Being a woman in ministry can be difficult, especially if you are in a denomination that still doesn’t fully support women in ministry. That’s my story—I’ve been a Southern Baptist my whole (short) life, and I can’t imagine not being SBC, except for the fact that many churches won’t hire me. And if they do…well, there’s a whole separate list of complaints.
I have intentionally talked with women all over the internet on Twitter, the youthmin.org Facebook page for women, and in my old university network. Here is a list of things women want. They are things that men need to hear, and women need to be encouraged by.
I would also like to point out my alternative title: What A Girl Wants, What A Girl Needs (ha!)
- A universally true biblical view of leadership. Biblically, N.T. Wright can explain this better than I can, and without the whole bias of being a woman 😉 (http://ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Women_Service_Church.htm). Culturally, I believe in a model of leadership for youth ministry that has both male and female leaders who complement each other and meet the needs of all the teenagers in the youth group. The primary leadership role doesn’t matter as much—either a man or a woman who has been theologically trained and commissioned by God can do the job. In a society where women leadership is embraced even by our political conventions, why is the church still as step behind on this? (Now, I warn you: If you are anti-women-in-ministry, I’m not looking for a fight. So don’t throw punches in the comment section. K thanks.)
- The same amount of respect as a man. A statement that drives me nuts: “I think it is okay for women to lead, I just prefer a man to.” Grrr. If a woman is in a denomination that does not “ordain” women as ministers, a woman can get a position leading a youth group; however they will be called a “director” or “leader” and not a “pastor” or “minister” like a male would in that same role with the same training and experience. This not only cheapens the title, but cheapens the woman. I did not get a degree in ministry so that I could direct a youth group, but so that I could be the shepherd, or pastor, for that group. And even if my denomination “allows” it, many within the church will treat me so that I act cautiously and consciously. ALSO…don’t refer to me as “the girl,” the “minister with boobs,” or refer to my menstruation when I’m emotional. You might find yourself “man-less” (that womanly sass is coming out here!)
- People to quit believing that women are too emotional to lead a ministry. Many assume that because I’m a woman, I’m going to get so emotional that I can’t handle ministry sometimes. My emotions rarely hinder me, but mostly help me. Women are emotional human beings; these are gifts of empathy, mercy, and exhortation. Don’t both males and females, especially children and teenagers, need this kind of nurture? If I get “over-emotional”, it’s because the Father is tugging on my heart to look at something the way he looks at it. Men and women both have weaknesses that can hinder them in ministry. Men and women both have spiritual, but also natural, giftings that are used towards ministry. I think that’s why it’s so important to have both in leadership and in discipleship with teenagers.
- Churches to quit making a “youth pastor mold” for its leaders to fit into. Youth pastors don’t need to be able to play the guitar, have crazy haircuts and beards, own TOMS and an iPhone, be great at sports, and love coffee. It’s because of these clichés and more that women still don’t “look right” in the role of a youth minister. Plus, most male youth pastors in the mold wear women’s jeans anyway.
- More networking opportunities. Women by nature need community and affirmation. So it makes zero sense that there are very few groups dedicated to helping women in ministry. And I’m not talking some red hat society where women get together and drink tea and talk about knitting (although I enjoy all those things, ha!); nor am I talking some feminist community of women trying to figure out ways to catch men “in the act” of sexism. I’m talking an intentional community of women investing in each other and equipping each other for ministry. A group of women who desire to see churches use their members’ gifts in all areas of the church.
- More women to set the example. There aren’t many women examples—women bloggers, women speakers at youth ministry conferences, women professors, women youth pastors. I went to an SBC university, and there was no woman professor in our entire Theology/Ministry college. Hate to put this fantastic site on blast, but there are currently no women in the 11 contributors. Sure, this is representative of the youth ministry community—there aren’t many women. But women need to stop being afraid of the lack and step up! And—
- More men need to be willing to step aside and let women lead. What I have found is that it is very easy to find female volunteers, but not male volunteers. When it comes to finding a paid leader, it’s easy to find male leaders, but not females. Why is this so? Perhaps it is because males are more aggressive in pursuing those roles. Perhaps it is because women are still trying to decide whether they can be a leader. But how many women do you know, that are vocational and have families, that have time to volunteer in a youth group? And if a woman is called to working with teenagers, why expect her to do it for free just because she’s a woman? There is a “stained glass ceiling,” and both men and women need to change that. I believe that ministries, especially youth ministry, need both males and females leading alongside each other and discipling teenagers. I’m not saying that men need to deny their callings just so a woman can do the job; callings can be in many different forms and at many different levels of leadership. I’m not some feminist who says “anything men can do, I can do better” but a minister who says “anything men do, I want to do with them.” It’s terribly important in our culture to model strong men and women, and both men and women need to honor those traits in each other.