Women face unique challenges in leadership roles. Self-confidence and trust in their skills and abilities are two of the most common hurdles. The struggle isn’t exclusive to women pursuing Fortune 500 CEO roles, either—women in church leadership encounter the same issues.
Just ask the Rev. Betsy Rumer and Pastor Esmé Teel of Memorial Park Church in Allison Park. Rev. Rumer serves as the church’s executive pastor of ministry; Pastor Teel is the pastor of congregational care. Neither actively sought out positions in leadership within the church but were inspired by others to take on the challenge.
Rev. Rumer didn’t grow up in the church, so the idea of becoming a pastor wasn’t even on her radar. A series of crisis events in her late teens and early 20s with drugs, alcohol and an eating disorder caused her to look to something outside herself for strength, guidance and healing. “Pulling myself up by my bootstraps wasn’t working for me,” she said. “So, I reached out to a God that I didn’t believe in.”
To her surprise, God answered her prayers in a big way.
“I wanted to learn more about Jesus and why He had saved me,” Rev. Rumer said. So, she entered the seminary. Her goal wasn’t to become a pastor, but simply to learn more about Him. “God is a sneaky guy, though,” she said, laughing. “When I went to meet Him, he came to give me my marching orders.”
Rev. Rumer graduated from the seminary in 2008 and has served as a pastor at Memorial Park Church ever since.
Pastor Teel also didn’t grow up in the church. “I knew about God but didn’t really have anyone in my life speaking about faith to me other than my grandmother, a devout Catholic, who openly talked about her beliefs and she lived out her faith,” she explained.
Pastor Teel said her life was unexpectedly turned upside down in her early 30s. “I was literally on the floor, having no idea what to do next,” she said. Out of desperation, she turned to the Lord.
“He answered in such a way that I had a clear sense of direction and had a strength that was not my own,” she said.
While she believed in God, she hadn’t had a relationship with Him, and wanted to know more about who God was and how to draw closer to Him. A friend invited her to church and that prompted her to enter into the beginning of a deep relationship-building phase of her journey and later, lay ministry leadership. Following the encouragement of others to attend the seminary, she graduated in 2021 and in March 2023 came to Memorial Park Church as their newest pastor.
How these women came to serve the Lord through ministry is only a small part of their stories, however. What inspired them to pursue leadership positions within the church is another critical component of their journeys.
“I don’t know that anyone inspired me to become a leader,” said Rev. Rumer. “It was more like I was propelled into it by my former mentor, Memorial Park’s former lead pastor.”
“He was a person who just kept stretching me, inviting me into positions of leadership,” she said. “It was simply because he saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself.”
Without her mentor’s prompting, Rev. Rumer admitted she may not have pursued a leadership role. “I would laugh when people suggested leadership roles for me because I felt there were others who would be better suited,” she said. “It’s humbling to think about.
“If you told me when I was 40 that I would be in the position that I am in today, I probably would have run screaming from the room because I wouldn’t have thought I was qualified,” she added. “But when the Lord keeps moving you into positions, you learn from each of those. Each time you’re called to the next one, you’re trained for it.”
Pastor Teel said she also didn’t seek out a leadership role. Instead, she found herself stepping up to fill roles when no one else would. She also learned and benefited from the guidance of her mentors—the senior pastor and pastor of congregational care at her former church.
Both Pastor Teel and Rev. Rumer also credit their husbands with being individuals they admire who have supported their paths to leadership within the church.
When it comes to the characteristics that make them good church leaders, Rev. Rumer said her patience is one of the secrets to her success. “I’m pretty persevering. Even when things are hard, I don’t give up, I don’t give in,” she said.
Pastor Teel identified her relational nature and interest in different perspectives as her biggest assets. “We all bring different life experiences,” she said. “Understanding other perspectives and what shapes people is a joy.”
Both women said they feel as though they’ve received as much out of their leadership roles as they’ve given.
“I would never have believed 15 years ago that I would stand in front of people and be confident in who I am,” said Rev. Rumer. “I’ve been given a confidence and wisdom that’s not my own. The Lord has given me skills I didn’t previously have, and it has blessed me.”
To Pastor Teel, the biggest benefit of being in a leadership position is seeing other people grow outside their comfort zones. She said that it’s humbling to think about where she started and where she is now on her journey.
To other women in ministry, the two offered these words of wisdom.
“Listen and be willing to learn,” said Rev. Rumer. “Put aside your pride because it will not serve you. Pray, and look to the ultimate leader for guidance. And know that you’re loved. Don’t be afraid to be wrong. The world tells us not to be wrong, but that’s not Biblical, and it’s not possible.”
“Listen to understand,” advised Pastor Teel. “Be mindful of your mistakes and own them. There’s no need to pretend that you’re perfect because you’re not. None of us are. It keeps you humble, remembering your need for the Lord, and allows the opportunity to grow and develop trust with others.”