Living On Purpose

5 Things I Have Learned as a Woman in Church Leadership

“Veterinarian” is proudly scribbled under the self-portrait in my kindergarten portfolio. Evidently church leadership wasn’t on the drop down option under “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

My first revelation about what I wanted to do with my life was that I wanted to help people (after I learned that being a vet was more than playing with puppies and kittens all day.) I wasn’t sure what that looked like.

All I knew was that God had changed my life. Because of Him, I had walked away from a life focused on myself and the shame and insecurity that had accumulated because of it. I felt free. And I wanted to introduce other people to that same freedom.

There had been this growing desire in me for leadership (despite my wall flower personality.) I also loved communication and arranging words on a page. It seems obvious now that God was planting the seeds in me for church leadership but there were very few women in those roles at that time. My options were 1) Be a famous writer/speaker like Joyce Meyer or 2) Choose something else to do with your life.

When I met Danny, I found someone I could talk leadership with. He loved that I was passionate about the same things as him and pushed me to pursue the passions God had put in my heart. It seems like it should have been easy from there on out. But it wasn’t.

My story hasn’t included a lot of roadblocks as much as it has been an internal struggle for me to get clarity about who God called me to be and to wholeheartedly pursue it. People will always have opinions about who and what I should be. It’s not really any different for me than for you. But I have often paid more attention to those perspectives than I have to what God was telling me.

Becoming a leader alongside Danny has been a journey of learning myself and trusting the One who designed me. And while I am very much still on the road and not at the end destination, I wanted to write down a few of the things that I have learned along the way in hopes that it will encourage you in your journey.

So here they are, my top 5 lessons on being a woman in church leadership-

  1. It’s not easy

Seriously, what in life is? But I can’t tell you how much this understanding has helped me.

I was reading an interview about women in ministry awhile back. They asked this lead pastor what he had learned from the women leaders in his life. He said, “Determination and Perseverance. Because they have led in the face of resistance and not given up.” His words unlocked something in me and affirmed that while this road isn’t easy, it is the right road for me.

2. Understanding how guys think is helpful

There are more men in church leadership than women, by a long shot. Working on a team with guy leaders is different from planning a bridal shower with all your best girlfriends. It doesn’t go well if you insist that they learn and understand the way you tick without giving them the same courtesy.  Instead of being part of the team, you will just be the isolated one in the corner who feels left out.

Be a good listener. Make things practical. Learn to logic out problems. Ask for feedback.

3. Don’t be afraid to be you

God called me to leadership because He wanted me and not a copycat of my husband. The way I look at decisions is different from Danny. Things are important to me that he wouldn’t notice.

My husband’s ability to strategize and move the church forward amazes me. He is a gifted leader and has my deepest respect. While I am not as strong in the areas that he is, I bring a different set of skills to the table. We were designed to compliment each other and when we do, we bring out the best in each other.

4. Environment really matters

The growth of plants is restricted by how much room their roots have to spread. I have learned that people are much the same way. A healthy environment goes a long way in determining how much your potential can be realized.

My husband is my biggest fan. I cannot count the conversations over the years where he has helped sort through my personal fears and insecurities about what God has called me to. Danny has bought me books and paid for me to go to conferences. There has never been a limitation in his mind of what I could do.

If you are a woman who has a dream of leading a non-profit or being in church leadership, I would encourage you to connect with a healthy church that can help you practically take steps forward. Having a leadership team that encourages the call of God on your life will make all the difference in the world.

5. Don’t let rejection become personal

There are people who don’t believe women should lead in certain roles in the church. For the most part, they aren’t trying to be sexist. They are just reading Scripture and doing their best to honor God. I have studied the role of women in ministry and come to a different conclusion than them. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t sting when they leave our church or get up and walk out when they realize I am the one preaching. But it also doesn’t mean we have to be enemies.

Here’s the thing…you can’t let it become personal. They aren’t rejecting you. It only feels like that. And no one wins when those who are devoted to Christ are at odds with one another. So, work hard to forgive, see their perspective, and love with sincerity.

Being a woman in church leadership isn’t easy, but it is rewarding to know that you are where God has called you to be. At the end of the day, I will stand before Him and answer for how I stewarded the gifts He gave me. I want to be someone who was courageous and stepped out of my comfort zone to use what God entrusted me with and not the person who buried their gifts because it was too difficult. I am praying that same thing for you!