12 Reasons Why Being a Male Pastor is Better

priestA few days ago I wrote about the issue of women in ministry. While I don’t think I have ever hidden my views on the topic (I married a female colleague, after all), I also have never written about it on the various blogs I have maintained over the last few years. And maybe recently, I didn’t see it as my place to comment on women in ministry. I am still not sure… I don’t see it as my place to comment on anyone’s “right” or “place” to be a pastor. If anything, I think it is my place to talk about my experience of being a Lutheran pastor or a millennial pastor or a Canadian pastor. It is also to my place to talk about being a male pastor.

So let’s talk about that.

Being a male pastor is kind of like Louis C.K.’s description of “Being White”. (Warning: The video contains offensive language).

Like Louis C.K. says, male pastors aren’t better. But being a male pastor is clearly better.

Like all the advantages of being white and male in North America, there are advantages when it comes to being an ordained pastor. Here are some of the obvious ones:

  1. No one ever defines my ministry by my gender. No one says, “wow a male pastor or a man in ministry, good for you.” I always get to be just a pastor. I don’t have to constantly live with a qualifier in front of “pastor”, and I am not forced to bear someone’s inappropriate shock that I am my gender and I am a pastor.
  2. People expect me to be direct and tell them what I think. They want me to lead them somewhere. I am rarely challenged or expected to defend or make a case for my ideas. I don’t have to apologize for having strong opinions or constantly defend my ideas.
  3. People think twice about fighting with me. I always have a leg up in conflict, bullies find it harder to push my buttons because I have fewer to push. I am never automatically second class because of my gender, so conflict is on equal terms or tipped in my favour. I don’t have to suffer being called “boy” or “son” as way of dismissing my point of view, and I am not accused of being divisive if I disagree with something or anything.
  4. People are used to pastors of my gender. There are no congregations that are unsure of male candidates for ministry, no parishioners who think it is alright to say something like, “I will never be buried by a man.” I don’t have to endure questions about whether I will take paternity leave, or what will happen when I have kids.
  5. People almost never assume that I have a particular gift for ministry before they know me. They don’t automatically think that my gender is suited to particular areas of ministry like preaching or administration. No one assumes that I am not good at pastoral care or being nurturing. People don’t say that I have the gift of speaking with a voice that men can relate to.
  6. I don’t have to worry about my safety. I don’t think twice about being alone in the church or if I am safe on my own. If a man asks to meet with me one on one, I don’t have to question my physical safety or his motives. Men don’t try to share the peace with me by hugging me (or grabbing my ass).
  7. No one assumes that I am the church secretary or the pastor’s spouse. I am never told, “You don’t look like a pastor or you are took young to be a pastor” even thought I am built like a football player and at times have had long hair and a beard like a hell’s angel. And I have a tattoo. And I am 30 (two decades younger than the average age of pastors in our denomination).
  8. Churches are built for men. Pulpits, altars, pastor chairs, vestments are all designed my size and body type in mind. I don’t look ridiculous because the standard garb of my profession is made for my gender, and I don’t look like a cross dresser in a clergy shirt.
  9. All the pronouns are for my gender. God is a he. Jesus is a he. Pastors are almost always referred to as he or him or his. I don’t have to correct people because they never use the wrong pronoun to refer to me.
  10. Being male is the norm in the church. I didn’t have to take classes in seminary about men’s issues, there is no post-modern male theology, male pastors where never brought in to speak about being male pastors as if it was special or odd or a novelty.
  11. I could join the Old Boys Club if I wanted to. Leadership in the church is still overwhelmingly male, and there are no glass ceilings for male pastors in the church. No one pretends it is, “all in good fun” to make sexist jokes about my gender, and none of my colleagues treats me like I am second class because of my gender.
  12. I don’t have to walk on egg shells in ecumenical situations. I don’t have to justify my position and call to my conservative colleagues, because they all have male pastors in their denominations. I am not an oddity or the token male at ministerial events.

