Girls Can Teach, and Other Lessons I’ve Learned as a Female in Ministry

I am a female in ministry, and despite my calling, have faced obstacles, discrimination and a struggle with self worth in my profession. 

Girls Can Teach, and Other Lessons I've Learned as a Female in Ministry | Houston Moms Blog

There was something magical about the man in long black robe. When he told people to stand or sit or bow, they always listened. When he spoke, everyone was quiet. Even when he was not on the high steps with everyone watching, his presence was special. He could walk into a normal room and the crowd would smile and greet him. Everyone liked being around him. He had a place in the community that was completely unique and he had a cool name. When it was written, it was preceded with a special title, Rev. There was never a time in my 6 year-old mind that I dreamed of having his job. Maybe my friend John or even Ryan could, but a girl? The women in my midst were Sunday School teachers and Choir Directors. They helped in the kitchen and ran the bake sales. I don’t ever recall a woman giving a sermon from the tall wooden podium. Announcements about VBS, sure, but they never held court like he did. 

Can You See Light in the Dark?

I was 14 when a woman was appointed to be the lead pastor of our church. In 1989, this was a big deal. While I was a member of a denomination that had long empowered women in the global church {the first female bishop was named in 1980}, we were a southern, conservative, evangelical-leaning, protestant church in Texas. At the time this appointment was made, a group of families that I adored left the church because they could not sit under the “leadership” of a woman in ministry. I was confused. As a teenager in the midst of theological infancy, I struggled to define my own understanding of gender inclusivity in the church. Add to that my choice to attend a Baptist college and my questions only grew. 

At 18, I experienced what the church terms a “call” to ministry. This is one of the few moments in my life that I really struggle to frame with words. I hate to sound Jesus-hokey and this just does. What you need to know is that if I could make this a simple story, it probably would lack the profound meaning that I would need to hold onto the inherent truth that would give my life direction. It was in my teenage years that I clearly understood that I had a unique dream and unshakable desire to shape the future and the culture of the church by serving people in this context. In my 20’s that played out in my roll in student ministry. For more than a decade I poured my heart and soul into teenagers. I just think they are the best. 

Can I just have a Moment?

Girls Can Teach, and Other Lessons I've Learned as a Female in Ministry | Houston Moms Blog

At 30, I made the choice to leave the denomination of my childhood and full-time vocational ministry. It was in this season that I joined a non-denominational movement of church planting {starting new churches}. Not long into that journey, I was sitting in a room filled with men who were gathered to strategize new church starts and I was asked, “Are you here on behalf of your husband?” I quickly {and perhaps with an ounce of snark} responded, “No, my husband is a chemical engineer. I’m the pastor of the family.” 

“I’m not ok with a skirt in the pulpit.”

“You are much better looking than our other teachers.”

{While Pregnant} “Your hormones must have gotten the best of you during that prayer today.”

“It sure is nice of the church to let a woman talk {notice not teach} on Mother’s Day.”

“I didn’t even know that a woman could preach like that.”

I wish I could tell you that these are the end of the ridiculous things that have been said to me through the years. Nope. I could keep going. While I understand that some biblical interpretations of gender roles do not support women in ministry, the things that people say to women who are serving as leaders in the church are not just creepy, they are divisive and are directly in contradiction to the wonderful beauty found in all of creation. I cannot speak for all other professions, but I can tell you that for many women in ministry, we are often – even in churches that want to lift us high – struggling with our worth in light of comments such as these. I would propose that my uterus nor even my estrogen level have any bearing on my qualification for ministry. Rather, I believe that the way that the Creator empowered me to feel and give birth and lead and view the world only gives the church a more complete picture. We need every voice and every image to see all of God.

Can I Speak to My Momma Sisters?

Somewhere there is a girl in your life that is trying to make sense of her world. Perhaps she will do that in the exploration of science or in the structure of engineering. But maybe she is looking for answers in the realm of the divine. If you believe that her questions are valuable and her heart and brain have a place in the answers and struggle, I have an important question for you. Who is modeling spiritual leadership for her? Of course, she needs it from her preschool teacher and her grandmother. But is she seeing it from the “long black robes” in her life? Does she have the examples of powerful prophetic women speaking and challenging her? Does she hear voices that sound like hers and struggle with her same issues – speaking and teaching and praying and leading – from the biggest stages? Friends, I am not just talking about the keynote address of the women’s conference. If we want to empower our daughters and neighbors and nieces to live into the fullness that God has created them to be, we need to show them women who are leading in ministry. There are wonderful churches all over our city that have strong, committed women in leadership. If you are attending a church that does not have women serving in every capacity, perhaps it is time to ask some hard questions. Because if the church doesn’t have space for our girls to live into their calling, they may miss out on the very thing that they were created to be. 


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One Response to Girls Can Teach, and Other Lessons I’ve Learned as a Female in Ministry

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    Arlis July 14, 2019 at 3:58 pm #

    Thank you, Lacy.

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