A dinner conversation I had months ago still sticks out clearly in my mind. The party consisted of some of my peers, as well as their parents. One of the elders at the table asked my friend about his current occupation. When my friend replied that he was studying at seminary, the other exclaimed, “That’s wonderful! Are you going to be a pastor?” His numerous questions and well-wishes made it clear that he was enthusiastic about my friend’s endeavors to become a pastor.
Sadly, I remember having a similar exchange with this same man, but with a stark contrast: there was an acute lack of enthusiasm on his side. I knew from my experience that he was excited about my friend’s seminary studies because he is a male student. In his opinion, a male studying at seminary meant that he is answering a high and noble calling to be a pastor. On the other hand, my training as a pastor was baffling to him. It did not fit into his worldview because I am a woman. To me, this incident gives a small glimpse of why there are so few female preachers.
Perhaps one reason why more women do not become pastors is because there are fewer opportunities for them. Often, they lack of support in their early vocational discernment. While some women may be educated at seminary, when they graduate with their Master of Divinity (MDiv), there are not many positions available. Without a platform, it is harder to preach.
A lot of women do not even reach the point of applying for preaching positions. Some seminaries will not allow women to study there at all—or if they are permitted to be students, they are barred from the more “serious” academic and ministerial programs such as the MDiv or courses on homiletics and exegesis.
In addition to this, many women do not have support from their family, friends, pastors, or denominations. Without encouragement from those closest to them, it is difficult to proceed. In some cases, these gifted teachers are dissuaded by the most influential people in their lives. They are disheartened by the pessimism and disabled by the peer pressure that they ought to maintain the status quo. It’s simply too hard to rock the boat and they wonder if it’s worth the struggle.
Some women do not even confide in their peers that they might have a calling to preach because they do not think they have that option. Several churches teach that only men can have authority over other men—God doesn’t want women to teach men and they should just stick to teaching the children. How can these women question it when there are not resources readily available to encourage such questions?
And the ultimate clincher? Many of us do not have living examples of other women showing us that God calls women to preach. What does that look like? It’s unfathomable to some, especially when the word pastor is immediately associated with the pronoun “he.”
The reality is that there are people who don’t know two sides to the issue exist. They are misled to believe there is one “truth”: only men can preach.
We are misled. There are two sides.
For those who haven’t heard that the Bible teaches that God gifts women as preachers and teachers, I want to proclaim, “It does!” I have started my journey toward truth and have concluded that it really is worth the effort to exercise my gifts as I follow Jesus.