As a female leader, I have often felt alone. Going to district meetings, voting meetings, and other male-dominated meetings I have often stuck out like a sore thumb. I continue to go, because it is important for both women and men to see licensed female ministers attend these meetings. While I know there are other women who lead, I often do not see them on a regular basis or even at district leadership meetings. It is encouraging when I do see women at these meetings, because it helps me know I am not alone in leadership. I look forward to the day when I will see several women in leadership positions within the district. I am believing. I am holding onto the vision. I am keeping the faith. I am waiting for the promise.
I think one of the most discouraging things a woman can face in leadership is the feeling of isolation. This feeling often creeps up, sometimes without notice. God calls a woman to be a leader, and then she feels like she cannot fulfill this calling because she is not supported. Sometimes it comes through the language use, or the lack of gender inclusive language we use. I have heard things like “would the minister and his wife come up to the front please?” Before I was married, and when my husband was not licensed, this question did not apply and include me. We need to use gender inclusive language. Our handbooks, letters, and bylaws need to be gender inclusive. I hope to help with this in the future. Not many like sitting and rewriting bylaws to be gender inclusive, but I would love to help write these bylaws. I would love to help women find their place by helping our whole movement create space for women in leadership. We need women to lead, because without both genders in leadership, we are not whole.
Often, women do not feel encouraged, because they are not recognized in their denomination or movement. There are many times women feel isolated and alone, because the work they are doing in ministry is not recognized. This is not solely a gender issue. There are a lot of gifts God has given to the whole church which are not recognized. In my movement and cultural experience, the office of the pastorate has been elevated to the epitome of ministry. I look forward to the day when all the gifts: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are valued and respected in our culture. I look forward to the day a female missionary is titled for who she really is, a pastor in another country. For years, women have served in the mission field. Why can women serve in the role of a pastor and church planter outside of the U.S., but not inside of the U.S.? Women are serving in roles of leadership, but they are often neglected and underrepresented for their work and calling. We need women to know they are not alone. We need to hear these words: “We support you. We are with you.” We need to hear this in our language, in our physical representation, and in our commitment. Many can say they support women in ministry and leadership, but I want to know if this is really true. Show me female board members. Show me female presbyters. Show me female youth presidents. Show me female pastors. Show me women in leadership, and I will believe you support women in their God-given callings.
Women provide a different type of leadership from men. Women do not have to be the same types of leaders as men. Sometimes the expectation that a woman has to take on masculine traits to be a leader crushes callings and creates uncertainty. We need to affirm women in their identity. A woman can be quiet leader, or she can be a bold and loud leader. Women have an incredible piece to offer in Christianity. The experiences of womanhood can offer the church a fuller picture of the image of God. God’s image includes all of humanity, both women and men.
As you read this article today, I want you to know woman of God, you are not alone. God is with you and I believe in your dream and calling. I want you to know there are many women out there who feel a call to leadership and ministry. I have spoken with many of them. I have heard stories, and shared tears. I receive emails from women all around the country who are seeking out the call of God on their life. You do not have to be isolated or alone. There are women who believe in you. There are men who believe in you. Please do not give up. Please do not let others tell you it is too hard to fulfill your calling. Do not let people hinder or crush your dream. Stand strong and courageous. Be the woman of God you are called to be. Keep studying. Keep praying. Keep reading the Word of God. Keep growing and practicing your gifts and calling. Keep the faith, and know you are not alone.