Lead Me…

MBA

This isn’t going to be long, or all that profound.  Just a reminder.

Leaders need to be led too.

Your leaders are spending a lot of time leading others, make sure that someone is leading them… pouring into your leaders, on a regular basis.

Your leaders are pitchers that fill up the empty cups they serve.  Empty cups can’t be filled by an empty pitcher.  Someone must pour fresh water into the pitcher, so that it can continue to serve.

What do you do, in your church or ministry, to fill up and refuel your leaders?

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Tend the Orchard – #Write31Days

This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit,

showing yourselves to be my disciples.  John 15:8

Oh, to bear much fruit.  Good fruit.  This is a good thing for the body of believers.  In order to bear much fruit we need a few things to happen.

  • Seeds of the Word planted in good, fertile soil.
  • Daily exposure to the Son.
  • Nourishment through the Living Waters.

Our roots grow deep in the word, our tender shoots are fostered the God and the Pastors who lead the church we sit in from week to week.   We grow stronger, and then it is time for us to begin bearing good fruit, much fruit, and fruit that is long lasting.

Whether you are leading a church, a women’s ministry, or a small group… you will have an impact on how much fruit your members produce.

A careless orchardist will trim back the trees too far, which can limit their growth, limit their fruit, and even kill the tree.

A good orchardist will know how to trim to tree in a way that will encourage growth, foster repeated burst of fruit, and tend to the tree so that it continues to produce fruit for many years to come.

A few years ago, a woman I know approached a Pastor.  She had a gift and talent, and she wanted use it in her church.  He didn’t spend anytime talking with her about her offer, he responded swiftly:  “We don’t do that here. Thanks for offering.”

This past summer, I was speaking with a Pastor about the role of women’s ministry in the church.  As I shared my view on the need for women’s ministries to come up along side the Pastor’s vision, he placed his hand on my shoulder and said:  “What I want the women in my church to do, to help me the most, is to serve their husband and children well.”

A man I know spent years evangelizing on the streets of his city.  By the time he moved to a new city, he had gotten wrapped up in life, and a bit complacent.  After attending a men’s conference, he was convicted of his lukewarm Christianity and was ready to step back up to the plate.  He met with his new Pastor, confessed his complacency, and said he wanted to serve in the church.  The Pastor didn’t even take a moment to learn about this man’s background, but instead responded:  “No, brother.  Let us serve you.” 

I’ve listened to women share ideas at Women’s Ministry meetings only to have their suggestion dismissed for a myriad of reasons.  A leader who can’t see the value others can add to the ministry, looking for workers to do her bidding vs. Kingdom work.  Dismissing ideas without even listening to them in entirety.  Dismissing people who want to serve without knowing their background, credentials, or heart to serve.

In the last several years, I have spoken with many men and women who have stepped up to the plate to bear fruit, only to be trimmed back sometimes to the point of death of their dream or calling.  A person can only be rejected so many times before they stop offering.  A person can only be dismissed so many times before they stop feeling valuable.

The Bible tells us that every believe is given gifts, fruit bearing gifts.  These gifts will vary, and how they will be used will vary as well.  A leaders we have a responsibility to help those we lead identify their gift, develop that gift, and find a place to serve with that gift.

Not just some believers, but all believers.  That means when a Pastor looks over his podium to the 50 people or 5,000 people who are in his flock… each person has a gift to bear fruit.  If your body is not bearing fruit, it’s imperative to determine WHY.  If you are leading a Women’s Ministry of 15 women or 150 women, and your ladies are not bearing fruit, there must be a reason.

Before we look out to the faces we serve to place blame, we must examine ourselves as the leaders first.  Am I guilty of dismissing the gifts of service that have been offered to the ministry?  Am I guilty of dismissing people who have sought to step up to the plate and serve? Am I guilty of not recognizing the gifts in all of our members, helping to develop those gifts, and finding a place for those gifts to be used in our church or community?

