Real Talk – Experiences of a Female Pastor

By May 27, 2014My Thoughts

I thought it would be fun to share some hilarious (and frustrating) experiences I’ve had as pastor who just happens to be female. Even though female pastors are no longer a rarity, many communities, churches, and large parts of the country have had little to no experience with female clergy. This often results in funny, tragic, and awkward exchanges…some of which are too priceless to ignore. So…here’s some real talk about what it can be like as a female pastor.

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Before becoming a pastor, I never realized how many telemarketing calls churches receive. It is shocking, honestly. From calls about ice melt and YellowPages listings to inquiries about the latest and greatest Christian media available for purchase, not a week goes by without several sales calls to the church.

Usually, when I answer a sales call, the person on the other end assumes I am the church secretary. But, I’ve also experienced this gem of an interaction:

Me: Hello, you’ve reached the Reformed Church.
Telemarketer: Hello. May I speak to the pastor?
Me: I am the pastor.
Telemarketer: <awkward pause> Well…good for you!

Honestly, I couldn’t help but laugh. Good for me, indeed. 🙂

***

After having a wonderful conversation with someone for an hour, he informed me that the reason he stopped by was to tell me he was unsupportive of ordaining women, but if I wanted to write a defense of what I do, he would read it. He has since granted a divine exception clause to allow me to be a pastor, even though he doesn’t think other women are permitted to be.

***

 I have had the privilege of talking with women who had difficulties they wanted to discuss and have prayer for. Many of the women have expressed profound appreciation that they could speak to me about things they had been uncomfortable discussing with male pastors. This has opened doors for conversations about depression and anxiety, difficulties raising small children, and about health concerns that are unique to women. These conversations have been so affirming, and have truly been a holy privilege for me.

***

As I got ready for my first Classis meeting (regional governing body of my denomination), I chose something I wanted to wear. I didn’t think about the fact that what I was choosing was hot pink until I arrived at the meeting. At that time I was the only ordained female in my Classis. Suddenly, I was in a sea of suits and ties…and there I was – in hot pink. I got a chuckle out of it through the entire meeting.

***

In nearly every interview I had with churches when I looked for my first call (except the one I ended up taking!), I was asked who would watch the kids for me when I was working.

***

If you wear a dress to lead the service, there’s nowhere to clip the battery pack of the lapel or over-the-ear microphone.

***

After I did pulpit supply to fulfill a seminary requirement, I was shaking hands with people as they exited the sanctuary. Most people said, “Good morning!” or “Thanks for being here with us today.” But, one person stopped and said proudly, “Hey, that was pretty good for a girl!”

***

A new form had to be printed for my ordination certificate because the first one had masculine pronouns.

***

No one knows what to call me… 🙂

 Gentleman after I did pulpit supply: You gave a great sermon! I don’t mean any offense by this, but what do you call a lady preacher? Lady Dominie?

Random person (to my husband and me): Good morning to the preacher and preacher-ette!

Another random person: If a man is a pastor, what do you call a pastor’s wife who is also a pastor?

Person upon learning I’m a pastor: Am I supposed to call you Holy Mother?

***

I’m so blessed to serve in a church where it is a non-issue that I am a woman. I’ve had relatively few negative experiences as a female pastor, and ample wonderful and holy opportunities to minister. But every now and then something happens that stops me in my tracks, makes me laugh, or causes me to pause and be grateful for all of the women who have gone before me and walked much more difficult roads than I have as they followed God’s call.

Are you a woman serving in ordained ministry? Have you had some strange, funny, or frustrating experiences as a female pastor/chaplain? I’d love if you’d share with me in the comments.

About April Fiet

April is a pastor, wife, mom, and lover of words. She finds inspiration under the big Nebraska skies, in the garden, in the yarn aisle, and in the kitchen. Learn more about April here, and join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

  • Stephanie

    April, this is where Spanish would come in handy, a male pastor is pastor, and a female pastor is pastora. 🙂 Lol. Thanks for sharing. BTW: I think someone should invent something to fix the mic pack problem. I would really like to wear dresses sometimes! Lol.

