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Every time I post a blog about something that is close to my heart, I get a little nervous, a little hesitant. But it is usually those that tend to get noticed, and it is those blog posts that tend to affect people the most. I wanted to tackle the subject of women in leadership or women in ministry for quite some time, but was unsure of how to go about it. I know that this issue could be explored from lots of different angles, but I am going to begin with my heart and my own personal experience, maybe opening up many more blog topics to come. I just hope this opens up some honest discussion on the topic in your homes, in your churches, with your daughters and your sons.

I am a woman. I now can finally admit that I am a woman with leadership gifts. My journey to this discovery has been a long one and is still being unearthed in my life. As a young girl, I always wanted to do the right thing. I was extremely sensitive to the cues of others, and still am. I have always craved significance, the chance to make a difference in the world. When I was 5, I wanted to become an actress. That was the most significant job I could imagine because millions would see you on screen. I scoffed at my best friend who wanted to become a teacher. I thought, why would you become a teacher when you could become an actress? Ironically, I later became a teacher.

When I took the DISC profile in high school it didn’t make sense to me. I tested as a person with a little of each personality. This result made me feel hopelessly confused. I secretly envied people who could be “D’s” or driven people and get away with it, Later, I realized I was indeed a “D” but was hiding it under layers of what I thought I should be.

I would have loved to have majored in philosophy and religion in college, but I reasoned, what good would that do me? Unless I specifically planned to marry a pastor, what would I possibly do with a philosophy and religion degree? At that point, I didn’t even know if I would ever marry. I needed something practical that would make an income for me on my own. The only thing I knew was the classroom and the church. I preferred the church, but found greater opportunities in the classroom. The highest calling I could practically see for myself was as a school administrator, maybe even a school planter, planting schools across the country. I knew that I had too much vision for just one school.

Even in college, I was still not sure where I stood on the question of whether women could have unlimited leadership roles in the church. Still, as I found myself growing up, I found that unless I completely masked the person I was becoming, I needed it to be okay for women to lead in the church. I was becoming such a leader and it was a bit scary. I was not being drawn away from the church, but toward the church.

When you are called to be a leader you sense a burden that you cannot push aside. You sense this burden whether or not you have a husband who is a leader. You have a kind of creative energy that you cannot quench. You need to find an outlet or you feel like shriveling up. As the prophet Jeremiah said, it is like a fire shut up in your bones. Even as I describe it now, I think of the other women that must be out there, like me, trying to contain their fire because it just doesn’t seem appropriate to their surroundings.

A lot of assumptions are made according to gender– so many that we don’t even notice. Who do we ask to run sound at church? A man. Who do we ask to watch kids? A woman. Who do we assume is the church gossip? A woman. Who do we assume is the church visionary? A man. Women box women in as much as men do. It is our culture, it’s how we were taught. Therefore, a woman with a strong leadership gifting thinks that she must be losing her mind or have some kind of Jezebel spirit. Isn’t it interesting that the Jezebel spirit is so much more popularly identified than the Absalom spirit, which is really the same kind of thing? It’s just that we tend to view women with more skepticism, especially those with leadership abilities.

All I want to do here is to raise your awareness, men, of the obstacles that women have to overcome in order to lead. Not all women desire this, but the ones that do have many obstacles indeed, though they are becoming fewer as time marches on. I also want to raise awareness in women that you may be holding back parts of yourself only because you were brought up to believe it could not be so.

You see, everyone expected my husband to become a leader, so he ran the other way for a while. (That’s a topic for another day.) No one expected me to become a leader, at least not as significant as I wanted to be, and certainly not a leader of that type in the church. Therefore, it took me a long time to figure out that it was okay to have those kinds of desires. Thank God I have a husband who could encourage me through all this!

I know some wonderful gentlemen that believe in their heads that women should not have leadership roles in the church. They see it more as an intellectual discussion, not one that really affects the women they know and love. I honestly don’t think you realize what you are doing to us. You don’t realize how many “would be” leaders are in your midst. Even for men who do believe in women as church leaders, I think you honestly don’t see the roadblocks that are often set against female leaders, all because it’s our culture. It’s what comes naturally.

Well-manored minority ethnic people try not to talk about the impact of the ethnic differences that affect them because they do not want to make every conversation about these differences. They want to hope for the best. They want to assume that they were not chosen because someone else was more qualified. Women do the same thing. We don’t say anything because we are happy for the men in our lives who get promoted over us. We don’t want to be the squeaky wheel if he gets paid more. We are asked to serve in children’s ministry, so we do, even if we want to do more.

