And just as women with abusive boyfriends find it difficult to separate love from pain, women in ministry often find it difficult to separate calling from hurt and abuse. This is bad theology. God does not affirm or support violence, corruption, or coercion. He is the God of peace, love, and justice. If peace, love, and justice are not present in your ministerial position, then it’s not of God.
The second reason women get trapped in abusive ministerial environments has to do with fear. The fear of being disliked makes many women smile and say that everything is okay when it’s not. The fear of failure makes many women muscle through even the worst situations so that others won’t say she wasn’t cut out for ministry. The fear of dispensability makes many women endure the covert and overt messages that tell them that they can be replaced at any moment with a more benign, amiable woman. The fear of not being able to find another ministry position makes many women willing to serve regardless of negative circumstances, encouraging the mindset: “I’m just happy to be here.” These fears can consume women in ministry, keeping them in abusive environments for far too long.
Change Your Situation
If you find yourself in an unhealthy ministry environment, what can you do? Don’t endure the abuse—God does not ordain this sort of oppression. Don’t quit pursuing ministry—God does not make mistakes with whom he calls into ministry.
Instead, we must recreate the relationship between the church and women in ministry. To recreate this relationship, there are three things you can do:
- Believe in your calling. If God has called you into ministry, you have to believe it. Believing in your calling will make you bolder, stronger, and less afraid. When God calls you, no one can take that calling from you.
- Hold fast to your value. If you have been appointed or hired for a pastoral position, believe that the gifts that you bring with you are valuable. Believe that the church is made better because you are there to serve. You are not dispensable. The church would not be the same without you.
- Advocate for yourself. Learn to speak up about your compensation, your job description, your support staff, and other elements of employment that are often hard to discuss. These necessary conversations have the power to create a healthy ministry environment both for you and your coworkers. You’ll also need to speak up when someone is disrespecting you. Say, “You are not allowed to treat me this way or talk to me this way. I am a child of God and a minister of the gospel.” Say it again and again until others hear you and this truth rests in your heart.