How to Advocate for Yourself While Honoring Others

Sometimes in ministry, advocating for oneself is frowned upon. However, sometimes in ministry, it’s necessary to fulfill one’s calling. Crystal Martin, who serves as the national director of the Assemblies of God Network, found this to be true through years of pushing the boundaries of her own leadership and the expectations of others around her. On this episode of the Women in Ministry Leadership podcast, hosts Dr. Rhonda Davis and Julie Cole talk with Crystal about how she learned to advocate for herself while honoring others.

Dr. Rhonda Davis: Okay. Well, we’re so happy to have Crystal Martin with us today, and I just want to read a little bit about Crystal and what she’s doing right now and why she’s joining us. She serves as the National Director of the Assemblies of God Network of Women Ministers, and that is a professional organization mobilizing women to fulfill their ministry call. She’s passionate about advocating for, collaborating with, and training women ministers, and believes the image of God is best reflected, and the Church of Jesus Christ is healthiest when both men and women are empowered to fulfill their call at every level of ministerial leadership.

Julie Cole: Yay.

Rhonda: I couldn’t agree more, right? So in addition to serving with the network, she has served with Chi Alpha Campus Ministries for over 20 years, and she presently serves as the director of Chi Alpha Missions, coordinating Chi Alpha’s cross-cultural initiatives, including global missions, so has a real heart for the world and cross-cultural ministry. The phrase that’s been coined by Crystal is give a year and pray about a lifetime, giving students opportunities to experiment with God’s call on their life and what He might have for them in the future.

So Crystal, you have said yes to God in multiple ways, and so we are so happy to have you with us here today.

Crystal Martin: Yes. Yeah. I’m thrilled to be here.

Julie: Yes. I’m going to chime in and say I met Crystal on a trip that we recently took to Egypt where we were studying the desert mothers and fathers. And Crystal came to dinner the first night and I heard her chatting and I thought, “I have to know this lady.” She’s so full of life and vision, and her passion matched so closely to mine.

So Crystal I’m going to start with a question that we ask a lot of our guests, and that is: how did you get here? Did you always dream of being a director of Women Ministry Leadership in a denomination or was it an unlikely path that you followed to this place?

Crystal: Wow, thank you Julie, we did have such a fun time in Egypt. I wish we had time to tell our camel story.

Rhonda:  That sounds like a really good one…

Julie:  We have secrets.

Rhonda:  I need to see pictures.

Crystal:  What happens in Egypt stays in Egypt… We’ll just leave it at that.

No, what a great question. Was it an unlikely journey? In some ways yes, in some ways no. My parents are pastors, so in that sense ministry was modeled to me as a child. I saw it, and I speaking of the network of women ministers, my mom was a strong women leader of her time. At that point the title of pastor’s wife, was just what you got. So, it’s like, you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit, and that’s kind of what my mom did. But with that title of pastor’s wife, I saw her step up in very prophetic ways throughout my childhood. I’d say my parents led, if I can use this word, very egalitarian. I watched them in the home and in ministry, just really leading side by side. So I definitely had that model.

But I thought, I went to the University of Arizona, a secular school, I thought I’d get a teaching degree. I kind of was pursuing becoming a principal. I think I have leadership in my heart from the time I was a young woman and saw that as a way for me to just kind of walk through those steps. So it wasn’t until I had been married a couple of years that the Lord began to speak to both my husband and I. My husband at that point was a Chi Alpha campus minister, so you’ll see how all these titles come together. It’s like I married a minister, I minister parents, and I decided I was going to be a teacher, but who knows? I guess that wasn’t what the Lord had.

So my husband was the minister. I was teaching school. And at a very young age, I did have one of those otherworldly calls. Now, I talk to young men and women often about call and you know, quoted, I often say, “Give a year and pray about a lifetime. The Mormons are giving two years, we’re giving excuses.” You can hear me say that all often. And I have friends that have been in ministry for years and say, “Hey, I just volunteered,” but for me, it was a very otherworldly call where I was planning a global mission trip into North Africa and the Lord spoke to me as a young woman. And the call, the word he gave me is, “I’m calling you to lead this generation to the nations.”

Rhonda: Wow.

Crystal: I had not seen anybody model a mobilization call. Not only am I supposed to go to the nations, but I’m called to call the generation to go with me. And at a young age, it felt really, really big. I felt like the Lord was going to use Chi Alpha significantly. We have 20,000 college students. What if every college student gave a year of missionary service and prayed about a lifetime?

