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Women Leadership and Guilt

Written by Ed Stetzer Feed on . Posted in Ed Stetzer

The church needs women who are committed to being trained to use their gifts in the local church.

What happens when you discern a call to ministry that seems totally impractical? What happens when you enroll in seminary without any assurance of a future job?

Those are the uncertainties facing the women I interviewed for my doctoral research last year. I sat down with female seminary students at three conservative, evangelical seminaries for the primary purpose of understanding “what worked.” What encouraged them to enroll in seminary when so few of their peers do the same?

Throughout the course of my research, I discovered numerous encouraging findings about how church leaders are identifying the gifts of women and equipping them for ministry. However I also uncovered a surprising obstacle. In addition to the expected hurdles of tuition costs and lack of job prospects, I found that over a third of the women wrestled with an abiding sense of guilt.

One woman confessed, “I thought maybe I was being selfish by wanting to attend. Like, I wanted to prepare myself for my career, instead of supporting my husband’s.” Another woman also admitted to feeling selfish for enrolling, that she ought to “give to people instead of giving to [herself].” One student described her own feelings of “guilt and shame,” while another expressed her fear of attending seminary “for the wrong reasons.”

Due to the nature of my research, my interviews focused on the positive factors rather than the negative, so I was struck that this particular obstacle emerged, unprompted, again and again. Why would evangelical women feel guilty about going to seminary?

I hope to research this question more in the future, however another section of my findings might shed some light on ...

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