In fourteen years of full-time youth ministry, I can count on one hand the number of men who have been intentionally mean to me because I’m a woman. In my conservative background, being a female ordained minister is definitely not the norm. I regularly am put into a position to have conversations with my brothers in Christ that are shaping their outlook on women in ministry. But regardless of a complementarian or egalitarian viewpoint, fundamentally I think that youth workers are nice to one another. However, there are a few things that even the kindest male youth pastor might not think of when considering his female colleague:
Your policies can sometimes limit my attendance.
I am all for anything that aids accountability and safeguards in ministry. I know that most churches have policies in place to help their staff concerning meeting alone or who can ride in a car with whom. But please remember these rules and consider how they will impact females in ministry when scheduling meetings. Sometimes, I can’t go or am uninvited to gatherings because of these standards. I wish more male youth workers considered how they could alter plans to make gathering accessible to everyone involved. One easy solution: can we meet at a church and order lunch in instead of traveling to a restaurant?
I know more about ministry than just how to minister to female students.
My youth group has been 85-90% male dominated for as long as I can remember. I have many male colleagues than are in the exact opposite situation. It is part of my role to show male students what being a godly woman looks like. My guys need Christian female role models and voices to speak into their lives. I have no clue about video games and my male students don’t shun me because of it. Instead, they care that I am there for them. They care that I acknowledge and encourage them. They care about being cared for in our ministry.
In our scary culture, we have safety policies that protect all students from predators of any gender. If we are obeying those policies and guidelines, we should safely be able to lead and care for all students. My male students need me as much as my female students do and I bet the same is true at your church. As a male youth pastor, how can you intentionally and safely care for your female students. I dare you to up your game in this area. Those young ladies need your care and example of what a Christian man looks like.
I don’t always get invited.
Women are still viewed as taboo in ministry in many circles. I cannot tell you how many meals I’ve grabbed by myself at large events because no one invited me to lunch when everyone else is networking. Or how many times I’ve been contacted by male youth workers looking for speakers that overlooked me for the opportunity. We all know that ministry can be very lonely, but being a female youth worker can be downright isolating. Being allowed at the event is extremely different than being considered part of the team. I dare and challenge male youth workers to look for ways to be inclusive of female youth workers.
I boil all of this down to three challenges for my dear male colleagues:
- Always look at meetings and plans with both genders’ accessibility in mind.
- Make sure you are intentionally making all of your students, regardless of gender, feel valuable and seen.
- Reach out to female youth workers, include, and listen to them.