Lydia Choi is a PastoraLab online cohort member. She is a pastor at Bethany North, one of the six locations of Bethany Community Church in Seattle, WA. She is also a ministry consultant at Ministry Architects. Lydia enjoys traveling with her family, skiing with her husband, and going on walks with friends.
“You are a rare breed,” said Young Lee Hertig. This was Young’s response when I told her I was not who she was looking for to be part of PastoraLab. I said, “Young, I don’t have a doctorate’s degree, I didn’t attend an Ivy League College, I’m not a lead pastor, I’m just an associate pastor at a local church.” Young went on to share how Asian American women pastors were leaving church ministry. Many were transitioning to academia or nonprofit settings. Somehow, I had become a rare breed of my kind.
NBC News recently published, “…while Asian Americans are heavily represented in corporate jobs, their presence drops off significantly at the board of director level, with Asian American women experiencing a particularly severe drop, at 80%.” I find this true as well in the American church. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be surprised if the dropout number is higher in the church. I can only name a few Asian American women pastors leading in the senior or executive leadership level.
I am a middle-aged Korean born woman who immigrated and was raised in Canada, living my adult life in America with my husband and three children as a pastor. I pivot and shift gears several times a day. One minute I find myself tending to the needs of my children and offering my duties to my in-laws in alignment with the patriarchal Korean culture. Then in the next minute, I pivot to strategically plan for church ministry, manage conflict, supervise employees, exegete a passage for a sermon, and offer pastoral care. And when I was serving at the Korean-American church, I would go into the kitchen and wash dishes with all the other kwon-sa-nims (women elders).
As a Korean-Canadian-American, one of the sessions in PastoraLab gave me a word that described my special gift: “multivocality.” As a multivocal leader, I have the gift of speaking and relating to multiple languages and the contexts of others. In the American church setting, Asian American women are minorities of the minority. Today, I celebrate the gift of being a double minority because I believe Asian American women are gifted multivocal leaders that can lead effectively with self-awareness, cross-disciplinary fluency, and as a Yinist. My hope for all of us is to work together for the church to lead ahead and model for corporate America in creating opportunities and spaces for Asian American women as God has also gifted us to lead.