A tree that has the gift of bearing fruit, can only bear good, plentiful, long lasting fruit if the conditions for this success are met.  If the Lord has planted a good seed in fertile soil, light from the Son, showers of Living Water… the roots will grow.  However, if that tree is continuously neglected by those charged to care for it and trimmed too far back, the fruit will be minimal … if any at all.

Gospel Eldership

gospeleldership

Well, I was pretty disappointed from the offset on this book.   I know, I know… what a way to begin a book review.  Bear with me.

I really, really was excited about this book.  As a person who has an interest in developing biblically sound leaders… this book jumped out at me as a great resource.  Then it happened… the top of page 4:  An elder is a man.

That is where my heart sunk.  I’ve been pretty honest in other posts about my struggle with the role of women as Pastors.  It was once something I was very against, morphed into something that became not quite so hardlined.  There were clearly times where God called a woman to lead (Deborah) and there are references of women in the New Testament as apostles and deaconesses.  It’s left me in a place currently where I feel as if the calling of women into headship is not outside of God’s character (even if it isn’t the norm).   It has even challenged me to the previous post, If Not Here, Than Where? … I can’t deny that women are called to lead and we need to have a place for them to do so.

Additionally, even with a historical belief that women were not called to be Pastors, I’ve never attended a church where women have been excluded from the role of deacon or elder.  In fact, it has been something I have seen Pastors embrace.  To have a female perspective will give staff the pulse of the women in the church, to have an elder that can counsel women directly without question of impropriety is a good safety measure, etc.

The scriptures clearly call women to teach other women, and that would also be to lead and guide other women. Why could there not be an elder, deacon, or even Pastor that does not oversee women?  Even if you were complementarian, I would think you could see that this would be an answer to the “if not here, then where?” question.

I wanted to keep reading though, and shortly found myself hung up again.

Thune states:  Complementarianism is the theological term for this viewpoint.  Men and women are complementary in their God-given design and roles, with men bearing the responsibility for spiritual leadership in the home and church.

He continues with the question:  If the men in your church looked like the men this resource envisions, would you have any reason not to trust, respect, and affirm their leadership?

And… to that question, I answer emphatically NO!  I would have zero reason to question their leadership. And… THIS IS THE VERY PROBLEM WE FACE IN THE CHURCH!

Right now statistically, women are comprising 60-65% of the warm bodies sitting in our pews every Sunday.   They make up 80-90% of the volunteer force in the church.  If you look at any church small group or bible study calendar, I would dare say that women’s ministry programs/events/studies will outnumber the male counterparts 4 to 1.

When I speak with women at events, do you know what the number one complain I get is?

I wish my husband was the spiritual leader in our home.  I’m tired of doing this on my own.  I don’t want the job.  It’s not supposed to be my job. 

When I speak with Pastors and other church staff, do you know what they give as a reason for not wanting women to go away on weekend long retreats?

If the women aren’t here on Sunday, the men don’t come and they don’t bring the children.

Now, I do not know if this is a regional thing.  Perhaps in the area of the country Mr. Thune is from, men are still the spiritual leaders.  But in THIS area, where I live, it is not the case.  The women are picking up that role, whether they want it or not, and therefore they are leaders in the home and in the church.  I’ve yet to sit in a church service, conference, or event locally that has challenged men to stand up to the occasion and change that direction.  The men have not be challenged to come when the women can’t, but instead they women have been told not to go.  A burden has been put upon their shoulders that was never meant to be, but the women are rising to the occasion.

It’s not that I disagree with Mr. Thune’s perspective on how God ordained the order of the family and headship.  Hardly, ideally it is exactly what God would want… but it’s not happening… and can we afford for those who are stepping up into leadership to not receive the proper training and development?

John Piper once spoke at a conference about his parents.  His father would travel for work, and while his father was away his mother stepped up to the occasion.  She handled the home until his father returned, then it was returned to his care.  Right now, our men are away… and we are handling the church… until they return.  Women are waiting for their men to “come home” and lead.  Until that time, we have a responsibility to our children and those who are in our charge.

