Sarah McCarten

Thirty things about being a woman in ministry. A guest post from Whitney Adshead


thirty_thingsI have the pleasure of introducing you to my friend Whitney Adshead this morning. I first met Whitney at bible college in 2008 and we reconnected recently through the wonder of the internet. When she told me she’d like to contribute to this series I was honestly stoked, because, as you will see she’s brilliant. Whitney was one of the most wise, kind and genuine people I met while I was at college. I’m so grateful you’re here Whitney. Enjoy this guys.

  1. To me, that we still have to specify ‘woman’ in ministry means we’re not quite there yet…
  2. Not quite where? In my opinion, we (evangelical Christians) are not quite at the praxis in which God intends for his church: freedom for all those called to serve Jesus’ church in their gifting, in order to build up the body of Christ and glorify God here on earth…even and especially women called to leadership.
  3. These thoughts on being a woman in ministry (and leadership in particular) are based on my personal experiences and journey.
  4. Where I grew up (a conservative Baptist church in the south of the USA), being a woman in ministry meant doing children’s work or ‘women’s ministry’ or administration.
  5. Where I am now, (after a big journey, that I’m still on!) to be a woman in ministry looks like the above things, but also much more than that—and it’s all wrapped up in my calling, my experience of the Holy Spirit, and being a part of several different churches throughout the world along the journey.
  6. Now, being a woman in ministry means that I’m aware almost immediately of the gender breakdown when I walk into a church, a conference, a Bible college, or other Christian event, plus I notice who stands up at the front most and does most of the talking and leading at Christian events
  7. Being a woman in ministry means that I now read the Bible in light of my experience as a woman in ministry: the lens that I see it through is different, because of my experiences as a woman called to lead and serve Christ’s church.
  8. Being a woman in ministry means that if I’m looking at a church’s website one of the first things I notice is who is on staff and what gender they are.
  9. I worked out my theology of gender “roles” not at Bible college, but when I re-entered the real world of ministry.  And I’m still working it out.
  10. Being a woman in ministry, I’ve had to be ok with using labels for the purpose of clarifying theology and praxis. But I still don’t like them. Can’t I be a complementarian egalitarian? Believing that yes, we (male and female) are created equal and are equally capable of using any and all gifts for the Kingdom’s sake, in a unique, complementary, image-bearing, unifying way?
  11. Being a woman in ministry means I sometimes catch myself exercising STRICT control over my emotions in order not to be accused of being too ‘emotional’ and therefore not as capable of leadership.
  12. Being a woman in ministry means I can’t really effectively minister without God’s calling (duh), the undying support, love and championing from my husband, fellowship with other women in ministry, and support from men in ministry.
  13.  I usually can’t talk about being a woman in ministry without my heart racing and my mind doing the same. ESPECIALLY if I know that person interprets the Bible in a way that leads to complementarianism in the church and in the family.
  14. It’s tempting to want to write a list of some things people have said to me with regard to being a woman in ministry that I CANNOT BELIEVE. But I know from working out my theology and praxis that grace is the only way forward—as opposed to my tendency to want to keep a record of wrongs.
  15. A big fear I have being a woman in ministry is that I’ve gotten my calling wrong because from the beginning women have only been there for the ‘support’ of men.
  16. Another big fear I had being a woman in ministry is that I would be labelled a raging feminist. (totally over it now though, thanks to blogs like this).
  17. A big joy I have being a woman in ministry is learning from women who have gone before me in leadership of the wider church.
  18. Three books I couldn’t do without reading as a woman in ministry are: How I changed my mind about Women in Leadership by Alan F. Johnson, The Liberating Truth by Danielle Strickland, and The Message of Women by Derek and Diane Tidball.
  19.  Being in a woman in ministry means I’ve become totally passionate about encouraging women of all ages, but especially young women (I was a youthworker until baby came along) to discover and use their gifts to build up the church.
  20. And so an even bigger joy I have being a woman in ministry is when I see a young woman seeking the Lord and using her gifts to build up the church—and the church embracing her and releasing her into that gifting!
  21. But the biggest joy of all being a woman in ministry comes from working with ALL types of people and seeing/experiencing how God uses us for his glory when we work TOGETHER, submitting to one another in love, to bring about his purposes for this world.
  22.  One of the biggest impacts on me as a woman in terms of ministry was when a man in church leadership affirmed my calling to leadership and pushed me forward to seek God’s heart for this calling on my life.
  23. One of the other biggest impacts on me as a woman in ministry was a moment of Holy Spirit conviction when he allowed me to glimpse his grief over the generations of women who haven’t been able to use their gifting for the glory of God through His church.
  24. One of the biggest beefs I have with God is WHYYYY the generations of patriarchy???? Can’t wait to ask that post-resurrection.
  25. Being a woman in ministry and called to leadership means I get to learn to embrace my femininity as God created me, and not try and suppress it to look more masculine.
  26. I still don’t know how to not take it personally when someone tells me they don’t believe women should do _________ in the church (fill in the blank).
  27. I never could have foreseen that being a woman called to lead in Jesus’ church would lead to such deep soul searching, crying out to God, pain, confusion, and above all identity and character formation.
  28. I never could have foreseen how being a woman called to ministry what joy and affirmation I could feel from the heavenly Father in the assurance of my femininity as an integral part of my calling.
  29. Being a woman in ministry means humbling oneself before the Lord. A lot.
  30. Being a woman in ministry means ultimately trusting, waiting, listening, submitting to and loving God—then and only then can I love others as Jesus asks me to love.


