I’m not really a glass-half-full kind of person.
But I’m also not a glass-half-empty person.
You see, I’m not so much an optimist or a pessimist, I’m typically just a realist and a vision-caster.
I like to say, “Look, there’s the water line. Now, where do we want to go from here? Fill it up? Absolutely! We can make it happen. Let’s make a plan. Drink it down? Awesome, there’s value in there that we can soak in – let’s go for it.”
So when in conversation of late with church leaders regarding women in senior leadership, I am getting weary of overstating the facts about how full or lamenting about how empty the glass seems these days.
Most of all, I want us to be honest with women coming up in the ranks, young leaders and students of the Word who have callings on their lives. Let’s not say to those looking for positions, “You have the same senior leadership opportunities guys do”… because they don’t. One day, with some planning and some action and some heart changes and education along the way, I pray we get there. Don’t get me wrong. I know this will change, that this will get better. I dream of those days for my daughters. But we’re not there.
So let’s just say how much water is in the glass and be realists while we cast vision about a better tomorrow.
Ladies, if you want to be a senior pastor, in the majority of instances, you have two options right now: Plant a church, or revitalize a church. It would be really great if healthy, growing, self-sustaining churches were all willing to interview female candidates, but we’re not there yet. You may find some who are – that’s awesome! But the current waterline just isn’t super high in that category.
1. Plant a church.
The Assemblies of God, my tribe, is supportive at the highest levels for women in church planting. You may face some difficulty at the ground level, but so does every single planter out there. The Church Multiplication Network is a wonderful organization. I hear that others, like ARC, are starting to get on board with funding female planters. When you plant a church, you get to create the culture, and people aren’t going to start questioning whether or not you have the credentials (read: male anatomy) some may require to be a lead pastor. Just like every single other planter out there, you’ll need to figure out creative funding models and how your family is supported. Don’t rule out planting because of finances. Ask God what He wants, and then get to it. Our movement’s history is FULL of women who planted some of the greatest churches still thriving today. Stand in their footsteps and pioneer.
2. Revitalize a church.
Not everyone is a church planter. If you have a strong heart for the pastoral care of a community, you should really consider taking on a church revitalization. In many districts the executive leadership can use their power of appointment to help place female leaders into churches that are district-affiliated. Get to know your District Superintendent, Assistant District Superintendent, District Secretary-Treasurer, Presbyter, and others who help in this process, and share your heart for ministry. Be willing to move, and find creative funding models for your personal expenses in case the church is unable to support a full-time pastor. Be willing like thousands of pastors in our movement to be Bi-Vocational (Korista’s written some awesome stuff on that life!). The Church Transformation Initiative is a great place to start for being resourced. One of my favorite moments so far as a senior pastor was the day a person put on our connect card how they heard about us. He had written, “childhood church.” That day he returned to his childhood church AND the faith in Jesus he had first learned as a boy. I’m so honored to be part of God creating new life and a new church family in a building that has stood as a church for 75 years, but was so close to dying.
If you instantly want to throw away both of these options, your journey to senior leadership is very possibly going to be a lot harder and a lot longer than you desire. I wish that were not the case, but I want you to look at what IS possible, instead of just what isn’t. Both of these are IMPORTANT avenues of leadership for the Kingdom.
If you have any questions about connecting into any of these opportunities for ministry, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I don’t have all the answers, but I can get you connected into some great directions.
[image courtesy Kalyan Chakravarthy, used under creative commons license]