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Books for those in ministry organizations who desire to take their leadership, teams, governance, and ministry effectiveness to the next level.

30 Sep '08

We are equals

Posted by T.J. Addington in Healthy leaders, ministry teams, organizational culture

Editor comment:

The following blog from contributing writer, Lindsay Norman is a followup to her recent blog titled "Subtle disempowerment." This is not a discussion on the theological issues of egalitarianism or complementarianism which is one that has implications for church leadership. This is a discussion about how we honor, treat, respect and work with women in the Christian workplace - like ReachGlobal. God cares how we treat one another: we are all made in His image.

Contributing writer
Lindsay Norman, Reach Global

As a follow up to the blog entry “subtle disempowerment,” I wanted to offer some practical ways we can empower women. However, I want to unpack the word “empower” first. This word conjures up many images: feminist, dominance, control, angry women, etc. I want to tell you what this word means to many gracious and humble women in ministry, and what other words and phrases have been used synonymously with this word.

When I and those in the ministry I serve make references to empowering women (we can include empowering minorities and young leaders as well), what it refers to is the following: treating people as equals, speaking to and about people as equals and allowing ALL people’s gifts to be honored, valued and utilized in the Church.

When there are references to “coming to the table,” “having a voice,” “wanting to be heard,” these all reference the same idea: I want to be treated as an equal, spoken to as an equal and want my gifts to be honored, valued and utilized in the church.

This means if a man has the gift of hospitality or administration, he should utilize those strengths. If he feels called to be a stay at home dad, he should follow the Spirit’s call to do this. If a woman has gifts of leadership or teaching, she should utilize those strengths. If she is called to work full time instead of stay home as a homemaker, she should follow the Spirit’s call to do so.

None of these scenarios should result in guilt as long as we are utilizing the strengths and gifts God has given us to glorify Him, edify his church, and reach our communities and families.

With that in mind, here are some suggestions for how to take steps toward gender (and I would argue ethnic) equality.

Spot potential female leaders and take the time to mentor them into leadership roles.

Use language that is inclusive: when referencing all people in the room, refer to them as staff, leaders, friends, etc. (whatever might apply).

Spend time listening to thoughts, experiences and input from women of all generations and ethnicities. Don’t try to offer solutions right away. Just listen.

Include women in the decision-making process in your ministries.

Help women gain the knowledge and understanding of their spiritual gifts. Then give them a platform to use them.

Create committees and teams to collaborate on key organizational issues. Include men and women on those teams.

Provide leadership seminars and training for women that do not just focus on women’s ministries.

Do not assume that women in a meeting will take care of taking notes, meeting prep, follow up details.

These last couple of suggestions are for women:

Women, own your voice. If you have thoughts or input, use it for constructive and strategic change. Take responsibility for your thoughts and input.

At work, and in the ministry setting, expect to be treated as a ministry/business professional first. Many people (not just women) expect their work in ministry to fulfill personal needs of friendship and family. Sometimes there is a desire to integrate personal and ministry life when at work.

I am not saying we should not have friends or family at work, or that we should not discuss personal issues at work. What I am saying is that should not be the expectation. We as women should not be disappointed if our boss or coworker does not ask about our personal lives. When you are at work (even in ministry), you are a professional worker first and should treat others the same way.

Let’s continue to dialogue on this. I’d rather have this topic be a gracious, honest dialogue than a one-way direction of thoughts and suggestions. Any time we discuss issues such as gender and ethnic equality, let’s make it constructive and for the purpose of glorifying God and working toward reconciliation and understanding.