If women are going to be spiritual leaders of their home, and in the church, picking up that slack… then they must be 1) equipped for the job with proper training and 2) held to the same standards a man would be in that position.

It is from that point forward, that I absolute LOVE and VALUE what this book has to offer in the way we are equipping our leaders.  I’ve seen many elders appointed in my day, but do you know that I’ve never heard of any one of them going through any sort of intentional or purposeful development… especially like this book offers.

I think this is a great resource for your existing elder team to work through together, in order to have a better understanding of their role in the church, further their relationship with each other, and have a better understanding of theology for their own personal edification and in leading others.  But, this is also a great tool for potential leaders in the church (not just for the role of elder).  It allows for honest introspection, challenges our leaders to a deeper commitment, raises the stakes on integrity and ethics of the leadership role, clear expectations from a biblical perspective for our leaders, and exercises and conversation that cause our leaders/potential leaders to really think about whether or not eldership is a calling on their life now (or ever).

The more I dug into the remaining content, the more I caught myself nodding my head in agreement.  THESE ARE THE MEN WE NEED IN OUR CHURCH.  Where are they?

Will they answer the call?

—————————————————————–

My review of “Gospel Eldership” is entirely my own opinion.  I received the copy of “Gospel Eldership” from New Growth Press with the intention of a review.  Any thoughts expressed are my own and not influenced in anyway by the author or publisher. 

If Not Here, Then Where? Asking the right question about female leadership.

MBA

Have you ever found yourself in a conversation with someone about “Female Pastors”.  I am sure at some point, you have been involved in one… overheard one… or maybe even that discussion was between Me, Myself and I as you pondered the subject.

This is a subject I have discussed with others, and myself, multiple times.  For the bulk of my Christian walk, I have found myself on the “against it” side.  This last year, my beliefs have been significantly challenged.

I looked into the scriptures, and yes there are women of notable importance in the pages.  There are clear cut leaders who are in fact women, but that doesn’t negate the scriptures that clearly indicated male headship.

RIGHT?

So began my struggle.

It is not my struggle alone.  Christians and congregations around the globe struggle with this same question.  I have spoken to women who are staunchly against it, and men who are totally for it.  I have spent time speaking with women who are Pastors, and men who are in their congregations. I’ve looked to the experts, who stand against it… and those who are starting to change their mind. Ultimately the question comes down to:

Is it biblical?  Yes, or no.

Then one day, I thought to myself:  “Maybe we are asking the wrong question…”

I am going to suggest that the answer isn’t as black and white, as we tend to think it is.  Instead I think the question we should be asking isn’t going to have an answer a simple yes or no answer, but instead an answer to a series of questions.

In fact, I think the question we should be starting with is: “If not here, then where is female headship permissible and beneficial?”

I contend the following:

  1.  In the scripture regarding the gifts of the Spirit, there is no indication that gifts are given based on gender.  So, it is possible for a woman to be gifted by the Holy Spirit with teaching, shepherding, leading.
  2.   In Galatians 3:28 we are told that in Christ we are all one. (There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.)  If we are all one in Christ, would this not also apply to the gifts of the spirit and commission into pastoring?
  3. In the OT to the NT there are occasions recorded in the scriptures of women who were called into leadership positions or referred to as specific types of leaders.  There are specific times and occasions, where God saw fit to raise a leader that was female.  We need to explore why He would do so.
  4.   As we draw closer to the day when Christ returns, God is going to pour His spirit out on everyone,  men and women.  (Acts 2:17)  Prophets, just like Pastors, are given the responsibility of rightly handling the Word of God, and conveying that message to His body of believers.  If women can be called to prophesy, what would discount them from pastoring?

Does this mean that I believe that ALL women are going to be called into Pastorship?  No, not at all.  1 Corinthians 12:28 supports that our gifts will be used in different callings, not all are called to do the same thing.  Nor is the gift of teaching, leading, and even shepherding mutually exclusive to Pastors.  I recently spoke with my Pastor’s wife about this subject.  She stated that there are many people in our church that would be considered “shepherds” yet they are not Pastors.

