Why should you invite a woman to preach in your church during Martha Stearns Marshall Month, this February? Well, it depends on where your church is along the pathway of accepting women in ministry. Whether you are at the “Been-there-done-that!-Have-two-women-pastors-and-a-T-shirt-to-prove-it” stage or the “We’ve-heard-that-women-can-preach-but-oh-my-goodness-can-we-do-that?” stage, you should choose a Sunday in February and invite a woman to preach. Let me tell you what I mean. Here are six stages of why you should invite a woman to preach:
Stage 1: “We’ve-heard-that-women-can-preach-but-oh-my-goodness-can-we-do-that?” If your church is at this early stage of accepting women as pastors and preachers, then it is high time you get more experience! Women do not bite. Although their preaching might have some teeth. So make your invitation today. You are in for a treat. You can do this!
Stage 2: “We’ll-probably-get-kicked-out-of-something-if-we-have-a-woman-preach.” If your church is at this stage, it is time to take a risk. Perhaps getting kicked out of your association or state convention will be about as devastating as getting kicked out of the Book of the Month Club. It’s a loss you can handle, and you might have been in the wrong club anyway!
Stage 3: “Oh-yes-we-support-women!-We-heard-one-preach-here . . . Umm-two-years-ago?” Put your money where your mouth is. Support for women in ministry can’t be in word only! Invite a current member of your church or another woman to preach, and take her out to lunch. Give her an honorarium: at least the same amount you would give a male supply preacher! Don’t just talk about your support. Show it!
Stage 4: “But-we-have-women-on-staff-already!” Perfect. Ask one of them to preach in February. If it is not among her regular duties, this is an opportunity for her, and for you as a congregation, to stretch and grow. Participating in MSM Month will affirm the value of women’s leadership as well as this particular woman’s value to your church! If you and she are really sure that it is not her gift or desire, then invite another woman to preach! Need a name? Ask Baptist Women in Ministry, and they will help you find a woman near you!
Stage 5: “But-we-just-called-a-woman-to-be-our-pastor!” Great! And you might have MSM Month to thank as one of the many ways she found support for her call to ministry! Or perhaps MSM Month helped open up your congregation to be ready to call her as your pastor. Opening and widening the vocational pathway to ministry for more women is a great reason for churches – even those with female pastors – to observe MSM Month every year!
Stage 6: “Been-there-done-that!-Have-two-women-pastors-and-a-T-shirt-to-prove-it!” If your church is this far down the path of accepting women’s preaching and pastoral leadership, then MSM Month is an even bigger gift for you! It gives you an opportunity to a) bring a seminary or a college student into your pulpit and expand your church’s teaching and encouraging role with the newly called; b) give your pastor a respite from weekly preaching while still enjoying worship with you; c) make a more prophetic and public stand for the sake of women in ministry; and d) build a culture of calling and support for women and men to engage in ministries of shared leadership.
Whatever stage you find yourself, Martha Stearns Marshall Month is for you! Now pull out that calendar . . . February is just around the corner!
Eileen Campbell-Reed is coordinator for coaching, mentoring and internship/associate professor of practical theology at Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville, Tennessee and co-director of the Learning Pastoral Imagination Project. She blogs at Keeper of the Fire and tweets @ecampbellreed.