EDIT: I wrote this in the middle of the year as some quick thoughts. It’s obviously not so much on my mind now seeing I’m most likely stepping down from my role next year. But I thought I would still publish it and hear your thoughts!
Paid female pastoral staff in an Asian church here is pretty rare I’d have to say. The other woman in the office is often the administrator. Unless you work for the Sydney Anglican’s (who hires the most female paid staff!), you’re probably the only one. Anyway, the point of this post is NOT to comment on whether that should be the case or not. I guess I’m just pointing out that it can get pretty lonely where you are, as I’ve felt sometimes.
In this role I’ve been in for a year and a half now, it’s been great to attend conferences, training and other events as a pastoral worker. I can’t help noticing though that I’m usually the only woman or the only handful or women there in the room.
I guess it is to be expected in a way, as many women of my age are beginning to have children now and therefore would be at home instead of these pastor’s conference type things. Most of the time I don’t even mind/care. Our church is a pretty good atmosphere to work in, but I guess now and again:
- I find myself often becoming the scribe/minute-taker every time in meetings/groups. I kind of like it, as I can type fast from my career in I.T., and I’m an admin-y type. But is it because I’m good at it, or because I’m young, or because I’m female?
- You feel unsure asserting or sharing your opinions in the larger group setting of men, especially if they’re all older than you
- The dynamic of the group is often awkward when you find yourself co-leading with a much younger male
- I find myself justifying my position by reminding people that I minister to women (when actually that’s only 1/3 of my job)
- I find myself justifying my position by reminding people that I serve with my husband who is the lead pastor (who does the preaching)
- I find myself feeling apologetic that I don’t have kids by now…
I feel silly thinking these things but sometimes you can’t help feeling a little insecure about it all!
There is an upside about being female in a pastoral team – I don’t have to wear a collared shirt and tie to work 🙂
I guess what makes it difficult is a lack of role models. I’m not an adventurous person – I hate going first and I hate risk. There are some pretty helpful resources out there from other female pastor/leaders that have gone before. The ones I’ve found all come from an Egalitarian perspective. They have been pretty helpful.
I’m sure for some of you this situation must be really hard, since there are at least two factors in play within the culture of an Asian church:
- Your age: in an environment that respects age, a young woman could possibly find it hard to give their opinion
- Your gender: in a generally more male hierarchical environment could possibly find it harder too. Though, funnily enough it can be the opposite as many churches (HK ones anyway) which are less Complementarian and I’ve been asked WHEN I’m going to be preaching at the Chinese service!
Is this true for you? Is there’s anyone out there – a female who has been in Asian ministry for a while? (under a Complementarian framework?) Would love to hear your thoughts! How can we better support you and each other?