This Blog post is not an apologetic for woman in Leadership, but rather is written for those who are already Biblically comfortable with Women as Leaders and who are seeking ways in which they can encourage women in Church Leadership.
Where are all the Women Leaders?
I’ve heard this question more than once at church planting conferences and meetings lately. Recently, a fellow woman leader asked me to write down a few thoughts on how women could be encouraged in Leadership within the Evangelical church. I had way more than a few thoughts…But here are just a few to start us off with.
It’s hard for me to believe that in the year 2017, where women are major contributors in Corporate America, and running for President of this country, that we are still having this discussion. There is an obvious issue with a lack of female leadership in many (Not all) of our churches and church plants. I don’t think this fact is necessarily due to sexism still being alive an well in the Evangelical community, but I do believe many church communities are still being held captive by some old church culture traditions. Whatever you may think the reason is for the lack of female leadership on your leadership team, or at your church planting functions, here are a couple of ways that might encourage the gifted women among you to step up and out.
What are some ways male leaders can intentionally develop the gifting of women in the church?
I think every leader would be served by visiting the women’s ministry in their church for a month. In visiting a women’s ministry they will see there has developed within modern Evangelicalism, a church within the church. It is a church where women are leading, being used, and using their gifts freely. In many churches, all those beautiful gifts are laying dormant on a Sunday morning or in the main functioning of church life. The first step in developing a culture that uses the gifts of women in the church, is to notice where the church is lacking female leadership and/or gifts. Romans 12: 6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 1Peter 4:11, all list for us the gifts we should be seeing in our churches regardless of gender or ethnicity.
So how do we encourage our women to show up?
A woman walking into a number of churches across America could easily feel like she is walking into a congregation run by and for men. From the announcements, to communion, to ushers, much of the service can often be lacking in female presence let alone gifts. To a woman who feels the call of God to serve, this might be a silent cue to move on and look to use her gifts in another church, the mission field, Bible college or even Corporate America. If a leader finds that they are lacking women leaders in their church, it might be time to start actively seeking women to carry out some part of the Sunday morning service and thereby foster an environment where women feel more free to step up and out in their gifts.
How can church planters practically invest in the women who have become key female leaders?
In the case of church plants, much like the mission field, women are often freed up to use their gifts due to a desperate need for leaders. In our New Breed Church plants, we build a church from the unchurched with only a core team. We also follow a church structure which allows for multiple leaders to lead and use their gifts regardless of gender. Our core team is a mix of men and women, old and young, as well as culturally reflective of the community we are trying to church plant in. For example, when we were ministering in Wales U.K., we picked mainly Welsh males and females as our main core team, not American or English. Our female leaders are all included in our leadership meetings. We encourage and welcome female input in all aspects of church life and ministry. In every ministry the church runs, there is a need for both male and female leaders as the congregation is both male and female. This is the balance God created from the beginning of time. If we notice a women gifted in teaching or preaching, we may give her an opportunity to share her testimony, then to lead a small group, and then a Sunday morning service, just as we would a young man. If we notice a woman gifted in worship, then we encourage her to use that gift in small groups as well as Sunday mornings. If we notice a woman especially burdened for the poor in our community, we encourage her to lead others in the church on this mission. In all our training, we make sure we are discipling both men and women into leadership and offer child care for couples with kids.
One of our key female leaders in our second church plant was a sixty year old Welsh woman. This woman would never have set herself up as a leader. Yet we saw a special shepherd gifting in her, especially with the unchurched young families. Because we recognized this gifting in her, she was included in our Leadership team. One leadership meeting the leadership was leaning toward moving the church to a facility that would be ideal for outreach. The decision was almost made, until this Shepherdess raised her voice of wisdom. She brought up the fact that the new facility had no place close to the parents for the children to play safely. With tears in her eyes she spoke of her fear of not seeing any of those new “still seeking” families again. She told us that most of these parents had never gone to Sunday School themselves and so already felt uneasy about sending their kids to be with strangers. Being able to see their kids any time during the service meant a lot to them and the facility the leaders were looking at wouldn’t allow for that. She encouraged us to look at things from another perspective. A very female perspective. If we had not had her input and shepherd heart in that meeting, we could have made a very poor choice for the life of that church.
This is just one small example of how a gender balanced leadership team can lead to a well rounded, God glorifying church. “God created them, male and female, and blessed them” (Gen. 5:2). Let’s go Bless.
What to do next?
5 Steps Up For Women In Your Church Plant
1. Include women in your morning service. i.e.: Worship, testimony, communion, usher, passing offering, communion.
2. Include women in all Leadership meetings, and key Leadership roles.
3. Provide childcare for all Leadership meetings! Include this in the Church budget.
4. Give women opportunity to lead in small groups.
5. Restructure your church leadership to be a gift driven team model
(see Fist Leadership, Peytonjones.ninja) rather than a hierarchy model.
Resources for your gender inclusive team Leadership:
- Evangelicals and Gender Equality- Lynne Hybels
- Willow Creek Community Church Elders’ Statement on Women and Men in ministry
- Fist Leadership, Peytonjones.ninja
Willow Creek Community Church Elders’ Statement on Women and Men in Ministry
We believe the Bible teaches that men and women were created by God and equally bear His image (Gen. 1:27). God’s intention was for them to share oneness and community (Gen. 2:23-24), even as the godhead experiences oneness within the Trinity. Each had a direct relationship with God and they shared jointly the responsibilities of rearing children and having dominion over the created order (Gen. 1:26-28). However, human oneness was shattered by the Fall. The struggle for power and the desire to “rule over” another is part of the result of human sin. Genesis 3:16 is a prediction of the effects of the Fall rather than a prescription of God’s ideal order.
However, God has acted in Christ to redeem the human race, and to offer to all people the opportunity to be part of the New Community, His church. It is God’s intention for His children to experience the oneness that exists between the Father and the Son (John 17:11, 20-23). This means that old divisions and hierarchies between genders and races are not to be tolerated in the church, where all are “one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).
In formation of the church at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out on women and men alike, as had been predicted long before the coming of Christ (Joel 2:28, Acts 2:18). In the New Testament, women as well as men exercise prophetic and priestly functions (Acts 2:17-18, 1 Cor 11:4-5, I Peter 2:9-10). Further, the Spirit bestows gifts on all members of the New Community sovereignly, without giving anyone preferential treatment based on gender (Acts 2:1-21, I Cor 12:7,11). Every believer is to offer her or his gifts for the benefit of the Body of Christ (Rom 12:4-8, I Peter 4:10-11). To prevent believers from exercising their spiritual gifts is to quench the work of the Spirit.
In all attempts to understand and put into practice appropriate relationship between genders in the body of Christ, our sole authority is the will of God as expressed in Scripture. A few isolated scriptural texts appear to restrict the full ministry freedom of women. The interpretation of those passages must take into account their relation to the broader teaching of Scripture and their specific contexts. We believe that, when the Bible is interpreted comprehensively, it teaches the full equality of men and women in status, giftedness, and opportunity for ministry.
Therefore, in our attempts to live together as a biblically functioning community, we are committed to the following values:
To provide opportunity for ministry based on giftedness and character, without regard to gender.
To pursue the kind of purity and loyalty in relationships between genders that led New Testament writers to describe them in terms of family: “brother and sisters.”
To use sensitivity in language that reflect the honor and value God desires for maleness and femaleness and to encourage the use of translations of Scripture that accurately portray God’s will that His church be an inclusive community.
To be intentional where appropriate in overcoming sexist elements of our culture and to offer encouragement to women in areas where their giftedness has been traditionally discouraged.
To teach and model these values to members of our community, to the church, and to the world at large.