Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…Hebrews 12:1
Throughout my life, and especially my life in ministry, I have had people around me who have been a key source of encouragement. These people have been a gift. I would not be who I am today if not for them. Over lunch or a cup of coffee, my mentors have poured into my life. As I have watched them live out their lives and deal with various situations, I have learned how to do ministry better. They have kept me in line, pulled me back in line, given me new perspectives, urged me to move forward, and modeled life and ministry for me. As I write these words, memories flood my mind and I become grateful again for these people: Jerry, Lee, Stan, Bob, Werner, Laverne, Marie, Marian, John, Roberta, Rich, MaryAnne, Sally.
Mentors are vital for our ministry, our lives, our well-being. We cannot do ministry without them. We need to seek them out and learn from them. Without them, ministry life suffers; more that than, we suffer.
Female clergy, just like male clergy need good mentors. While male mentors can offer a lot to women in ministry, female pastors also need to be intentional about finding female mentors. Mentors, male and female, bring a richness, a broader cloud of witnesses. Here are some ways mentors move in the lives of female clergy:
As pioneers. Some women have been pioneers in the struggle for the acceptance of women in ministry. This has not been an easy road, but many women clergy have travelled that road with perseverance and grace to the betterment of the whole church. Female clergy can learn a great deal from the pioneers as the push continues.
The evangelical church has not had as long a history of female clergy as mainline churches limiting the number and variety of mentors. But thankfully that is changing. Women need to engage as pastors, ministry leaders, professors, consultants and authors. Women serving in these areas make the church more vibrant, push the church forward into new spaces, and teach new perspectives to the whole church.
As fellow travelers. Some women have been fellow travelers, helping other female clergy through the frustrations of closed doors and glass ceilings, and simply teaching women how to serve in the church as professional clergy. Male pastors certainly help in this area as well, but female clergy are key examples for other female pastors.
As encouragers. Both men and women serve as encouragers to female clergy helping them to continue to do the joyful but sometimes challenging work of being a pastor, and helping them to become more effective as ministry leaders.
As advocates. Women clergy can certainly serve as advocates for women in ministry, and do. Because of the male-dominated power structures in churches, denominations, and schools, it is very important for men in positions of influence to be a source of encouragement and intentionally work to break down barriers, and open door so that women occupy key leadership positions
There is a great cloud of witnesses! Women clergy can seek out and learn from those who model the faith and the vocation. Women clergy, push through the walls, they are only paper thin, so that you might lead, and pastor, and teach and write. The church needs to hear your voice, and see your actions. It benefits the whole church.