I had a conversation once with a pastor and his wife that I have not been able to forget. My husband and I had been visiting that church for a few months and considering the possibility of making it our spiritual home. It was important to us, though, that the church valued women in leadership to the same extent that it valued men. So we sat down with the two of them and asked many questions.
And this is what they told us: They were a couple who did ministry together. Women served in all ways in the denomination. Women in the denomination could even serve in a pastoral capacity, but they would not have the title “Pastor”. “And,” said the woman, “I am awfully suspicious of women who are looking for titles anyway. Any time a woman is trying to get the title, it makes me think she is hungry for power. I am happy to serve alongside my husband in full capacity without the title.”
At that time, I was silenced by her statement. I didn’t want to appear to be power-hungry. I wanted to check myself, “Am I power-hungry, Lord?” It seemed so much more humble to not seek a title.
However, much reflection brought me to the conclusion that I am not in fact power-hungry any more than any other man who takes on the same title. Why is a woman declared power-hungry but a man given a complete pass? I wish I could go back to that conversation and ask her that question.
It has been years since this conversation took place. Through all the time that has transpired, I’ve grown into a deeper understanding about this title “Pastor.”
I’ve realized that I didn’t start being a pastor when the title was conferred to me by a church, or that I will be even more so a pastor when I graduate seminary with my Masters of Divinity. Whether I am in a church-paid position as a pastor or whether my friends and colleagues call me ‘Pastor MaryAnn’ or not, I am still a pastor. It is who I am. And being a pastor is being a shepherd who walks alongside others. To me, it is not a position of power, but servanthood.
In many churches, I have seen that whenever men take on pastoral roles, they are given the title “Pastor”, and whenever it is a woman in an equivalent role, she is given some other title like “Director.” Find five church websites, look at their pastoral staff list, and you will see what I mean. If the title makes no difference, then why is there a difference in the title?
What are your thoughts and observations on titles?