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Curriculum – Lesson Plan #4

“Autobiographical Snapshots: A Story of Change in the PCUSA,” Beth Johnson

Concept: In the final lesson of the series, participants will make connections between the stories they have heard in the essays and the story of women in pastoral leadership in their own context.

Setting: This lesson is intended for an adult small group or education class.

Time: The lesson is intended for a 60 minute session, but may be adjusted to meet your needs.

Objectives: At the end of the lesson, the participant will:

  1. Examine the history of women’s leadership in their own congregation
  2. Explore ways they have personally been impacted by women’s leadership
  3. Reflect on how the church can increase opportunities for women’s leadership

Preparation: Research the history of your congregation to find the first ordained female elder. If possible, invite her to come and share her story with the group. If she is unable to be present, find another prominent female leader. Ask her to share how she was chosen, if there was any controversy, and what obstacles she faced along the way.

Materials: Copies of Johnson’s essay, pens/pencils, paper

Course Sequence:

Opening: Greet participants as they enter the room. Ask if there were any questions from the last session or from reading Johnson’s essay. Introduce the speaker and why she was chosen to speak to the group.

Presenting: Invite your guest speaker to share her story of how she became involved in church leadership. When she has finished sharing, ask the participants to compare her story to Johnson’s experiences in her essay. What were the similarities? What were the differences?

Exploring: In her essay, Johnson recounts several times when she experienced opposition to her call from God. She notes, however, that as time passed and relationships formed, she encountered fewer obstacles. Ask the participants to remember a woman in church leadership who had a significant impact on their faith, and to note if this woman was serving in one of Johnson’s three acceptable church roles.

Invite the participants to divide into pairs and share their stories with one another. What was it about that woman that made her so impactful? What obstacles do you think she faced? Look for similarities between these stories, Johnson’s essay, and the speaker’s presentation. Ask the participants not to look for similar obstacles, but to look for how God was present in each story.

Responding: In each essay we have studied, the authors note how far the church has traveled to embrace God’s gifts in women leaders. They also note how far we have to go. Ask the participants to gather in groups of 4 or 5 and answer the following questions:

  1. What are we doing well as a church to celebrate and affirm the gifts of women?
  2. What are some concrete ways to increase opportunities for women’s leadership in our congregation?

Have the groups share their ideas with the entire gathering.

Closing: Invite the participants to share prayer requests with one another. (If you have a large group, ask the participants to divide into smaller groups). You may either decide to pray for the group or ask the participants to pray in their small groups. Close by praying the Lord’s Prayer together.