When Women Lead

by | May 4, 2011 | Spirit-Led Living

Women Leaders

In
the workplace, as well as in the church, basic leadership principles
are the same for men and women. But when you’re a woman with men under
your authority, there are several things you need to keep in mind.

God
is placing more women in ministry leadership roles today than ever
before. The number of God-fearing women serving in leadership roles
traditionally held by men in churches, ministries and Christian
organizations of every kind is growing. How exciting to see godly men
and women serving together at every level and the body of Christ more
closely resembling the fullness of our Creator.

If you are called to be a leader in Christian ministry, God will bring
it about. Psalm 75:6-7 tells us that promotion comes from the Lord. He
also determines how long each leader serves. It is not up to us to prove
or position ourselves for leadership. It is up to us only to be
prepared and to live pure lives of obedience as we walk with God. That
knowledge relieves the pressure of having to “perform” or to please
people. We need to please only God.

My own journey in Christian leadership has been filled with blessings as
well as challenges and changes. As I continually submit my ministry to
the Lord, He has directed my steps and shown me His great wisdom. He
also has taught me some key principles of Christian leadership that
women need in order to be effective.

WALK IN HUMILITY
Leaders who walk in humility not only
engender the favor of the Lord, but also evoke trust, honesty and
support from their peers and staff. Having a woman serve in ministry or
church leadership is a fairly new phenomenon for many men who have been
in ministry for years. A spirit of humility will help disarm the
internal conflict they may be confronting.

Our accuser, the devil, will use any opening to sow distrust and
disunity among ministry leaders. A hint of pride can be misconstrued as a
manipulative “Jezebel” spirit. James 4:10 tells us to humble ourselves
before God, and He will exalt us.

A spirit of humility also overcomes the spirits of pride and arrogance
that leaders are sure to encounter along the way. It is very tempting to
take an aloof, self-righteous posture when decisions are questioned or
mistakes pointed out. Fight that with humility. Hear what is said, and
take it to the Lord.

Several years ago, one of my peers came to me with an offense. I
honestly did not think I had done anything wrong and was tempted to
shrug off the whole thing. However, tension was building between the two
of us and between our teams.

We both took the matter to prayer and made some visible adjustments in
our relationship. Our simple act made a significant change in the
spiritual climate of the entire organization. Godly leaders will make
changes in themselves and override previous decisions if necessary to
stay in line with God’s Word and on track with the vision.

KNOW YOUR BOUNDARIES 
Leaders should have a clear understanding of their mission, scope of
authority and responsibilities. Having unclear boundaries leaves the
door wide open for problems.

God is doing many exciting things in the world today. It may be enticing
to jump on every opportunity that comes your way. Doing so, however,
can distract you from your primary mission, dilute your effectiveness
and hinder those who are ordained for those roles.

Having a clear vision of your mission will keep you on track, especially
when opposition is fierce and problems are abundant. Be ready and
willing to make tough decisions, to lead against the tide and to
intercede for wisdom and victory. In ministry, the buck stops with the
leader. If that is you, the buck stops with you.

As a woman leader, be vigilant against anyone who tries to assume the
authority given to you. Some men, and possibly women, may try to
undermine or take over that authority simply because you are a woman.
Use the apostle Paul as an example. He exerted his God-given authority
without apology to ensure the good of the churches under his care.

Paul rebuked those who tried to take over spiritual leadership that was
his and was careful to stick to the field God had given him. Know your
scope of authority, take responsibility for it and stick to it! (See 2
Cor. 10:13-15.)

A leader’s responsibility includes caring for the people God brings
alongside her. Jesus declared that, “Whoever wants to be a leader among
you must be your servant” (Matt. 20:26, NLT). Serving is our
responsibility. It keeps us humble and keeps us in touch with the health
of our team. Most of all, it sets a godly tone even in stressful
situations.

This has been an area of struggle for me. God moved me into a leadership
role when I was still young. I feared that if I was seen serving
others, my credibility as a leader would be eroded. I feared my male
counterparts would not see me as a person in authority.

I should have trusted that when God makes a place for us, no one can
take it away. Our gracious and loving Father did not humiliate me in any
way, but has continually and lovingly prodded me to take on the nature
of His Son, the nature of a servant. I learned firsthand that as we
serve, our authority in Christ grows.

HAVE INTEGRITY IN ALL THINGS
Christian leaders of either gender cannot afford a lapse of integrity.
King Jehoshaphat instructed leaders under him to “‘always act in the
fear of the Lord, with integrity and with undivided hearts'” (2 Chr.
19:9). His words still apply today. This should be true in personal,
professional and ministry settings.

