After reading Dr. Jeremiah Gibbs’ excellent post on “Women Pastors and Male Privilege”, I was compelled to add one additional category to his list of the ways male privilege is manifested in this setting.
I have been surprised at the number of people who question my role in counseling male congregants. In the almost 30 years my husband has served as a pastor, I cannot recall anyone questioning whether he should offer pastoral counsel to the women in our churches. There have, of course, been seminars and workshops on setting appropriate boundaries, and I agree completely. But there was never a suggestion that he should pass along the women who came to him for prayer or advice to a female counselor. Since we started co-pastoring together in 2009, I’ve had numerous people advise me to refer male members to my husband, even though they have come to me and not him. Interestingly, even though we are now tag-team pastors, no one has yet to say he should send the women to me.
Adding to my surprise at this attitude is the fact that it has not occurred in any other setting. When I served as principal at a Christian school and also while on the faculty at a Bible college where I was responsible for the spiritual formation program for our students, my ability to meet with and counsel fathers and male students was never questioned. In fact, I was the one who had to insist that windows were built into my office doors in both settings.
I’ve never heard a discussion about whether a female therapist should take on male clients. Why the church has such a hang-up on this has taken me aback.
3 thoughts on “One Aspect of Male Privilege Actually Surprised Me When I Became a Pastor”
Interesting observation. I have to admit, when seeking guidance or advice, gender has never really been a consideration for me. I usually just seek out expertise, in whatever form that takes. Unless it is something specifically related to my own gender, when I might seek another woman.
I think most people approach it as you do. They go to whomever they feel comfortable. I haven’t experienced a hesitancy for men to come to me, or women to go to my husband. It is more an issue of who want to make commentary or “advise” on the matter.
It’s interesting that for both my husband and me, seminary professors taught us how to establish boundaries, use discretion, and such. Never did they say, don’t counsel or pray with anyone of opposite gender.
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So true! Here’s another version of it: My sister Diane was a minister in a large So. Baptist church. She tells the story about not being allowed (in the pastor’s absence) to greet and talk with persons coming forward at the end of the service for membership or to become a Christian. She was told that many men would probably not feel comfortable having to speak with a woman at such a “delicate” moment as this. She, of course, was distressed; she also asked whether anyone had ever considered that women coming forward might not feel comfortable having to speak with man at such a “delicate” moment as this!
I know that in my seminary (where I taught) there were students from traditions that didn’t allow men to be counseled by women. I don’t think the same was true about women (being counseled by men).
Hoping all is well for you!
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