While I have become opened to the possibility, we have to look at the scriptures themselves to understand the WHO and the HOW.

I find myself now asking the next question:  “If a woman has been called into Pastorship, where would that calling be permissible?

Dr. Eric Mason, a Pastor, recently posted two tweets that caught my attention.

 In Titus 2 women are called to teach other women, there is no debate as to our responsibility to lead other women.  Yet, in the last year I have encountered women who are not even allowed to teach other women in their church.  Why is there such fear or trepidation about allowing women to lead?  Additionally, I’ve noticed, that when they are allowed to lead or teach, there is a great amount of scrutiny over their leadership.  They are not allowed the same freedoms in leadership as their male counterparts.

Clearly this is not something EVERY CHURCH faces, but it is something I see that swims across all denominations and even the independent/non-denominational lines.  It is not relegated to churches with senior Pastors who are on the edge of retirement, I see it among the young Pastors too.  It is not geographically pinned down either, it is common in big city churches and small country ones alike.

Last summer, I sat in a room with over fifty women who were all feeling called to seminary but hesitant because of a justification of the time and expense. Why?  They can’t see where that degree will be used.  Where are the jobs?  Where are the leadership positions?

When women are making up over 60% of our congregation on any given Sunday, and 75-90% of our volunteers that keep the ministry programs functioning… We have a LOT of women, with spiritual gifts and callings, that are going unrecognized. Their gifts are not being invested in and they are not given the opportunity to use them.

If we can all agree that at the very minimum that the scriptures call women to teach/lead/guide/shepherd other women… the conversation can begin & an answer can be found.

  In most churches we have a Head Pastor, Associate Pastor, Worship Pastor, Youth Pastor, and Children’s Pastor.    There would be absolutely no conflict to the scripture to have a “Women’s Pastor”.  A woman, gifted in the role of shepherding other women.

  • She understands the unique needs of women, and their experiences.
  • For women who need counseling, they may find her safer than speaking with a male leadership figure (particularly if her counseling is related to abuse by a male figure in her life).
  • For our male Pastors, having a female who can provide Pastoral counseling creates a place of safety in the church.  If our male Pastors are not put into the position to counsel women, they have cut off an opportunity for temptation or false accusation.

I have had several conversations with Women’s Ministry leaders across the globe, and this is something they keep bringing up on their own.  It’s happened too much for me to not notice.  They feel that having a female staff member, a “Women’s Pastor” would benefit the women of their church in many ways.

Will this be any woman?  No, not necessarily.  If a woman is going to be called into Pastorship, over anyone, she has to fulfill the same biblical requirements as the men do.  It has to be a calling from God, affirmed and supported by her spouse (her Pastor if she is single), she must be a woman who is a sound student of the Word, a Godly woman who is well respected, speaks wise instruction, lives in a way where she can not be accused… basically everything that is included in the beginning of 1 Timothy 3.

I find that from a scriptural basis, there is absolutely no reason why a woman can not step into a Pastoral position over other women.  In fact, it may be a HUGE blessing to the women in your congregation.  It can be a safe guard for your male Pastors.  It also answers the questions of how a woman can use that gift, without feeling she is contradicting the scriptures.

At this point, someone is yelling WHOA!    It may be because you think I have gone off my rocker.  On the flipside, you may be someone who is in 100% support of women as Pastors (even head Pastors) and think I am a stick in the mud.

The subject of women in the role of Head Pastor is a heated debate, and I am not interested in engaging in a topic that is going to divide our family of believers.  It’s just become more clear to me that we have allowed stereotyping to bookend what a Pastor can and can’t be, what they can do and can’t do.  We kept the subject so black and white, that we missed the glaring opportunity staring us right in the face!

If the scriptures say without any doubt that women are to lead women, then the creation of a new Pastoral position that fulfills that commission should be something we can all agree with.

And, it’s totally complimentarian.  Because, this Women’s Pastor is working as a help meet and under the authority of her Pastor.  We’ve been arguing over whether a woman can fill a certain role, without ever considering her calling may be to fulfill a NEW role entirely.   It is also egalitarian, because it allows the genders to work together in equal roles in the shaping of the church.

