You are a woman! Not second class staff. If you believe that about yourself, it will be communicated to the male staff, no matter what their opinion of women and their role. You have been given spiritual gifts without discrimination based on gender: shepherd, administration, teaching, etc. You have an area of responsibility (women) that usually affects the majority of the church membership. A great challenge!
Does it mean that women become like men in the way they lead? Does it mean that we take a strident, militant, feminist posture? Does it mean that we go around with a permanent chip on our shoulders? Does it mean that we put aside our natural feminine qualities--our nurturing capabilities and our relational skills in order to be good leaders? The answer is an emphatic NO!
Rather, we should bring to leadership those very qualities that define womanhood and bring all the advantages that our gender offers to the leadership of women. Feminine leadership will be as distinctive as the difference between men and women.
The comprehensive image of God is the male and female together. Each of us is personally created in God’s image, yet there are distinctive differences in the way that image is reflected in the male and female so that we complement and complete each other. That distinctiveness should be evident in the way we lead. We women have a unique contribution to make to everything we touch. Whatever our role, we should want to realize the potential God has for us as WOMEN.
In my experience, a respectful and cooperative relationship with the men on staff gradually gained their respect as well as a growing appreciation for the importance of a specific ministry to women.
If you do not meet regularly with staff or senior staff, ask for that opportunity from time to time to bring them up to date on plans for the future.
This may mean you have to remind male staff of your presence and your ministry from time to time. Work to make women’s ministry an integral part of the church program. Check the church calendar and with other staff members before planning key events. Support other ministries: children’s, worship, youth, missions, etc. Offer the help of the women. Don’t be territorial.
Be wise in the issues worth standing up for. On a staff it is necessary to compromise and work with the overall goals and vision of the church in mind. We don’t want women’s ministry to be seen as the “prima donna” ministry.
Take a stand against injustice.
We can have a ministry to male staff of encouragement and input as they deal with women in their respective ministries.
Lighten up. Be able to laugh at yourself. Many situations can be relieved for seeing the humor in it.
You may have to overcome feelings of jealousy on their part, especially if they’ve been there longer. Be honest, speaking the truth in love.
This is where most of your time and energy will be spent. I can’t over emphasize the importance of serving in the freedom the Holy Spirit gives. Your relationship with lay leadership will make all the difference in the fruitfulness of this ministry.
“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor. 3:17).
God’s purpose for us is to become like His Son. Our attitudes and actions, our motives and goals should be like His. The wonderful thing is that we each are to be like Him, but that doesn’t mean that we will all look and act like each other. Each of us is unique and brings different strengths and weaknesses into the mix. We have different personalities, gifts, skills, interests and experiences.
As we yield to the control of the Holy Spirit we will become increasingly like Jesus. But we will each be a distinct individual. And that process continues for a lifetime. That’s why it’s vital for those of us in leadership to keep our eyes open to observe the strengths and weaknesses of those working with us.
That way we can suggest opportunities for them that will suit their personalities and their giftedness. When we do this we set them up for success in a protected environment.
The study of the Scriptures is imperative if women are to experience this transformation. That’s why a women’s ministry should consist of regular expository Bible study with applications that affect the lives of women. But there is more that can be done. In a format that provides electives or interest or study groups, the abilities of those leading the small groups can be observed over a period of several months. This is a very good place to find new leaders.
The great gift that the Spirit of God gives us is the freedom to be ourselves controlled by Him. This makes it possible for us in leadership to give the gift of ourselves to others. You won’t be afraid to let people see who you really are because you won’t be wearing a holy mask that you take off when you go home. We are role models as well as leaders and if those we serve don’t see a real person, if they think that we always have it altogether or--if they feel that we are distant and unapproachable--they won’t trust us or confide in us. They need to know that we need their prayers because we fail, make mistakes, feel discouraged, and can be overwhelmed with our responsibilities. We should also share our joys with them.
I have one warning here: I don’t mean that we should make our audience a substitute for a counselor’s couch. I’ve seen this happen where an insecure staff person took all her gripes and fears about her life, her job, and her pastor and dumped it regularly on the group she was supposed to serve. Her attitude eventually colored their feelings toward the pastor and the church, and they became a source of dissension instead of support. That’s an extreme, but if we’re not honest and real, those we serve won’t feel free to share their failures, their sins, and their joys with us. If we’re not real, they won’t be either.
One of the worst hindrances to the development of leadership is ministering with self-serving motives. If a woman just wants to build her kingdom, she’ll resist training anyone to do her job. She’ll resist change because of the affect it has on her area. She needs to be needed--this is where she derives her self-worth. You can see that these motives will stunt leadership development rather than encourage it. One of the more obvious symptoms of this attitude is a refusal to delegate responsibility and the authority that goes with it. I always checked the members of my board to see if they were delegating sufficiently, and if not, then I helped them and required accountability.
It’s essential consciously to serve as part of a team. The purpose of ministry is to give others as much opportunity as we can to be involved. When people are involved, they take ownership. It’s more important to develop people rather than programs.
