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Portrait of businesswoman with colleagues in background

In my previous post, “Why Some Churches Fear Women Leaders (Part 1),” I brought up the uneasy tension of working with a man and spotlighted my own work with co-author Cliff Williams. Some people are suspicious of the relationship a man and woman have in working together, and that undermines the trust a good working partnership can have. This post relates to the type of church leadership which does the best in incorporating women within its body of leaders.

This post describes two women on staff at different churches. One woman was brought on staff primarily through the efforts of one man in leadership. The other was asked to join the church’s staff with full support of all leadership, who asked her repeatedly to quit her teaching job and join them.

Tricia started her job as women’s ministry leader on the pastoral staff at a prominent church in an affluent Midwestern suburb. She assumed, from her internship at another large church, everyone was on board with the decision about her leadership. She assumed incorrectly.

The first issue was a difference in leadership styles. Tricia and the head pastor were very different from each other. She was relational and liked best working in a team. He was motivated by doctrine and statistics. Whenever one of them would talk to the other, both of them unhappily sensed incompleteness and frustration.

But the communication problem didn’t end there. A prominent older woman in the congregation who had served for many years was disturbed that her work had not been paid or recognized with a title, both of which were granted Tricia. Although the fruits of the other woman’s work had been the groundwork by which Tricia‘s position had been created, Tricia had not been told about her predecessor. As a result, the woman undermined Tricia’s efforts, maybe without realizing what she was doing.

Contrast that lack of intentionality and preparedness with Anna’s work at a smaller church. Despite the small size of the church, they recognized Anna’s giftedness when she was a young woman working as a volunteer with the church’s children. The staff of men worked together to pray and ask her to set aside her teaching position to focus full-time with ministry to the church’s children and families, a position she eventually accepted. When she had children and a full-time position was too much to handle, they approved a job-share with another woman. When the two women realized that their space at the church was stifling growth, an elder worked with them to present a church renovation plan to the rest of the leadership that would allow their current space to provide more usability for family functions.

To deal with different leadership styles, the leadership takes retreats together and shares results of personality and spiritual gifting testing. They are intentional about working together, despite the difficulties, and the growth in their church—not just in numbers, but in spiritual intentionality among their members—shows the results.

It’s not enough to be a woman who wants to impact ministry for the Lord, and it’s not enough to have a church that is open to embracing women in leadership. Intentionality is key, as well as a person already on staff who has the vision to make it happen. In Anna’s case, an administrative pastor was the one to provide this role. Tricia lost the one person at her church who really wanted her on staff. Her church ultimately undermined her efforts to perform ministry, and she ended up quitting her job there. Contrast that with the other leaders in Anna’s church. They have intentionally worked to understand Anna’s needs and to help provide for them, even as they work alongside her to expand her leadership responsibilities.

There are a number of items one can carry away from this post, but here’s the point I most want you to consider: an essential element of getting men and women to work well together in leadership capacities is to have people of all different spiritual giftings on staff. Once the leadership understands how to work well together, they will provide much better role models in order to create a healthy church.

*Specific names and details are changed to provide anonymity to those women I interviewed. If you are a woman in ministry and believe that you may have insight to share for other women, please contact me at lisa@lisaacklandcarriere.com. I’d love to talk with you further.