House for All Sinners and Saints

  • House for All Sinners and Saints
    I am the mission developer for House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado. We are an urban liturgical community with a progressive yet deeply rooted theological imagination. Check out our site for more info.

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    You can go to our Cafe Press store and buy t-shirts and other stuff with out Parchment with a nail at the top logo on the front - and "radical protestants; nailing sh*t to the church door since 1517" on the back.
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  • Chris Enstad
    The blog of a dad, husband, Lutheran pastor, emerging, failing, conversing, confessing.
  • Ian Mobsby
    Ian is the Anglican Priest at Moot in London.
  • Matt Stone
    This is a great blog from Down Under which explores Christianity and religious pluralism
  • Luther Punk
    Like Ward Cleaver with tattoos
  • Ian Adams
    Ian is the priest of the MayBe community in Oxford...I think he's pretty stinkin' cool.
  • Rachael
    cool chick...check her out
  • MayBe
    This is a great emerging church community we spent time with in Oxford. Their website is well worth a look, especially the page "the spirit of MayBe"
  • Mad Priest
    If I'm the Sarcastic Lutheran, he's certainly the Sarcastic Anglican...
  • Steve Collins
    Steve's an interesting and articulate emerging church brit.
  • The Mercy Seat
    This is a really groovey new church plant in NorthEast Minneapolis, amazing jazz liturgy. Their website is well worth checking out

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I didn't know there were solo church planters. I'm not being sarcastic. It honestly never occurred to me that it could be done solo. Maybe that's a reason? At least that I (a woman) haven't. (Well, and I suck too much... Heh.)

I tend to think that "some Christian traditions don't allow women to be pastors" is really the key, with the broadest possible understanding of "allow." Even traditions that ordain women to the ministry often shuttle them into roles where initiative is neither expected nor especially rewarded: associate positions, or solo pastors of smaller "legacy" congregations.

Being a founding pastor does require initiative, and I think it also to put it properly...a combination of dissatisfaction with the status quo and confidence that one can bring about needed improvements. To quote that fount of wisdom, the movie Robots: "See a need, fill a need." To over-simplify, men who do that in American society have a chance of being hailed as visionaries, while women get dismissed as whiny bitches. So, yeah. The "constellation of personality traits" is highly gendered.

That's a really interesting question and I'm going to have to chew on this one!

My husband and I planted a church just as we began dating since we had the same exact vision, so in a sense I was a single woman church planter but not solo. I honestly cannot imagine being solo in this kind of life, as a man or a woman. That's possibly in part because of the apathy and anti-Christian-ness we're up against in London England.... but at any rate.

So, like Angela said above, do you mean literally solo, with no others in the 'core team' who are starting it with you in some respect?

I guess that men are really still given the go-ahead to go out and be aggressive and visionary but sadly women are still taught that they're less capable of doing equally well. And even if they are equally empowered as men, they still face the issues of women being silent, etc. I agree that it takes someone with a special fortitude to be a church planter, and it takes a strong/crazy woman to go out and do it, especially solo but even as half of a couple.

There are many church planting couples in our area that we know of but the women are 90% preoccupied with their children or knitting (no kidding) and really aren't equally involved in the church plant. Perhaps it's because I don't have kids yet and I'll end up like them some day, but I think it's kind of sad. I'm the only one of the gals that goes to the local ministers prayer meetings.

So maybe the question you're asking has an even broader application than to solo women church planters?

Ramble, ramble, ramble...

Nadia can correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the distinction "solo" is intended to weed out representatives who are church planters, but part of a team headed by men.

Even if I'm wrong about the distinction, the ratio of women would almost certainly go down if if we considered not only solo planters but lead planters on team efforts.

Anyway, I think all reasons offered for this are cogent, but the most significant to me is the suggestion that women are not generally rewarded for possessing the qualities that would make them successful church planters -- or the type of person with the chutzpah to even want to do it.

I attended a new church development discernment retreat in Oct and was disconcerted to discover the whole leadership team was white men (until half way through, when one woman showed up). Does this reflect bias in our denomination for mens' leadership of church plants? This was a PCUSA event and we've been ordaining women as pastors for more than 50 years.

I also noticed that the vision of how to and what kind of new community was really narrow. Really just one denominationally backed (funded) model was offered.

