The challenges of being in ministry are difficult to navigate, but for women, the challenges are unique and often more difficult. Unfortunately, women who aspire to be in ministry have to face that they will be treated differently simply based on their gender. One area that is lacking for women is practical pastoral resources written in gender-neutral language. Most popular theology resources available today are written by men and it is difficult to find egalitarian resources written by women ministers for women ministers. One book in particular I recall reading in my undergrad pastoral program exclusively used male pronouns when referring to the title of “pastor” and discussed hot topics such as “The pastor and his wife,” “The pastor and his wardrobe,” and “The pastor as God’s man.” As I read these books I was assigned to take seriously and learn from, I would continually think to myself, (just as you hear in a cheesy infomercial), “There’s got to be a better way!” I am so thankful to have discovered the book SHE: Five Keys to Unlock the Power of Women in Ministry by Karoline M. Lewis. This book fills a huge need in the world of practical pastoral resources.
SHE is important because it speaks directly to the unique position and experience women will have in ministry. There are certain topics, situations, and experiences women in ministry will have that men have the privilege of not facing, and this book speaks directly to how women can approach these areas. As Lewis states, “. . . the church itself cannot live into the fullness of the gospel when exclusionary power structures continue to exist” (xvi). SHE seeks to acknowledge the sociological, theological, and practical challenges that women face in ministry, provide a safe space to dialogue about these unique challenges, and give practical advice on how to navigate the realities of being a woman in ministry.
The book is separated into five chapters that each address the “five keys” of unlocking the power of women in ministry. From topics like what the Bible says about women, to boundaries in ministry, to public speaking challenges, to important terms that relate to sexism such as mansplaining and patriarchy— this book seeks to decode the truth in all areas of ministry. One of the main messages the author communicates is this book isn’t meant to instruct women on how to gain power, but rather the intention is to help women live out their calling in the power that is already present. What I appreciated most about Lewis’s writing is it is raw and real. Lewis does not state things lightly and she aims to speak the truth boldly. After years of reading textbooks exclusively written by men who only used male pronouns, it was incredibly refreshing (and healing) to see female pronouns used when referring to pastors. I was also so moved by reading another woman who has personally experienced difficulties in ministry say, “Your experiences of sexism are valid and you are not just being overly sensitive or making these things up in your head.”
This book is not only written for women in ministry, but it is a great tool for men to learn how to become better allies for the women they work alongside of in ministry. Each chapter ends with exercises and questions for reflection, as well as a list of resources to read more on the material covered in the chapter. I also discovered that there is a video/group guide available, and although I have not reviewed it myself, I am positive that it could be an incredibly healing and informative resource to go through with your ministry team or fellow women in ministry. I highly encourage any and all ministers, male or female, young or old, to pick up this book and read it with an open heart and mind.
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