Please Don’t Pick Me Because I’m a White Female (and other lessons about church staffs)

Church for all Nations mosaicAt the risk of sounding like a multiculturalism/diversity hater . . .

I’d like to talk about church staff diversity.  I’m having problems with it.

My basic theological and managerial assumptions are that 1) God calls all kinds of people to serve, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and age;  and 2) our leaders should look like our community.  In other words, if I serve a congregation full of biker dudes, our leaders should include biker dudes.  If we have no women in our congregation, we don’t need to call women elders and deacons.

But there are some disturbing trends I’ve noticed recently as congregations long to become more diverse:

  • We call pastors and other staff who balance out what people see, rather than pastors and other staff who are genuinely called to serve our churches.  We want to look like the United Nations only for the sake of appearances.
  • We congratulate ourselves when we hire a person of color (or some other ‘minority’) and then use that person as a trophy, congratulating ourselves for being so incredibly open/diverse.
  • We happily call the pastor who expands our diversity while simultaneously refusing to allow this person to expand our horizons/ teach us something that might make us uncomfortable.
  • We look at who is on staff (e.g. two women pastors) and proceed to look only at the opposite demographic to fill an opening (e.g. a male pastor) without considering whom God is calling to fill that position.  Note:  For 2000 years, our churches were staffed by men.  If we had three pastors, they were all men.  Seven pastors?  They were all men.  It’s not the end of the world to have an all-female staff . . .

. . . nevertheless, I’m a fan of diversity on a church staff – not just in terms of gender, race, etc.  but also in terms of touchy-feely AND erudite, goofy AND serious, extroverted connectors AND introverted spiritual guides.  Just as the world is increasingly diverse, so should our congregations be more diverse.

My big beef:  churches that look nothing like the communities around them geographically.  You know the ones.  Everybody inside is over the age of 60 and white while the neighborhood is filled with brown kids.

I never want to be called to a position because the search committee was looking for a middle-aged white lady (although, honestly, who is looking for this demographic?)  I want to be called because the Spirit of God has led me and a church/organization to each other in God’s great wisdom and creativity.

If you are part of a church search committee right now, please – literally, for the love of God – listen to the Spirit, and call the person whose name God is whispering into your ear.  Believe me.  If God is involved, your leadership will be quite diverse.


Image is a mosaic of some of the staff of the truly wonderful and authentically diverse Church for All Nations in Columbia Heights, MN.  Check them out here.


3 responses to “Please Don’t Pick Me Because I’m a White Female (and other lessons about church staffs)

  1. Yep. In a slightly different vein, I am the only female teaching elder in *three* presbytery leadership bodies, one of which is *Council*. Coincidence? I think not. I hate feeling like a token.

  2. Jan:
    Thanks for sharing the link to this church. Their story is inspirational. There is a great message in their history, mission, and vision that all should read.
    Best wishes.

  3. Love your bullet points, Jan. Thanks for this. I feel I’ve experienced bullet points 2 and 3, especially, and it ends up in frustration for everyone involved because we weren’t having conversations about those expectations and assumptions.

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