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Encourage More Women to Lead

Regardless of theology, we need to empower more women to use their gifts in the local church.

I’m not here to convince people to change their theological stance on the role of women in pastoral ministry. What I would like to ask everyone to consider, however, is:

How can I maximize the gifts and talents of women given the particular theological context of my church?

To encourage more women to lead (whether in the hospitality ministry, the women’s ministry, or the pastoral ministry), we must learn to look first at the gifts, talents, and experiences that they bring to the table. Then, and only then, should we consider how she could best utilize her gifts, talents, and experiences in the theological context and culture of our church. When we look first at gender, we risk pigeonholing people based on gender stereotypes and missing the incredible potential God has given them.

In some theological frameworks, there are roles that only men can fill. In this case, it’s important to be consistent and live out your theological convictions. It is just as important, however, not to exclude women from serving in particular roles simply because it breaks a stereotype. If, for example, a church believes the role of elder is specifically for men, but there’s no theological prohibition to women serving on the finance committee, it’s appropriate to look for a female member of the church with financial expertise to bring onto the team. Another church might believe the role of preaching on Sunday morning should be reserved for men, but could still invite a woman gifted at public speaking to give announcements or read Scripture. Be consistent with your theological convictions and flexible with cultural stereotypes.

Ephesians 4:11–12 calls the pastors, prophets, teachers, apostles, and evangelists of the ...

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Thu, 30 June 2016 08:00:00 CST
Ministry Misfit

Can a pastor be an introvert?

I grew up in a church that didn’t support women in ministry. So when God started tugging my heart toward vocational ministry, it took me a long to time to understand what was going on. With no visible examples of women leading in the church, I had a difficult time picturing what church leadership could look like for me. Thankfully, in college and graduate school I was exposed to many different kinds of leaders, women and men who helped change my paradigm and encouraged me to boldly step into my calling.

Shortly before graduating from seminary, I was invited to serve at a church that was supportive of women in ministry. I was so excited to be in an environment where I wouldn’t have to question whether I would fit in as a woman leader.

Am I Fit for Pastoral Ministry?

I loved my new position and poured my heart and soul into serving. God blessed my efforts, and I quickly knew without a doubt that I was exactly where he wanted me to be. Despite this, I soon found myself struggling with my calling again. Rather than worry about my gender, I worried about my personality, strengths, and interests. Looking around at the other leaders in my church, I saw bubbly, energetic, and fun people. They were outgoing and emotionally engaging. Everyone seemed to be drawn to their lively personalities. I, however, am an introvert who’s driven and goal-oriented. As I compared my leadership with theirs, I felt like I didn’t fit, and I thought that if I were more like them, I would feel accepted. No matter how hard I tried to be like the bubbly, outgoing leaders around me, though, I came across as inauthentic and trying too hard. There really isn’t anything worse than people trying too hard to be something they’re ...

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Mon, 27 June 2016 08:00:00 CST
Ladies Who Lunch—with Men

Do your coworkers follow the Billy Graham Rule?

Four months into a new ministry position (not in the church I currently serve), I reached out to my colleague. “Let’s grab lunch someday,” I suggested. Other staff seemed to come and go freely from meals and meetings, swapping ideas, covering ground together. I worked closely with this particular man, and we needed to forge a solid, professional relationship. I wanted to understand what motivated him, how he came at the ministry issues we were facing, and what his wife and kids were like. Spending the noon hour over a burger seemed a good plan. My invitation, however, was not accepted: “I won’t go to lunch with you. It will send the wrong message.”

He donned a pejorative tone and went on to explain that in Christian organizations men and women do not eat lunch together, nor do they ride in cars together, meet in an office with a closed door, or sit together at meetings. “Sorry. It’s how things are done.”

Having served in ministry for over a decade at that point, I was offended. I had never actually been served what is often called the “Billy Graham Rule.” I, of course, knew it existed, but it had never directly impacted me before. The “rule” goes something like this: to avoid temptation, or the appearance thereof, it has been said that Billy Graham never meets with a woman alone. Graham has done his best to avoid solo encounters with females—whether over lunch, prayer, dinner, a meeting, or any other occasion. He recognized that even a whiff of scandal could have unraveled the celebrated work of his crusades. I do not envy the tremendous scrutiny he has faced, a strain of skeptics and critics wondering if this famed evangelist is legit. For ...

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Thu, 23 June 2016 08:00:00 CST
The Truth About Sexism in the Church

And how to keep it from breaking you down.

The truth about sexism in the church needs to be heard, it needs to be told, and it needs to be called out. It should be devastating that you will experience sexism when it comes to your call to ministry. It should be devastating that the one institution on which you depend to be the most vocal about fighting sexism is the most resoundingly silent. It should be devastating that the one place where you might be able to escape the sexism of our culture will only make it worse. These facts could very well lead to discouragement. Why enter into ministry if you know that this is what you will face? Ministry is hard enough without having to prepare yourself for the many ways that sexism will succeed in demoralizing your position and sense of call.

