• Jeannette Cochran

3 Reasons Women Don't Fit the Pastor Mold

Updated: Sep 28, 2021

“Is she the pastor,” a surprised newcomer asked one of our ushers while I stood on the platform giving the morning welcome and prayer.

“She’s one of our pastors,” the usher replied.

Later, when the usher relayed the conversation to me, she was quite surprised and puzzled by the question. I just smiled and chuckled inside. I’m used to being mistaken for the church administrator or the lead pastor’s wife, so I’ve grown accustomed to such questions. It seems we women just don’t fit the mold for Christian pastor and here are three reasons why.

The mold has been intentionally shaped to exclude women.

Many evangelical denominations have deliberately crafted the pastor as male. They believe God only wants men to lead so they exclude women from any form of church leadership that holds authority or influence over men. While some Bible passages appear to limit women, many others affirm those who had the courage to lead in a man’s world. Women like Miriam, a quick-thinking girl who grew to become a prophet; [1] Deborah a judge and ruler over Israel; [2] Esther the beauty queen turned justice advocate; [3] and Huldah an influential prophet. [4] If it’s truly God’s desire that church leadership is all male then why were women leading and preaching in the first-century church. Women like Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchrea, [5] and Priscilla, a teacher and leader respected by Paul as a co-worker who risked her life for him. [6] What about Junia, a woman celebrated by Paul as an outstanding apostle, [7] and Nympha, an early house church leader? [8]

The shape of the mold is distorted.

Sometimes women fail to fit as pastor because the mold has been twisted to make feminine qualities appear inferior and women unfit for leadership. As a young girl, I was taught to believe that God created men to lead and women as helpers who follow male leadership. But the opening chapters of Genesis tell a different story, affirming the fundamental equality and shared leadership of men and women. Both are created in the divine image. Both are commanded to be fruitful and multiply. And both are given authority to subdue and rule the earth. Some emphasize the word “helper” to argue that the man is the leader and the woman his subordinate. The word “helper” in Genesis 2:18 is the Hebrew word “ezer.” This word appears twenty times in the Old Testament and is never used in reference to a person of lower rank or position. In most cases, the term is used to refer to God himself when he aids or rescues his people so to draw inferences of female subordination from this word is misguided.

God never fashions leaders from a one-size fits all mold.

Throughout the Bible, God used leaders who didn’t fit the traditions and expectations of their culture. Even Jesus himself was rejected because he didn’t fit Israel’s image of Messiah. Jesus turned the world’s leadership model upside down replacing power and dominance with service and sacrifice. He challenged the patriarchy and misogyny of his culture, elevating women to positions of respect and equality with men. He included women in his band of followers, teaching and empowering them as full participants in the new community.[9] Strikingly, at the resurrection Jesus appeared first to the women and commissioned them to announce the good news to their brothers. [10]

Years ago, my younger self would have been agitated by the encounter described above. But today, my older and wiser self has learned to let the opinions of others roll off of me. According to some, I don’t fit the mold of a pastor, and honestly, I’m not trying to. I’m more concerned with breaking the mold than fitting an image imposed by others. I’m more concerned with stepping into the space where God has called me to lead with the confidence and clarity to be myself, even when that means leading differently than my male counterparts.

Not every woman is called to be a pastor but every woman is called to express her gifts, and those gifts are not limited by gender. [11] When women follow God’s calling for our life, leading the way God created us, not only do we flourish and fulfill our destiny, but we also pave the way for our sisters and daughters who will come after us to do the same.


[1] Exodus 15:20

[2] Judges 4:4-5

[3] Esther 4:15-17

[4] 2 Kings 22:14

[5] Romans 16:1

[6] Acts 18:26, 1 Cor. 16:19, Romans 16:3-4

[7] Romans 16:7

[8] Colossians 4:15

[9] Luke 8:1-3, Luke 10:39

[10] John 20:16-18

[11] Acts 2:17-18, 1 Corinthians 12

#GenderEquality #WomenChurchLeadership #Egalitarianism

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