I am a chauvinist!

As hard as I try to be egalitarian, the truth is, I am a chauvinist!  My entire world view is shaped by the fact that I am a man.  Men are my heroes, the movies I watch are about men, the books I read are written by men, and manly activities are the ones I enjoy.  When I am not intentionally thinking about it, I have a totally male dominated worldview. mm5-studio-gallery-roger-don-pete-560

But me in neutral is not a good place to be.  Women populate a little over half the earth, I am married to a woman, and I am raising a young woman.  They deserve to have larger representation when it comes to their perspectives, their stories, and the celebration of their heroines in our culture.

My chauvinism was brought into light by a TED talk of all things.

Below is a talk about how movies impact boys and their world view.  He highlights how the Wizard of Oz is a great movie that has women as lead characters and uses women's gifts and abilities to solve problems and build friendships.  This is in stark contrast to how most contemporary movies are war movies about defeating villains and getting a reward.

One of the points that the Colin Stokes brought up was the Bechdel Test.  This is a test is a way to see how chauvinistic a movie might be.  Here are her three questions for the Bechdel Test:

  1. Is there more than one main character who is female and has lines?
  2. Do they talk to each other at any point in the movie?
  3. Is the conversation about more then the boy that they both like?

It is a little depressing how few movies pass this simple test.  And as Colin points out, there are in fact "girl power" shows and movies.  But the problem is not that the girls have their movies, but that the boys are not learning to learn the right things in "boy" movies.  They are not learning to respect or partner with girls or that they are really understanding who the bad guys really are, the ones who use and abuse women.

As a human, this is an important TED talk and worthy of watching and consideration.  As a Christian, and even more as a Christian leader, I am stopped dead in my tracks by how little of what I do, say, teach, and lead that would pass the Bechdel test.  

When we read the gospels we see Jesus, in revolutionary fashion, engage with and stand up for women.  They were treated as equals and they were given responsibility and leadership.  There are women all over the gospel stories and that was in a culture that was dramatically more oppressive then ours is today.  Shouldn't our ministries in the 21st century be significantly more egalitarian than 1st century Palestine?

My challenge is to get over my passive chauvinism and make sure that my ministry can actually pass the Bechdel Test.  I want the women and girls in my ministry to have heroines to look up to, to have stories to relate to, and to have opportunities to lead.  And even more, I want the boys and men in my ministry to see women not as objects or as passive bystanders, but as people worthy of friendship, worthy of respect, and worthy of following.

As a man in a male dominated profession in a male dominated religion this is going to take some work, but I am up for the challenge!  We must challenge our assumptions and be pro active or we will miss over 50% of the people in our congregations and in our world, and unintentionally teach the other 50% a distorted version of our faith.  I need to do a better job at telling stories that are less about conquering the villain and receiving a reward (old skool evangelicalism)  and more quests about joining a team, maybe a team lead by a women, to help make the world a better place, and in our vernacular, to expand the Kingdom of God! (N.T. Wright maybe?)  Are you in?

[ted id=1650]

"It is not so much about highlighting girl power, but a new definition of manhood.  We must show and model for them that a real man is someone who trusts, and respects their sisters, wants to be on their team, and stands up against the real bad guys, the men who want to abuse women."

Who are the heroes of our stories?  Are the women in our ministries lifted up, are their stories part of the stories of the youth group?  Are they given opportunities to lead?  Are they respected by the men?  Are you modeling that?


called as a woman in ministry: guest post by lisa holmlund

lisa holmlund

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.