Church of God Women Senior Pastors Speak Out: An Interview

For the complete article and interviews go HERE


Church of God Ministries

By Carl Stagner


CGM: What are the unique challenges that you’ve experienced as a woman in ministry?

Cheryl: Unique challenges include ministering to people who don’t believe women are qualified to do ministry, but using that opportunity to demonstrate that God chooses, and uses, both men and women.

Diana: Very early in my ministry, I faced many challenges from those who did not support the concept of women in ministry. I was told by one brother that God was going to punish me in hell for what I was doing. I was literally challenged from the pulpit by a pastor of a church that I was visiting. I listed my name as reverend on the visitor’s card, and when he read my name he ridiculed me for calling myself that. None of that deterred me, obviously. There are yet some who question whether a female can be a pastor. But I truly have been blessed with a tremendous amount of acceptance and support from a wide variety of sources. Currently, I don’t know that I have many challenges that are not common to pastoring and preaching in general.

DonnaRothenberger_FORWEBDonna: Probably the hardest challenge, and still is, was discovering that not
everyone felt warm and fuzzy about women leading churches. Neighborhood cultures vary, and church cultures vary on the role women should or should not play in leadership. I do not know what the statistics are today, but I was quite surprised to discover, on my journey seeking a senior pastor position to fill, that many churches struggle with that. I understand it, but still have to go back to the Word of God on it, because his Word is stable and sure, unlike my culture or my feelings.

Melissa: People automatically assume my husband is the senior pastor and that I assist him. Perhaps a dozen times, people have gotten up and left the service as I began to preach. They hadn’t realized that I was the pastor until that moment. People expect me to be emotional or weak—until they get to know me! I had a local pastor refuse to work with me to officiate a funeral. A lady we both knew asked both of us to speak. To avoid “working with me,” he prepared a bulletin that said, “Pre-service remarks by Melissa Pratt.” The next line item on the bulletin said, “The service officially begins.” Not kidding!

I have had church members come to me telling me their friends have questioned them/rebuked them for attending a church pastored by a woman. Once I supply them with reading material on the topic, there is no longer an issue, and the church members are able to share that information with their friends. It doesn’t always convince their friends that they are “okay” in my church, but it seems to settle the hearts of the church members.

As “Baptist” as this area is, it is a great time to be a woman in ministry because many, many have not grown up in church, and don’t have the perception that women can’t lead. Perhaps that is the reason that our church growth hasn’t been hampered by my gender. I didn’t want to be a reason my church wouldn’t grow. We have grown from 90 to 450 in the eight-and-a-half years I have been here.

Shannon: Though my church is tremendously supportive, and being a woman is rarely an issue, I have had many challenges dealing with other ministers in the district (Church of God and otherwise). I am not often considered an equal to senior pastors of other congregations. I have also had challenges as the spokesperson for our church when I deal with banks/businesses and our landlord. I am often told they need to speak to someone “more in charge.” I gently remind them that is me.

Being a woman senior pastor (and young, as well), I face weekly challenges. I have been told that I should “let my husband lead/pastor” even though he has no call to formal ministry. I have been spoken down to, ignored, insulted, etc.