How can the church develop women in leadership? How can male pastors support women in ministry? What are the main challenges female leaders face in ministry? And how should you handle an insecure leader?
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In this episode of our Faith Series, Holly and I speak with female leader, consultant, entrepreneur, and author Kadi Cole about women in leadership. Regardless of where you stand theologically on the idea of women in leadership within the church, this is a must-listen episode for those curious about how women can grow God’s kingdom in a biblical way.
We talk through how to understand where your church stands on the issue of female leadership, what to do when you don’t agree with its stance, and why this issue is coming to the forefront now.
Kadi’s Leadership Journey
Kadi grew up as a “lazy kid,” watching TV and drinking Diet Coke with no involvement in school. However, as a teen, God got a hold of her heart. She discovered her “leadership legs” while in high school. Kadi pursued nursing in college and grew as a leader in this field. She later ended up working in leadership roles at a university and later in churches.
One challenge she’s overcome in leadership is shifting her mindset from seeing the potential in people to actually knowing who is worth investing in. Not everyone takes advantage of opportunities, is teachable, or obeys God. She spent her first five to 10 years confused why some people were great to lead while others were difficult.
“It’s not about their potential … it’s about their willingness to follow through on the potential given to them.”
She’s found connecting the dots between her effort and the impact on someone’s life to be rewarding.“The goal of leadership is to make people better through the art of work.” Click To Tweet
Developing Women in Leadership
Kadi recently wrote the book “Developing Female Leaders”. Initially, she wasn’t sure if women in leadership was a “hill she wanted to die on,” primarily because she didn’t have a lot of clarity in her own life. She just wanted to serve the church with excellence in her giftedness.
Then she had three experiences with male senior or executive pastors who asked for advice on how to help female leaders on their teams. As she coached pastors, she realized there were phrases and opportunities that weren’t received by the women leaders in the way the male leaders intended. She realized that there was an awareness of and movement toward women in leadership.
“None of us is doing a great job fully living up to what we believe women can contribute in the kingdom.”
The Main Challenges Women Face When Serving in Churches
The challenges fall into two main buckets:
- The “Stained Glass Ceiling,” which are things in the system, culture, or mindset that aren’t in our control because we’re not in charge, e.g. equal titles, equal pay, funding for certain ministries.
- The “Sticky Floor,” which are beliefs we’ve adopted over time that hold us back, e.g. gender biases passed down from our family of origin, theology taught by our denomination. We question ourselves because we lack our own clarity. We have to own our sticky issues.
How Views of Women in Leadership Have Changed Over Time
We’re in the midst of a cultural shift. We have Boomer and Gen X male leaders with wives and daughters who are well-trained and well-educated who want a seat at the leadership table.“It doesn’t really matter your theology; it’s about your mentality of how can I release the gifts of the women God has brought to my congregation.”Click To Tweet
We need to have hard conversations about what we believe and what beliefs we’ve inherited.
How to Determine Where Your Church Stands Theologically
Grab your free download of the “Theological Cheat Sheet,” which will give you language to have a logical conversation with church leadership. When you want change, “you have to come at it with a combination of honest advocacy and authentic humility.”
Then go to your leader and ask with kindness and patience about the theological beliefs of your church. Give grace to that leader that you may have caught them off guard with your question.“We have to make space for one another as brothers and sisters to go into hard topics with some grace, patience, and love for one another to get to a place of common understanding.”Click To Tweet
We don’t have to agree, but we do need to understand.
What To Do if You Don’t Agree with Your Church’s Stance on Women in Leadership
First, make sure you’ve done your own work with Lord. Do you know what He says for your life? Give yourself the freedom to change over time.
Then be very clear on where the church stands theologically and where the culture is practically.
If you disagree with the theology, you do need to leave the church unless you can set aside your beliefs for the sake of the kingdom because you’ve been called to that church.
If you agree with the theology, but disagree with the culture, this is the place to lead change. Step into what God’s given you. Show up.
“Having the position is the easy part. Creating change, leading from the middle, doing things that aren’t your direct responsibility or authority–that’s where real leadership comes into play.”
Why This Issue Is Coming Up Now
Movements start with godly people stepping up and speaking out against cultural norms that are harmful. Currently, there’s not an integrity between what we believe and how we behave.
We have to get on the front end of this. The church needs to be the most integrated place.“We have to get better at learning how to connect with people different than us.” Click To Tweet
How Women Can Handle Insecure Leaders
Know where your calling is, and be confident and secure in your job regardless of circumstances.
When Kadi has served under insecure leaders, she’s shrunk below their level of insecurity. Her new goal is to be both honest and honoring.“It is certainly not my job to maximize insecurities.”Click To Tweet
Out of love, be respectful and honoring while being honest about what you bring to the table.
How You Can Tackle the Topic of Women in Leadership with Women who Disagree With You
Godly people will defend God’s truth. The challenge is that we disagree about what God’s Word says. Women are for God’s Word first so listen. Be curious. Don’t make assumptions.
Not only do we disagree theologically, some women have been brought up differently about women in leadership. When they see younger women in leadership, they may feel as if everything they’ve been told and their foundational faith have shifted. There’s a clash between theology, generational norms, culture, and our own calling.
“We need to give space in the kingdom for all of us to have a place at the table.”Click To Tweet
Connect with Kadi Cole:
Kadi Cole has spent the last twenty-five years studying leadership and organizational development, most recently serving as an Executive Director at one of America’s largest and fastest growing multi-site churches. She is passionate about helping local churches thrive and equipping leaders to fulfill their calling.
Kadi is a true visionary, ahead of her time in teaching churches to harness the God-given talents in their congregations. While we are all called to serve, Kadi helps men and women navigate the unique challenges that may arise in pursuit of that call together. Kadi is an engaging, practical, and down-to-earth speaker and writer on a variety of topics related to leadership, organizational development, spiritual growth, parenting, and living a full life.
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