326449_10150384894546549_597993955_oWhitney Adshead currently resides in Basingstoke (aka Amazingstoke) with her husband Phil and their 8 month old boy Winn. Though far from where she grew up in Texas, she now considers England home.  She really loves laughing, coffee and cake and chocolate, being outdoors, experiencing other cultures, showing hospitality, reading and teaching the Bible ESPECIALLY the Old Testament, and encouraging people. She’s put a hold on official church ministry to be a full-time mom and part-time employee of her hubby’s business and is loving it.

Author: sarahmccarten

24 thoughts on “Thirty things about being a woman in ministry. A guest post from Whitney Adshead

  1. Great to ‘meet’ you! I am also a woman in ministry (at least, I was, before ill health stopped me from full-time ministry). I grew up in a church where women’s ministry was affirmed as equal, without any fanfare or trumpeting of it – it was just natural. It wasn’t till university that I realised there was any other view. This stood me in good stead, I think, in terms of my sense of calling and self worth.

    Sending you much love!
    P.S. I also LOVE teaching the Old Testament!

    • Hi Tanya! Great to “meet” you too. Thank you for the encouragement! I am glad to hear part if your story as well. I especially love the bit about your church where women using their gifts was simply natural. Yes!!
      I’m sure you are doing an amazing job for The Lord!
      All the best

    • H Tanya, great to “meet” you too! Thanks for sharing a bit of your story too, I am so encouraged. May The Lord continue to bless you and work in/through you. Awesome about the OT!!! 🙂 I just love Hebrew, and also how knowing the OT makes the NT make so much more sense!! And the context in which Jesus lived.
      Anyway, thanks for the comment I really appreciate you!
      All the best,

  2. I’m so glad you followed God’s call! I appreciate especially #1 (Amen!!) and #24. Even in my liberal denomination, women get hurt by the patriarchy.
    Thank you for sharing these wonderful insights!

    • Thank YOU Catherine! It’s a privilege to get to share my experiences. What denomination are you a part of, may I ask? I still don’t know quite where I fit denominationally.
      Very grateful for your comment and encouragement!
      All the best,

  3. Thank you! This was very encouraging to me, as I am part of a very patriarcal church.

    • Hi Jane! You’re welcome, I’m so glad you were encouraged. May I ask what kind of church yours is? I am always interested in this! I hope and pray you will be able to navigate the patriarchy stuff with grace and most of all the Spirit’s guidance.
      All the best

  4. THIS! All of this! Thank you for your words, Whitney.

    As soon as I read #1 I knew we could be friends. (also, #16 made me grin SUPER BIG!!)

