"...for weeks, we had hundreds of people standing in a knot right outside our building, day and night. We served them water and granola bars and put out extension cords so they could charge their phones. We served almost 15,000 people in five weeks."
Two things Patti Miller is passionate about are urban ministry and equipping women for leadership in the church. Patti is the lead pastor of Evangel Pentecostal Church in Montreal, Quebec. Prior to coming to Evangel, she was lead pastor of Crossfire Assembly in Hamilton, Ontario, and before that was on the pastoral staff at Christian Centre in the Jane and Finch area in Toronto. Patti serves as a member of the General Executive of the PAOC.
Q1: You were in Hamilton for a long time. What led you to leave Ontario for Quebec?
I had been in my previous church in Hamilton for 16 years and had no intention of leaving. I was approached by the leadership of [Evangel] and asked if I would be interested. When I talked to my husband he said, “I feel like you should have the conversation,” and he never says stuff like that. I didn’t want to leave Hamilton; I was really happy there. My husband said, “I don’t know. This feels important.”
We took each step reluctantly, and [with] each step the next door opened. The board had reviewed a number of different profiles and were united in their request that I come and interview and let my name stand for lead pastor. So we prayed about it and here we are.
Q2: What is it about urban ministry that captures you?
I’ve been doing it for 23 years or so in three different cities, and it’s just very different from other kinds of ministry. It’s different from the suburbs and different from rural areas. It’s usually filled with marginalized people who don’t fit the programs or bureaucracy. Often there are lots of people who’ve been raised in abusive situations or on social assistance of some kind. Then you have the really well off people—because the city is an expensive place to live—and you have newcomers to Canada. It’s really diverse. I find it very vibrant and diverse. There are lots of needs that are different than in other areas.
Q3: There’s lots of talk about how difficult ministry is in Quebec. Is that stereotype true, and how have you found the transition?
It’s been really positive … but statistics tell a story. Less than one per cent [of Quebecers] go to a Protestant evangelical church. Seven hundred towns have no Protestant evangelical church. My experience has been that in Quebec people don’t know the Protestant church at all. If they’ve been to church, it’s a Catholic church. Their understanding is that if you’re Protestant you’re a cult, so they’re afraid to walk in the building. I’ve had people put their hand in my face and say, “Don’t give me God” because they have such a bad opinion of the church. I’ve had other people say, “Somebody told me I should read the Bible; do you know what that is?” There’s hostility and there’s a lack of knowledge that combine to make it a different kind of setting.
Q4: What are some of the unique ministry opportunities you’ve had in that setting?
If you do anything out of ordinary, it gets noticed. Last summer, when the Pokémon GO game erupted on people’s phones, there were three hotspots in Montreal. One of them was on our church’s doorstep. So for weeks, we had hundreds of people standing in a knot right outside our building, day and night. We served them water and granola bars and put out extension cords so they could charge their phones. We served almost 15,000 people in five weeks. We received so much media coverage because of that, and people contacting us. People were so shocked. We were just serving water. It’s not that big a deal, but to the community it was huge. We were just trying to do good in our community, and by helping we made headlines—literally.
Q5: How can churches better equip women for ministry roles?
Churches can give them ministry roles. Act like it’s normal for women to be in ministry. Be intentional about that. Give them leadership roles and platform roles, the opportunity to lead in prayer or serve on boards or be in the areas that have been traditionally male. Just be intentional to have a mix of female and male in those areas. Making it normal means you’re providing the same opportunities to lead [and] for mentoring so women can learn, have a place in ministry, and be pastors.
Q6: What advice would you give to women who want to be involved in ministry and leadership?
Number one, learn how to lead and find people to teach you how to lead. Find mentors and learn the basic skills that women need in business. Learn how to be confident in your role, learn how to introduce yourself, learn how to give facts about the job you’re doing, and do reporting really well.
For women who want to be in ministry, there are going to be moments where you don’t get the same chances. That’s just a fact, but don’t get bitter over that. Don’t let that become a chip on your shoulder. Stay soft and sensitive to God and His church. Grow thick skin, but don’t become bitter.
Q7: Do you think there are benefits to having a mix of genders in leadership?
Yes! Can I say that a thousand times? Yes. Huge benefits. You need a mix of everything. You need a mix of ages, ethnicities, cultural backgrounds, and a mix of people who have been raised in the church and [those] who were saved later and went into ministry. We should mix it up as much as possible.
Lisa Hall-Wilson is an award-winning journalist. She writes exclusively for the Canadian faith-based community. You can find her on Facebook or on her blog at www.lisahallwilson.com.
This article appeared in the July/August 2017 issue of testimony, the bimonthly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Photo: Patti Miller