Women in the Pulpit
When women become pastors, they serve as great role models for young girls in the church. Not only can the girls realize that one day they can also become pastors, but they can also see a future where no job is outside the realm of possibility, whether they aspire to own a business or be an architect or web designer.
“To have as open a future as possible is a great gift to children,” says National Catholic Reporter.
It wasn’t that long ago that the only realistic possibilities for careers for women outside the home were teaching, secretary work, and nursing. While male pastors can be nurturing and empathetic, these traits tend to come more naturally to many women. They can often connect with others, especially children, in a special and deep way. Men often want to fix things, while women are great listeners. Female pastors can listen to what people in pain have to say and just be there for support without trying to fix it.
Gail Cawley Showalter shares how women can become pastors.
How to Follow This Path
Requirements to become a pastor vary from denomination to denomination. But according to Online Christian Colleges, “There are certain subjects that most pastors should be well versed in, along with standard educational paths and degrees that many people wishing to become pastors will pursue.”
Going to seminary to receive theological training is the most common path, and the most common degree needed to become a pastor is the Master of Divinity (M.Div). This degree is both academic and professional, combining the study of several disciplines, including theology, biblical studies, biblical languages, pastoral care, church history, liturgics, and other subjects. In order to pursue an M.Div, one must first obtain a bachelor’s degree, which does not necessarily need to be in any field of theology.
Although it’s not always required to become ordained, the M.Div is usually the prerequisite of choice for many ministries. The degree generally takes two to three years to complete and typically includes at least 72 academic hours. One of the best-known accrediting agencies is the Association of Theological Schools (ATS). It’s open to Jewish and Christian pastors-in-training from many denominations in both the U.S. and Canada.
Again, each denomination has its own process of ordination. Some will be more rigorous than others. Look into the requirements specific to your denomination. Start by speaking with a local pastor. You can also call your denomination’s regional body. If your denomination has its own seminary, it’s often preferred for you to attend it over another seminary because doing so ensures you have a background in your denomination’s history and theological development. Also, you will have a better understanding of how to conduct worship services within that particular tradition.
An M.Div degree can also create opportunities to work within other types of Christian leadership roles, including teaching, missionary work, and counseling. For some roles, you may need to combine the M.Div with another degree, but you’re one step closer. Again, before you pursue a M.Div, speak with your denomination’s governing body to determine if it’s needed to become a pastor or if you need to pursue another educational route.
Once properly ordained, you’ll need to seek out a church for which to serve as pastor. There are a variety of ministerial roles, and it may require a move which can involve some tricky planning. In any case, be open to where you feel called to serve.
Successful Women in These Roles
There are many women who have led successful roles as leaders within their churches or denominations. Diane Knippers, former president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (I.R.D.), is a conservative leader who has been sought out by members of the government on several occasions about human rights issues, including the Bush Administration during the Sudan civil war. Joyce Meyer delivers her messages on more than 600 TV stations, 400 radio stations, and to many stadiums filled with eager audiences. She’s also written more than 70 books. Both women were included in Time’s 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America. In France, Elisabeth Schmidt was a pioneer who fought for the right of women pastors to serve within the French Reformed Church in the early 1930s.
As a woman, you bring a unique and fresh perspective to the church. You offer a gentle heart that’s full of empathy, and an ear that’s always ready to listen. Allowing younger generations to see a woman in a position of top leadership can help challenge and even break the glass ceiling.
This article is brought to you by Gail Cawley Showalter, an author and President of SMORE for Women, a nonprofit that supports single moms in college.