My husband and I had been attending a Vineyard church for a little over a year when we went to our first Vineyard conference—Cause Con 2016. Everything was going great and we were falling in love with the Vineyard until one session abruptly changed everything.
Amanda Nash, a pastor from the Columbus Vineyard, got up to speak. I liked her immediately because her bio mentioned she helped plant a church in the Netherlands, a country I felt called to.
It was what she spoke about that almost caused me to run away from the Vineyard. I was dreaming about tulips and windmills when her words pulled me to attention: “Scripture doesn’t prevent women from having any forms of leadership.” (You can watch Amanda’s talk here.)
Nash started to unpack her passion for women in leadership. Everything in me grew cold. I went from skeptical to angry in minutes.
No, this couldn’t be. This was a deal-breaker with the Vineyard—a relationship ender.
My identity as a Christian had been wrapped so tightly around the fact that, despite my deepest longings, my place in the church would be behind a man or behind a computer.
I grew up thinking it was okay for women to do some things. I believed women could volunteer in churches, and if they were on staff, they could work with children or do administrative tasks. I thought it was okay for women to teach through publications, but not from pulpits. I didn’t think women could teach or lead adults.
Growing up on a farm in rural South Dakota, I spent many summer mornings propped up on a cattle gate giving sermons or concerts to the cows. I spent afternoons in forts with pen and paper, writing up stories or devotionals I would beg my school teachers to read to the class.
As I got older, I realized my ministry options were limited. I tried to force my way into the box I believed God created for women. I tried to lead where I could and attempted to force my husband into leadership roles so I could vicariously lead through him. You can imagine how well that worked!
Fast forward to the conference, and here I am listening to a woman tell me everything I ever wanted to hear; yet, I wanted to run far, far away.
I had so idolized my complementarian interpretation of scripture that it angered me to even hear another perspective. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit nudged me. That tidbit of information about Nash’s Netherlands connection was intriguing enough for me to look past her crazy views of women and invite her to coffee.
Nash sat with me and listened. Seeing right to the heart of the matter, she bypassed my interest in the Netherlands and went straight for what was most important in that moment—my adamant opposition to women in leadership. She kindly shared some thoughtful nuggets for me to chew on and resources to look in to, and she prayed for me.
Over the next few weeks, the views I had about women in church leadership began to unravel, including the multitude of inconsistent, unhelpful, and some even unbiblical opinions I had adopted over time.
My husband and I were propelled into a season of discovery. With the help of the Holy Spirit, pastors and friends who listened and asked questions, and the Vineyard Institute class: Women in Leadership, we came to a new, unified understanding on an issue we once thought was black and white.
Then came the sweet freedom I had been longing for my whole life—the freedom to step into things I knew I was created for, guilt-free leading and teaching. I am currently on staff at our local Vineyard church, overseeing young adult ministry, and our family will be moving to the Netherlands this coming fall to join the ministry of a Vineyard there.
Cause Con was the first Vineyard conference that made me want to leave the movement. I can honestly say, I hope there will be more, more moments that make me feel uncomfortable, even angry, moments that will hurl me into seasons of discovery, leading me into transformation and a deeper knowledge of God.
My encouragement is this: if you see or experience something new that confuses or even agers you, don’t run. Instead, ask the Holy Spirit “why?” Surround yourself with people who will listen and love you well. You never know what new depths of God you might discover and what new freedom he has for you.
Chelsey Nugteren and her husband Steve stumbled upon Harvest Vineyard Church in Ames, Iowa four years ago and have since been on a wild journey of growth, discovery, and transformation. Chelsey had been a marketing consultant and freelance writer for years, but in the Vineyard she was empowered to lead and accepted God’s invitation into ministry.
Chelsey was on staff at Harvest Vineyard overseeing their Young Adult Ministry. In this role she loved to teach and create spaces for people to experience community and encounter the kingdom. Recently, Chelsey, with her husband Steve and their three daughters Annika, Ruby and Vivian, moved to The Netherlands to join the ministry of the Benelux Vineyard and the Vineyard in their new community, Vineyard Wageningen.