From time to time, I receive a call from a member of a pastor search committee that is considering a woman as their senior pastor (which is a term that I don’t find anywhere in scripture, but I understand the concept). I am always flattered that the candidate has chosen to use me as a reference, so I take the opportunity very seriously. I must admit, however, that I come out of some of those conversations a bit frustrated.
The interviewer usually has a set series of questions, and I try to respond appropriately while pushing the boundaries a bit. By doing so, I am often able to engage the interviewer more informally and address some concerns specifically related to women in a pastoral role. As a result, I am no longer surprised when the caller will say something to the effect, “But there are some on our committee who feel that she does not have enough experience.”
On one hand, if the concern is that the candidate does not have any experience as a senior pastor, they are right. Someone has to give a person an opportunity to serve as a senior pastor in order for one to get experience as a senior pastor! On the other hand, there are a number of women who have extensive experience in ministry and as ministry leaders even though they have never been the senior pastor of a church. They are more than ready to assume a senior leadership role.
For example, a friend was being considered by a committee as their potential pastor. Someone on the committee raised the question of experience. This particular person had been in various ministry roles for twenty years! She had worked with lay leaders and committees, planned and administered a budget, supervised staff, and led in worship on many occasions. How many male pastors bring that kind of experience to a church?
Frequently, the question of experience has to do with time spent preaching in the pulpit. Again, this comes back to opportunity. God bless the male senior pastors who encourage their female associates to preach on a regular basis and provide the occasions for them to do so. Women cannot find their voice as preachers unless they are given the opportunity preach on a regular basis.
Most progressive Baptist churches continue to encourage young women to respond to God’s call to ministry, but then they fail to call them as pastors when they are trained and ready. In so doing, we are wasting the spiritual gifts and experience of many gifted women and hindering the work of the Kingdom of God.
My word of challenge to any pastor search committee is one I learned in the military: “No guts, no glory.” If your committee wants to be remembered as the group that led your church into a new era of ministry, you have to be willing to take a chance and do something different. As Baptists, we have lost too many gifted women to other denominations. Let’s bless our daughters for leadership in the same way that we have our sons. In so doing, we bless ourselves.