Yet, these truths are not meant to be discouraging but to give rise to justified anger. Your anger will be justified and not only on the grounds of any one specific incident alone. It will be justified because the church should be so much better about dealing with sexism. The church, of all places, should not explain sexism away, sweep it under the rug, or insist it is really “not that bad.” Your anger will be justified because you will experience little to no support from those who you thought “had your back.” You will look around and say to yourself, because you can’t bring yourself to say it aloud to the bystanders, “Did you just hear that? Say something!”

Your anger will be justified because sexism is something your male colleagues will not have to deal with, and yet you have to expend energy and emotion on something that should have been addressed long ago. Your anger will be justified because you will just want the comments to stop, you will ...

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Mon, 20 June 2016 08:00:00 CST
Preaching in the Midst of Tragedy

In four years of pastoral ministry, Ive had to preach through four national tragedies.

Moments before Sunday service, I received a knock on the door of my study. An usher peeked her head around the door and said, "Your father wanted me to give you this message: After you left for church the news report revealed that the death toll has risen from 20 to 50.”

Then she closed the door.

At 10:55 AM, I put my head on my desk and began to weep.

At 11:00 AM, I, like thousands of preachers in America, stood from my desk, wiped my tears, and steeled myself to face the congregation after another national tragedy.

I am in my fourth year of pastoral ministry, and Sunday was the fourth time I had to look into the eyes of my congregation after the nation experienced mass destruction. During my first Advent season as a pastor, I preached light in the midst of darkness after a man forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut, shooting and killing 20 first-graders and 6 adults—robbing them of their lives and making Christmas a time of mourning and grief for 26 families. That day, too, I spent time weeping at my desk.

One year later, I had to face my congregation with a message of hope after bombs exploded during the Boston Marathon, killing 3 and injuring 300. These athletes started the race celebrating the strength of the human body, and sadly 14 people ended the day receiving amputations as a result of the explosion. That day, too, I spent time weeping at my desk.

Only last year, I preached a message of love after a man walked into a prayer service at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and shot and killed nine people, including the senior pastor. That day, too, I spent time weeping at my desk.

This week, I had to preach a message of peace after a ...

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Wed, 15 June 2016 08:00:00 CST
Wounded Leaders Wound Others

The negative effects of leading with unmet intimacy needs.

A life-giving leader understands the difference between being led by the Spirit of God and being driven out of an unmet need. A ministry or church that is personality-driven is usually led by a person who has a deep need for approval stemming from a fear of failure and rejection. A prevailing sense of worthlessness is often manifested in ministry by a need to achieve, perform for God, and win the approval of Christians, generating a “rockstar” complex. The apostle Paul warns us in Philippians 2:3–5, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus” (nasb).

There are inherent dangers in a personality-led ministry. People can become focused on the person rather than on Jesus. A person’s gifting, though God-given, can be distorted by arrogance and pride rather than through yielding at the cross.

The measure of a life-giving leader is not in the quality of teaching she shares or the prophetic word that she gives or even the number of hours she prays. It is found in the fruit that is manifested in her life when she is behind closed doors. James 3:17 says, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy” (nasb).

Intimacy Needs

God created each of us with intimacy needs. According to Dr. David Ferguson and Dr. Don McMinn, we each have ten intimacy needs. Here is a list of the top ten intimacy needs from their book, Top 10 Intimacy Needs:

  1. Acceptance—deliberate and ready reception with a favorable response (Rom. 15:7).

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Mon, 13 June 2016 08:00:00 CST
How to Get People to Respect Your Leadership

Start by making a believer of yourself.

You go home and flop on the couch, feeling the tension that has built in your body. Another day of frustration and indignity, fighting to be heard and recognized, all while wondering why you have to work so hard to be taken seriously.

Do you wish others would accept you and respect you in your leadership role? Do you frequently feel dismissed, ignored, or overlooked? How many times have you felt the people around you—fellow leaders and those you’re leading—don’t really take you seriously?

It’s possible you are trying to lead in a hostile environment, among people who will not respect a woman leader, or who simply won’t cooperate with your leadership style.

It’s also possible that you’re at least part of the problem. Maybe you’re the one who’s not really convinced you should be taken seriously. And maybe it shows.

Do you really believe you belong in leadership? Do you believe you have received gifts from the Holy Spirit, not for your own sake but for the sake of the body of Christ who needs what you have to offer? If you aren’t convinced you belong in your leadership position, you’ll make believers of few others.

When it comes to taking your leadership seriously, you are the most important person you need to convince. Leadership requires confidence, and sometimes it’s helpful to project a sense of confidence that you don’t feel. But it’s so much more effective to develop a genuine confidence, an internal assurance that fuels an outward expression of certainty that you don’t need to fake.

