5 More Ways to Promote the Inclusion of Women in Church Leadership

by Debbie Fulthorp | May 18, 2016

In Part 1 of this series, I shared five strategies for helping churches create space for women in church leadership positions with the ultimate goal of ensuring equal opportunity for women at all levels of leadership. These strategies are based on my own experience as a lead pastor and now a candidate pastor searching for a position. Here are five more strategies to promote the full inclusion of women in church leadership.

1. Use Biblical Narrative

Biblical narrative can be a powerful tool in leading people toward paradigm shifts. When our stories are directed by God's story, we are more likely to make intentional changes.

As Christians, we must be aware of God's broader plan for humanity. God's over-arching message of inclusion and equality for men and women in the biblical narrative should be implemented in the day-to-day life of the church. Using biblical narrative as a model for the culture of the church is one effective way to stimulate change.[1]

2. Embrace Vulnerability

Transforming an entrenched culture that limits women to an inclusive culture of ministry where both men and women lead requires openness, honesty, and vulnerability. Promote healthy dialogue to build bridges instead of unhealthy debate that tears down. Have the hard conversations with love and grace.

Mandy Smith, author of The Vulnerable Pastor, reminds us that "It's not our job to know all the answers, but to know the One who does. It's our job to faithfully lead our flock to follow him, even though we're not sure where he'll take us."[2]

3. Create a Structure for Change

In his book, Immunity to Change, Robert Kegan argues, "Most people need a structure to help them channel their aspiration, test and gain distance from their big assumptions, and steadily build a new set of ways to bridge the gap between intentions and behavior."[3]

Create a structure that ensures women are an integral part of the leadership and preaching team and are in front of your congregation regularly. Don't leave the representation of women in leadership to chance, but rather, design your services and practices as a church with this intent in mind.

4. Create New Traditions and Practices

Instead of having only men serve communion, start by allowing couples to serve it together. Then, add single men and women who are ministry volunteers or leaders in the church. This creates a new tradition and a new way of serving communion. You can incorporate this practice in other places such as the taking up of offering as well, slowly expanding into every area of church.

5. Rely on the Holy Spirit

Acts 2 narrates the beginnings of the early church after they were empowered by the Holy Spirit. The description "all together and had everything in common" found in Acts 2:44 characterizes the early church after Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is the one who ultimately commissions believers for ministry. When we are led by and rely on the Holy Spirit, change is imminent. All believers, male and female, will be empowered for all levels of ministry in the body of Christ.

Leading cultural change in any organization can seem impossible and daunting, but it begins with being intentional. Jesus implemented all of the principles I shared in this series.

His disciples thought many things were impossible. But through his transformational leadership, he shifted his disciples from an earthly perspective to a kingdom paradigm. May we as leaders take on this task in our churches so that men and women can both work uninhibited for the kingdom according to God's plan for us.

Notes

[1] Alan Roxburgh and Fred Romanuk, The Missional Leader: Equipping Your Church to Reach a Changing World (Jossey-Bass Leadership Network Series) (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2006), 180.
[2] Mandy Smith, The Vulnerable Pastor: How Human Limitations Empower Our Ministry (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Press, 2015), 120.
[3] Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey, Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization (Leadership for the Common Good) (Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation, 2009), 254.

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