Even in mere everyday conversations, we downplay ourselves. We downplay our own abilities. We ask too many questions. We make too few confident statements. We need help finding our voice. Men, we need you to see us for who we are. We need you to draw us out. We have been operating with a handicap that you have not. We are on your teams, in your offices, in your homes and we cannot seem to unlock our fullest potential. Do not fear us– we are your friends. If you can help awaken this potential in us, we may become your most powerful allies. Coach us, make time for us, tell us what you see. Don’t allow us to hide behind your backs. Don’t allow us to perceive that manipulation is our only source of power. Challenge us to challenge you.

Together we can become better as a whole. Men and women are necessary to make the world go round. Businesses are discovering it, governments are waking up to it. The church cannot afford to waste time in developing our young girls and women for the advancement of the kingdom cause!

In my next blog (part 2), I will briefly address some of the Biblical basis for the equality of men and women.

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Comments
  1. Oh Leigh, I love your heart here. I am on the completely opposite side of the spectrum … I was told I should be a leader (in life, not so much in the church), when I have since realized that I really am not a leader. I’ve spent so much of my time trying to make myself be a leader, that I’ve been miserable and felt myself a failure. This embracing of being who we were created to be speaks so loudly to my heart. I know so many are blessed by these amazing qualities you possess. I really do thank God for you.

  2. catalystal says:

    “Men” or “Women” should truly be as God intended … Woman naturally have a more developed relational culture, which is valuable to any ministry or group of relationships as they work together. I draw a lot of understanding from my loving wife that is vey valuble to my well being as I relate to others. I applaud who she is: A woman of great value!

  3. Susie says:

    I am active in the leadership of my adult Sunday School class. I’m a divorced 55-yr-old woman, and the median age is probably 70 in our class. We have both men and women, married, never-married, widowed, and divorced. I lead worship, handle in-reach, plan fellowships, and teach when our male teacher cannot be there. I felt very hesitant about teaching men, especially when the older gentlemen who used to have their own men’s class joined us. However, I spoke with each of the men in our class and was assured that they enjoy my teaching and respect the gift the Lord has given me to lead in our class. I am blessed. I now feel the Lord has called me to become a hospital or hospice chaplain (just not sure how He’s going to provide the money for classes). My pastor and church family are completely supportive of the fact that our Lord can call a woman to that position. Again, Praise the Lord!

    • beleighve says:

      Thanks for your comments. It just doesn’t make sense that something with such good fruit could be bad, does it? Bless you for being true to your calling and being an encouragement to the body of Christ!

  4. Scott says:

    Extremely enlightening. Are there really no men working with the children in our church? No women guest pastors. Worship and praise music at the end of our services that make me feel not like raising my hands and worshipping God but leave me feeling like Iike I am at a funeral except on the occasional communion service where all the music is upbeat. Don”t get me wrong. Our church is a good church. The vision and goals are what I want to be a part of. But there is something I would like to see. A woman preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    • beleighve says:

      Hi Scott, I am know we do have men working in our nurseries and with kids. I would say that I think more women pastors are on the horizon for us. I believe that there are many factors that go into why we don’t have them even though we believe in them. Part of it is that women do not develop themselves in this way because we don’t even think of it as a worthwhile pursuit. We can believe that it is right, men or women, but it takes a while for our culture to reflect that belief. I do remain hopeful for the future. (On a side note, sorry to hear you feel like you’re at a funeral. Praying God fixes that for you 😉 Thanks for your comments!

      • Scott says:

        Hi Leigh, your feeback is much appreciated. My emotions usually get the best of me when it comes to things that are or are not politically correct in our churches. My comment was a little on the sarcastic side and not very thorough. I would also like to see more african-american families in our church. African american guest pastors from the United States. Interacial couples and families. Children involved in the healing ministries. Our head pastor preaching more than once a month, and yes it would be awesome to have a gospel choir even if its just a guest situation. I just want to be excited when I’m at church. You obviously have been gifted in many areas and I hope you persue and use your gifts vigorously! God bless you.

  5. Angie Carter says:

    Hi Leigh, once again an excellent EXCELLENT piece of writing…..you are so good. Thank you for taking the time and effort to bring forth these thoughts, feelings and ideas in the written word so that we can share in them. Bravo.

  6. […] Think about how many hot button issues have to do with sexuality these days: homosexuality, sex trafficking, pornography, and women’s rights. In the past, I have written about my views on women as leaders in the church. You can read about them here. […]

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