I’ve spent a little over a year doing some self examination, particularly in the area of leadership. I came to a realization today, and jumped right to the keyboard to share it. What I realized was my greatest struggle in leadership (now, and in the past) has always fallen in the difference between POWER and TRUST. This applies to my management background and even within my ministry work.
Men, generally speaking, are looking for power and authority. They climb the corporate ladder because they want to be top dog. This isn’t true for all men, and this doesn’t negate that they work really hard and make sacrifices to get there. It is that drive to “be their own boss” that makes men want to elevate their position or even start their own company. Even in the church there is usually a progression: Youth Pastor => Associate Pastor => Head Pastor. In ministry it is common for a man to work his way up too, he may start out as an usher and then become head usher. This forward movement is normal for men.
Women, I contend, have a different motivation. Most women are not looking to be in power or have ultimate authority, but instead they want to be trusted to get the job done. Women will stay in the same role for years, even a lifetime, if they find the job fulfilling. In ministry, you can see this displayed in Sunday School teachers or Women’s Ministry leaders who have happily been serving for decades. For many years the predominant use of women in the church came down to very domesticated roles, like rocking babies in the nursery, teaching Sunday School, singing in the choir, decorating the church, secretarial, and acts of hospitality (coffee on Sunday mornings, or food for the sick). Historically, that is a fairly accurate role… but as time passed and women became educated and entered the workforce, there was a shift.
Women have become innovators and inventors, they write software, perform surgeries, run multi-million dollar organizations and corporations. They have become college professors with doctorates, leading experts in many fields, politicians, business owners, and entrepreneurs. Women have contributed significantly to the world through art, music, and literature. When they raise their hand to volunteer at church, they are looking for a way to use those talents and skills to help the church in it’s vision. However it is pretty common to usher her toward the children’s ministry director or hospitality team.
After my first was born, I chose to become a stay at home mom. In nearly seventeen years, and multiple churches as we moved, there has not been a single conversation regarding my professional background among church leaders. Not one. Yet many of those skills would benefit any church or organization I have worked with.
Not a single one could tell you that I was the fasting rising, and youngest manager in my company. Nor, that my numbers were the best in our region (and in some instances our state). They wouldn’t know that I wrote training manuals on how to more efficiently execute certain positions in the company, and was moved to a training location to prepare future managers. That I managed a staff off one hundred people, nearly a hundred thousand dollars per day in sales, and nearly half million dollars in inventory on any given day. I have hired people, trained people, and fired people. I have negotiated commissions, raises and contracts. I have experience in marketing campaigns, organizational structuring, etc… etc.
I don’t list this as a source of pride, but simply a fact… a short resume of experience that goes continually untapped in multiple arenas. I know that I am not the only one, I am not the only woman who has sat in the pews from week to week and knows deep down she could be doing more. I’ve talked to women who have approached their Pastors offering up their experience, only to be brushed aside.
I spoke with a woman recently who lamented that her church hired a young barely experienced guy for a job that she had thirty years of experience in. She would have VOLUNTEERED to do the job, but she had no clue her church was even hiring. When I asked her if the church knew she had experience in that field, she said YES. Apparently on numerous occasions she volunteered and every time was told her services were not needed. She wasn’t even given a chance.
I know that feeling. I’ve offered my services and been told “no thank you”, I have been mirco-managed too. I also know what it is like to be in a leadership role with the total support and trust. As I reflect upon those experiences I realized it really had nothing to do with being in authority, power, or being the top dog. Knowing that those whom you are working or serving with TRUST you is the game changer.
If a woman in your church has experience running a multi-million dollar organization, her gifts are better utilized on a finance committee, building committee, or even on staff versus putting out coffee and donuts each Sunday. The woman in your church who has been a hiring manager is a great person to include on your Pastor/Staff search committees, creating clear cut job descriptions, and listing your job postings. A woman in your church who has a background in hospitality is a great person to consult when the church wants to throw a large event to ensure nothing is overlooked. My great aunt was an accountant for a major corporation, and served as the treasurer of her church for decades.
It would be irresponsible to not consider that some of these women who left a given field may NOT want to do the same job in the church. Or, they may be happy to be consulted with for major projects but have no interested in full time commitment to a particular role. This is especially true for our retirees who are using this time to travel and spend time with their growing families. However, even some of our retirees are happy to share their experience and knowledge, so we can’t discount them either. In as much, you may find the corporate CEO who never had a family of her own is happy to rock babies every chance she can get. We shouldn’t assume the best place for women to serve in the church. Instead we should be proactively placing them based on their experience, spiritual gifts tests, and speaking to them in regards to their area of interests.
Women in church leadership want the staff members to trust that they are capable to do the job and to allow them to lead, not without accountability of course… but with support. Women want the church leaders (and this includes women’s ministry leaders, and other subministry leaders) to talk to them about their professional or educational background. Then work together as a team to find where you are best suited to serve. I recently read that there is growth in the number of women who are leaving the church, and I can’t help but think this may be the reason why.
Generally speaking, when you give a person a job or a role within a church that uses their gifts and talents… they become invested. They will remain part of the body long term. However, when a person feels overlooked, unappreciated, or undervalued they tend to leave and find a place where they are. If we want to slow down or even stop the departure of women from the church, we need to be proactive in connecting them to the church in a meaningful way.