If you don’t have this kind of confidence in your leadership role, consider how your own thoughts and behaviors serve to undermine your own sense ...

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Thu, 9 June 2016 08:00:00 CST
Bravely Live Out Your Calling

Joan of Arc is a prophetic witness for us all.

Despite all odds, an illiterate French woman born more than 500 years ago redefined bravery and contributed to the rise of King Charles. Jehanne, or, as she is now known, Joan of Arc, radically impacted European history and has inspired men, women, and children for generations.

For her first 13 years, Joan’s life followed a traditional path. She grew up in the Catholic church, helped her parents and siblings on their farm, and became proficient in the domestic arts. But as the Hundred Years’ War dragged on and England inched closer to annexing her southern neighbor, the ordinary nature of Joan’s life was forever altered.*

One afternoon when she was alone in her family garden, Joan was surrounded by a great light and heard “a revelation from God by a voice.” This voice told Joan to “be devout, to pray, to frequent the sacraments, and to rely on the Lord for help.” Over the next four years, these voices continued, culminating in a call to protect France’s sovereignty by making it possible for Charles, the heir to the throne, to be crowned King of France.

Embracing the Call

Joan had few examples of radical, female leadership to aid her crusade. During this time, women who wanted to follow Christ typically joined a cloister and devoted themselves to the humble and largely unseen work of prayer and service. This would not be Joan’s trajectory. As her calling became clearer, she seemed to understand that it would require a life of utter abandon to and dependence upon God. She made a vow of chastity, “as long as it should be pleasing to God,” and began to refer to herself as la Pucelle, or the Maid.

When English troops attacked and laid waste to her village of Domrémy ...

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Mon, 6 June 2016 08:00:00 CST
What Do You Do in Your Spare Time?

If you laugh at that question, youre doing ministry wrong.

A couple of weeks ago, I sat with a friend on my couch, a steaming pot of peppermint loose leaf tea on the coffee table in front of us. It was our first meeting as mentor and mentee.

“So,” I asked her, “what do you do in your spare time?” She looked at me and laughed.

“Spare time? What spare time? I hang out with kids—that’s what I do in my spare time!” She smiled and nodded, eager for affirmation, I suppose. Maybe she thought I’d be proud of her choice to knock it out of the ballpark for the kingdom of God. After all, she not only worked in full-time youth ministry, but also volunteered all her extra hours for the same ministry. This was the expectation she placed on herself and on her volunteer leaders.

“Yeah, I get it,” I replied. “But I don’t think it’s the best choice.” The smile faded from her face. I mulled over how best to explain the can of worms I’d just opened. How could I let her know that I’d been there before, that I’d let ministry not just be a lifestyle but my life?

It’s Not My Fault

Not so long ago, I was in the same place. When I stepped into full-time ministry as a 26-year-old, I thought I was ahead of the game because it wasn’t my first job out of college. I was seasoned. I had boundaries. I knew what it meant to take a break and turn off at the end of the day.

But there I was, halfway through the second year of my internship at Young Life, blaming everyone and everything around me for my busyness. I didn’t have room in my schedule to rest, let alone care for myself.

“I have a required seminary class I have to take,” I angrily complained to my fellow interns. “I have ...

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Thu, 2 June 2016 08:00:00 CST
Find Your Natural Rhythm

You cant run full speed all the time.

There is strength in a song that compels us to respond with clapped hands, lifted voices, stomped feet, and waving arms. There is power in a song that can pull on our emotions—make us shed a tear or reflect on an old memory. Sometimes a good tune makes us jump up and dance. It reminds us that we have soul, that we know a little something about rhythm and perhaps blues. Meaningful lyrics evoke a response by reminding us that we are human, connected through this shared experience we call life.

But too often the songs we love most—those things that bring us life—are drowned out by screaming kids, packed schedules, and burdensome responsibilities. When our lives are so consumed with meeting expectations, trying to measure up, and fulfilling the needs of others, we lose sight of ourselves. We forget who we are, what we need and want, and where we’re going. This sense of loss can become a dangerous reality in the life of leaders. To avoid this danger, we must intentionally practice personal leadership, or what I sometimes refer to as self-care or self-leadership.

The Art of Self-Care

Caring for one’s well-being is necessary for those who intend to lead for an extended period, and it requires heightened self-awareness. There are personality tests and leadership diagnostics to help determine your personal needs, strengths, and weaknesses. Sustaining healthy relationships and building an affirming community can help ease some of the emotional strain life may bring. Intentionally developing a natural rhythm that brings purpose and significance to your life, however, are perhaps even more important than relationships and self-awareness.

When I was in the Navy, I worked out daily because it was required of ...

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Tue, 31 May 2016 08:00:00 CST
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