Many women wonder about their role in the Christian church. At times, women are pressured to hide their gifts or belittle their calling in order to fit the cultural contexts enforced today. But what if this isn’t God’s calling for women?
Barb Dewald, associate dean of Christian Formation, and Cambria Kaltwasser, professor of religion, recognized the confusion that comes with women’s call in ministry and created a safe place on campus to discuss what God has in store for female students at Northwestern.
The start of Women in Ministry was unexpected. After Dewald and Kaltwasser began hearing interest from women about ministry, they decided to sit down and evaluate how they could help these women recognize their calling. They hosted two different coffee gatherings where students thinking about ministry could process together and determine a possible focus for future events. Dewald and Kaltwasser discovered many students were questioning their calling, and some only saw ministry as an opportunity for men, making them less confident that God was calling them to the field.
After realizing the limited information women have about their purpose in the ministry field, Dewald and Kaltwasser chose to step up and give them the resources they needed to determine where God is calling them in ministry. They wanted to give students and staff opportunities, not only to find resources and encouragement, but also to find support in discerning their calling.
The events are meant to reassure students in their calling to ministry and provide a place for conversation and connecting with people on a similar path.
“Women wonder if they have permission to speak and teach God’s Word, in what spaces their gifts will be accepted and valued and how they can navigate the diverse landscape of vocational ministry,” Kaltwasser said.
Three events have been hosted so far. Since the focus is on discerning your calling, the main structure of the events have been discussion-based. The book “Now that I’m Called: A guide for women discerning their call to ministry” has served as a resource and has given students the chance to determine their own role of how they can be most useful in ministry.
On Feb. 7, the topic was “What does the Bible have to say about women in ministry?” Kaltwasser provided a framework for interpretation of a popular scripture, and the students held a discussion centered around examples in scripture of the ministry of women.
On March 21, the topic was “How has God gifted me spiritually?” and on April 11, the focus was “What kind of theological education do I need?” With this topic, they discussed reasons to attend seminary or not, preparation for non-traditional ministries as well as pastoral roles and resources for choosing a seminary or program that’s a good fit. Their goal was to speak to women considering seminary and empower them in their preparation for it.
Dewald and Kaltwasser describe Women in Ministry as a “series of conversations for women discerning God’s call.” Their hope is that through these discussions, women won’t shy away from their calling, but rather listen to and embrace it.
While Dewald and Kaltwasser don’t currently have any plans for next year, their hope is to continue to offer space for similar conversations if there is interest.
“The aim is to empower women to respond to God’s call with courage and faithfulness,” Kaltwasser said.