I Am a Woman in Ministry . . . and It’s Not a Big Deal
I am a woman in ministry. My mission, my job, my calling is to live as a servant of Jesus Christ by following the examples set forth for me in Scripture. But I have a confession to make—I’m sick of Deborah.
Her brief story in Scripture has been taken apart, read into, and overanalyzed more than an awkward first date. She’s highlighted at every woman’s ministry conference and dissected on every woman’s ministry blog. I’d rather not think about the amount of coffee I’ve consumed listening to stories of Deborah’s wisdom and courage.
I don’t blame poor Deborah when my skin crawls at the mention of her name. She’s certainly worth emulating. But so are David, Paul, Barnabas, Joshua, and countless others who God breathed into the pages of my Bible. David’s life is just as applicable, relatable, and important to my spiritual growth as Deborah’s, Esther’s, or Ruth’s. And honestly, Deborah is just as worthy of imitation for a guy as the apostle Paul. The whole Bible is our roadmap to knowing God. But if I compiled a book based on the Scripture passages covered at most women’s ministry conferences, I’m afraid it wouldn’t take me past the first few turns on that journey.
I’m not sure how it happened, but women in ministry have become detached from the rest of the ministry world. We have separate books, separate devotionals, separate conferences, separate blogs, and separate examples of leadership from the Bible. Yet all these things are trying to point us to the same result: leading as servants of Jesus Christ. So if we’re going to the same destination, why is it so important for male and female leaders to take different paths to get there?
It’s not surprising that we return again and again to the few female leaders mentioned in the Bible. We expect them to give us deeper insight into what it means to be women in ministry. We beg Esther to show us how to handle a church staff meeting. We plead with Ruth to reveal the best way to handle conflict among volunteers. And when they come up short (because they never dealt with those situations), we overreach or we project. We’re left to daydream about the perfect women’s conference, class, seminary—something, anything to explain the ins and outs of women’s ministry! It’s unfair that the men have all the best training, opportunities, resources, and role models . . . isn’t it?
What if our success as female ministry leaders depends on us, not the guys? Being a woman in ministry is an opportunity to stretch and strengthen our faith muscles, to jump into the crucible so God can shape us into something unique and strong. Regardless of your take on a woman’s role in the church (this article is not about that), here are three ways we can use our unique position to grow our faith and leadership abilities.
1. Use your hardships to make you stronger.
I wonder if we sometimes blame our womanhood for obstacles or hardships that are simply part of following Christ in a broken world. Now hear me out—I absolutely believe there are inexcusable inequalities in this world that must be addressed. But while we’re battling those injustices, we must also focus on our internal shortcomings—the ones based on our insecurities, our lack of focus, our humanness. We must first see if our obstacles stem from ourselves (in my case, it’s often). And when we are treated unfairly because we are women, how should we respond as servants of the King? Should we clothe our identities in victimization, defining ourselves in relation to oppressive “enemies”? Should we retreat from the battlefront into our comfortable woman-brand conferences, resources, and role models? Or should we pour out grace in the midst of our trials? The latter, when I choose it, has grown my faith more than most other things.
2. It’s better to live worthy of the King than to demand worthy treatment.
There will always be something to overcome, some unfair assumption that muzzles your ability to lead. You are too young. You are too old. Your life has been too hard. Your life has been too easy. You are technologically illiterate. You are overly concerned with relevance. You are too much of a rule breaker. You are too much of a rule follower. The question is, what will you do to overcome those assumptions?
I get it, being a woman in youth ministry comes with a load of frustrations. We sit in meetings that spiral around sports for half an hour before we get to the actual agenda. Our guy coworkers notice a drastic hair cut two weeks after a restaurant hostess compliments it. While the rest of the team works on important content decisions, we’re given authority over youth room decor. But when these issues arise, we have a choice to make: either we can add it to a pile of misplaced expectations, disappointments, and victimizations; or we can work hard to engage our teams, reach out to them the way we wish they would reach out to us, and invest in their conversations even when we could care less about the Bears versus the Packers (sorry guys)—not because they’ll change their attitudes toward you, but because they’re on your team, siblings in Christ’s family.
3. Give the extra hours and the extra miles as a sacrifice to God.
Every time I walk into a church that has hired LeaderTreks for training or a mission trip, I know that, minute one, I have to work harder than my guy counterparts. I have to know my stuff inside and out because forgiveness won’t come as easily if I make a mistake. I have to overcome the fact that I look barely old enough to sit in the emergency exit row (yes, flight attendants have questioned). I have to fight for respect that should come naturally and show unwavering confidence that I may not feel.
But you know what? I’m better for it.
Humble pie may be bitter, but it’s especially nutritious. Those hours we spend learning the logistics and practicing our talks are sacrifices to our King. And quite frankly, God’s kingdom is worth the extra effort, regardless of what’s expected from my male coworkers. Concentrating too much on the unfairness distracts from your ability to give this offering to God.
Again, please hear me when I say that there’s no excuse for injustice or unfairness. But wouldn’t it be awful to waste these frustrating experiences instead of pouring them out as worship to God? Wouldn’t it be terrible if we missed the chance to draw near to the King as we offer our self-righteous responses as a sacrifice on his altar? I’ve missed a lot of these opportunities, and I don’t want to miss anymore.
CC Image courtesy Sydney Missionary Bible College on Flickr.
About the Author
Angie Franklin is the publisher at LeaderTreks and has worked in youth ministry since 2000. She loves serving youth workers who are in the trenches by providing them with practical resources. She is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and now lives in West Chicago, Illinois with her husband, Doug, and their dog, Diesel (who they… Read More