The other day, a female pastor posted in a private Facebook group for young clergy, sharing the first comment she received after her first sermon in her first church. Immediately, I was cringing with empathy. I knew what was coming: It was going to be about her hair. Of course it was. What else would someone have to say after hearing a minister preach on the gospel, right?
Such stories are common among clergy. Ministers I know have received unsolicited commentary from parishioners on their relationship status, their pregnancies, their weight, their facial hair, their attire, and just about any other physical or personal attribute you can imagine. During my own short time in ministry, I’ve heard that I am too skinny and that I’m overweight, that my hair is a distraction, that I’m too young, that I’m looking particularly tired, that they’d date me if they could, and even that I have great legs.
We tend to laugh or shrug off these interactions most of the time because we know that there is, more often than not, no malicious intent behind them. We care for our congregation members, and we don’t want to make them feel uncomfortable or angry. But while not every earnest comment offered by a church member is unwelcome, some of these unsolicited encounters can be frustrating and even degrading for us. They undermine our confidence and our authority.