Getting people involved in various areas of service also gives us the chance to see what their talents and gifts are. We can observe how well they work as team members, respecting what each other person has to do and say, and cooperating with them. Do they get their job done on time? Do they procrastinate? Are they wise in how they use their time? Do they volunteer for more than they have time to really do well? Do they always want recognition and prominence? Are they punctual, or always rushing in 10 minutes late? I think of a woman who had many of the qualifications for leadership except for the fact that she was chronically about 45 minutes late for everything she had to do, not just church. This was something she never would deal with, so it disqualified her for serving with us.
What do you observe that she does well and does not do well? Sometimes a very creative person will get so bogged down in the details that she doesn’t communicate the total picture well, so people are frustrated who try to help her. In that case, she will need someone to come alongside and help her organize and clarify what she needs done.
A good leader will delegate responsibility to others and encourage and affirm their efforts to bring out the best in them. She won’t be a perfectionist who thinks her way is the best way. She won’t be jealous for recognition so that she has to always be on center stage. She will also be ready to provide help for the person who is struggling beyond her giftedness by giving her someone who is strong where she is weak. If we see ourselves as a team, we’ll maximize and use each other’s strengths and support each other in our weaknesses. The job of leaders is to equip others to do the work of the ministry. We shouldn’t put people just in learning experiences, but put them in doing--achieving enables people to grow.
This means that we can’t be prima donnas, but playing coaches. The Women’s Ministry Board at Northwest Bible Church serves as a team. Each member has her own responsibility, but everyone helps wherever she is needed. It’s surprising, but some people have to be taught to work together with others. If there is not an atmosphere where each person’s contribution is respected, then people will not speak up and run the risk of ridicule or being ignored. We had a person once who had to comment on what everyone else offered. Her comments were mostly negative, so she caused a great deal of resentment and friction in what had previously been a good working board. Finally, the chairman took her aside and lovingly told her that she didn’t have to assume the responsibility of passing judgment on every idea that was presented. That’s good leadership: to lovingly yet firmly confront a person that is really hurting the dynamics of the whole group.
“Moving people to change is the essence of leadership. Ten percent of any group will be early adapters who respond eagerly to new ideas. At the other end will be ten percent who will never change. The eighty percent in between will move slowly in new directions.”
Women never cease to amaze me with the extent of their creativity and new ideas. Our decorating committee comes up year after year with great ideas and new innovations within a limited budget.
Every time we filled a board position with a new person, she brought new ideas and methods to her area. Each of us should have a realistic view of our own strengths and weaknesses, our areas of interest and disinterest; then we’ll appreciate the creativity of others. We won’t get stuck in the rut of doing the same things over and over. We’ll drop programs that have run their course and we’ll start new ones as needs are expressed.
I have found that the way to lead a woman is to give her a responsibility with the guidelines and the authority that she needs to do the job. Within the framework of those guidelines, she is free to be as creative as she can be; but she is also accountable to the leaders, to the staff, and to the Board. She is not a loose cannon doing her own thing.
There’s a fine balance here. They are accountable, but as their leaders, we are responsible to remove roadblocks out of their way and help them to be the best they can be. But there’s something very important to remember about the women you serve.
There are also many variables to consider. There are seasons in our lives that will affect our availability. Women can have it all. We just can’t have it at the same time. Women leaders, of all people, will be able to understand the pressures on the mother of young children. We won’t burden her with guilt because she’s not doing as much as an empty nester. We’ll remind her that God calls raising children a good work (1 Tim 5:10)! If aging parents need more attention, we’ll encourage women that they are obeying the commandment to honor their parents. We are women of different ages and in different states of health. Nurturing feminine leadership will be gentle and compassionate.
However, even though we are free to become all that God wants us to be, we must remember another important factor.
2 Cor 4:7: But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
It’s beyond imagining to read that God chose each of us to be lamps through which His glory shines. He wants people to see Jesus in us! That’s how He defines ministry. We think in terms of what we must DO. God is more concerned with what we ARE. He wants us to be the kind of people that are so transparent that others see Jesus in our lives. But He knows that this precious treasure is contained in very frail vessels, easily breakable, cracked pots.
We must encourage the women we lead to be humble and dependent on the Lord for the ability to do the job He’s given us--whether it’s being a teacher, wife, mother, secretary, doctor, nurse, business executive, or leader in the church. We’ll know that any impact we make, any comfort we give, any growth we see among our flock is the work of God and He will get the glory for it. Paul understood this:
“Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God” (2 Cor 3:5).
This is so liberating! I don’t have to worry about my ability to do new things. I just trust God to give me what I need for each opportunity. I just walk though the doors He opens, depending on His omnipotent power!
Richard Halverson on becoming Chaplain of US Senate made these remarks:
“I felt like a non-person, a mascot to one of the most powerful political bodies in the world. I wondered what I was doing there.” That evening he read the words of Jesus: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me... And surely I am with you always.” He realized, “I am a garment which Jesus Christ wears every day to do what he wants to do in the U. S. Senate. I don’t need power; my weakness is an asset. If Christ is in me, what more do I need?”
Godly leadership is not a political power play where one has a contentious spirit, on the lookout for anyone who might be a rival.
Godly leadership is not authoritarian control over the minds and behavior of others.
Godly leadership is serving others with humility and self-sacrifice following Christ’s example. But we must do so with dignity and confidence that God has placed us where we are on purpose and bring all the assets of godly womanhood to our service.