“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
It is not always easy to find our purpose and place in ministry. Even in our modern times, there can be an imbalance of the sexes when it comes to leadership opportunities extended and available to men and women in ministry. Whether attempting to join the staff of a local church in a specific position, becoming a pastor of a pre-established church, or starting a new ministry, challenges may arise. Building a ministry is difficult for anyone, but even more so for women attempting to enter into an arena that has traditionally been led by men.
Fortunately, with a little creativity and God’s guidance, there is a path forward for anyone who is strong and determined enough to follow it. Here are some of the steps to follow to fulfill your purpose in ministry.
Be a Minister First
One of the great worries as a woman going into ministry is that you will be pigeonholed as a token woman in the role. In other words, you won’t be taken seriously. It’s quite common for women to be shepherded into “women-only” ministries that cover “women-only” issues. While those concerns are important, and women ministers are perhaps best able to discuss them, that shouldn’t be the limit of what you have to say about God.
There can be pressure to tailor your ministry directly to women, to the exclusion of the entire community. That may be your goal, which is perfectly fine, but if you wish to reach everyone, be sure to avoid the trap of speaking only to the concerns related to your sex. Bringing God into everyday experiences can be a way to invigorate faith, but try to avoid speaking only about stereotypically female topics. Broadening your approach to include the concerns of everyone in the community will not only open the doors to a larger congregation, it will also demonstrate your ability to relate on a level beyond your gender.
Once a community begins to respect your voice as a minister, you will quickly be seen not just as a woman, but as a dedicated, faithful messenger of the Gospel.
Prove You Have the Mind and the Faith for Ministry
You may need to demonstrate your skill beyond your tokenism in the first place. For a man entering the holiest trade, basic credentials can suffice to prove his competence, but you may have to display more prominently your knowledge of God and scripture. Getting published and, as will be discussed in a moment, finding respected ministers to sponsor you, will go a long way to assuage any fears that you don’t belong.
Find the Support to Hold Your Ministry Up
In order to forestall some of the uncertainty you will inevitably face, be prepared to offer up the endorsement of some ministers already well established in your church community. By getting yourself introduced by an already trusted voice, you will start out well ahead of the game in earning the respect of everyone in the pews.
When a well-known pastor stands by you, it signals to everyone that your ministry is not as different as they might fear at first. It creates a sense of continuity that will help ease transition.
Turn the Other Cheek But be Bold in Your Convictions
No matter how hard you work to portray yourself as a respectable member of the ministry, there is always going to be criticism. The best way to deal with negative comments is not to fight but to show Christian compassion even when it is hard to find it in others. Try to understand the difficulty some people have in accepting a woman in charge of their spiritual lives, and return mistrust and dislike with kindness. By allowing those who struggle with your ministry to graciously return to the fold when they are ready, and to do so without stigma, you leave the doors open for reconciliation after a short period. You also de-escalate any disagreements and allow yourself to represent the more mature, godly side of the argument. Fighting back too hard can end up creating a fracture in the congregation.
Take Inspiration from those who Came Before
When the struggle becomes too much, look to those who came before to find the strength to keep going. The history of Christianity is full of women who have testified to God’s holy truth. From Christ’s mother, to the numerous women who followed and helped Him in His life, to the women who helped found churches and worked with Paul, to the early female martyrs, Christianity’s founding is full of powerful women who stood up and spread the Word of God, no matter the objections. Indeed, it is hard to imagine Christianity growing as far as it did as quickly as it did if not for these women.
Use their stories to strengthen your faith and resolve in the face of opposition. Whatever you face ahead, there have been women who faced greater odds, and through the power of Christ, overcame them.
Do any of these women come to mind? Women who struggled, but then succeeded in ministry? If so, consider nominating them for our Lift campaign. Head over to http://thechurchonline.com/lift for more details!