    • Ahhh hey Leigha, thank you so much!!! Really blessed to know your encouragement, and the specific points that resonated with you. Thanks also for the amazingness you sent via Sarah…you ow what I’m talking about!:-) will def take you up on the offer.
      All the best to you, new friend!

  5. Great to read this post. *cheers*

  6. Hey! Great post indeed. Thanks for sharing your experiences and thoughts so well. Praying they not only make for good reading, but make a difference in the life of those who read them! Keep going Whitney! x

  7. I love this post. I am an Aussie ministering in UK since 1996. Our network affirms the ministry of women and I am privileged to have been a part of shaping it, so genderless ministry is one of our tenets. Moving around outside the network is interesting though. I have an FB page for Kyria, a network for women in ministry. I’m a grandmother so I’ve been in ministry for over 30 years and as such, am greatly aware of the need of role models for women in leadership. Kyria will be holding conferences and also facilitating pods of women in leadership in various areas around the UK initially. I’m ecstatic to read this post because it clarifies so much that people are asking questions about. Bless you Whitney… especially as an ‘incomer’ to the UK like myself.

    • Bev! This sounds amazing what you are working towards. Praise God for your many years of faithfulness. Can you tell me the name of the network you are working in? I’d love to learn more.
      May The Lord continue to bless you abundantly! Especially as a fellow third culture woman!
      All the best

      • Yeah… we are blessed… but of course it’s a new network so there’s room for it to be part of the new thing that God is (always) doing. It’s Christian Growth International and my husband and I founded it in 2001 and lead it together. Our call is to raise up leaders (of both genders) and send them out equipped to plant/lead churches or ministries, especially into places where there’s not a lot happening church wise, although that’s not the only criterion. Currently we have 16 churches mostly in England and two in Scotland.

  8. #14 makes me smile most, Whit. Grace all the way! Our battles are his to fight, after all: how great a salvation he works for us. 😀 Glad to do this ministry thing with you and, remember, I know this amazing little church that has no money and plenty of opportunities to lead and preach. No comment as to where that could be!! Probably still a bit far for you guys though. 😒 x

    • Ahhh Chloe, one of my biggest inspirations and accountability partner in grace-learning. Thank you for the comment full of encouragement. Glad #14 made you smile, and that i get to do this ministry thing with you too.. Will keep in mind the amazing church you mentioned 😉 Lord, what do you think?

    • Hey Chloe, if you ever need someone from closer to London to come and speak, I’m always looking for opportunities. Thank you for reading. X

      • Thanks, Sarah. I will bear this in mind as I put together our new schedule and preaching diet for the church for the coming months. I lead in team so would need to get team sign-off on guest speakers – so, random question perhaps, but do you happen to have any audio or video clips of you speaking that I can point them to? No worries if not but it can just help them since they’ve never met you! Anyway, happy to take this conversation onto f/b or e-mail now to stop clogging your blog?!

  9. I just want to say what an inspiration Whitney has been for me and my family. I never saw you as a woman in ministry, just as a person who loves God and is a total blessing to everyone you meet. I am truly sorry that you have moved on to pastures new from my church, but I know that you will go where God leads and needs you. A true inspiration to many in the short time that I have known you. Thank you for everything you have done for me and my family and I pray that you will be recognised for being a true minister of God and not a woman minister. God bless you now and always, Frank and family. X

  10. Hi Frank! Thank you so much for this very special encouragement. It is, I think, so profound what you’ve said about seeing a person who loves God, a minister of God rather than a woman minister. Thank you so so much for having eyes to see what it means to simply live and serve The Lord, whoever you are.
    You are also a huge blessing in how you love and serve Him.
    Praying many blessings upon you and your family Frank. Take care.

  11. Hi Whitney,
    very inspirational and thought provoking. As a mum of two of the young girls you refer to in point 19 and 20, I am truly grateful that the Lord brought you to lead our youth for a season! you (through HIM) make a huge difference in so many peoples lives! look forward to see where He leads over the coming years! 🙂 x

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