Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Woman's Place

The day I was ordained as an elder in the Nazarene Church,
with the women of my family: mother-in-law, daughter, and
My friend is teaching a youth ministry course at a local Christian college.  He asked me if I would be interested in coming to guest lecture in a class this semester.  (First of all, holy cow.  I have never done anything like this before.  The idea of addressing college students in a classroom setting makes me feel very small and under-qualified for the task.  Just saying.)

The topic he suggested was "Women in Ministry."  You know, since I am one and all.

That got me thinking and reflecting on my experience as a woman in full-time pastoral ministry.  I belong to a denomination that fully supports, and has always supported, the calling of men and women into all areas of ministry, including the highest offices of the local church, district, and general church.  Still, growing up in this denomination, I never had a female pastor or associate pastor.  I have rarely heard women preach in the pulpit, except at a women's retreat or just addressing the other women at an event.  When I have attended large events, such as the National Youth Workers' Convention, Nazarene Youth Conference, Passion, etc., there are very few women featured as keynote speakers on the main stage (sometimes none at all).  While it is becoming increasingly common for women to serve in associate positions, often in the areas of children's/youth ministry or music, it still seems unusual, at least in my somewhat limited experience and context*, for a woman to preach every Sunday, to serve as the spiritual authority and leader of her church, and to lead in a pastoral role.

We have probably all seen "women in charge."  I'm talking about the woman who dares you to bring up her gender so that she can smack you down with how she is equal to, or even superior to, any man.  I'm talking about the female Bible professor I had in college, who seemed to be especially hard on the guys in class and had a chip on her shoulder the size of Texas directly related to her gender.  I'm talking about the woman who uses her gender as a battering ram to open doors and ensure that she gets treated fairly.  I have never wanted to be one of those women.

I have worked hard in my ministry to NOT allow my gender to dictate how I lead and serve.  I have tried to ignore those who said I would always be an inferior leader simply because I am not a man (sadly, many of those who said that were women themselves).  I never wanted to be on a crusade or start a revolution.  I just want to follow God's calling on my life, wherever that may lead me.

But many times over the years, I have been forced to admit and address the fact that I am a woman, and as such, I am different than a man.  I believe my leadership capability and style has much more to do with how God has made me, but part of that is my womanhood.  I can't escape it, nor do I want to.  I like being a wife and mother.  I enjoy taking care of my family, which means cleaning, cooking, and doing laundry for them.  I want my husband to protect me and take care of me.  (And take out the garbage, because everyone knows that's a man's job.  Ha ha, funny joke.)

As a church planter, I have often wondered how this experience might be different if I were male.  My husband works very closely with me and is my partner in every sense, and I don't know what I would do without him.  Would it be the same if I were a man?  Will people want to join us in this ministry?  Would they be more likely to join us if a man were at the head?  Thinking along these lines seems like a very destructive and dangerous path to me.  God is the one who calls and equips.  But still, sometimes I think about it.

Now, as I am preparing to address this class of undergraduates in a couple of months, I am beginning to put together my thoughts, experiences, and theology regarding being a woman in ministry.  I would love to hear your insights--whether you are a woman in ministry with experiences to share, someone who has experience (positive or negative) with a woman in a ministry leadership position, or just someone who has thoughts about the topic.  I need your help...what would you say to these students?

*I know that in other geographic areas and other denominations, this is far more common.  There are a couple of notable exceptions in my own experience: for example, Dr. Nina Gunter, who was elected general superintendent in the Church of the Nazarene (the highest office in the denomination), and my good friend Pastor Grace Govenettio, who I have heard preach the Word of God plenty of times!  I am blessed to have such women, and others not mentioned here, to follow and walk with.


Dennis King said...

I would love to have you and Dan over for an evening to discuss this subject with us. Let me just say that I would have no problem following your leadership, Amanda. You are obviously a woman who walks with God.

Amanda Cash said...

Thanks Dennis! We would love to take you up on that offer. Just name the day. :)

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