All the advantages of being a male pastor are only advantages because women suffer the opposite. So many of my colleagues have to contend with these annoyances, insults, and frustrations each day because they are the reality of life in the church. This fact makes me very angry. I pray for the day when these will not be male-pastor advantages, but the reality for all pastors, regardless of gender.

*** Special thanks to my wife, Courtenay, for helping me write this post, since she knows much more about the struggles women in ministry face than I do. You can follow her on twitter @ReedmanParker ***

Read a Christmas Post here:

I am at War with Christmas

See some more posts:

Putting My Jesus Feminism to the Test

10 More Reasons Why Male Pastors are Better,

So what do you think? Are these true? Are there more advantages to being a male pastor? Share in the comments.

Follow me on Twitter: @ParkerErik

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167 thoughts on “12 Reasons Why Being a Male Pastor is Better”

  1. Much of this made me smile with memories of shared experience. I have been credentialed with the Assemblies of God over 30 years, and overall, it has been a very positive experience. I have served as youth pastor under a woman lead pastor, and then I married, and became a co-evangelist, and now co-pastor. We pretty much share all the duties of pastor ship, although he leans more to the administrative side, and I lean to one-on-one with the congregation. We both preach, teach and do music ministry. BUT, even with my husband’s full support, I am usually the one who gets verbally attacked or blamed when discipline is needed. I am questioned about authority a lot, but as we work as a team, this tends to be diffused in one way or another. I love being a minister because I am doing what I am called to do. SIde note: I always find it amusing that those who want to keep women from church leadership are usually the ones who ignore scripture that says Do not forbid to speak in tongues. Same chapter as much of the scripture interpreted for male dominance.😊

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  2. Thank you. I enjoyed this. I am a male pastor in the PCUSA and I am a 6’4-280 lb. competitive power lifter and strongman born at the end of the Xers. I grew up with female clergy in churches I attended from birth so female pastors were always a norm for me. The only thing that drove me nuts is that I got tired in seminary for having to apologize for being a male. I was taught that by merely being large and a male that I was oppressive to females even though there is not a patriarchal bone in my body. I think that becomes counterproductive!! Peace to you and your wife in your ministries!!!

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  3. Am I the only one who noticed that this seems to be “12 Reasons Why Being a White Male Priest is Better”? Many of these items or variations thereof can apply to male clergy of color too. I’ve had people assume I was a janitor when I opened the door, and plenty of people have been quite willing to tell me what my ministry is supposed to be.

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  4. Thanks for the tongue-in-cheek post. I have experienced all of these and more in my brief 7 years of ministry. I have one for you to add to your ever-increasing list. When you are a male pastor, the banks probably don’t refuse to let you cash your paycheck because it is made out to “Pastor Doe” with no first name. I was told that Pastor Suggitt would have to come in and cash his own check. I had to show my driver’s license and proof of ordination. When I asked the treasurer to please put my first name on the check, he seemed confused. He had never had to do that before. Surprise!

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  5. This is lovely, and I thank you for writing it.

    Oddly, I’m on the other side of the issue, in that I’m a priestess in a community (paganism) that often considers women ‘more suited’ to the call of the divine, and does not treat male practitioners with the same respect in all situations. I never have to challenge my right to let the Goddess speak through me, but a male colleague might.

    This is a good reminder, not only of what women go through in most Christian churches, but of what men go through in my own community, and I appreciate the gentle nudge to be mindful of the equality and respect we all deserve, when we seek to lead others in faith.

