Some of the first mail I received as lead pastor was from two supporting congregations informing me they’d no longer be supporting our ministry. As a campus ministry church we rely on outside support, so it was devastating news. The thought that something inherent to who I am had cost my congregation financially drills into my heart still.
I didn’t share this story with many people because I didn’t want to make it about me. But the memory (and the additional, ongoing financial burden it places on us) remains with me.
A few Sundays later I began to notice that one of my closest friends in the congregation wasn’t around as much. When I reached out to her, she didn’t return my calls. I knew her opinions on women in ministry and I had wondered how she’d respond to my new leadership role, but I thought surely we’d figure it out or at least have a conversation about it. It wasn’t until I bumped into her at the store that I saw there was a problem. Her obvious discomfort with me made me pretty sure there was something else going on, which was confirmed when she unfriended me on Facebook.
I don’t like to say “Being a female leader has cost me” because I don’t want to sound like a victim. I don’t want to make it about me, I don’t want pity. I can even see how this has stretched my faith. The reason I decided to talk about this is a practical one. Being a female leader has its costs. @uccmandy Click To Tweet
Today as I look over what’s missing in the budget, as I look at who’s missing in the congregation I see real, ongoing ways that this divide costs me and my church. The pool of churches and friends I can reach out to for practical support and partnership is smaller because of who I am.
All pastors have to count the cost of pastoring. Furthermore, stepping into leadership costs women in real ways—because they’re women. And it may also cost the congregations they lead—in finances and attendance. If we measure ministry success in budgets and bodies, this may make us less likely to call women.
I don’t hold this against the churches and individuals who stepped back when I stepped up. I choose to believe it’s not personal but that these folks are living out their beliefs. If they are making hard choices out of their desire to be obedient to Scripture, I could never fault them. So I don’t write to complain about them. I write for one reason: to encourage those who are supportive of women in leadership to be truly supportive of women in leadership.
In the Biblical story of Esther, Mordecai gave emotional and spiritual support when he called a woman to step into her calling. I’ve had several Mordecais, and without them I would not have had the courage to follow God into this work. If we truly want women to fulfill their calling and long for the church to be blessed by the unique kind of leadership women bring, what are willing to do? In addition to that emotional and spiritual help, how can we give practical support for the very measurable ways this work costs women and the churches they serve?
If you believe women should be called to leadership in the church, by all means read about it, and take part in conversations. But don’t let your support only be in theory. Don’t let this be only an opinion you hold, a cause you talk about on social media. Find practical ways to support the churches who take the risk to call women into mission. Find a congregation led by a woman (or which develops women in leadership) in your denomination or city and ask how you can support them. Don't just theoretically support women in leadership. @uccmandy Click To Tweet
Reach out to a woman who is leading and let her know she’s not alone.
These are the sort of conversations we are looking to advance through the SheLeads Summit. We hope you’ll consider joining us in Pasadena or at 11 other regional venues across the country on Saturday, October, 28. Click the banner for more info.