’ your gender run things…and frankly. therefore, we tend to think things through far more carefully before we make a move, especially when our relatives or friends (or people who pretended to be our friends to maintain power), may be part of the problem.
So, when many women actually move you can be sure things have gone on far too long! Some men may jump to conclusions about heresy but women study things over a lot of time in order to be sure, not because women are different, but because women were raised differently and have been kept down, to be frank. The exodus of many women from churches in this generation is surely a sign that the end has come because of the studious ‘festering’ kind of thinking process women go through. When they decide to leave, especially in large numbers, you can be sure there will be no turning back because the pros no longer exist and the cons have won. So sorry if it hurts people, Steven. That is the consequence of living off the avails of oppression and bondage! Maybe the churches’ leaders should have done more soul searching before this. Obviously they had no conscience about the way they treated women or this wouldn’t be happening. So frankly, if people get hurt maybe they will learn not to depend on ‘slavery’ for a living. Their collective sin has consequences too!
To take a teaching like Complementarianism and call it ‘Heresy’ requires a great deal of thought. Have you already drawn this conclusion? And Steven, you don’t consider that the consequences of Complementarian practice in a church may not be obvious for decades.
It was only when I realized the gross sin that Complementarianism inevitably created in many men that I realized the error of the teaching…and that only began to dawn on me over a period of 3 years when I started to ask questions. It was much investigation that was required to be sure I was right…not a single event. It took years of Bible study and investigation in order to be sure I wasn’t in the wrong. If you have the ability to make such decisions on a dime…good for you. Perhaps if people studied the Bible more these decisions could be made in a day…but it is a large book with much teaching. You are asking too much.
Suggested reading “Church Refugees” by Dr. Josh Packard…if you are in leadership today you should read this.
You don’t need to prove a heresy to leave a heretical church, Judy. You leave.