To be a team requires at least two things: unity in purpose and commitment to a group dynamic. In other words, it doesn't mean team if individuals merely work on the same staff as independent contractors who oversee separate domains.

We know, as followers of Christ, that biblically we are all members of one body. We are not to be isolated or in competition with each other. On the contrary, the apostle Paul plainly says that "there should be no division" in the body (1 Cor. 12:25). Instead there should be a striking unity in the body and on our ministry teams.

Regardless of one's view of the role of women in ministry, virtually all Christians agree that ministry teams can be staffed with both males and females. Most of us agree that it's God's plan for men and women to serve him together corporately.

Let me offer some practical insights partly garnered from my own experience and partly gained from others. Three main attitudes—respect, humility, and love—are needed in every leader who wants to harvest the full blessing that a mixed gender team can bring.

Show some respect

Men love to be respected, and they hate to be disrespected, especially by a woman. Though women in the church already know this, they don't always realize what showing respect to men entails. From a woman's perspective, it isn't necessarily disrespectful, for instance, to interrupt a man mid-sentence. Though to him it may appear that she simply cut him off—which is obviously disrespectful—to her she just got excited and overlapped his speech—which is perfectly acceptable, even affirming.

According to Deborah Tannen in You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation, women typically talk simultaneously to each other. To them, doing so is natural, not rude. Women, therefore, may be less sensitive than men to how offensive interrupting can be.

I start with this example, not for the purpose of justifying women who interrupt, but simply to make the point that both men and women can be disrespectful to each other unintentionally.

Not all women approve of overlapping speech. But even those who do probably don't interrupt as an intentional act of disrespect. The offense, more likely, goes unnoticed. But that's exactly the point—disrespect is characterized by inattention to others.

The English word respect literally means to "look again." It comes from the Latin spectare, "to look," and the prefix re-, which means "again." To respect someone is to notice them again instead of being focused on oneself. To respect is "to show esteem, deference, or honor."

Some women in the church do feel esteemed; they see no reason for other women to complain. To be honest, I used to have that mindset myself. For me it was easy to measure things strictly by my own experience and not empathize with women who were struggling.

Back in college when I attended First Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, I was asked to be the teacher of five hundred college students. How was I to know that women in other settings were prohibited from serving as teachers of their peers? Later I learned that my mostly positive experiences were not representative of theirs.

It's hard for people to flourish when they are disrespected, especially by team members. That explains, in part, why many women leaders prefer to work with men. When women disrespect women leaders, problems in the church multiply.

There is also a problem with men not respecting women. At the risk of being too blunt, I dare to say that the reason some pastors pay less respect to women is because that pastor has unresolved issues with his wife.

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Winter 2006: The Drive: Sexualized Culture  | Posted
Administration  |  Church Health  |  Church Staff  |  Men  |  Teamwork  |  Women
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