Thursday, March 11, 2010

Can a Female Pastor's Voice be heard?

A Woman's Voice Gifted for Leadership A Community of Christian Women Leaders

At Gifted for Leadership, Suanne Camfield who is a writer, speaker and Bible study leader, writes an interesting article about "A Woman's Voice". She asks the following and then proceeds to write down her thoughts on the matter; "Is it possible to listen well despite our gender differences? And is it more difficult for a man to listen well to a woman?" What do you think? Is it possible and is it more difficult for a man to listen well to a woman? In my mind you would need to also ask is it more difficult for a woman to listen well to a man?She sees that there is a cultural influence on the congregation that makes it harder for them to listen to a woman. But I wonder what the effect of generations of the voices of Women Preachers has had to change that?

She goes on further to say: When I’ve questioned my male counterparts on the subject, a few have dismissed it as a non-issue, but several—men full of godly character and integrity—have admitted their difficulty with hearing the feminine voice. In one conversation, a pastor actually blurted out, “I mean, come on. What man can really listen to a woman?” The first thing I think when I hear that is I wondered what his wife, his daughter, him mom, or any of the other women in his life say about him? The other thing I start thinking is, has he dismissed the femine voice of God, or what some call the feminine side, the Holy Spirit.

Here are some of the reasons they gave:

Tone: They literally hear a woman’s voice differently. High-pitched, sing-songy, whiny, shrill and forced are adjectives used to describe it. Sounds like a matter of transference to me. And how many of us transfer onto male voices while listening to male preachers?

Words: The stories women share and the words we use to share them are not as universal. Women emote. Women connect. Women cry. Women feminize. Well surprise surprise, we connect, We emote, we cry, we feminize. Sounds a little like Jesus to me. Oh you mean we don't tell football and other sports stories or hunting stories that leave out half of the congregation. Sorry. However, I do try to use universal stories in my preaching. I ask myself will this connect will this fit the theme the sermon? If it doesn't I don't use it. And sorry guys, I have had several male pastors who cried in the pulpit and who emoted.

Authority: The women’s movement has devalued male leadership, leaving them to feel emasculated (a phenomenon John Eldridge and others have well documented). Men instinctually respond by shutting out the feminine voice. Huh? I'd say a lot of that happened more back in their families of origen and got blamed on the women's movement. I have at the same time known some women who emasculate men. I have tried to pay attention to how I treat men in my life. However, I will admit there was a time I hated men; but that hate didn't have anything to do with women's liberation, but more how I was treated in my family growing of up. More women and even men I know try to lift everyone up and try to let everyone's voices heard.

What makes it difficult for you to listen to a Preacher whether that preacher is a male or female or if they are a different gender? What do you do to try to overcome that difficulty so you can listen? Or do you choose to not listen or go elsewhere or leave the church? This subject seems to address the adults listeners in the congregation, what about the youth or the children? What do they hear when they listen?

I do think as a female Preacher I need to think about who all I am preaching to and try to connect with as many as possible, realizing not everyone will like what I have to say or how I say it. I don't think one can take and change how femine or masculine one's voice is, but perhaps they can take some speech lessons, voice lessons to improve their presentation of the sermon. But I also think male preachers need to be aware of their congregation also. I am not saying don't use sporting or hunting illustrations, but think about how that is going to connect and then if you are going to use it; think about how you would make sure the other half hears it or the point you are trying to illustrate. And don't leave out the youth and children, they need to hear the sermon also. I am going to think about the questions Susan Camfield has raised, and I am going to think about my preaching some more and what I need to improve on and how.


revhipchick said...

i love that you pointed out that all of us could use voice lessons and use illustrations that cross not only gender differences but age as well.

i echo your frustrations with people blaming stuff on feminism or the movement. it is irritating that feminist is now a dirty word.

one of the things that drives me nuts is that for centuries men have been preaching about the men in the scripture, rarely giving thought to the women in the pews or scripture. yet, if a woman does 2 sermons in a row or month, or even 6 months, it's assumed we have an agenda that is ungodly!

i find myself trying monitor how often i preach with women focused scriptures and illustrations.

lastly, (sorry if i'm rambling too much) preaching is hard work for all of us--men and women. those issues you raised apply to all of us who attempt to preach the Gospel. thank you for this thought provoking post!

Mompriest said...

I do think that people hear men and women's voices differently. Men's voices carry more authority and are heard better, while women's voices carry less authority and are not heard as well. I think some of this dynamic changes when women are in the part because the pulpit carries the authority. Slowly, though, as young people grow up experiencing women in roles of leadership, authority, and as clergy, that paradigm is breaking down. Women are consistently news anchors on tv. Women are consistently leaders in business, education, politics, and religion. All of this enhances the experience of women's voices.

Ann Voskamp @Holy Experience said...

Thank you so much for this... Much food for thought....

Thank you,
All's grace,

Ann Voskamp @Holy Experience said...

This was very thoughtful... thank you.

All's grace,