Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Strong Women Part 2

by Amber

As promised, here is the first of (hopefully) four posts reflecting on phone conversations and e-mails from women in ministry in the Twin Cities. Let me introduce first, Pastor Deb Stehlin, of Light of the World in Farmington, MN. Her name was given to me by one of the women in my class, so after shooting her an e-mail, she wrote back and said she would NOT participate through e-mail, but would be glad to participate in person or on the phone. Well, sadly, Farmington is a long ways we settled for a phone conversation.

Monday morning I had written myself a note: "Call Deb at 11:00!" But I cannot deny the fact that I am a routine person, and unless I glue a post-it to my forehead, anything outside my normal routine often gets forgotten. 12:30 rolls around and it hits me, "I FORGOT TO CALL DEB!" So, without any prep to our conversation, I called her up and began with an apology:

Me: "Hi Deb, this is Amber Marten from Luther Seminary. I'm so sorry I am just now calling, I completely forgot to call you at 11:00."
Deb: "No problem Amber, I found a few things to do in the meantime."
Me: Huge sigh of relief, and a prayer of thankfulness that this conversation would likely be insightful and enjoyable, and that she had a sense of humor!

At 12:30, I knew nothing about Deb. Kevin said he had met her a few times, but couldn't contribute much supporting information, so I went into this conversation with a blindfold on. I was amazed to see how a 15 minute conversation could move me from complete darkness about a person to a place of bright lights and admiration. Here are the basics you should know about Deb:

1. She’s 4'10", and packs a serious punch!

2. She comes from a corporate background.

3. She first went to church when a woman who lived across the street invited her to go.

4. She served her first call for 6 years with some awesome (sounding) women colleagues.

5. Now, she's a mission developer at LOTW in Farmington.

Ok, now that you know the basics, the point of these conversations is to find out how to be successful, strong, beautiful, and have impact in ministry without taking on male characteristics (along with a bunch of other wanderings). Here’s what Deb had to say:

Deb was fortunate enough to have a number of female role models and mentors in both her corporate job, and now in ministry. Along the way, she has been able to watch other females in ministry, and that has helped shape her into the pastor she is today. Fortunately for Deb, she's had great settings where she was surrounded with other female colleagues.

Of course, no ministry would be complete without some hiccups along the way. For most women back from internship, and within months of first calls we have a list a mile long of all the inappropriate things people have said to us about our hair, clothes, mannerisms, make-up (I could go on). Deb was no exception. She too has heard her list if crude things in her ministry, so how does she handle it?

Deb said, “Sometimes I have to be direct and say, "I find that comment to be inappropriate." Oftentimes, they [parishioners] look at you with such surprise. They think you are just joking and say, "I didn't mean anything by it."”

This fall, in our senior preaching class, we had a panel of pastors come and speak to our class, and I was really disturbed to hear the women pastors say they just shrug these kinds of comments off. I get that you shouldn’t reward a bad behavior with attention, but at what point do you have to say to someone, “Stop telling me what I should wear! And stop telling me how my children should behave!” Do men get these kinds of comments too?

My final question for Deb was, “What’s something you wished you had learned in seminary that was skipped?” Her reply: “I never learned in seminary what to do when a man seeks pastoral care for infidelity or sex addiction. I've had to think and pray on my feet really quickly when those surprises pop up.” Most commonly, Deb has a hard time ministering to the men who come with their sex addictions. Deb said she has three times as many sexual addicts than she does alcoholics. I couldn’t believe it! We’ve spent 11 of the 12 weeks in Addictions class talking about alcoholism, and the 12th week gets split between eating disorders and sex addictions. Maybe there needs to be some restructuring there! Anyway, when I mentioned this statistic to my class, my instructor said that almost always, females should refer males to someone else, and vice versa. There ya go Deb, off the hook! j/k

Deb and I both agreed at the end of our conversation that much of her leadership qualities came from the role models she was blessed to have in her life. When you have other strong females to look up to, who have a powerful identity, you can feed off of their identity and help form your own rather than coming up with it all from scratch! She stressed how women (and men) need to be surrounded by others who can mentor us throughout life. So, what do you do when you grow up LCMS, or in a church where they’ll probably never call a female pastor? Find another woman. Find someone like Deb as a corporate diva, find an awesome teacher, talk to your mother.

A HUGE thank you to Deb Stehlin for your time and wisdom!


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