    • Oh yes! German has separate words also 🙂 I love it…pastora! And…I think there’d be a huge market for something to correct that mic pack problem!

  • Susan

    Just two days ago, after officiating at a funeral at the church, I was standing chatting with someone at the reception. One of the dear saints of the church sidled up to me and said ‘I love your little black dress and I notice that you are filling it out at the back more than you used to’. Uncommonly speechless I was!

  • Stephanie, when I wear a dress I clip the mic pack on to my dress at the back by the neck. I get a trusted female member of the cong’n to help me with it.

  • I really appreciate this post. You are able to present the real experiences of being a female pastor with humor. As a fellow female pastor, I know it can be frustrating when people say insensitive things.

    Most people just seem real concerned about how I am not only a female pastor, but an unmarried female pastor. (Gasp! Shock! Horror!) During a meeting to determine if I would receive a ministerial license (on my path toward ordination), I was asked: how will you feel if you never get married? (Keep in mind I was only twenty-one at the time.)

    I also once had to put the microphone box for an over-the-ear mic in my boot because I did not have any pockets.

    • Andra – wow! Isn’t it amazing how a female pastor’s marital status is open for discussion like that?! Thank you for being faithful to your calling!

    • Grace Claus

      Yes! The boot trick! That’s a favorite around here, and I always suggest it to other women participating in the service who have come without a waistband of some sort.

  • Rev Pam Easterday

    I dreamed of a waist-length stole with big pockets on the back of each end to hold the mic pack. You would have to weight the other side to keep it from sliding toward the pack. Our long stoles are supposed to represent yokes and a wide, short stole would do that better.

  • Megan Rosenberg

    This made me laugh out loud!! I am not a pastor, but I too frequently have people assume that I am the secretary. I did have one client tell me that he likes female lawyers better because “they’re meaner.” In my profession, that is a compliment; I was actually flattered. 🙂

  • Cynthia Theobald

    When I was doing my internship in a rural Texas parish, I had this delightful 80+ year old woman introduce me to her Southern Baptist twin sister and husband as “our little preacher girl!”

  • Andra, I was there too and the questions that search committees asked me usually fell between inappropriate and illegal.
    The funniest for me is some if the unique addressing formulas that people use to mail things to my husband and I. Apparently this does not fit most mailing softwares.

    • Linda, in my situation people will do Revs. or Rev. and Rev. But, the RCA sends us two of everything – one with me as the pastor, and one with Jeff as the pastor. Haha!

  • Lisa Vander Wal

    My favorite of the things I’ve been called is “High Priestess” 🙂

  • Mary Strawsma

    Church dinner: Visitor asked where is your new pastor? I point out our Pastora, and he says OH NO, I mean the man. I just laughed aloud.

    • Oh my goodness! haha! Sometimes all you can do is laugh.

  • RP

    I preached one Sunday, the first of a 3 part sermon, (filling in for the pastor who was on vacation and I’m on staff). An 86 year old man came up and said “I’m 86 years old and you are the first woman I’ve ever heard preach. You are mighty good!”

    The second week he made a point to shake my hand and said “that makes 2 times and you were better today. So glad you are with us again next week. I never knew I’d like a woman preaching!!!”

    • How incredibly affirming! I’m praising God with you for that gift!

  • Ruthie Oberg

    Because I do not wear vestments I am able to stick the mic pack on my pantyhose in the bathroom at the beginning of service. Slightly annoying? Yes, but the freedom of movement is well worth it for me. Loved your post!

    • Haha! I’ve totally done that before, too! 🙂 Thank you for reading and commenting!

  • intercision

    You are truly a blessing. Of course I’ve been listening to Bad Religion all afternoon so I am probably not the most spiritual person in the world.

    I especially like the part about women having access to you the way they wouldn’t a man. I think in different context the intra-gender and cross-gender dynamic can really work for the best. It is really not easy being a women in this day and age so being able to identify with a pastor of the same gender is very life-giving (especially when the woman seeking help is single).

  • What you have said reflects well the experiences of many women in the United Church of Canada based on what my female colleagues have told me. It is is good that you express them because there are still many more who need to hear this message. Thanks!

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