A pastor or a pastor’s wife?

I used to half-jokingly say that I wanted to go to seminary to get an “MRS degree”.  That was because, beginning at the age of 18, I felt a strong certain conviction that the Lord wanted me to dedicate my life to serving him.  I had seen him use my shepherding gifts to encourage others along their spiritual journey, but the church culture around me told me that women didn’t become pastors.  But they could become pastor’s wives.   Sadly, that seemed like the only option I had to utilize my giftings.  I felt called into ministry but barred from being a minister.

Looking back, I wish I could tell my younger self that I didn’t have to feel like I had to put a cap on my gifts and stand behind a man.  Because the sad reality for me at that time was that I knew I couldn’t sign up to be a pastor’s wife as one would sign up for a class.  It wasn’t exactly something I could pursue no matter how much I felt like it was a calling for me to pastor.

This fall, I am starting seminary again — not in pursuit of an “MRS degree” but of an M.Div.  After taking a year break to focus on my calling as a mom, I am making my return to answer my other calling.  During my break from my studies, I had time to reassess.   What was my reason for going to seminary?   Should I continue?  I am a true academic, and I will always crave learning the depth and breadth of God and his Word whether I am in seminary or not.  I could be a pastor or missionary without a degree.   I searched my heart to see if I was trying to validate myself or prove something to the world by obtaining an M.Div.  I didn’t want defiance to be the root of my pursuit.  In my heart of hearts, I know that I don’t need a human-created degree to ‘prove’ my suitability to minister to others.  The Holy Spirit doesn’t pass us up if we don’t have seminary degrees.

But the answer always came back to me that despite the reality that I don’t need a degree for myself or for God in order to validate his calling on my life, I need it in order to fulfill his calling in my life.  My pastor worded it perfectly when he wrote me to encourage me.  (He wrote this not knowing that I was even considering not completing my degree.)  “I’m really glad you’re pursuing the degree.  Unfortunately,  I think it is more important for women to be credentialed than men.   The degree is going to help you live in your God-given authority and gifting.”  Yes, unfortunately, it is true that if people are opposed to listening to a woman, they are even less likely to listen to a woman who has no degree.  And the more I searched my heart, the more I realized that it was as much a calling for me to finish my degree as it was for me to use my degree to serve God.  How I do pray that the M.Div. would really allow me live out his purposes in my life.

I’m writing this tonight, hoping that by chance these words could be read by someone in the same shoes I was in when I was 18.  Don’t believe the lie that you are a second class citizen.  If you feel called to be a pastor, don’t think you have to settle for being a pastor’s wife, the title of “Director” or simply being a layperson.  Pursue the gifts he’s given you.  Get a degree.  Do any less and you would not get to experience the freedom and joy of living out the destiny that he has for you.


2 responses to this post.

  1. This is beautiful. I also put off seminary because I thought it was pointless — the forms of ministry a woman could participate in weren’t helped by theological studies. Luckily I found those who believed differently — and a seminary president who, for whatever reason, believed in me. Turns out I did get married this past summer to someone in my seminary program (although we started dating before starting school together) — since he is more interested in teaching than preaching (although he can certainly do that, too), he jokes about being the pastor’s wife.

    Here’s hoping the next generation won’t have to face this kind of struggle…


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