Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Bridging the Word and the World

11/27 2019

Located Leadership: Church Planting as a Lady Pastor

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church planting woman clerical shirt

These snazzy numbers are available at: https://www.kingdom.com/women-s-long-sleeve-clergy-shirt.html


Have you ever tried to find a clerical shirt made for a woman? A quick Google search will inform you that the selection is sparse—and expensive. Perhaps the picture above offers a promising option? Sometimes it feels like conversations and literature about “leadership” fit about as well as those two poly blend shirts look like they fit me their wearers (or any other human woman). Like maybe if I borrowed my dad’s briefcase from the 90s and laced up his men’s size 16 (truly) wingtips, I’d look like what we all imagine a leader to be. Or perhaps in another tradition I’d need a beard, a flannel, and some tight jeans.


But these are not really looks I can authentically bring to the table—so what does it look like to be the person I am and to lead?


I can’t speak for all women (nor should I), but I can say that church planting—that is, gathering communities in newly imagined ways of Christian living—has a unique way of allowing the leaders to lead as themselves. It turns out, there are plenty of pastors who look like my dad in his wingtips with his briefcase. They have reached the folks who are looking for that. So too with flannel and beards and tight jeans. But every time I mention at a coffee shop or on a plane that I am a pastor, people have questions.


Church Planting and Listening First

Indeed, it was almost accidentally I learned that leading as myself meant leading from a posture of listening first. I heard their questions, and it turned out I didn’t always have the answers. So I started with hearing the questions and letting them be—I started with listening and being with. From there, it seemed natural to confess the truth of who I am, who the church is and has been, and confess that we don’t have all the answers we have long claimed to have. Perhaps it’s a funny way to be a leader, but in an uncertain world, I have found that for me, and for many others, gathering to live those simple practices—listening, confessing, and being with—has allowed church to spring up in all kinds of surprising places.  And that is pretty much what church planting is.


The Rev. Karen Rohrer, M.Div. is the director of the Church Planting Initiative at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, founding co-pastor of Beacon Church in Philadelphia, Pa., and, is in deed, a lady pastor.

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