Julie: Wow.

Crystal: We have teachers and lawyers and doctors. And at that point, missions was thought of something that you had to have otherworldly call, like you had to have an angel that said, “Go to Africa,” or “It wasn’t for you,” and so I felt like the Lord was calling me to almost demystify the call.

Rhonda: Wow.

Crystal: The Great Commission is for all of us. And at a young age, I knew God was calling me to use my voice, to use my heart, and to use my passion to get this generation to the nations. So I think in that sense, when you asked me how did you get here, those were my early ways. Now specifically, that was how I got into the Chi Alpha Lead This Generation to the Nations. And just quickly I could say, man, we started with taking a few mission trips and now Chi Alpha is the number one pipeline to Assemblies of God world missions. They’re our partner because we’re both affiliated with the Assemblies of God. Man, we have doctors and lawyers and nurses just stepping up and saying, “Now, I’m going to go either use my profession in Southern Iraq or disciple people in India.” So I mean, it’s just been really exciting to see fulfillment of call.

And so I have a strong belief that God puts big calls in the bellies of young people, and so that brought me to this table today. Secondly, what brought me to this table today is I had this big call, this otherworldly experience, and I felt like David, “Lead this generation to the….” It like felt big, but because I worked with my husband who was also a minister and had a very similar call, at a young age, I also started feeling… The term I coin is genderized. “Wow. Scott, here’s your desk, here’s your name plate, here’s your job.” “Crystal, great, I’m glad you’re here. He needs somebody to keep his calendar,” and I would walk into a setting and be like, “Oh, I’m terrible at keeping calendars. I have a visionary leadership. I was going to be a principal. I did not lay that down to keep my husband’s calendar.” And so I think at a very early age, I just started coming against this, what I would call just traditionalized, genderized roles of men and women in ministry.

And although my denomination speaks toward egalitarian or women, man, you can do anything in ministry, it was not being practiced. So we had very few female lead pastors in my movement. There was this concept is you need to marry a pastor or… So many of these traditional ideas of how women did ministry were still very prevalent. And I just started hitting up against them at a young age. And so I think what brings me to this table of the Network of Women Ministers is Jesus help us eliminate some of this generalization so we can lead by gifts not gender, and that’s really, I think especially as Pentecostals who are very gift focused, and as ministers it’s like we’re Pentecostals who are gift focused, not gender focused, and we’re also contextualizing to our generation, which is… We have a female vice president, and so really paving a new path for young women ministers I think I’m passionate about, and I’ve lived it myself, so I think that’s another way that brings me to the table of specifically the Network of Women Ministers.

Rhonda: Yeah. When you were talking about you were bumping up against this genderized look at things, which is a really interesting point, how did you work through that to be able then to now… Bumping up against that is different than mobilizing people to make change and to grow the kingdom, so how did you get from in between those things? How did God use that experience to bring redemption for those women?

Crystal: Yeah. I think at first I just started doing my job, which was my husband became the global missions director for Chi Alpha, and I just stepped into his team. So I ended up just, I wasn’t his calendar keeper, but I was part of the leadership team of Chi Alpha Global Missions. And in that, I think I kept, and I don’t know how the Lord gave me the kind of fortitude to do this, but when people would say, “Hey, I need you to keep your husband’s calendar,” I would just say, “Well, you know what? This is really where my gift set fits,” and so I felt like I learned to self-advocate, and I don’t even know if I knew I was doing that. But even as a young woman, I kind of knew that when I was at a leadership table, I mean, this might sound funny, but I’m not going to go get everyone’s coffee.

Just standing up, it was like this little secret protest, so I didn’t stand up and say, “No, I won’t get your coffee,” but somebody would be like, “Oh, we need coffee.” “Oh, who’s going to get it?” Do you know what I’m saying? So I think I had this very much secret protest where I didn’t stand up and say, “No, I won’t,” or “how dare you,” but as a young woman, I also internally refused. And even as a missionary, I was the first to carve out and say to my husband, “Hey, I’m laying down a teaching profession, which is very little money, but at least it’s money, so I’m not going to do this as a volunteer.” So I began to kind of really, really self-advocate for financing, for title, “Hey, you’re the national director, what’s my title going to be?” And I didn’t realize that not everybody was doing this, but for me it felt like the only way for me to survive in this was to self-advocate.