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  6. Ok – this is from the old days for me – I am in the United Church of Canada where 95% of the ordinands are female. The head of our presbytery is female, the head of our conferece is female, the moderator is male but only just recently – [the moderator] was female for the last few years. I have people tell me that they don’t want a man to bury them. I have people often tell me I don’t look like a minister – (I have a beard) and I am very aware of safety – I would never be alone with a woman in the church as we have Third party accusation – ie a third party can charge me with sexual assault – even if nothing ever took place – it’s a womans church now

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  7. If I’m correct, one of the arguments used by the complimentarian crowd is that the bible states that women shouldn’t have “authority” over men. I find this interesting in two regards:

    1) Do pastors really have “authority” over their congregants? Perhaps in some fundementalist denominations, where people are cultured into these sorts of roles/beliefs (I’m thinking IFB churches in the US, primarily), but as a whole, it seems to me that part of Luther’s Reformation was to take this spiritual authority away from clergy and put in firmly back in the realm of God. As a general rule, while I think most people recognize that Pastors have more training on, and thus “authority” in interpreting the bible, this doesn’t seem to translate to me as ruling over them…. I still have a brain, and can (and do) take or leave what Pastors say according to my own thoughts, experiences, opinions, and study.

    2) I’m not ordained, but I know A LOT of people who are, and it seems to me that, at least in most churches I’m familiar with, it’s not the Pastor who has ultimate authority, but rather the board (again, this wouldn’t apply to places without a board)… so the real question shouldn’t be “can women be pastors”, but “can women be on governing bodies”? Obviously, those against egalitarianism in the church would say no, they can’t, because then they WOULD be in position of authority over men, but I wonder if they would extend that to all women in any position of governance? I would be surprised if there weren’t a fair number of people who are uncomfortable with female pastors in the church who don’t have a problem with women on other boards, specifically those in ‘female’ spheres like education, libraries, social work, humanitarian, charity, even if those women have “authority” over men.

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  8. Your list, tongue in cheek or otherwise, is timely and right on — I have heard it from women in ministry across the broad spectrum of denominations — but your list also points to something more subtle — the fight that women in every aspect of society have to be recognized as a person of worth.

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  9. From experience I can agree with every word that you say. i am currently supporting a female pastor in her ministry & I am so impressed that she does not feel threatened by the fact that every one of those factors to which you refer in your posting apply to me in her church. It is so much easier being me! I might also add that the builder who is doing fantastic work on our home right now is the husband of a pastor. On the days when we meet up our conversation over a coffee we often talk about her struggles. How long will it be before we move on from this stage?

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  10. Conversely, you don’t get the opportunity to challenge or be challenged by other’s points of view in matters 1-5 & 12. Female pastors get to make a difference in these areas. That’s ministry! Sadly, numbers 6, 9 & 11 are common to just about every work place (I work for a women with a graduate degree, that speaks three languages natively and because she has an incredibly minor accent, people defer to me). Number 7 can allow a person with thick skin to gain remarkable insight before the person to whom they are speaking realizes. I have to disagree with number 10. There just aren’t enough men stepping up in ministry in general, not just the pastorate. Especially among the boys of single parent homes there is a growing attitude that church is for women and little kids. I believe this is due, in part, to the fact that they seldom see positive Christian role models serving.

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  11. I am an Episcopal priest, ordained over 13 years. Old enough to be your mom. And I can relate to most of these points! Being mid-life when I was ordained kept me from being thought of as a “girl”. Thanks for this–creative and clever and thought-provoking.

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  12. Try being a gay or lesbian clergy person for a day. Do we want to talk about assumptions and suffering? Discrimination which oppresses a person includes many “minority” folks. Thanks for giving voice to painful assumptions.

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  13. Churches will have a majority of female clergy by 2040; clergy are already becoming as much a female profession as teaching.
    It’s a function of religion’s lower status-nobody cares who’s the pastor because the power isn’t nearly as much with religion today as it was 100 years ago.
    I notice that you don’t mention “churches of color”; why don’t they have as many female clergy as “mainline” churches?

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    1. I can’t really say whether or not “churches of colour” have more or less women in clergy roles. I did attend the most ethnically diverse seminary in North America… and our student body was roughly 50/50 male and female.

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  14. 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 11, 12 are simply not my experience. I think that both male and female pastors have their own issues to deal with in congregations.

