Monday, May 5, 2008

Just Call Her a Children's Pastor (Guest Column)

This article was posted by Andrea Faris at Christians in Context... there are a few things we may not be in FULL agreement with BUT for the most part we are playing in the same ballpark!

May 04, 2008

Just Call Her a Children's Pastor

Ever notice that a man who runs the church's children's ministry is called a children's pastor, but a woman is called a children's director? Well if you hadn't, certainly my woman children's director friend has- and to her credit, she doesn't get real upset about little things like that (last I checked, I think she may even agree with it). In any case, the game is up: those children's directors really are children's pastors. They do all the same stuff, just with a different title to match the different anatomy.

Of course the people who come up with stuff like that are normally godly folks just trying to get the Bible right, and in the attempt to be faithful to 1 Tim. 2:11-14 et. al., pull the titular switcheroo. But I for one have always wondered what Paul would think if he came around our churches only to find that his Spirit-inspired concerns about gender roles in the church, at least at points, got so trivialized. (Well, maybe he'd be too busy telling all the egalitarians just how wrong they'd got his writing to notice how complementarians mess with ministry titles...zing!)

Harold Hoehner wrote an article for the December '07 issue ofJETS entitled, "Can a Woman Be a Pastor-Teacher?" in which he makes a point of distinguishing between what the NT calls "gifts" and what it calls "offices." On a number of levels, the article is frankly not that good. Most importantly, Hoehner predicates the case on a false understanding of spiritual gifts (apparently he hasn't read Berding's book) that leads to the plainly counter-intuitive dichotomy between things like doing the work of an evangelist and having the gift of being an evangelist (766-7).

Nonetheless, one point is well-taken: the word-group translated "gift" or "spiritual gift" in English Bibles refers to something distinct from the church office titles of elder, bishop, and deacon especially found in the Pastoral Epistles. This leads Hoehner to conclude that a woman could have the gift of pastor-teacher (Eph. 4:11) and even be ordained as such without necessarily also being an elder, which Hoehner maintains is a position restricted to males in the church.

Despite the article's problems, the noted gift/office distinction still stands, and leads me to conclude this: a woman really could have the spiritual
ministry (a better term, following Berding) of a pastor-teacher, as long as it is within the Biblical bounds set for women's ministry roles, esp. in 1 Tim. 2:11-14 (Hoehner tries to get at something like this, but is simply not as clear). Specifically, if her authority is exercised over children and/or women, there is no reason that she could not be exercising her ministry of pastor-teacher.

One more correlating point should be added: "pastor" is an overused term in our churches today, compared to its relative scarcity in the NT. Outside of the Eph. 4 passage, I am not sure of a text that refers to church leaders as "pastors". "Elder" (Gk.
presbuteros and/or episkopos) is the more common and explicit term, most importantly within the Pastoral Epistles. That is to say, of course a woman children's "director" is pastoring those children. It does not mean she is exercising the ecclesiological male-only authority of an elder. This understanding of pastoring actually fits better with the Eph. 4 use of the term as a spiritual ministry for the edification of the church, rather than an office per se. There is something more active (for lack of a better word) about pastoring.

So go ahead ladies, call yourselves pastors, as long as you're not doing the stuff that the Bible says is only for males. The issue has a lot more to do with what you do than what you're called.
After all, there is no explicit "women can't be elders" text- that is a (reasonable) application from the function-in-action type boundaries set in 1 Tim. 2 compared to what the rest of the Pastorals say about eldership (cf. Blomberg's article in Two Views on Women in Ministry). Maybe the title change would even change the focus for women from "what you are not supposed to do" to "exercising your role in the ministry God has empowered and called you for." And that would be a nice change.

I should add one last comment: this would only work if we properly used the terms "pastor" and "elder" as delineated above. Otherwise, it will probably result in confusion. But I think it is worth going through with both changes together simply because of connotations. "Director" (or whatever other non-biblical word you choose) comes off in my view considerably more demeaning (and actually considerably more authoritative!) than the biblical term "pastor." And like I said, what we want to do is encourage both men and women to fulfill their God-given roles for the sake of His church.


Anonymous said... according to this article, what happens if I have male leaders on my team? Or if a dad brings his child to kids' crusade and stays? Am I then NOT a children's pastor anymore, but a children's ministry director? Technically, I'd be preaching to men in those cases...

I agree with the statement that what we do is, in fact, pastoring kids. But I feel like the author is telling me that I'm fine as long as I "stay in my place."

I do not "call myself" a pastor because it's some vanity title I have bestowed upon myself; I am a pastor because my denomination has recognized my calling and licensed me (not ordained me...yet!).

Very interesting and thought-provoking...and yes, you can always count on me to grab onto the nit-picky details and not just appreciate the broader truths.

Keep doing what you do, friends!!

Equal Time said...

As I stated in the disclaimer at the top of this post, we aren't in TOTAL agreement with everything said, BUT, I believe it is important to watch someone else's thought processes play out when contemplating such a hefty issue!

I love it Leanna that you dissect things... I was doing the same thing when posting this piece! In my opinion, I believe the author is struggling with the same views you and I have.. just not wanting to break away and say so YET!

I was reading something else lately that said that the church is conflicted because while was say "women are equal in gender" according to the Word, our actions are saying something else.

Bill Johnson said ( and I SO agree ) that most times church leaders reduce scripture to their own level of experience..." THIS is one of the biggest issues facing the gender equality issue in the body of Christ (in my opinion!)

I also MUST recommend a book , "Mixed Ministry" that sums all of theis up in a nutshell!