(013) How it Feels to be a Woman in Ministry (Part 1)

I was first asked this question while pioneering my church in Melbourne around fifteen years ago; “How does it feel to be a woman pastoring a church?” Back then I replied; “I don’t know – I’ve never pastored a church as a man!” It is perhaps an unusual topic for a podcast on hearing God’s voice, but I’m asked this question often so I thought I would take some time to answer it.

Refresh conference

In this podcast, we look at two issues affecting my journey as a woman in ministry: 1. Theology and 2. Identity, discussing what they mean for all of us, male and female, in the midst of sweeping changes to gender roles in the 21st Century.

We start with the Australian context. In the denomination I am ordained in, the Australian Christian Churches, an egalitarian policy was set from the very beginning – in fact many of our earliest churches were pioneered by women. But that isn’t always the case for most of our Australian mainstream denominations. Usually there are some ceilings on women in leadership, although you will find variations wherever you go.

The fact is, our society is in a state of massive transition in this area. It was only a century ago, that women were allowed the vote; only decades ago that they were given university entrance. Even in the church, we have held that women were not of equal value to men  for most of our history. Augustine himself said that women were only made in the image of God when she was “joined to a man as one flesh”! Thankfully these days, no-one would argue that men and women are of equal value – the issue lies more in the roles that men and women should take.

For me today, being a ‘woman in ministry’ has no significant bearing on what I do, but it wasn’t always that way. I was raised in a very conservative environment where we understood that women’s place was always subordinated to a man. In our church, women couldn’t preach, speak in the public service or lead any ministry unless it was to women and children. We weren’t even allowed to carry the offering bags! So there were two major issues for me in my journey into ministry as a woman:

1. A Theology for Women in Ministry

This perhaps is the most obvious one. Being raised in a strong Bible teaching church I couldn’t overlook some of those seemingly explicit statements in 1 Timothy 2, 1 Corinthians 11 and 14 that said women should be silent and they shouldn’t teach or lead a man. If the Bible said it, that was it; I couldn’t do it. So I needed to do some serious theological digging before I could fully pursue the call of God on my life.

2. The Identity of Women in Ministry

This issue was far more challenging. If you believe that a woman should always take a subordinate role, it will impact who she is. I’d been taught both consciously and subconsciously that a woman should always be quiet and passive. She shouldn’t be strong, decisive, visionary or strategic. (That’s what a man is!) It took a strong mentor, an encounter with the Holy Spirit, and insights from the biblical story of Esther to show me otherwise.

Ultimately my conclusions led me to understand that both men and women are equally made in God’s image and called to partner alongside each other according to the gifts and callings of the Holy Spirit on their lives.

This journey is not just a woman’s issue. It is all our issue, because together we are called to build God’s kingdom. In the new creation God is calling us to work in co-operation, not competition where it is his Spirit that designates our giftings and callings and not our stereotypes or our societal structures.

Enjoy! Also, look out for Part 2 of this topic in the coming weeks – we will discuss the implications women in ministry for the wider community.

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Your Thoughts

How have you handled the shift in roles and expectations for men and women? Men, have you been led by a woman? Women, how you have handled your journey in the sphere God has called you to? Leave your comments below:

Resources

Bible references in this episode:

  • john dean

    I was and am so blessed to hear your program on Shine TV in New Zealand to night.You were so open in conversation my heart was so hungry for the truth and tonight I got the answer through you Pastor Tania thank you and God bless you always.

    • Tania Harris

      Hi John, I am so blessed to hear, thank you! My team and I pray that the rest of the series will further bring insight and understanding to your life!

  • Ian

    A crisp concise ‘Part 1’ statement Tania!
    I have always believed in you & always will as together we keep following Jesus!

    • Tania Harris

      Thanks so much Ian! :-)

  • Michael Cox

    Appreciate the missionary minded stance.

    • Tania Harris

      Thanks Michael!

  • VINEET

    Dear God Conversation Team/ Tania

    Greetings in Jesus name to every one! Praise the Lord for everything! This is exactly the post I had to read. There is no man , no woman no gentiles all are made in his image is so true. We are all made in his image and according to his perfect plan for each one of us.This morning i was a bit sad with my past and was thinking why God made me the way I am and what is his plan for my life! Tears rolled down and then i was ok just thinking of the scripture. Yes Tania the roles of men and women are in away shifting and these days we see this not just in the work place but almost everywhere.I am a Teacher in a high School teaching 17 – 18 year olds and almost all of the teachers and staff including my boss are successful women. And all of my students are girls/ young ladies so its a very interesting combination! I wouldnt get into an academic discussion or analysis of man vs woman or gender studies or issues. If we can understand each other its good but do we and how much can we really understand about the opposite sex. I think we all need each other and must accept each one as they are with respect, care, kindness and treat each one as a special creation of god.Thats all i can think of now

    Thank you & have a blessed day

    Vineet

    • Tania Harris

      Great attitude to have Vineet!

  • Cheryl Thomson

    My career has been in the business/corporate world. I have had managers both female and male. Now a manager myself and a strong Christian I see so many climbing the ladder for their own ends, having no thought for the bigger picture and where this climb will lead them. Behind each of my managers, including one Prime Minister, I can faithfully say each one, no matter what, has been prayed, supported and brought before Father’s throne by “little old me”. I will only know the result of that when I get into the Kingdom.

    • Tania Harris

      Love that you have been able to support and bless so many others in your role Cheryl!