During my initial phase of research with female clergy, I was privileged to interview The Reverend Portia Wills Lee, Senior Pastor of Trinity Tabernacle Baptist Church in Mableton, Georgia. Having started and successfully built, nurtured and developed the church she now serves, Pastor Wills Lee shares valuable insights for clergywomen who are seeking guidance concerning the call to become a senior pastor. Informed by her own experiences and faith journey, Pastor Wills Lee’s words are wise, strong, and candid. Truly she has come “this far by faith!”
The Reverend Portia Wills Lee
Senior Pastor, Trinity Tabernacle Baptist Church
What guidance would you give to our fellow sister clergy who feel called to become pastors, but lack direction and opportunity?
“I would say to remain teachable. Always know that there are people who are willing to assist you. So many sisters are just not teachable. It’s as if they feel that they don’t have to learn from the experiences of those who have gone before them. They should understand that there is a process and things are not going to be handed to you.
Be willing to learn from anyone in the church. It does not have to be from persons with a formal degree from a seminary. See value in everyone. Have respect for everyone. When people see that you are respectful of everyone, they will have greater respect for you. They will love you and set you apart from those who are standoffish.
Don’t be afraid to go to small churches where you can get some experience. You need to be with someone who will let you walk with them so that you can see the day to day life of a pastor.
Some associate ministers would rather go to larger churches; but when they do, they are often limited to sitting in the pews. As a result, they cut themselves off from greater opportunities of service. Some simply want to be able to say that they belong to a large church.”
What words of encouragement and insight would you share with those who have already become senior pastors but are seeking encouragement or suggestions for enhancing their ministries and/or additional pastoral opportunities?”
“Often we want to reap the work of the harvest quickly, and that just doesn’t always happen. The words that encourage me are ‘they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.’ There are valley situations they we have to go through, but the Lord will be with us. Sometimes you have to sit and wait. It’s not easy waiting, and it’s not easy waiting for the Lord when you are going through painful situations. Sometimes God wants to move us, and sometimes He wants us to wait.
Encouraging for me are the Apostle Paul’s words that we will reap the harvest if we ‘faint not’ and ‘do not grow weary in well doing.’ We have to learn to avoid measuring ourselves by what we think our service looks like to someone else. When we fall prey to worrying about how others measure the ministry in which we serve, we begin to feel inferior and insecure. For instance, using size as the barometer of value can be particularly discouraging. Everyone was not called to pastor a large church.
We must learn to become content wherever God has us, making the most of whatever God has given to us in this season. We must keep our eyes on pleasing God, and remain focused upon Jesus. That will help us to stay in peace.
It is important to avoid unhealthy thinking such as, ‘God is not pleased with me because the church is not growing numerically.’ Focus upon spiritual growth within the ministry and how God is using you in the lives of people where He has placed you. Doing so will make your place of service more palatable.
Spiritual overflow, like the olive that gives oil, can’t come until we are crushed. In order for God to have us where he wants us to be, there are seasons of crushing in our lives.”
What can be done to shatter the stained glass ceiling for female clergy?
“If sisters would just understand that nothing is handed to them. They spend so much time pointing fingers about what others are not doing for them, that they don’t do for themselves. Find ministry work that they can do themselves. Don’t expect that somebody is going to give you something. Often times you have to go and seek it. Understand that wherever you are and whatever God has you doing – the simple things – that’s ministry.
God will not honor you until you honor God with your gifts and talents and stop waiting to make a break thru in some major ministry. Get your hands dirty. Become a part of the ministry. Teach Sunday School. Teach Bible Study. Start at a small church. We miss so many opportunities because we keep thinking that somebody is just going to open the door for us.”
Are you praying about becoming a pastor? Are you already serving in the pastorate but are contemplating/praying over a move? Do you have words of wisdom or encouragement to share with other female clergy regarding the above? We want to hear from you. Post a comment or send me an email at Shepastor1@hotmail.com.
Until next Wednesday,
In faith, hope and perseverance,