A Statistical Analysis of Women’s Pastoral Roles

Scot McKnight of Jesus Creed posed this question a few days ago:

How many of you, in your church today  had a woman preach, a woman teach, or a woman lead worship? Second, how many of you have a woman who has the title of “pastor”?

He has received nearly 200 responses, which I have compiled into some interesting, if statistically meaningless, data, which I present here hopefully free of my usual veneer of sarcastic commentary.

Question 1: How many of you, in your church today,  had a woman preach, a woman teach, or a woman lead worship?

Yes: 104 total

  • 38 had a woman preach
  • 17 had a woman teach
  • 42 had a woman lead worship
  • 30 did not specify

No: 70 total

  • 28 have had women participate in these capacities in the past
  • 8 haven’t in the past (or didn’t specify), but would allow it
  • 12 would not allow it
  • 22 did not specify

Overall:

  • 120 would allow women to serve in at least one of the mentioned capacities
  • 34 would not allow it or did not specify

Question 2: How many of you have a woman who has the title of “pastor”?

Yes: 87 total

No: 83 total

  • 5 have had female pastors in the past
  • 15 haven’t in the past (or didn’t specify), but would allow it
  • 20 would not allow it
  • 5 have no “pastor” or equivalent title
  • 37 did not specify

Overall:

  • 107 would allow women to serve as pastors
  • 62 would not allow it, did not specify, or have no “pastor” role

I reiterate here that these statistics are not actually indicative of anything because of the large selection bias inherent in Scot McKnight’s readership: as a politely but vocally egalitarian blog, Jesus Creed tends to attract egalitarians, or at least people who are open to the viewpoint.

Here are a few other interesting trends that I noticed but didn’t enumerate:

  • Many “yes” responses were husband-wife pastoral teams.
  • UMC churches were the most widely represented among “yes” responses.
  • “No” responses were the most likely to quote a Bible verse (only 1 Tim. 2:12).

More statistics, methods, and caveats after the cut.

I compiled this data from the first 187 posts in the thread.  Any subsequent posts are not included in these statistics.  Any post that mentioned two different churches (ie, “my current church no, my previous church yes”) was included twice if they were specific churches and not general observations (like “no, but yes for other places I’ve been”).  Skipping posts that were purely discussion, n = 173.  Responses that did not include an answer for question 2 were omitted from that question; responses that did not include an answer for question 1, or if it was unclear which question the post was responding to, were assumed to be the same for both questions.

I made my best attempt to interpret and categorize responses; for instance, “not this week” for question 1 would be counted as “No, but we have in the past.”  The “unspecified” category was the default when a question was unclear.  Titles like “minister” were counted as a yes response for question 2 if that seemed to be equivalent to “pastor” at that particular church, but not if that church also had a “pastor” title.  Teaching women and children, plus titles like “pastor of children’s ministry,” were counted as a “no” response to their respective questions, since the whole issue primarily hinges around women presiding over mixed-gender, adult groups.

Elders, deacons, and roles in the service other than teaching, preaching, and leading worship (such as praying, reading scripture, and presiding over Communion) were not included in this study, although what constitutes “leading worship” can be a somewhat subjective measure.

The “yes” responses to question 1 do not add up because it was possible to answer yes to more than one part of the question. For “no” responses, I chose the single best response, even if it was ambiguous.  I never answered both “yes” and “no” to the same question, even when that was possible (for instance, “a woman led worship; a man preached, but we’ve had women preach in the past”), instead recording those responses as a “yes” only.

The genders of the responders were not enumerated, nor were their opinions or comments (such as “I disagree with my church’s stance on this”).

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