Why Celebrating Some Organizations Hampers the Forward Progress of Women in Church Planting

Don’t Clap So Fast: Why Celebrating Certain Organizations Hampers the Forward Progress of Women in Church Planting

On June 8, 2021, Christianity Today posted an article that centered on how women are central to church planting movements. Though I agreed with much in the article, it still fell short in my eyes, especially relative to church planting.

Sure, having more women on a board or added to a team of pastors is worth noting and celebrating at some level, that’s not where advocating for women should end — at least not in my eyes. As more women are educated beyond their male counterparts[1], and as the population of women in the United States continues to climb — with projections that women of color will be the majority of women by 2060[2] — organizations need to put women in top leadership, not just on teams.

Top female leaders are still rare in faith organizations[3], even in the corporate world — especially women of color[4]. We need more church planting movements that believe women can be lead pastors. For that to happen an establishment of more networks unaffiliated with denominations and/or male leaders in general that limit women’s roles is required.

It is heartbreaking to see women who have settled in complementarian worlds because, in their minds, “at least” they could serve in some way, knowing in their heart that God has called them for more. It is also distressing to see male church planters who in private have told me they actually believe women are called to all roles, but these men essentially regenerated cycles of patriarchy in their new churches in order to obtain necessary financial assistance to survive the first three to five crucial years. No matter what some may call it, complementarianism or “biblical” patriarchy, none of these schools of thought sees nor values women the way Jesus did.

The Passion2Plant Network I founded and lead is a network re-imagined, not affiliated with any denomination or with limiting beliefs about women and the roles they are allowed to have in the Kingdom. Women are embraced fully in our family of church planters. With the recent launch of our inaugural cohort, I am thrilled that we have a good amount of women represented in the group. While some are already on pastoral teams, others believe God has called them to the lead pastor role whereas others are still discerning whether God has called them to plant a church.

Thankfully, I have had excellent models of female lead pastors in my life and so have never felt such limitations personally. I advocate, though, for those who have felt these restraints and who feel that following man-made rules is simply the best way they will finally be seen. Unfortunately, we know too many women who have gone to their graves after serving for years pastorally, without the acknowledgment of that call by their denomination — or any organization, for that matter.

While I do celebrate women on boards and teams, I know that God has called some women to more. So, let’s not clap so fast about ‘advances’ like those in the Christianity Today article mentioned above until we see more organizations advocating and appointing women to lead pastor roles. I want to see more women given established churches or ordained and appointed to establish and lead their own. Celebrating organizations that stop short of fully embracing women in all roles essentially erases the issue from discourse and makes everyone all too comfortable with this practice in church planting. That complacency, my friends, hampers forward progress in seeing a world where women and men are full partners in what God is doing this side of heaven.

[1] NPR, “New Report Says Women Will Soon Be Majority Of College-Educated U.S. Workers,” accessed June 12, 2021, https://www.npr.org/2019/06/20/734408574/new-report-says-college-educated-women-will-soon-make-up-majority-of-u-s-labor

[2] United States Census Bureau, “2019 Population Estimates by Age, Sex, Race and Hispanic Origin,” accessed June 12, 2021, https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-kits/2020/population-estimates-detailed.html.

[3] Pew Research Center, “Women Relatively Rare in Top Positions of Religious Leadership,” accessed June 12, 2021, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/03/02/women-relatively-rare-in-top-positions-of-religious-leadership/.

[4] Catalyst, “Too Few Women of Color on Boards: Statistics and Solutions,” January 31, 2020, accessed June 12, 2021, https://www.catalyst.org/research/women-minorities-corporate-boards/

Religion & Culture Writer, Former Pastor, Thinker, Church Planter Educator and Mom of special needs son.