I grew up in a church that didn’t support women in ministry. So when God started tugging my heart toward vocational ministry, it took me a long to time to understand what was going on. With no visible examples of women leading in the church, I had a difficult time picturing what church leadership could look like for me. Thankfully, in college and graduate school I was exposed to many different kinds of leaders, women and men who helped change my paradigm and encouraged me to boldly step into my calling.
Shortly before graduating from seminary, I was invited to serve at a church that was supportive of women in ministry. I was so excited to be in an environment where I wouldn’t have to question whether I would fit in as a woman leader.
Am I Fit for Pastoral Ministry?
I loved my new position and poured my heart and soul into serving. God blessed my efforts, and I quickly knew without a doubt that I was exactly where he wanted me to be. Despite this, I soon found myself struggling with my calling again. Rather than worry about my gender, I worried about my personality, strengths, and interests. Looking around at the other leaders in my church, I saw bubbly, energetic, and fun people. They were outgoing and emotionally engaging. Everyone seemed to be drawn to their lively personalities. I, however, am an introvert who’s driven and goal-oriented. As I compared my leadership with theirs, I felt like I didn’t fit, and I thought that if I were more like them, I would feel accepted. No matter how hard I tried to be like the bubbly, outgoing leaders around me, though, I came across as inauthentic and trying too hard. There really isn’t anything worse than people trying too hard to be something they’re not. It’s just plain awkward for everyone.
I started to believe everyone around me wanted me to be more outgoing, laidback, fun, and adventurous. It didn’t help when a well-meaning elder told me that I would be perceived as more "pastoral" if I made an effort to chat with more church members on Sunday mornings. The thought of flitting around the room and talking to people all morning felt overwhelming and downright painful. I felt so defeated after our meeting that I seriously questioned whether I was the right kind of person for a pastoral role.
I genuinely wanted to be welcoming to others and get to know people in the church. I know this well-intentioned elder was simply challenging me to get out of my comfort zone a little and be more open to meeting new people. But I allowed his comment to confirm my fear that I wasn’t the right person for the job. I was no longer content with simply serving others as the person God had created me to be. I was trying to be someone else entirely, and the effort was robbing me of my joy.