Mandy Smith has recently been named the director for this year’s SheLeads Summit.
“Western women will save the world.”
When I was in college, I knew the list of things I shouldn’t do in the Church. I wanted to push back and say “It’s my turn! You can’t stop me!” Everything in me wanted to defend my right to fulfill my calling.
But now that I’m a church leader, I see the situation with new eyes. I’m watching how women have a responsibility to bring our unique gifts to the Church. While it’s certainly rewarding to be included, my motivation now comes from a belief that the Church needs the natural gifts and abilities that women bring. The Church has always needed us in partnership with our brothers; but women’s contributions seem even more significant at this turning point in the life of the Western Church.
Becoming Full Partners
A few years back, at a conference about ministry in a post-Christian context, I sensed panic all around me. The new approaches described were not natural to the hundreds of male lead pastors in the room, and there was an almost-tangible discomfort and anxiety. The new methods being described meant setting aside programs and management of people and stepping into a more relational, patient, and hospitable approach.
I heard many comments like, “I agree it’s the way forward, but it’s so different from anything I’ve ever done!” It was the first time in all my ministry experience that I wanted to stand on the table and declare: “Don’t worry! We’ve got this! You all have experts on this stuff right under your noses! In every woman in your congregation, you have a leader into this new way.”
This is not to assume all women bring the same gifts. And it’s also not to say that we need women more than men. We simply need to partner in new ways. We need to look to the models of leadership that come naturally both to women and men in order to learn a new vocabulary of approaches for the many ministry challenges and settings in which we find ourselves.
The more I read and have conversations with peers, the more I see this goes beyond my own experience. I’d like to share here what I’ve been watching in the form of these quotes from missional thinkers and practitioners, all of which point to this reality that women bring something unique and essential. According to these insights, it’s time to face the disturbing reality that something powerful may lie dormant—a built-in restorative, prophetic, generous, intuitive, nurturing, and selfless power among our sisters longing to be released for the building up of the Church.Women bring something unique & essential to church leadership. Click To Tweet
I found myself gathering these from men partly because, sadly, it’s hard as a woman to say, “The Church needs women” without sounding defensive. I also believe there are men who have the calling to open these doors for women, and I want to hear their perspectives. How are women stepping into their call for the sake of the Church? How are men walking beside women in their life for the sake of the Church?
- “[In] a society in which the masculine extreme is crystalized in technology, the feminine part, which, I would say, is focused on sensitivity, spontaneity and intuition is starting to rally again. In other words, I feel that women are now far more capable than men of restoring a meaning to the world we live in, of restoring goals for living and possibilities for surviving in this technological world.”
Jacques Ellul, Perspectives on Our Age.
- “It’s not surprising to us that so many of our most inspiring models of leading as designers are women. Historically men have often glamorized the structures that emphasize separation, individuality, power, indestructibility and wealth. Women, however, have excelled for centuries at creating and designing environments for deeper shared life . . . .”
Paul Sparks, Tim Soerens, and Dwight Friesen, The New Parish.
- “Movements need ‘masculine’ technique and structure, certainly, but they also require us to be more fluid, responsive, and intuitive in order to develop—especially when we need creative solutions in order to thrive/survive.”
Alan Hirsch and Dave Ferguson, On The Verge.
- “I do not think that women ministers and theologians are the first to have discerned the realities of grief and amazement in our lives, but they have helped us see them as important dimensions of prophetic reality. In many ways these sisters have permitted me to see what I otherwise might have missed.”
Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination.
- “We’ve noticed that when we make purposeful space for women leaders to lead in our church there is a certain tenderness that is brought to decisions. This is not weakness, but a tenderness of love, care and attention that is intuitive for women. This has been a beautiful dynamic. In fact, there have been decisions our leaders have made where we’ve looked back and said, ‘If we had women involved in the decision we think this could have been a lot less messy and people would have felt more nurtured and cared for in the process.’ When embodied well, the balance of strength and tenderness in leadership is a beautiful thing.”
J.R. Briggs, Pastor/Cultural Cultivator at The Renew Community, Founder of Kairos Partnerships, and author of Fail: Finding Hope and Grace in the Midst of Ministry Failure and and co-author of Ministry Mantras
- “Women bring a challenge to historically male patterns of power. As long as they resist the temptation to enter the systems ‘as is’ under hierarchical terms, they bring a challenge that is counter, in that women push for relational engagement and a consideration of others that comes from not being considered themselves.”
David Fitch, Church Planter, Lindner chair of Evangelical Theology at Northern Seminary and author of Prodigal Christianity and Faithful Presence: Seven Disciplines that Shape the Church for Mission
'These sisters have permitted me to see what I otherwise might have missed'—Bruggeman Click To Tweet
Learn more about the upcoming SHEleads event HERE.