Women in Ministry

by | Mar 9, 2022 | 2 comments

As is the case in many fields, ministry has long been male dominated. In fact, women in ministry is still relatively modern, and even today, some denominations do not allow women to be ordained or hold leadership positions in the church. When I was called to ministry nearly 30 years ago, this of course crossed my mind. Thankfully, there have been truly remarkable women in the history of the United Methodist Church that helped pave the way for me and my female colleagues, and helped shape the church into what she is today.

After I graduated seminary, I spent 12 years pastoring a series of churches in the Western United States. This was capped off by a small, vibrant church in Rawlins, Wyoming. When I arrived in 1999, I was the first female pastor appointed to this town, population 10,000, including the prison population. The first Sunday I stepped into the pulpit, a hot and dry August day, the pews were filled. This continued for quite a few Sundays thereafter as people came to check out the new “lady” preacher.

Although the United Methodist Church has historically been more accepting towards women in ministry and leadership roles, I was still met with plenty of wariness and resistance. Naturally, I am a direct, decisive, and fast-paced person. During the early days of my ministry in Rawlins, my candor was not what most of the congregation was used to. Some members approved of me, while others did not. At times, I was deemed bossy and dominant, while my male counterparts (who often had the same characteristics) were considered confident. Why? Why was I  stamped with these unfavorable labels while my male colleagues were praised for them?

Through trusting in God, God’s calling on my life, and trusting in myself, I didn’t recoil or lose confidence. Instead, I embraced my leadership qualities and came to see that the church needs both male and female voices, men and women who are competent, collaborative, and compassionate leaders with bold visions.

The United Methodist Church has come a long way in its affirmation of female leaders and women serving in ministry. There is, however, still more work to be done. I offer three suggestions for how we can acknowledge the strong and powerful women around us as a church and as a society.

1. Remember influential women from your past

Undoubtedly, you’ve had a mother, sister, aunt, or grandmother, who helped mold you into who you are today. Appreciate their love, support, and guidance, even when it went unnoticed. Offer thanks for their influence in your life with a thank you card, gift, or other gesture that shares your appreciation for their investment in your life.

 

2. Mentor the next generation of women

Just as you have been mentored by strong and confident women, mentor those young women around you to embrace their skills and grow in their confidence. Encourage them to speak up because they have something to contribute, live out of their gifts and graces, answer God’s call on their lives, and encourage them to follow God wherever God leads.

 

3. Celebrate successes

When you see women succeed, celebrate them! If negative voices try to diminish a woman’s success, stand proudly with her, acknowledging her success and encouraging others to do so as well.  Help her not to overlook the miracle that happens when God and a female leader partner in the work of the Kingdom Realize hard work and give accolades where deserved.

If you are reading this, chances are you are a leader, whether in your congregation, community, or family. Thank you for your courageous leadership, as you have helped those around you navigate these trying days of the pandemic. 

For these last few years, we’ve asked the difficult questions, such as how are we going to survive as a church, live to serve another day? How can we positively impact our communities when we aren’t sure we can keep the lights on?

If the pandemic has left you asking how you can powerfully move forward, I invite you to join me for my upcoming workshop, How to Do More with Less. In this 3-session workshop, we’ll discover ways you can be the church, change the world around you, and build God’s kingdom by maximizing the limited resources available. God is in the miracle-making business!

Excerpted and adapted from Rebekah Simon-Peter’s upcoming book, Forging a New Path: Moving the Church Forward in a Post-Pandemic World (Market Square Publishers, 2022).

 

Copyright © 2022 rebekahsimonpeter.com, All Rights Reserved.

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2 Comments

  1. Bill Selby

    Nicely written, Rebekah.
    It simulated some thoughts about my experiences of women clergy.
    First, confession. I guess I am prejudice. I preferred having women clergy on my staff. They all were self starter and great for a healthy staff or team and my job was to make sure they were supported, had the tools they needed to succeed, that I didn’t get triangulated by others and thereby undermine their leadership, and encourage them to get separate time from the church.

    Some other perceptions on which I was reflecting… Single clergy women can be the most isolated of all of our clergy. I really hear their stories of loneliness more that their male colleagues. Like all single pastors, they don’t have someone with whom to process daily and have the biggest challenge in knowing where the church ends and their private space begins. That is not a judgement, that is a concern. After all, they are also probably the most “caring” pastors in our churches which can be seductively self sabotaging. Unfortunately, caring is an unlimited concept.

    Women Clergy seemed to be expected to be the quarterback of the church team, even more than their male colleagues, on which all things can be blamed. Along with that I find women clergy to be far more capable than their male colleagues in multitasking. After all, I NEVER considered MAKING something for a potluck, I just went there to EAT.

    I find that women clergy, because of their multi tasking abilities, can also be most vulnerable to being over functioners, may be most susceptible of burning out, yet are the least able to, or capable of, or perhaps reluctant to taking real time off.

    I also witness women clergy being victimized by the historical patriarchal system of the church and can get sabotaged, most of the time via angry comments or conversations, by men who have no sensitivity to this emotional system (many times threatened by just how capable they are) as well as women who seem to be still emotionally striving to get on or save their place on the ladder of acceptance set up in the patriarchal system. Women sabotaging women.

    Yet, percentage wise, there are more women who attend the Center than men. They seem to be more open to personal/professional growth. They are motivated to learn and are most aware of the all the struggles that I have mentioned. Centers that have women clergy I believe are healthier because they greatly influence in changing the conversation from content to emotional process and go deeper faster and more consistently.

    ie. Their influence is invaluable in our entire system.

    Guess this is first an affirmation of YOU, your work, and your influence and, along with that, all of the women clergy with whom I have had the great fortunate of knowing and from whom my life has been blessed.

    Thanks for stimulating my thoughts….peace.

    Reply
  2. Rebekah Simon-Peter

    Thanks for your insights, Bill, about women in ministry. Appreciate your work with the Centers for Pastoral Effectiveness too. The experience was a big part of my growth. Creating a Culture of Renewal has been blessed by your wisdom.

    Reply

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