A Women’s Pastor is just the beginning of the creation of leadership roles for women, even staff positions, within the church.  There are churches who have “Women’s Ministry Directors” who are not and do not desire Ordination as a Pastor, but are on staff overseeing the Women’s Ministry programs.  Perhaps the “Small Groups” and “Children’s Pastor” positions are ones that we can begin to open up to women.

But what about being a Pastor over men?  What would that look like?  When would that be permissible?  That is a whole other set of questions, that I am still working through.

I would LOVE to hear your thoughts on this!

Do you think it is permissible for a woman to hold the title of Pastor, if she is over other women?   Would you want a “Women’s Pastor” leading the women and women’s programs in your church?

For the Love of Women’s Ministry

biblestudy

This has been a very interesting summer, as I have been developing a Women’s Ministry college course.  I’ve been entrenched in books on every topic from Women’s Ministry leader books, to deeper books on the biblical stance on women as leaders in the church.  I’ve been digging into the scriptures, looking at historical evidence, and frankly…. my head is going to explode.  There is a lot of information rolling around in my head, and much of it has challenged and even changed the way I viewed certain topics.

It has also increased my passion for women’s ministry, but a different women’s ministry from what I have ever known.  It has also opened my eyes to some of the glaring holes we have in resources, as well as lifted my spirit as I have uncovered things in the works across the country that are going to turn women’s ministry on it’s head.

Women play a huge part in the life of their church, most recent surveys estimate women make up 55-65% of most congregations, additionally they make up about 80% of the volunteer force of the church.  This volunteer force are the ones responsible for teaching and leading other women, teaching our children in Sunday School, leading Kids Clubs, volunteering for VBS, and this is in addition to service like preparing meals for new moms, taking care of hospitality for Sunday morning, rocking babies in the nursery, volunteering for secretarial duties in the church, cleaning up the church, etc.

Yet, it is becoming more apparent, that the majority of these women who are volunteering to teach and lead are not being discipled for those positions.  Are we ensuring that our women are qualified to teach or lead, or thankful for the warm body willing to volunteer?  Are we encouraging our volunteers by equipping them with mentors?

Women’s Ministry has lost focus in recent years, becoming unbalanced in what they offer to the women in the church.  There are more social events, fewer study groups.  Study groups are focused on content from books, versus content from the scriptures.  We are studying books about the bible, instead of the bible itself.  We have lost our ability to interpret scripture on our own.  We come together for social events to foster community, which is important, but at the cost of spiritual growth.

Why has this happened? 

In part, it is because Women’s Ministry has no real support at the moment.

Women’s Minsitries are often independent ministries within the church, that exist in their own sphere.  Pastors, sort of leave the women to fend for themselves.  They lack invested guidance, and many are not truly clear about the church’s vision.  The goal of a women’s ministry should be to use their calender of events and studies to support the vision of the church.  But in order to do so, the leader team really needs to understand what that is.  We need our Pastors to not only allow women’s ministry to exist in the church, but also to step in and help mold it.  We need a Shepherd.

When it comes to resource materials on Women’s Ministry, much of what is available is very outdated.  There are books and websites that lean more toward party planning, and less about making sure our ministry is gospel centered.   Additionally, many of these books are out of touch with the current obstacles and difficulties women face TODAY.    We are lacking books of substance, that train us on how to be effective leaders, run effective and gospel centered ministries, how to minister to the women in our church, and with changes in societal norms…. these subjects are just going to get more confusing.

Women’s Ministries are being led off the cuff, wading the waters and uncertain of what to do.  We begin to mimic other ministries, or do age old activities because “that is what women’s ministry does”.  We are afraid to break those molds, because women won’t come.  Or, we want to… but we can’t get the support of church leadership because of the stereotype of women’s ministry in the past.

I spent the last week speaking to women’s ministry leaders across the country.  I wanted to understand what the greatest obstacles women’s ministry leaders face.  I received the same answers, state to state…. east coast to west coast.

