I recently spoke with some women, all of whom—eight or more years after seminary or Bible school graduation—are still seeking ministry jobs. At any given time, there are only a handful of such jobs available, and the number drops steeply in complementarian churches (my own tradition). Though women are attending seminary at higher rates (compare 1975 to 2016), the number of women employed in ministry has not kept pace. Many have taken full-time work in other fields due to the lack of employment opportunities in the local church.
At the same time, I frequently hear from local pastors about the weight of ministry responsibilities. Many of my former seminary classmates work more than 60 hours a week in their pastoral positions, and they bear the burden of overseeing many—if not all—areas of ministry in their churches.
The number of women seeking ministry positions and the full plates of pastors suggest a mutually beneficial proposition: churches should consider hiring women for ministry roles in the local church.
Here are three reasons why.
1. Promote and Create Theologically Rich Resources
Many pastors have expressed to me appropriate concern that their women’s ministries are reading theologically light books or only offering studies by the most popular Christian bloggers. At the same time, most pastors, due to time constraints and ministry demands, are not able to keep their ear to the ground in Christian women’s circles, nor are they able to read and review every book or study sought out by the women in their congregation.
By hiring a woman who is equipped for ministry, pastors gain an advocate for theologically sound content.
By hiring a woman who is equipped (formally or informally) for ministry, pastors gain an advocate for theologically sound content. Adding a qualified woman to your ministry team gives you a theological ally who can vet resources and possibly curate theologically robust curriculum of her own. She’ll be able to support the theological vision of the church in areas of ministry less visible to the pastoral staff by guiding women toward a deeper understanding of God’s Word in both formal and informal settings.
2. Validate Trained Women and Inspire Others
I recently polled a handful of pastors across the Unites States on this topic. While most said they encourage women who feel called to ministry to pursue ministry or theological training, few have women on their staff in ministry roles. Of course, the reasons are as varied as their congregations, but the vast majority concluded in unison: a theologically trained woman would be an incredible asset to their ministry team.
An equipped staff woman can faithfully equip other women.
When laywomen see a woman who has sought out training, done the hard work of study, and who teaches God’s Word with accuracy and confidence, some rightly think, I could do that. An equipped staff woman can faithfully equip other women. As churches hire women in ministry positions, they inspire the next generation to pursue theological training.
3. Assist in Discipling and Counseling Women
Women make up the majority of American congregants. However, many churches have boundaries regarding pastors meeting one-on-one with women (and appropriately so), and these boundaries inadvertently preclude women from certain types of individual discipleship and pastoral care. Many pastors are in the difficult position of having a deep desire to shepherd the whole flock entrusted to them, but also trying to execute the wisdom necessary to be above reproach.
Qualified women on staff can help the pastors make sure women are seriously discipled, counseled, and ministered to.
Even as we understand the difficulty of navigating this dynamic, the question remains: if a male pastor isn’t able to meet with a woman to discuss intimate struggles, then who will? Who in our churches is talking to our women about marriage, sex, miscarriage, pornography addiction, grief, and bitterness in a theologically sound way? Qualified women on staff can help the pastors make sure women are seriously discipled, counseled, and ministered to.
I understand the financial constraints most churches experience. But if your church is in a position to do so, I encourage you to consider adding a qualified woman to your ministry team. The pastor wearied from a full plate gains a teammate, the pastor concerned for the theological wellbeing of the women in his congregation gains an ally, and the women in your church gain a teacher who can help them grow in their understanding God’s Word.
A qualified woman on staff can be a rich blessing—to the glory of God and edification of his church.