A friend of mine is a "solo" church planter in Alaska, and has a family. I would not want to be "solo" - I am much better as part of a team, and if I were to plant a church, which I am very interested in doing, I would want to do it with my spouse, both of us working part time in order to avoid potential negative affects on our children.

As a solo female church planter (um, no team...forgot to consider that as an option), it didn't occur to me that I was a minority until I went to a mission pastor's meeting for my denomination. Special guests--folks who had planted churches 20 or 30 years ago (veterans, if you will)--were teamed up at tables with newbies. During the introductions, I looked around and thought..."Holy crap. Where are the women? Where WERE the woman?"

Why are there so few? Because it's a relatively new phenomenom. In time, women may actually overtake the ratio of male to female church planters. Women as leaders and church planters offer a unique perspective that is missing in most churches today.

I am a solo 'church planter', but I am trying to plant something even more rare; an interfaith spiritual community where people are free to believe as they choose - but gain wisdom from the experience of being together with people of other faiths. It ain't been easy.

As a woman churchplanter, I wish there were more of us. I am a solo planter, 7 weeks into planting a new church in Seattle.

In ministry, I've noticed the gifts of a churchplanter you've mentioned above are not always encouraged in women in society, and especially in women in the (more conservative) church. Some of the comments have emphasized the 'team' aspect of planting. I believe women are often more able to share power and work to support a team, because of social and church conditioning and at times gifting. Many women are also told within Christianity that they must submit to a male leader. This also (in my experience) has made men more comfortable being the independent leader type, and led them to believe that they are more gifted to be this kind of leader. I have been personally criticized by male leaders as being 'selfish' for following my calling to plant a church instead of remaining on staff at a larger ministry and promoting the success of the male lead pastor.

I hope that as more models of women planting churches become visible, women will be comfortable seeing themselves in these roles, churches will encourage women leaders, and men and women will support women within their congregations with these gifts and encourage them to grow the body of Christ. Ultimately, it's the old argument of power and privilege, with those in power and holding privilege not doing the work to let go of those old structures and open the church to more voices and leaders.

Blessings to you all on your journeys!

Oh, and as to percentage of planters who are a denomination with a few hundred churchplants, we currently have around five women solo planters, denomination wide.

I am also a solo female pastor, although I don't consider myself a church planter. Rather I would say I am one called to "fertilize an existing plant that was almost dead." This congregation is a redevelopment by our denomination's standards, with about 25 people left from 2 congregations that consolidated after years of decline. I've been here about 9 months. I am also married with fantastic spousal support. And though my husband, shares in the ministry, much as it seems your husband supports and shares in what you do, this is not his vocational responsibility. It's mine.

You raise a timely question for me. Though I have met my fair share of women who do this, at least among our denomination, I have been wondering if some of the male "planters" share some of the same experiences that I've had in my brief time doing this kind of ministry. I would be curious to hear from the women as well.

Now some of this is just the male/female thing - people being shocked about women in ministry as a whole. I've dealt with that for more than 10 years. But there are new aspects of ministry that I haven't dealt with before, due to the situations in which a "planter" finds oneself. I wonder like you, what's the deal here?

Do men have folks question, "oh, you're the pastor? Wow. You don't see that very often." Or as one man commented yesterday to me, "I didn't realize they had pretty pastors." (While I was flattered, it makes me wonder what he thinks about the other women in ministry in this community, or men for that matter!)

Do the men worry about their safety from time to time? Such as when invited into the home of a man who has clearly spent the morning drinking? Do they worry about being alone in a house with a prospect? Do they have church members who sigh with relief or freak out thinking about all that could have happened when they hear these kinds of stories?

Is this possibly one of the reasons that women aren't encouraged to follow this call, because their safety is at risk? Because society is too worried what might happen to us?

Yet, I'll tell you, even though I was nervous about being alone with the man who had been drinking all morning, I'd do it again in a heartbeat. After talking for a bit, I knew that this was exactly where God wanted me to be in that moment. This guy needed to hear God's grace and love, and I was the lucky one called to do it.

Why aren't there as many women in this role as men? I don't know exactly but they're missing an incredible side of ministry that's for sure!

I think the physical safety factor is one key element.

Men also have traditionally had more access to more financial resources. If being a solo church planter requires having financial resources (in other words, there's no larger insitutional church paying a salary), men are more likely to have access to these resources (inherited money, money from a former well-paying job, loans, grants).