1)  We don’t know how to reach the 20 year old women in our church.

2)  We don’t have a budget to work with, to get the materials we need.

3)  We don’t have support from our Pastors.

I reached out to a woman who wrote her doctorate thesis on Women’s Ministry, and sadly… she didn’t have an answer to these questions.  She confirmed that these are indeed real problems, on a board scale, but there hasn’t been an answer in the church.  She surmised in her thesis paper, the best way to address it was to step outside of the church and start a parachurch organization.

I was saddened that this was her conclusion.

Then I looked at the statistics on the number of women leaving the church, and began to wonder.

I dug a bit deeper…. why are women leaving the church?  Why are women not committing to bible studies?  What are we missing???

Spiritual Gifts.

We are missing the fact that we have a church made up of mostly women, where God has bestowed gifts upon them to use for His purposes.  We are not identifying them in the church, we are not developing them in the church, and we really are not using them in the church.  Women feel as if they have more to offer than child care and making coffee.  They have gifts of teaching and mentoring, that are being unused.  So they leave, looking for a place where these gifts will be embraced.

Spiritual Growth.

Women want to grow spiritually, they want to dig deeper in to the word, and they don’t know how.  We have failed in bible literacy for women, underestimating what they can and cannot do (or understand).  We offer them cake, but eventually they get tired of cake and then they stop showing up for study groups.  It’s because their spirit wants something more substantial…. they may not even realize that is what they are missing.  They do know the group is not meeting a need.  We need to create programs that address this need.   Not just asking for volunteers to lead studies, but identifying and training study leaders.  Give those without confidence, confidence.

Spiritual Community.

Something that really breaks your heart, is when you hear a woman from your church tell you that she is lonely.  Recently a well known author posed a question on her facebook page, she asked what was the one thing women felt they were lacking in their church.  The answer, community.  Women want to not just have a church family on Sunday, or bible study nights.  They want to go back to the earlier church days where we were a community who “did life together”.  Older women responded that they missed having lunch with the church on Sundays after services.  Another commented that in 10 years of being in her church, she had only been invited to dinner with another family ONE TIME, and that her invitations were going unanswered.   She lamented that she had a closer relationship with her “non-Christian friends” than those she worships with.

A women’s ministry needs balance, and needs to be Christ focused.

Have social gatherings, like brunches and ladies night out events.  This is where we begin to form community.  It is the place where we start getting to know each other, establishing trust, and building relationships.  Use these social gatherings as an avenue to tap into the spiritual gifts of the women attending.  As you learn of their spiritual gifts, funnel them toward study groups that will help develop their spiritual growth and maturity, and build closer tight knit community. It is here that women will begin to have deeper bonds and are given the ability to serve each other with compassion and love, counsel and guide, mentor and disciple.  Then, as we wrap it all together, we have built up women to serve the church.  Women who are committed to serving in ways that support the over all vision of the church.

As our Pastors begin to recognize this shift in ministry, where we are intentional about every event & study pointing toward Christ and supporting the church’s vision… I believe we will see greater support for the ministry.

The change must start with us. 

The great news is that there is a widespread recognition amongst women’s ministry leaders that there is a shift coming in women’s ministry.  The are organizations that are developing to train women’s ministry leaders, and provide support and encouragement.  Several are focusing on the Pastors, and getting them on board with effective women’s ministry.  Three books are currently on the market that should be in your Women’s Ministry library.

  empty  wordfilledwomenoftheword

As these various organizations and ministries complete their programs for Women’s Ministry trainings, and more support resources come available, I will definitely be sharing them here.

It’s time to look at our women’s ministry with new eyes.  There are many men and women who see a revival on the horizon, within women’s ministry, or at least with women’s ministry a contributing factor.  Churches can’t afford to lose their women because they feel unrecognized, under appreciated, and under valued.  And women, we can’t take a posture that we will just leave the church and do it on our own.  Let’s not divide our churches any further, but restore unity within the body.  Be a part of the solution.