Female pastors double in last decade - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Female pastors double in last decade

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -- The number of women in the pulpit is increasing rapidly. One in ten U.S. churches now has a woman as senior pastor according to a recent survey by the Barna Group. That's up from about one in 20 churches just ten years ago.

More than 30 years ago, Reverend Dianne Christopher saw a male dominated ministry.

"I would often be providing leadership, workshop-type leadership in groups that were entirely men. It was unusual to have a woman, and then gradually, in our denomination, I would say we're about 50/50 men and women in pastoral roles," Christopher said.

Christopher worked at Cedar Falls High School as a counselor before becoming a pastor. She now works at St. Luke's United Methodist Church. When St. Luke's started 176 years ago, it's likely no one would have guessed a woman would later be the leader, and there's not just one woman pastor, but two.

"When you were growing up, it was always a male, and so to think of changing that is kind of tough. Once it happens, I've found it amazingly smooth," Associate Pastor Reverend Diane Mitchell said.

Now, more and more women are becoming pastors. Jenna Miner is in her second year at the Lutheran (ELCA) Wartburg Theological Seminary.

"I definitely don't feel like a minority being a candidate for pastoral ministry as a woman. About half of the population here at the seminary is women. It's about equal," Miner said.

Miner grew up in churches with male pastors, so she said she hadn't really thought about it until someone gave her the idea.

"My mom actually came home from work one day and told me that her friend Sally said that she thought I'd make a good pastor, so that thought never left the back of my mind," Miner said.

Pastors say part of getting more clergywomen is breaking down the thought that it's a job for men only, an idea St. Luke's kids are growing up with.

"They have two women pastors, and they are so comfortable with that," Mitchell said.

"The idea that one might be a pastor is really pretty common for girls now, and we reinforce that in our pastoring," Christopher said.

While Christopher and Mitchell say most congregations are accepting of female pastors, it's not always right away.

"Occasionally you'll have a congregation that says, 'We really don't want a woman'. But a woman is appointed there anyway and somehow it's amazing how that gets won over," Mitchell said.

"I think God calls all kinds of people into the ministry to do God's work in the world, and I don't necessarily think being male or female is much of a difference. It's just whether or not you feel the call," Miner said.

Women in pastoral roles, on the average, are more highly educated with 77% holding a seminary degree compared to 63% of men. Even so, male pastors still average more than $3,000 a year more in income. Despite the pay difference, female pastors are actually earning 30% more than they were ten years ago according to the Barna Group.

To see more about the study, click here.

Online Reporter:  Jamie Grey

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