Hmm. I was a solo church, church re-viver....for three and a half years. I have had to think about this question for a week or so before I answered it. Trying to plant that church was one of the hardest things I've ever done, and I did with it a baby on one hip and pregnant with another. My husband is also a pastor so was basically absent from the whole process, at least on Sunday mornings.

Add to this that my congregation was a little, um, wacked, and tried many things to chase me away. I didn't go. But I didn't end up planting a church, either. I have gone back and forth many times about my female-ness, my young mother-ness, all that stuff, and what that had to do with it. I still don't know.

Likely because the evangelical churches that are actually active in church planting see that a woman's role biblically is not as a head pastor of a church. That is of course if you take the Bible as the rule of faith.

When I first began teaching teachers about technology, when it was all new in the eighties, men tended to jump in and try to see what it could do in the classroom, women tended to take a college class to find out what it might do. So perhaps, the tendency of some women to first "learn how to do it" before jumping in and trying might be one more thing that has kept women from stepping out and planting new churches on their own.

Anonymous Facebook poster,

Do you realize how arrogant that last line "That is of course if you take the Bible as the rule of faith" sounds? I can assure you, pretty much every female pastor I know, and every church that recognizes them, does indeed take the Bible as their rule of faith.

The fact that they interpret certain passages differently than you do in no way suggests that they fail to recognize the Bible's authority. Please don't insult us by suggesting that they do.

I am currently serving as a co-pastor for a three-point parish in one of the larger synods in the ELCA (no, I'm not in MN...I'm in PA...there are a lot of lutherans out here, which I didn't know since I'm from NC).

Anyway, the term "church planter" does not exist in my context because there are already a crap-load of churches. I have become more like the "re-visioner" for this struggling three church parish. Yes, my co-pastor is male (not my husband, but my husband is uber supportive), but I kind of feel like I am the one who is pushing to move in new directions...don't get me wrong, my co-pastor is wonderful and fully on-board with the new direction, but I am the one doing the organizing, the thinking ahead...the energy, I guess behind the whole thing.

It does come down to support. Would I be able to do this if my co-pastor was not supportive and not engaged in the re-visioning Would I be able to do something like this on my own as a solo pastor...I don't know, I probably could, but it would be difficult.

Of course, I have no stats to back me up, but many younger women (and men) who are coming out of seminary these days, don't seem to be the stereo-typical pastor, and I think that's a good thing. Whether we are just younger than most, or have pipe-lined from undergrad, I think we're a different breed of pastor and church leader. I also think that my peers in ministry don't exactly know what to do with me, since I don't fit the status-quo.

As always, I think that the older generation (of church leaders and church goers) thinks those "young ones" are strange because "they don't do things the way it has always been done." But then again, that is what keeps the church thriving and relevant.

The only place I have ever found a real fit in life is being a pastor, and I'm gonna keep doing that until God calls me to do something else.

PS - Nadia, I LOVE your tattoos...mine are on my upper arms, shoulders, and back, so they haven't been seen much in my church are an inspiration, maybe I'll show mine off a bit more in my congregations.

Hi, one factor you may wish to consider is whether you are talking about church planters in the west or church planters in the two-thirds world.

I'm not sure of the statistics anymore, but the last time I studied it there were FAR more female missionaries abroad than male missionaries. I would wonder whether female church planters and elders were proportioned in a similar kind outside the churches of the west.

I had an idea for a storytelling kind of a fresh expression of church (as we're saying here in South Australia), I am a single woman, and though I gathered a team around me, did lead the visioning and realising of this dream for an alternative way of gathering as church. The Uniting Church, in which I am a candidate for ordination as a Minister of the Word, has been quite supportive, and is keen to help grow the opportunities for new forms of church. It's been great to have been encouraged because of my sense of call, my gifts, and the dream, and not at all in spite of my gender (as far as I have been aware). It has been interesting to reflect on my approach to leadership within this experience as more collaborative than some of the male leaders around, and to have felt somewhat out of my comfort zone as I have taken on the vision-bearer role.
thanks for opening up the conversation, it will be interesting to see how this aspect of leadership unfolds as we continue to make space for new forms of church to renew and rejeuvenate the body of Christ.

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