    For instance, I have to be very cautious about boundary issues concerning female and youth members of the congregation. I am expected to be everything to everyone at all times. I am expected to never get sick or to miss a step because of illness. If I do, my work-ethic is questioned. I am expected to have the Bible memorized and to know all theological, spiritual, and religious aspects of the Church local and universal. I am expected to have a perfect family and a perfect relationship with my spouse. I am expected to have complete and absolutely control over the behavior of my wife and children at all times. I am expected to speak for my wife regarding volunteering, for instance. My spouse is expected to be a perfect “pastor’s wife,” whatever that means. My physical appearance has been objectified. I have received comments on the length of my hair, what I wear on Sundays (no suit for me) and my weight has been commented about on several occasions. One reason I am told that people are hesitant to come to me directly is that my size is intimidating. In this area of the country, ecumenically, I am suspect because of my denomination’s progressive and liberal leanings

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  15. I was a pastor in the Church of the Nazarene. I am now in the United Methodist Church. My former denomination would brag about how they were so open to female pastors, but when reality set in, few churches wanted female pastors. District Superintendents were very cool to female clergy. If a female did get a church, they never got a good one. It was usually a small church or bi-vocational situation. The very few female clergy who did get a decent church got it because they had a name.
    In the UMC, we have many female clergy who have migrated from more conservative denominations for just this reason.

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  16. I agree with so much of this. As a male who spent many years in ministry I was verry aware of the gender advantage. Invariably if I was a guest speaker at a church whose minister is a woman I would be praised up one side and down the other and hear how nice it was to hear a man in the pulpit. That said I am also the survivor of a sexual assault which occurred as an adult. Not long after that happened as I was working on building our young adult and GLBT outreach I was finding a number of our potential members where interested in time with the young pastor more than involvement at church. I did not feel safe in these situations not only because of actual physical danger but in some cases the danger of reputation since as with all clergy my position is as an authority figure but one with a great deal of qualifiers to that authority – and a lot of people in the congregation who know the power that is theirs over their ministers. Likewise the point that church is a male space. I don’t know that this is historically so in the US where it was women in the 19th century that did a huge amount of the fund raising and for some time there have been more women than men in church and I found that because I was at ease with women and able to relate to them sometimes better than other men I had an advantage in church settings. Again I say this while still supporting the overall claim that there are distinct advantages to being male .. P.S. I forgot there is also a recent study about the fact that women stay in ministry longer and endure the conflicts etc. better.

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  17. God is a “he”, because he is married to Israel. Jesus is a “he”, because he incarnated as a man, is God, and is married to the Church, which is the continuation of Israel (not modern Christ-rejecting Judaism). If God/Jesus was a “she”, God/Jesus would be a lesbian, and homosexuality is not of God.

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  18. Is any of this scriptural. That is the main issue in this situation. Does God say it is good or acceptable that women become over-seers (pastors) with in the body of believers that makes up Jesus Christ’s church. No, He does not. You will not find it in the Old Testament or the New Testamont that God will allow women to be High priests, Elders, or pastors. Only way to give some body of support to the position that a woman can become a pastor is to make void the Word of God and follow after vain teachings that tickle the ears. People will always make liberities with the Bible and change what they see fit because the Bible it isn’t politically correct or it’s teachings capable with the philosophy of this world. So that is why the Bible is not acceptable to many people and even hated. Do not get me wrong, many women are better speakers and well versed than men. Personaly I think they should be pastors, however, this is not about taint, skill, my personal feelings or some sort of calling women might feel but is about God, His order and submitting to His Word. God gave order to how His Church was to be conducted, like He did with creation and with the family. To willingly rebel against His commands and Word is not wise or benefitual. Women are called to do many roles with in ministry but the role Elder or Pastor is not one of them. Sorry but they are not. We are all called to spread the gospel but the role of teaching sound doctrine and sheparding the flock…etc.In conclusion they or you submitting to the Word of God, or just making the Word of God subordinate to your and their desires. Whether anyone likes it or not is irrelevant to the fact that this is what the Bible teaches.

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