Lost Leaders

Is the church in danger of losing its next generation of women leaders?

A couple of years ago a leadership mentor challenged me with a tough statement. She said, "Jenni, how you steward your influence as a leader will directly impact the rest of the women in your church." That statement has haunted me ever since.

I'm ashamed to admit that up until that conversation, my leadership had been very me-centric. I was worried about me instead of being intentional about developing other leaders, especially the young women leaders around me. In fact, I wasn't even sure who the young women leaders were in our church. There were hundreds of 20- to 30-something women coming in and out of our doors each week, but I was seeing very few of them lead.

I knew it wasn't because they didn't have the potential. Statistics tell us that there are more single women in the U.S. than married, and those who do marry wait until age 30, on average, to do so. Women also are more educated than ever before.

I also learned by way of conversations and observations that many of the single women in our church were serving at local non-profits and other organizations throughout our city. They want to serve; they have time to serve. But their volunteer and leadership horsepower wasn't being put to use in the church. Why?

Simply put, we hadn't made it obvious that there was a place for them to serve in the church. And I, as a female leader in our church, hadn't made a way for them. If you had asked me, I would have said, "Of course we have places for women to volunteer as leaders." But we hadn't made these opportunities obvious to today's up-and-coming women leaders whose lives look a lot different from their predecessors at church. We hadn't adjusted our communication and our volunteer opportunities to the shifts that have taken place in the lives of these young women.

I started to look for ways to actively engage their gifts and strengths. I began to realize that if we didn't engage them, we'd lose them. How about your church? Have you found effective ways to build relationships with younger women who possess skills, passion, and time to invest in the church? Here are some questions to help you evaluate whether you're making a way for them to lead at your church:

• Where do women most visibly serve in your church? The cafe, the nursery? How about production, on stage, on leadership teams?

• What percentage of your key leaders are women?

• When do you offer women's groups and at what times? Are they mostly during the day and targeted to moms? Or do you have evening groups and subjects that connect with professional women and singles?

March 23, 2011 at 4:09 PM

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