And thankfully in that self advocation, it started working. And I feel like my 20-year journey just doing my job as a missionary has been self-advocating for myself and then advocating for others. And just when I see injustice saying, “Hey, we’ve got to stop doing that,” so we just can’t keep moving. I don’t know about our listeners, but I work with a very large organization where change is slow, and so you have to be willing to speak up and then take the long road to make that change. So self-advocation and then other advocation I think has been an extremely important part of my journey. And now, when I sit down with young women who are called to ministry, I will say… And I’ll just say, something I see in my movement, a genderized kind of piece is I’ll hear a young woman at 21 kind of playing with the idea of being called to ministry.

Oftentimes she won’t use pastor language. She’ll say something like, “I feel called to disciple or mentor.” The guys are like, “I feel called to preach,” because that’s a language that’s been given us. And so when I walk with young women, part of the advocation is, “Hey, it sounds like you have a preaching call. You’re using the word disciple or mentor, it sounds like you have a pastoral call. If that’s true, use the language, step into it, and then fight for the internship. Don’t become the administrative assistant.” And so it’s like I self-advocated and then I’m helping others advocate so that we don’t continue in these genderized streams of ministry.

Julie: So when you self-advocate, I’m sure there are some people that say you’re right, but then there’s also some people that push back. How do you self-advocate without getting bitter?

Crystal: Wow. So for the Network of Women Ministers, I’ve developed four core values that help us walk through this journey. We start with honor, Romans 12:6 tells us to outdo each other with honor. And so as I walk alongside my male advocates and my male allies, I want the Romans 12 where we think of others better than ourselves. And so I do try to come in with a humble posture when I’m working with other ministry leaders, both men and women, and I try to start with a posture of honor. But our second core value is authenticity or honesty. And I do believe that honor and authenticity can live side by side, and so I am willing to tell my story even when it’s hard. And I think part of this journey of what about when you bump up against something is the willingness to step out there and say things like, “Hey, this is really hard as a women minister. Let me talk to you about all the time that I have faced different kinds of discrimination and be heard.”

And I think part of the honor culture, we can’t have an honor culture that suppresses honesty or we will never move forward. And so I feel like if we can move together with that honor and honesty, then I say the next core value is forgiveness. As women, most of us have had to deal with sideways energy where people have said a sexist, misogynist comment that we’ve had to take to Jesus. So we honor that person because they’re a human being, even if they speak to us poorly, we are authentic and honest to say, “Hey….” And now, I’m not saying I always speak out. There’s times you let things go, but I might speak out with a girlfriend later and say, “Hey, this really hurt and I need somebody that can carry this pain with me.” That’s that honesty, authentic place.

Third, we have to forgive. Ministry, no matter if it’s because of gender, race, or just being a pastor, we are going to get wounded. And the book I read recently, I don’t know if it was Ministry Pain, I’m a cliff note person, so forgive me for not knowing the author, but the takeaway I had is you can only lead us high is your ability to handle pain. And so I have to say to women, “You’re going to experience pain in this journey.” And our ability to forgive is what makes us Christian. That’s what separates us. And so walking women through that forgiveness piece so that our woundedness does not become a monument in our life, but our forgiveness does. So we want honor, authenticity, forgiveness, and then last is hope. And as we begin to walk through those three first core values, I do believe our greatest days for women in ministry are ahead.

I think as a woman, I am so grateful to be a woman in leadership and a woman in ministry in 2022. Things are happening in our culture that are helping us live biblical, and I do think that is where our hope lies. So I don’t know if that helps, but I walk through those four categories and hopefully we come out the other side with hope.

Rhonda: That’s great. And I’m really curious. As you have this just such an interesting combination of ministry and leadership to women who are called and also to the globally, cross-cultural ministry and things like that, so I’m interested to hear from you, what would you say are some of the greatest opportunities that female leaders have in front of them in light of the global landscape? Are there any particular advantages you think that female leaders would have?

Crystal: Oh, definitely. Right now, the greatest recruiting that’s going on is with our… Oh, I appreciate so much and his name has slipped me, but he’s our head commissioned officer for chaplaincy, military chaplaincy. If I was on in a university… They have quotas within the military, and so women chaplains go really far. And so he was telling me, “Crystal, if we can get women in chaplaincy specifically….” You have to have a masters of divinity, so it means you got to work hard on the front end. But chaplaincy, whether it be hospital, whether it be military, I do believe is a huge open door for women. There’s lots of quotas out there in the marketplace, and it is a great way for us to mirror a lot of our business hearts and our leadership hearts and our ministry hearts. So chaplaincy is a huge… I mean, it’s just like an open door.

