Tuesday, September 4, 2007

A Hypothetical Look at Reality

“Pastor Smith, I put the resumes for the Associate Pastor position on your desk this afternoon,” the administrative assistant called out. Pastor Smith nodded and waved a hand of thanks her way as he pushed open the door to his office. As he sank into his chair he eyed the overflowing pile of envelopes addressed to the Pastoral Search Committee of Liberty Worship Center. There were at least a hundred. His eyes drifted to another stack of resumes that had been omitted. There at least two hundred there. Liberty needed to find someone fast. The load had been more than Pastor Smith and the board had expected. With a deep sigh Pastor Smith dove into the pile of fresh resumes praying for a qualified candidate.

After more than two hours, the “keep” pile was much smaller than the new discard pile. Pastor Smith took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. “Okay, just one more then I’m calling it quits for the day!” He reached for an envelope postmarked from Florida. He read aloud as he unfolded the thick resume, “Reverend Cameron Woods of Jacksonville, FL.” As he continued to read a smile crept upon his face. The list of qualifications alone placed Rev. Woods at the top of the list.


-diversity of experience in 18+ years of ministry

-visionary with proven ability to put vision into action

-proven ability to evaluate, equip & mobilize people into action

-proven ability to work independently & in a team oriented environment

-highly relational in communication personally, in small groups & large public gatherings

-proven ability to delegate effectively

-proven ability to lead a team that effectively cares for the needs of over 1,000 people

-proven ability to manage teams of up to 100 people on a daily basis

-proven ability to manage teams of up to 150 people for single large events

-proven ability to be creative in problem solving

-proven ability to be intentionally relevant to people outside of church culture

-proven ability to serve simply, practically & tangibly the “not-yet-believer”

-proven ability to effectively communicate verbally, in writing, media & the arts

-proven ability to shepherd, counsel & guide people towards an authentic relationship with Christ

-proven ability to laugh, enjoy life & people, not take self too seriously, be gracious & “roll with the punches” along the way

Pastor Smith jumped up from his seat knocking the rest of the pile to the ground. He grabbed his coat and brief case and walked into the lobby. “Andrea, please contact this candidate and set up a phone interview for myself and the search committee. The sooner the better!”

The next morning an email confirming the date and time for the phone interview popped into Pastor Smith’s inbox. As an added note, Andrea wrote that her conversation with Rev. Woods had been pleasant and a blessing. “Good to know,” Pastor Smith thought aloud. Talking with church attendees and staff would be a daily part of the position.

As with every candidate, Pastor Smith then forwarded a questionnaire to Rev. Woods as well as a formal application. Picking up the phone Pastor Smith phoned the four references listed on Rev. Woods’ resume for references. He smiled bigger with each call. They were all the same, “Rev. Woods is a person of exemplary character.” “Cameron is a team player and a leader of leaders.” “Pastor Cameron would be a coveted addition to any church.” The questionnaire and application came back and mirrored everything that was said and exactly what was in the heart of Pastor Smith. There was no way he was letting this one go!

The next day came and went quickly. Pastor Smith was almost giddy to talk to Rev. Woods. As the time for the phone interview approached Pastor Smith made sure each of the search committee had a photocopy of Cameron Woods’ resume, questionnaire, and application. After a word of prayer Pastor Smith asked everyone to view the resume in front of them before they made the call.

Pastor Smith read through the resume aloud pointing out interesting facts and reference points. “Family status, married to Tracy, for 15 years, three children 3, 5, and 9. Spiritual gifts include shepherding, leadership and administration…” As Pastor Smith looked around the table he was pleased at the nodding heads and smiles of the committee members. “Additionally, Tracy, Rev. Woods’ wife also has extensive ministry experience,” Pastor Smith read from the questionnaire. “Tracy’s ministry involvement is extensive and executed with excellence. Tracy’s experience includes leadership in missions projects, First Impressions, small groups and outreach events.”

“Pastor, let’s go ahead and make the call,” said one of the committee members. “I’m anxious to talk to Rev. Woods.”

Pastor Smith dialed and placed the call on the conference call mechanism. “Woods’ Residence,” a cheerful female voice answered.

“Well hello Mrs. Woods. What a delight it is to speak with you,” Pastor Smith said with a grin on his face. “My name is Pastor Mark Smith from Liberty Worship Center in Michigan. I am joined this evening by our pastoral search committee. We are certainly looking forward to speaking with Rev. Woods this evening.”

“Um, yes, I am excited too,” said the woman on the other end. “Would you like to begin?”

“Most definitely,” answered Pastor Smith. “It’s been a pleasure talking with you Tracy. Is Rev. Woods around?”

“Pastor Smith,” the woman said giggling. “Tracy is my husband, I am Rev. Cameron Woods. That’s okay though, it happened with names like ours. I’m ready when you are.”

The silence on Liberty Worship Center’s end was deafening. Pastor Smith felt his face and neck redden. As he looked at the other members of the committee their faces were in disbelief.

“I am sorry Cameron. I, uh, didn’t realize that you were a wo…, I mean Rev. Woods,” stammered Pastor Smith.

The rest of the call lasted only 15 minutes. The committee disbanded and shook their heads as Pastor Smith hung up the phone. “Oh well, back to the drawing board,” he said as the rest of the committee laughed.

Of course this story is fictional, well, this time anyway. Unfortunately, this type of prejudice happens. How devastating it is when a fully qualified woman is disqualified because of her gender. Imagine getting a resume that reflected Cameron’s qualifications yet it would be discarded because it belonged to a woman.

The incredible thing is “Cameron” could have gotten a position at a reputable corporation with the resume she submitted. And they would have hired her. She would have climbed the ladder of success much faster in the secular workplace than in most churches. She would have been respected and valued for her wisdom, experience and knowledge.

Closed minded legalism wants to dictate to women that their involvement in ministry be limited and that their gifts and abilities be in the background. The biggest issue I have with this is the fact that after women are told “no” countless times they are then chastised for becoming successful in the secular workplace.

Women react to such prejudice by deciding to use their talents where they were appreciated. Extra time at work is appreciated and rewarded; extra time at church may not be. There are many women who have become Sunday-morning Christians; it has become easier. There is a terrible temptation not to be involved much at church that exudes such a legalistic approach because it’s not clear how we as women will fit in.

Some congregations make women feel as though they are not as valuable at church as they are at work. Some women are made to feel that their contributions are not needed or wanted, and that their gifts are expendable.

Women are tired of being a different person during the week from the person they are on Sunday. During the week, what they do makes a difference as to whether their company succeeds or fails. During the week, the people at work notice their demeanor and tone of voice and if they seem unhappy, they ask if something is wrong. At work woman are told that the company needs their ideas, productivity and talents. When a good result is achieved, someone says, “Good job! Thank you!” Studies have shown that most people are motivated by understanding how their performance fits into an organization and how their work makes a difference.

Some will say that I am making excuses or looking for a bone to pick. They may say that “What you get out of church depends on what you put into it.” And to be honest and fair, there is an element of truth to that; it is certainly more rewarding to be involved than to disengage.

However, we must all realize that it gets harder and harder to convince one’s self that God really wants us to contribute such a small portion of our talents to the church community in comparison to our workplace. The Word tells us to stir up the gifts within us. My question is why stir up what will never be consumed?

Again, it is time for equal time in the body of Christ. Deborah(s), arise!

Rev. Tara D. Sloan, Equal Time Co-founder

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