I’ve recently gotten brave enough to ask some of my female baptist minister colleagues, who have been ministers much longer than I have, what the norm is for salaries and benefits and overall packages for female baptist ministers. Notice I said female baptist ministers, not baptist ministers because unfortunately the norms are not the same. While I was hoping to be encouraged, what I discovered is that more often than not, baptist female ministers are asked questions that I’m not so sure our male baptist minister colleagues are being asked.
Some of the most common ones are:
Are you planning to start a family soon?
Is there a possibility that you could get on your husband’s insurance?
While the first, may have more to do with society as a whole and the expectation that women will have children and that having children will greatly impact their professional careers and their ability to be a professional, the second is something I have only heard about in ministry positions.
In welcoming and affirming baptist congregations, shouldn’t women be able to expect the same salary and benefits as their male counterparts with similar educational backgrounds and years of experience? Perhaps we should be able to expect that, but we can’t. Story after story has only served to confirm my suspicion that many of the welcoming and affirming congregation in which we are serving feel as though we should be thankful for the opportunity to serve.
And we are.
We are sincerely thankful for congregation who are brave and step up to call women.
It’s just that we have student loans, families, and aspirations of being able to contribute as professional people to our families. We have dreams of not just being included as ministers, but as being consider equals in ministry. We don’t want to just be the cheaper more cost-effective option for search committees. And I think in more cases than we would like to admit in our moderate and progressive baptist world, assumptions about the money that can be saved by hiring a women in ministry does enter the conversation.
The underlying assumptions seems to still be that men are the bread winners and any salary from the wife, no matter the amount and no matter the benefits (or lack thereof) are just added bonuses to families. What does this mean for baptist women in ministry, especially those who don’t have spouses or who don’t have male partners?
It means that we are going to have to be honest with ourselves about the work that still needs to be done for the sake of baptist women in ministry. We don’t need to stop and pat ourselves on the back because we are calling women to ministry positions. We need to continue to work to help create spaces where women are considered equal.
Unfortunately, it means that we, as baptist women in ministry, are going to have to do the research before we accept a call to ministry in order to determine whether we are being offered comparable pay and benefits to our male colleagues or whether we are not. It means that we can’t accept the justification that each congregation gets to decide how much and what benefits a minister deserves and start working as a network of baptist ministers to help congregations understand that our families still need food and homes and clothes.
It means that we are going to have to stop assuming and start listening.