Second, I definitely think global missions. I’m interested in doing a work fairly soon in a western Europe country that is so egalitarian. I feel like being a female minister is going to give me some contextualized advantages in the specific country that I’m hoping to be working in. So there are many parts of our country where being a woman is actually preferred. My friend worked at Georgetown University, and they were so shocked to meet a conservative female. They do not know what to do with us because honestly so many female ministers are very progressive. They would be more in the liberal side. And so to be more on the evangelical, not Unitarian female minister is actually such a win, and we have such a voice into our culture, So chaplaincy, global missions.

I will tell you also within the church planting world, even church revitalization right now, I don’t know how it is in the fellowships that I’m… those of you who are listening, but we have churches just empty, just waiting for pastors. And so I see women, maybe young married couples where many jobs now are online, so it’s making the ability to travel and go to the locations a lot easier. I see so much openness and so much space for women. We’re going to have to get over those sticky floors, that self-doubt and imposter syndrome where we maybe don’t see ourselves as lead pastors or don’t see ourselves as lead chaplains, but I do believe if we can overcome our own mental wanderings that there are a lot of opportunities for women ministers out there.

Rhonda: That’s so encouraging. That’s such an encouraging thing.

Julie: Yes.

Rhonda: I think you’re right. A lot of the battlefield is in our own self, our own self-talk, and so there are a lot of women stuck on sticky floors.

Julie: Yes.

Rhonda: So how have you overcome that, or how have you helped, and can you tell us about maybe a woman that you’ve seen overcome that?

Crystal: Yeah. I wish I had something really magical. For me in my demographic, I felt like the Lord just told me to stay because I ended up on a lot of maybe committees or different places where I felt uncomfortable, and I was like, “I don’t know if I belong.” And oftentimes men colleagues, they don’t even realize they’re talking negative about women. So they’re talking about pushy women and loud women, and I’m like, “Oh my goodness, am I pushy? Am I loud? Am I too quiet?” This is all my back, self-talk, and I just felt the Holy Spirit just ease me and say, “Crystal, stay. You are who I made you to be. You’re exactly what this table needs.” I wish the negative self-talk would’ve gone away quicker, easy. Many times I would be in a meeting, and I’d have that imposter syndrome.

“I don’t know if I belong here. Am I prepared enough? Are people thinking I’m too pushy or not talking enough?” Just all that negative. And I do remember one time I was walking in and I was leading a new table. When you lead a table, you control the minutes, you control the… I was making the plan and all that imposter syndrome was coming into my head, that self-doubt, and I felt like the Lord speak to me and he said, “Crystal, I need a grownup in the room. Kids are allowed to not know who they are, but I need a woman, not a little girl. And if I called you, then I equipped you to sit in that chair.” I must have just needed that harsh word from Jesus, that kind of mama voice from the Lord saying, “Stop it’s, stop it. You are a grown woman. Step into that chair. I called you.” And can I tell you that broke something off of me.

Julie: Wow.

Crystal: Now, it’s only been about two years, which means I had 20 years of battling imposter syndrome, but I do think God spoke that to me and the confidence to just step in, “God made me. I don’t have to prove to anyone.” Just the things we would tell everybody, not even in a genderized scenario are true in this kind of a situation. So anyway. I wish I had something more magical. For me, it was staying, and then the Lord just spoke a word over me that broke that. And I try to speak that word over other women. “God made you. He created. You bring who you are. The table needs you. The platform needs,” you and prayerfully that’ll start breaking those negative voices in our head.

Julie: Yeah. I think that’s pretty powerful. It may not be magical, but it’s powerful when you get a direct word like that from the Lord.

Crystal: Yes.

Julie: I hear you champion championing the voice of young women. Was there anyone in particular that really came alongside you and championed you along the way?

Crystal: Yeah. None of us get where we are alone, right?

Julie: Right.

Crystal: And I’ve had so many, both men and women, in my life. I remember my director of Chi Alpha. My husband was on the lead team, and he was just like, “I need a woman on this team, and you’re ready for it,” and so being ready. Sometimes you’re asked because you are a woman and being ready for it. So I would say I’ve had those people that have been those champions, and then I’ve had those people that have been advocates that have really stood in the gap for me. Dr. Beth Grant, she’s the director of Project Rescue, and was the very first woman to be elected on to the Assemblies of God Executive Presbytery. She has been a mentor throughout my journey. And she’s honest with me. She’ll sit with me. I remember one time I preached at a large church, and I preached on Deborah. And afterwards she said, “Crystal, when you preach to a male/female audience, you want to make sure and use as many men characters as possible,” just trying to help me not constantly be thinking a woman’s audience.

