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Finding Affirmation in Community

Women lead pastors share stories of common struggles.
ORLANDO, Florida — A trio of women who are lead pastors at Assemblies of God churches shared their stories of trials and triumphs Aug. 4 at a Network of Women Ministers reception during General Council 2021 in Orlando.

Moderator Nichole M. Schreiber, an ordained AG minister since 2012, hosted the event, which drew 75 women lead pastors. She asked attendees if they had ever faced challenges from anyone who thought they shouldn’t be a pastor because of their gender. Nearly everyone in the room stood.

“Many times resistance pushes us forward to move the Kingdom,” said Schreiber, who has led Erie First Assembly, a Pennsylvania congregation of 550, since 2017. “What God wills can never be stopped.”

The women sounded a common theme of being too hard on themselves, trying to live up to the unrealistic expectations of others, and falling into a trap of comparing themselves to others.

Michele R. Thompson related how she had been comfortable as a staff pastor with responsibility for a couple of ministry areas. She had been a licensed AG minister for 18 years, with no plans to seek ordination. But then she said God motivated her to leave the security behind, confirming the calling in multiple ways.

“I had not planned what God had planned,” Thompson said. “But it’s the call of God that matters. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.”

Thompson has been lead pastor of Rockside Church in Independence, Ohio, since 2018. She succeeded Donna Barrett, who became the first female executive at the AG national office in Springfield, Missouri, in 2018. Barrett, the Fellowship’s general secretary, attended the luncheon.

Randall Victoria Araujo has been an ordained AG minister since 2016. She is co-lead pastor of a new plant, The Heart LA, with her husband, David. The first service will be in a former nightclub next month.

Araujo recalled how she, her husband, and their three young children moved to California last year as many residents there relocated to other states. She acknowledged that the COVID-19 restrictions imposed in the Golden State have been frustrating while trying to launch a church. But Araujo said delays can result in character and skills development.

“There is wonder in waiting for the Lord,” Araujo said. “Wait for the Lord when it comes to your church.”

Alexa M. Pineda, who co-pastors Vida Church in Amarillo, Texas, has served alongside her husband, Efrain, in ministry for over 20 years. She is a West Texas & Plains District sectional presbyter. She said she didn’t aspire to be a pastor’s wife perpetually smiling on the front row.

Pineda, a New York native, testified about her early life of poverty and abuse in a dysfunctional home. She said she left a sinful, rebellious life at 17 when she sought God’s forgiveness.

Women have been preaching and teaching in the Assemblies of God since the denomination’s founding in 1914. A 2010 position paper reaffirms the role of women in ministry.

Annually, more women are heeding the call to vocational ministry. There currently are a record 10,208 female ministers in the AG, slightly more than 27 percent of the total 37,713 ministers overall. However, while a record 627 of the 10,042 AG lead pastors are women, that represents just 6.2 percent of all lead pastors in the Fellowship.

John W. Kennedy

John W. Kennedy served as news editor of AG News from its inception in 2014 until retiring in 2023. He previously spent 15 years as news editor of the Pentecostal Evangel and seven years as news editor at Christianity Today.