While reliable statistics are hard to come by, it is possible that 30% or more of the pastors in Three-Self Churches in China are women. Most of these pastors are also wives and mothers. The Gospel Times, a mainland-based website decided to highlight the life and ministry of some of these pastors in a special series to celebrate Mother’s Day. The article translated below is about one of the pastors of Beijing Gangwashi Christian Church. It provides an interesting glimpse of the issues and challenges faced by “pastor moms” in China.
In the Chinese church, there are more female believers than male believers. There are also more female students than male students in the seminaries, more female preachers than male preachers, and even more female senior pastors than male senior pastors. But have these female pastors in China who hold up half the sky received enough attention? And are people aware of the unique difficulties of being pastor, mother, and wife? Are they carrying a particularly heavy burden? And is the burden they are bearing too much?
In the run-up to Mothers Day the Gospel Times launched a special series on the topic of Caring for Mother Pastors. We hope that you will grow to love and care for them. The first mother pastor we want to introduce is Pastor Zhang Jinxing from Beijing Gangwashi Church.
Introducing Pastor Zhang
Pastor Zhang serves in the Sunday Worship of Beijing Gangwashi Christian Church. Her husband serves as the pastor for the Korean fellowship at the church. They have two children, a son (ten years old) and a daughter (two years old). She has a burden for family ministry (details can be seen in other articles). From 2008 to 2010, she studied Family/Marriage Counseling at Renmin University. Then, with a heart to meet the needs of believers, she took courses from British and Chinese institutions, and has now been awarded the International Counselor Certificate of COSCA as well as the Psychological Health Counselor Certificate from CMA.
Pastor Zhang said it was her second older sister who became the first Christian in her family. In 1989, her mother came to Jesus, and then her house became a meeting point where a preacher came to preach on occasion. At first, she kept asking questions about why God created the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and other similar questions. She didnt believe in God until one day she had a conversation with the preacher for about 40 minutes. As a result, she felt so joyful that she decided to accept Jesus as her savior. That happened in 1990 when she was 16.
At that time, it was difficult for people to get access to the Bible or the Internet, so the only way to learn was to wait for the preacher to come and share with them. The preacher came only once every few months and when he came, the people would sit there and listen to him preach until midnight. Then they sent him away and waited for his next visit. Gradually, this sixteen-year old girl started to consider the fact that there must be many people in other places who were in similar situations, and she wondered whether she might be able to preach some day.
Pastor Zhang was baptized in 1992. She graduated from seminary in 2000 and immediately started serving in the Korean fellowship at Gangwashi Christian Church. Later she began serving in the regular Sunday worship service, and continues to do that today. She was commissioned as an evangelist in 2007, and then ordained as a pastor in 2009. In the past she served in the youth fellowship, the youth choir and the group of communion servers. Now she preaches sermons during Sunday morning worship and on weekdays, serves in the sisters fellowship, leads the archives work and directs the youth choir. At the same time, Pastor Zhang provides counseling for people (parents/children, husbands/wives, boyfriends/girlfriends) who are struggling in relationships, be they. She has special burden for childrens ministry, so she hopes to be more involved in this area in the future.
Ministry and Her Husband
Does her husband also serve the Lord? Does he support her ministries? Does serving affect their relationship?
Pastor Zhang met her husband in the church and they attended Yanjing Theological Seminary together. Now her husband is the pastor of the Korean Fellowship at Gangwashi Church. When the interviewer commented on the fact that both of them were pastors, Pastor Zhang said that when they started out they were concerned for their children since both of them were so busy with their church work. This means that their time with their children is limited. When asked if her husband supports her ministries, Pastor Zhang said he was not only supportive, but that they received their COSCA and CMA certification together. She said that her husband is busier than she is, but that they share the same ministry goals and support each other in the Lord.
Ministry and Her Children
How about her children? Does serving affect her relationship with her children? Do her children trust in God? Are they willing to serve?
Pastor Zhang has a son and a daughter (the ethnic minorities policy allows for a second child). Her son is ten years old and her daughter is only two. They didn’t want a second child due to their limited time and money; however, God gave them a second child so they accepted it with a thankful heart. Pastor Zhang said after the children were born, God supplied all their needs by moving on the hearts of people around them to give clothes for their children. Although there are difficulties, this mother pastor was happy to talk about her children and tell stories about them. In most families, when there are two or more children, they fight a lot; however her family is different. Her son loves his sister so much that he treats her quite differently from others and thinks that his sister is the most beautiful girl in the world. He loves to protect and guide her. All this is a result of proper guidance given by their parents (details about how Pastor Zhang teaches her kids how to love and respect each other are written in a separate article).
Although Pastor Zhang’s daughter is less than two years old, she can pray by herself now. She started praying when she was only 15 months old. At that time, she couldn’t say much, but even when she was trying to use her own words to pray to God it was lovely. Now, she prays from her heart before eating and she even prays when her parents are not there.
When asked if their son ever complains about having both parents as pastors, she said that sometimes he does complain about them being too busy. Last year they took him to an amusement park, which he really enjoyed. It is clear that she would love to spend more time with her children. She told me that their house is quite close to the Olympic Forest Park, but they only went there recently for the first time. Her son loved it. Now, as their son is on the verge of becoming a teenager, Pastor Zhang and her husband often pray together that they will be maintain good communications with him and help him through these years. Pastor Zhang said that she was quite surprised when her son said he wanted to be a pastor in the future. A few years ago he had said he wanted to be a policemen or scientist. But last year, he suddenly said to her, Mom, I finally figured out what I want to be in the future, and it can be said in four Chinese characters or two: (saving souls) or (pastor). Pastor Zhang said, I dont know how the seed of being a pastor was sown in his heart. Maybe seeing his mom and dad joyfully serving the Lord influenced him. I think God is working in him and I hope it will be completed.
When both husband and wife are pastors, they understand each other and provide mutual encouragement when ministering and taking care of the children. However, since the salaries for pastors are quite low, they may also have financial difficulties. Pastor Zhang shared that Gods grace has never left them; and HE is Yahweh Jehovah Jirah The Great Provider.
A retreat for pastors who are mothers
Pastor Zhang said it would be wonderful if there were a retreat for mother pastors and she would like to see every city eventually have one. She should like to help those pastors who are mothers know how to balance their ministry and families.
From this interview, we can see that God has blessed Pastor Zhangs family through her and her husbands ministries and work in family counseling. How many more families are there like hers? Are there other pastors who are mothers who face similar pressures, health issues, relationship struggles, or financial crises?
Original article and photo: 儿子九岁时就告白要成为牧师
Further reading on the subject
Gender Imbalance in the Chinese Church: Causes, Consequences, and Possible Cures (Global China Center)
Image credit: allen LI via Flickr.
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