So she’s mentored me in the fact, she’s given me railroad tracks to run on, and opened doors for me. So I’ve had both male champions and then women who have opened doors and built platforms for me. I love using the biblical analogy of Mary and Elizabeth. Elizabeth, the older Mary with the Greater Gift. And when Mary left her time with Elizabeth, it said she went out and sang a prophetic song. And as an older woman, I always want the Mary’s in my life to leave with a prophetic song in their heart. Not because of what I said, but because of what I saw. Elizabeth saw what God was doing in Mary. And then as an Elizabeth, also just being really secure in who I am and the call in my life. So I love those two biblical characters to kind of help us envision multi-generational mentoring.

Rhonda: I love that. Well, talk to us about how people can reach you and what you’re up to at this point in your life.

Crystal: Yeah. Thank you. So we would love to invite all of your audience to follow us on the Network of Women Ministers. We have a website and multiple podcasts. You can find us either by just Googling Network of Women Ministers. You can put that into Facebook or Instagram. AGWomenMinisters also. So A as in Apple, G as in God, Women Ministers is another kind of handle. That’s our Instagram. That’s how you find us on Instagram and on those podcasts, like Apple Podcasts. We do two podcasts a month where it’s just kind of like us women in different seasons of life talking about ministry and parenting, just the basic kind of things that we’re all walking through.

Many of us are still pioneers as women ministers. I think there’s so many more opportunities. Like I said, my mom, you were either a pastor’s wife or kind of a pioneer minister. Now, we have so many options and so many of us are pioneering new streams of ministry, and so we need each other. All research tells us that women who go together go further. So even the three of us today, I know we go further as we go together.

Rhonda: Yes, yes.

Crystal: Our end goal is co-ed, right? We want to work right alongside our male brothers in ministry, but women as we champion each other, we will go further as we go together. So I’d love to invite you into any of those podcasts or resources, magazines that we have available to you.

Rhonda: That’s so great. And it’s just been wonderful to chat with you, and your energy is contagious, and I’m grateful that you said yes. I’m interested to know what’s been feeding you lately. Is there something that you’ve been reading or paying attention or practicing that’s been especially helpful to you recently?

Crystal: Yeah, thanks for asking that. So Julie and I in Egypt, we’re on a spiritual formation journey. I’m just now on the writing phase of my doctorate of ministry. So when you’re working on a doctorate, there’s a lot feeding you because you’re reading a lot, you’re working fantastic professors, so I’m walking through a season of feeling extremely fed, but then doing a bit of an emphasis on spiritual formation and spiritual disciplines. I think I told Julie, she’s an enneagram person. I’m a nine wing eight, and so basically I’m at war with myself to change the world or take a nap. Like every minute, “Do I change the world or take a nap?” That’s where I live.

Julie: That is quite a conflict. Two good options.

Crystal: The eight and Me wants to change the world, the nine wants to take a nap. For those of you who know Enneagram.

So the spiritual disciplines have been really great. I’ve been reading Matthew the Poor. Of all the things, these Orthodox ministers that just really have kind of mastered loving God, their identity is not an issue because they live in caves, and they’re not venerated till after they die. So all of the issues that we have as far as what stages we’re going to be on, what titles we’re going to have, they don’t worry about that till after they’re dead. And so I have been fed by these spiritual mothers and fathers who have no care about platform, and their number one objective is finding and knowing God. And at this point in my life, it’s been very refreshing.

Rhonda: Yeah. I’m sure people well-meaning tried to tell me that as I was just getting started, and that sounded so cliche. But the longer that I lead and grow and live with Jesus, the more I realize there’s just really something to that, right?

Crystal: Yeah.

Rhonda: The closer we are to him, the closer we are to each other. He’s not going to let us miss out on our purpose, right?

Crystal: Exactly.

Rhonda: Well, Crystal, it has been wonderful to chat with you. Thank you for spending some time with us. I encourage any of our listeners to reach out and get connected. We are always better when we’re together, so I just thank you for this time. And thanks for listening. And if you have enjoyed our conversation, we’re going to keep having them. So just click subscribe and we’d love to stay connected with you as we continue to journey together as Women in Ministry Leadership.