Do not mix personal and ministry funds. Ensure legal compliance unless a
law opposes Scripture, which is sometimes the case in closed countries.
Thoroughly examine every accusation of wrongdoing in your organization.
If there is any truth to it, set the record straight.

Count the cost before making a commitment and then keep your word, even
when it hurts (see Ps. 15:4). Show yourself faithful even in the small
things, which indicates how you will handle greater responsibility (see
Luke 16:10).

AVOID ALL APPEARANCE OF EVIL
Many eyes are upon today’s Christian leaders. Some folks are looking for
a role model, while others are watching for a leader to slip up so they
can once again ridicule a follower of Christ.

It is wise to implement safeguards in advance to avoid compromising
situations.This becomes increasingly important as more men and women
serve together in leadership. Consider these practical suggestions:

  • Do not spend long periods of time alone with any man, unless he is a relative.
  • Reserve your most intimate thoughts and feelings for your husband, family or female accountability partner.
  • If you must travel with an unrelated man, keep an appropriate
    distance physically and emotionally. If either of you are married, avoid
    one-on-one social interaction.
  • If you travel to minister, take along your spouse or a female “armor bearer.” Have them accompany you to your room each evening.
  • If you feel drawn into an unhealthy relationship with
    anyone—man or woman—disengage immediately, and discuss it with your
    spiritual accountability partner.
  • Dress modestly at all times. If you are young, be accountable in your clothing to a godly woman who is at least 10 years older.
  • Although you have freedom in what you eat and drink, do not let
    your freedom be a stumbling block for those who are less mature. Seek
    God about what freedoms you can enjoy.

    Christian leaders must be willing to be accountable to others for their
    actions and appearance. Believers cannot live by the standards of the
    world. Our standard must be Christ and Him alone. We are called to be
    “‘holy, because [He is] holy'” (1 Pet. 1:16).

    CHOOSE A GOOD TEAM
    Every leader needs a team. Someone who fulfills a vision alone may be a
    very gifted individual but is no leader. The first step in assembling a
    good team is determining what gifts and strengths are needed to
    accomplish the mission. Then, honestly assess the gifting, strengths and
    weaknesses of team members.

    Ask God to bring people with a complementary mission who have the
    missing gifting and strengths. Be willing to wait for the right fit.
    Understand God brings some people for only a short time. Be willing to
    release and bless them when they feel called to go elsewhere. Don’t be
    afraid to bring aboard gifted men. Be ready to lead them.

    Leading men and women is very similar. Everyone needs a clear
    understanding of the mission and direction. Everyone enjoys using their
    gifting and strengths for something meaningful. Everyone responds well
    to confident, caring leadership.
    Many men respond well to a direct communication style, but not all. That
    is more a function of personality type than gender. One of the main
    differences is how men and women build camaraderie. Men tend to lean
    toward joking and active fun.

    Women prefer compliments and personal sharing. Finding a healthy balance
    for mixed gender teams is possible and makes for effective and joyful
    ministry dynamics.

    Through the years, God has placed many men—including former senior
    pastors—on my team. As of yet, there have been no authority issues. Each
    has come in obedience to God and in fulfillment of his own mission.

    As leader, my role has been to point them in the right direction and
    serve them so their gifting is used effectively in furthering our
    mission. All have respected that. We have learned from one another, and
    the kingdom has benefited as a result.

    WHAT ABOUT SPIRITUAL CHAUVINISTS?
    Although many Christian men are embracing the new way God is using women
    in ministry leadership, not all are willing to—just yet. Some have been
    taught that Christian leadership is not a woman’s place. Some may have
    cultural biases. Some are threatened by anyone else in leadership—man or
    woman.

    Their rejection of a woman leader can take a variety of forms. They may
    not take her seriously. They may purposefully exclude her from strategic
    meetings. They may ignore her counsel and partnership. They may be
    outright hostile. In any case, it is critical to respond in a godly,
    professional manner.

    Remember that bringing glory and honor to God and building His kingdom
    takes priority; personal pride has no place. Jesus instructed His
    disciples to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16,
    RSV). Conduct yourself in like manner.

    If the man in question truly has a heart to see God’s kingdom advanced,
    send a man from your team to build a relationship and see if God opens
    the door of partnership that way. If it proves to be a hindrance to the
    work of God, partner with someone else.

    Do not get distracted with a battle that is not yours. Unless God
    assigns you to confront it, forgive and move on. God will make a way for
    what He wants done.

    Jodie Nelson has served as the director of outreach for
    Operation Blessing International, where her responsibilities included
    overseeing humanitarian aid programs in the United States and abroad.

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