I love women. I especially have a thing for strong, inspiring, encouraging women. The list of amazing women who have shaped and formed me is a lengthy one and includes my mom, my three stepmothers (my Dad loves women too), a handful of mentors, two Jesus-followers and my fierce tribe of girlfriends. I have wondered who I would be and what my life would look if I had not journeyed alongside these women. Is my experience the exception or the rule? If it’s an exception, how do we change that?
As I was wrestling with these thoughts, I attended a New Leaf Learning Party – a space for church planters to get together for genuine conversation and connection. I was struck by how few women were in the room. I could count-them-on-one-hand few. Thankfully, I knew how to fix it. I would get ordained and plant a church. Or plant a church then get ordained. Whichever. I texted a friend that night and asked, “Should I be a pastor?”
His response irked me. So naturally I blogged about it. “When a Woman Asks, ‘Should I Be a Pastor?‘” got a bit of traction on social media with the usual mix of constructive and not so constructive comments. Amid all the back and forth, one comment made me pause, “You guys had male role models at church who connected with you more often and closely because you were male. That led to more opportunities for you. As a teen/young adult, my only reference points for females in ministry were women who worked in children’s ministry. I didn’t have a single person suggest I pursue ministry – not even once.”
What if there had been a female pastor, leader, role model or mentor at this young woman’s church? What if one person had encouraged her to pursue ministry? What if a tribe of women had journeyed alongside her – a tribe like I had? Better yet, what if women and men worked alongside each other in shared leadership? How would that impact the Kingdom of God?
Shared leadership. At times the task seems daunting and the obstacles insurmountable. Where do we even start? I started with God. Then I started a conversation with a male mentor at our church about spending time with our youth. Then we started a conversation with them. These conversations continue. Relationships are developing. We modelled shared leadership. It’s a start.
I don’t need to become a pastor or a leader to increase the number of women in the room. I can show up right now, as I am, and that number increases. I won’t always have the time or energy to start a new ministry, but I can pay attention to what is happening around me. I can step into conversations and seize opportunities as they present themselves. I can recognize the value and impact of the women around me and encourage them.
When Sarah Bessey tweeted out #thingsonlychristianwomenhear, the post trended for days with thousands of women sharing their experiences. It made me think about the thousands of voices we didn’t hear from. The voices that have been silenced. The stories that will never be told. The hurts that won’t heal. The ones that just walked away. Together we can write a different story. A story of solidarity between women and men working together to advance the mission of God. Oh, what a tale we could tell.
If you are also interested in increasing the number of women in the room, both women and men are invited to join us to continue this conversation at In the Company of Women: Reclaiming & Envisioning Shared Leadership in the Kingdom, May 19, 2017, Toronto, ON, Canada. Stories from Sarah Bessey, Linda Ambrose, Jared Siebert and many more!