Difficulties and Wisdom for Female (and Male) Pastors

Some of my female pastor friends have commented on the difficulties that have come in their ministry. Addressing difficulties as well as wisdom for female pastors through the lens of emotional intelligence is my aim here.

The Apostle Paul acknowledged women in leadership roles, such as Priscilla and Lydia, while simultaneously providing exhortations which have led to some controversy regarding the role of women in church leadership. 

Data indicate greater numbers of women entering the clergy, thus reducing the isolation that many women encountered in the past. Nevertheless, subtle disparities and difficulties still exist as some statistics show women clergy disproportionately placed in smaller and lower paying congregations. 

If I had to summarize feedback I’ve received from female readers in terms of special difficulties they face, I would call it “lack of acknowledgement of the female pastor’s role”.

For example, one of our female readers reported that parishioners sometimes resist addressing her as “Pastor” and more likely to simply call her by her first name. Some believe that parishioners are freer with their criticisms that they would be with a male pastors. Sadly, other readers and female clergy I know personally have even reported sexual harassment from within the institutions where they serve or train.

So, to my female readers: I see that your way can be difficult.

Though times have changed, people often still look for male leadership in the church. While many denominations today license or ordain female clergy, even within those denominations women clergy receive mixed messages of respect, criticism, and support for the validity a female’s role in clergy.   

Receiving questioning or criticisms of one’s role, calling, and identify, especially when coming from within one’s support groups (family, colleagues, parishioners, teachers) can lead to discouragement, self-doubt, pain, and resentment

I hope the items below will provide encouragement to women in clergy and that all my readers, male or female, will benefit from considering the thoughts below.

Wisdom for female pastors – and all pastors

I read a number of emails from my readers (both male and female) on the topic of female clergy. Men and women seemed to agree that female clergy bring some particular strengths and benefits to the pastoral role.

The overwhelming message, though, as I said earlier, was that pastoral ministry for female clergy does offer some unique challenges. So I offer the following as, hopefully, some words of wisdom.

1. Work towards developing a secure identity in Christ. When we carry wounds in our self-worth we find it much more difficult to cope with whatever negativity comes. Obtaining healing through God and/or counseling helps to withstand negative messages and maintain objectivity.

2. Develop assurance of your call in God. Hurtful messages discourage anyone. Still, we must look to God as the One who called us into whatever work we do and do it heartily as unto the Lord.

3. Don’t hold back. Don’t hold back from what God leads you to do. Time is short and the world needs all of us, in all callings and gifts.

4. Develop a strong support system. You know those people who you can trust to pick you up, tell you the truth, and really believe in you. You may need time to find them, but they can provide you with strength.

5. Maintain a spirit of collegiality with others in spite of some who may not reciprocate.

6. Celebrate the unique opportunities and leadership potential that you as a woman bring to your congregation and the body of Christ.

I do believe those six guidelines above serve any pastor or minister well. However, for my dear sisters in Christ, I offer them especially to you.

As always, I would love to hear from you and receive your feedback or your stories.

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