A Young (Female) Pastor and her Journey toward Ordination

by Liz Gentry | May 13, 2015

“Well, do you feel like God’s called you to ministry?” My mentor’s question made me laugh. Of course I feel like God has called me to ministry! For 5 years I’ve pursued ministry, and God’s call on my life has grown stronger. I’ve never questioned my calling—only my desire for ordination. He then said, “Well, then you should be ordained.” Simple yet profound.

My journey toward ministry has been, at the same time, both incredibly beautiful and terribly messy. As a junior in high school, I knew God wanted me to go into vocational ministry and I pursued that calling from then on. I’ll be the first to admit, God has made my path much easier than some. At Milligan College, I never had condescending looks from Bible or ministry faculty; I was never the only female in a preaching class of all men; nor was I denied valuable internship experiences because of my gender. Those being the experiences of some women my age, I praise God for the blessing and privilege of my time at Milligan. I also have two parents, my mother having been in ministry herself, who champion me. I am blessed!

All that being said, I’m sure it will come as no surprise that my path to pastoral ministry has also been messy and bumpy - such is the path of many women who pursue ministry. My bump in road was marked “Ordination.” While at Milligan, I studied and pursued youth ministry. I loved (and still love) students and volunteered every Sunday with our youth group in a small local church plant. Early on in my time with this church, I raised the question of being ordained upon my graduation. At first, I thought it was going to happen—but I was ultimately let down. Because they were a new church, they had not yet formally decided their doctrine of ordination. They wrote their by-laws with me in mind. “[Church name] commissions a person to a specific area of ministry dependent on his or her competency, passion, and calling…In keeping with 1 Timothy 3:1–7 and 1 Timothy 2:12, we only commission men as lead/teaching pastors.” At that time, I assumed God had called me to youth ministry, thus at the time I raised no objection. I came to believe, however, God had not called me to a specific form of ministry – but to ministry. God had called me to be a pastor of his church, in whatever form that may take. Needless to say, their loophole around the issue to suit my situation only made me more frustrated over the next couple years. While ultimately that door of ordination was closed, I will never regret the four years I spent with them and I know God wanted me to be there.

With that door being closed, I decided to ask my home church. Normally, this would be a pastor’s first option, but knowing my mother was on staff there for 11 years and never ordained, I didn’t have high hopes. Regardless, they said they supported me, and they were the ones who raised me to be who I am, so I formally asked the elders in October of 2013. Over the next four months, I had multiple phone calls with the chairman of the elders on what I believed and where they were at in the decision making process. Ultimately, in February of 2014, three months before graduation, they said no. There wasn’t a consensus on whether or not they would ordain a woman to ministry; therefore they would not ordain me. I was broken - angry at the broken system and hurt by the people who watched me grow up. It felt as if they said, “We won’t ordain you because you’re a woman and God wouldn’t call a woman to be a pastor.”

After the fact, my best friend asked me if this would keep me from doing ministry. “Of course not! I was made for this!” So I graduated from Milligan College with a degree in Bible and moved to Chicago where I’ve been ministering for the past year. And I’m pleased to announce my ordination will happen within the next few months with my new church family.

For me, ordination is the church’s affirmation of God’s “yes” on my life. Not affirmation for what I’ve done or am doing. I often feel I’m stumbling around trying to figure out what being a pastor is all about; and I know I don’t have all the answers! Ordination is the church’s affirmation of what God is doing in and through all pastors—male and female alike. Over the past year I’ve been encouraged and challenged to step into my calling as a pastor—and what a beautiful challenge it’s been! It has been a blessing to be in a place where my gender was never a part of the challenge. For other young women who are figuring out what being a pastor is all about, ask good questions of God, yourself, and those who mentor you; and hold on tight to God and God’s call on your life.

Your journey may be a beautiful bumpy mess.

Image courtesy of Adam Kliczek, http://zatrzymujeczas.pl.