When I was a freshman in high school, I knew I wanted to be a youth pastor. I was on my 3rd youth pastor in 3 years, and I wanted to be the one that would stick around for the long haul. At this time, my dad was a pastor and he had, for the first time, an associate pastor… who was a woman. I’ll be honest. I wasn’t sure what I thought about a woman being a pastor at MY church. It could be fine at other churches, but I wasn’t sure that I really gave her the credit more than being the one to send out the birthday cards, do hospital visits, and help with communion here and there. SUPER ironic since I was the one who was feeling called to ministry right around that same time... and I was starting to embrace my own woman-hood. I went on to a great Christian college in the late 1990’s where women in ministry was accepted, but not necessarily “championed”. Again, this fit me perfectly as I kept walking through my own call to ministry, and felt confident in being a youth pastor, but heck-to-the-no on ever being a lead pastor, let alone go to seminary. My dad, uncle, brother and his new fiancé were all seminary graduates, and there was no need for a youth pastor to go to seminary. My excuse was that I was not an “academic” person. I also had no desire to learn Greek. Inside, I think that a big part of my heart also felt that I was afraid of being a young, single, female in a seminary world. I had not known of any other women my age who had gone to seminary. I think the older woman that was my dad’s associate had gone to a seminary back in the day, but that was strange to me. The Christian community around me did not have very many strong models of women in ministry for me to step into the shoes of. It was easy to use the excuse of, “Oh, I’m just going to be a youth pastor, and you don’t need to go to seminary for that.”
I am sad to now step back, more than ten years later, and realize that I dumbed down not only my call to ministry and my profession… “just being a youth pastor”, but I also didn’t have the courage to be secure in recognizing that God calls both women and men, single and married, young and old to ministry… and to seminary.
Seminary was a time for me to be in a place where women in ministry was championed and supported. It was ironic that my male peers were the ones in classes who would be the vocal leads for supporting women called by God to serve in all aspects of ministry. During my three years in Seminary, I lived in the city where my dad’s associate from 15 years prior was now a lead pastor in the neighborhood of my school. I felt proud that she was the Senior Pastor, and I started to feel proud to be called into full time ministry, myself.
Women in Ministry is a topic that seems taboo for many to speak about. Opinions are strong, emotions are felt, and theology needs to be strong and supported. I am so thankful for the Evangelical Covenant Denomination for championing and being a secure voice for women in ministry. I am also thankful that the seminary was a place where I was challenged to wrestle with what I believe about women in ministry… as I KNEW I WAS called to be a woman in ministry.
There are some great resources that not only our denomination has written on women in ministry, but also women I now admire as women on ministry have written that I would encourage you to check out.
1. Called and Gifted – published by Covenant Publications in Chicago, IL. This is a reaffirmation of the biblical basis for the full participation of women in the ministries of the church that the Evangelical Covenant Church stands by. www.covchurch.org
2. How I changed my mind about Women in Leadership – Compelling Stories from Prominent Evangelicals. Alan F Johnson is the author. Contributors include Tony Compolo, Bill and Lynne Hybels, and John and Nancy Ortberg. Published by Zondervan.
3. Gifted to Lead: The art of leading as a woman in the Church – by Nancy Beach. She shares her story of being a woman in ministry of a large and growing church with an all male staff. Published by Zondervan.
Lisa Holmlund has served in Student Ministries for more than a decade in Colorado, Washington, and California. She is a graduate of North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago, IL and currently serves as Pastor of Student Ministries at Montecito Covenant Church in Santa Barbara, California.