Teresa approached my teacher’s desk one day after class. She wanted to know if I had time to talk a few minutes about a personal matter. Concern marked her face. I told her I’d give her all the time she needed. The other students quickly filed out of the classroom, leaving us alone to talk.
A senior at our university, Teresa neared completion of her undergraduate degree. She had done well in her studies and displayed unusual musical ability. During the last two years, she had traveled with one of our public relations musical ensembles, representing our university in churches and district functions across our educational region. I could not imagine what could possibly be troubling my friend. She seemed to have everything on her side—physical attractiveness, outgoing personality, musical talent, academic ability—a model young woman.
Teresa began to share her life’s story with me. Raised in a minister’s home, she had grown up with the love and encouragement of both parents. She had accepted Christ into her heart as a child and had lived an exemplary lifestyle through adolescence. Because of her commitment to Christ and wise choices, Teresa had no skeletons in her closet to haunt her as she moved into adulthood.
As she shifted the conversation toward the problem at hand, she indicated that she had already discussed the matter with her pastor-father. He had not helped her find an acceptable solution. She hoped that I could give her wise counsel.
Here is the crux of her dilemma. Since early childhood, she had sensed God’s call on her life for pastoral ministry. She had remained open to God’s direction at every stage of her development. She had always imagined herself pastoring a local congregation someday. She had attended college with this intention and studied hard to prepare for this task. However, now that her undergraduate education neared completion, the prospects of receiving a local church pastoral assignment looked slim. She closed her story with a series of questions that have rung in my ears for years. She asked, “If God is calling me to pastor, why do people not seem willing to give me a place to serve? How do I live with this burning passion in my heart? Will the day ever come in the church when my gender won’t stand in the way of my call?”
I talked with her for some time, but I’m afraid I did not adequately answer her questions. I assured her that her commitment to God and her preparation were not in vain; He would use her in His work. I then listed all of the assignments that welcome female ministers. She assured me that she would be open to one of these avenues if no pastoral assignment came her way. Our conversation ended, and Teresa went her way.
I lost track of my female ministerial student after she graduated and moved away from our university, but I’ve never lost track of her questions. They frequently play in my head. Are we who nurture God’s call in the lives of our young people open to recognizing a place for women in pastoral ministry? Are we who worship together in local congregations and serve in church boards open to offering women a place to serve in our churches? What should I tell the next female ministerial student who stays after class? Important questions—crucial issues for young women whom God calls.
—Frank Moore is vice president for academic affairs and dean of MidAmerica Nazarene University, where he has served for 14 years.
Moore, Frank. ( March 2000). Is there a place for me? Holiness Today, 37.