The topic of women in ministry is something that the church is wrestling with right now. There are polarizing viewpoints that seems divisive and discouraging depending on who you are. What we can all agree on is that we may disagree and that is ok. Healthy dialogue leads to better understanding and a better understanding leads to a greater capacity for grace & compassion.
Women have an incredible role in the local church. These conversations have to lead towards a greater understanding that women can lead at a high level, they can teach, they can shepherd, they can care for people, they are strategic and intentional. A calling to ministry isn't only for men!
Jessica Sanchez, Allison Williams, Katie Edwards and Ashley Bohinc are all women in full time ministry and have a heart to talk about this subject. This panel was incredibly wise, gracious and smart when it came to the answers to questions collected over social media. The answers to give justice to the full conversations that happened during the breakout. Below are some of their answers to the questions asked:
How did you get into the current position you are in in ministry?
Jessica Sanchez - “I started serving as a volunteer at my church. I saw a need and filled that need because someone at my church believed in me and saw something in me. I went on to marry that person, my husband has been my biggest advocate."
Allison Williams -“I graduated from bible college and got hired to do kids ministry. Over time that slowly turned into working with youth ministry as well."
Katie Edwards -“I started serving in middle school ministry as a 17yr old. When I was 21 the middle school pastor asked me about a full time roll that paid $800 a month, which at the time I thought was incredible."
Ashley Bohinc - “I started serving in middle school ministry and then got asked to come on to staff full time."
What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome to be in the position you are in right now?
Allison Williams - “My biggest obstacle was the financial aspect of the job, early on I had to talk to the leadership at my church about how much I got paid because it was below the poverty line."
Katie Edwards - “The biggest obstacle for me was making assumptions. I had to ask is it true? Comparison and pride hold you back from being fully present in the position I was in. I needed to start going into conversations with others giving them the benefit of the doubt immediately."
Ashley Bohinc -“The biggest obstacle for me was a lack of belief in myself."
What does self care look liken for you?
Jessica Sanchez - “For me, I need to have consistent therapy meetings in good seasons and bad. I also needed to see a spiritual director consistently so call out the strengths and weaknesses in me."
Allison Williams - “I need a light at the end of the tunnel. I need something that motivates me to know there is a reward coming like vacations, memberships to art museum, theater, etc, to go somewhere people don’t know you and just be."
Katie Edwards - “I set up rhythms of recovery throughout the week as well as take a true sabbath. “Rest is important so I did a sleep study to figure out how much sleep is needed for me to feel rested. I need to spend time with life giving people."
Why do you think its important to have women in ministry?
Jessica Sanchez- “The church needs diversity, different experiences to get a better, fuller perspective. You need both genders involved in students lives."
Katie Edwards - "Boys and girls need men and women, perspectives from both sides is key."
Ashley Bohinc -"Girls need to see that vocational ministry is a path for them, they need to know that their call to ministry is real and will supported by others."
How do you prepare and participate in mixed gender meetings?
Katie Edwards - “I prepare the same way I would for any meeting."
Jessica Sanchez - “I dont speak any differently no matter who is in the room."
Allison Williams - “I have to be ready to go, I have to prepare well so that the men will take me seriously. I have to work twice as hard for half the respect, there is not as much margin for error, it takes a lot of planning."
What is the BEST & HARDEST thing about leading alongside your same gender?
Allison Williams - "The best part about leading with other women is that there are more and more women in ministry. It’s awesome to see more and more women in ministry. The hardest part is that sometimes women fight for the same seat instead of pulling up more chairs. God’s got room for everyone to shine!"
Jessica Sanchez - “Historically there is a sense for 1 woman to be on the team, so it is a competition. The best part is that its a blast to do ministry with other women."
Katie Edwards - "The best part is seeing other women pouring into her family. The hardest thing is the assumptions made about people and about me."
What is the Best & Hardest thing about leading alongside Men?
Katie Edwards- “The best thing about working with men is that its fun, men have the tendency to bring laughter and fun to the job."
Jessica Sanchez - “Guys help me to not take myself to seriously, they help me laugh a lot."
Allison Williams - "The best part about working with men is that they are fun to collaborate with. The hardest part is being a single woman in ministry and networking with guys and them always thinking I am pursuing them for marriage… which is creepy."
If there was one thing you wish could be different about men & women leading together in ministry, what would it be?
Katie Edwards - “I wish there would be stronger partnerships that would exist in every church, leaning into each others strengths needs to happen more often."
Jessica Sanchez - “I wish it wasn’t a novelty to have a women in a position at church, I wish it was easier to create partnerships."
Allison Williams - “I wish there would be more of a collaborative spirit regardless of theology, lets learn from each other no matter what the difference, take the next step and learn from women."
The takeaway is simple. Women have a place in ministry and we need to lean into the unique giftings, talents & perspectives that women bring the Church.