I believe that in preaching, as in other vocations, one improves with practice. It takes time to find one’s voice in preaching and become comfortable in preaching in a style that displays our unique personalities. Do we extend grace and time for women to develop as preachers or do we place them in the position to prove that they are called to preach?
Though this is not true in all places, there is a sense that women believe they must preach as well, or better than a man in order to be affirmed in their call to preach. This is not just an imagined expectation in the minds of women preachers; it is an expectation in the minds of some congregations as well. If women have fewer opportunities than men, in general, to develop their skills as preachers, should that not be taken into account when we critique them? Where are women to get experience in the pulpit if opportunities are few and far between? Do we judge the validity of all women in the pulpit based off one sermon by one woman? Do women really have to preach better than a man to verify that they have been called of God to preach?
These are tough questions. Yet, I know that there are women who are placed in these seemingly impossible circumstances. They are expected to prove their call without the benefit of practical experience; their giftedness is judged and compared to men, who have had years of experience. If I fail to measure up to expectations for the pulpit, am I ruining the chance for other women? I hope not. Yet, I wonder how often I am perceived by listeners as auditioning for the validity of women in the pulpit? Will there be a day when women preachers are only critiqued on the content of their message and not how they compare to male preachers?