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From No Experience Necessary to Your Experience Necessary

We can’t afford to make young women wait for their chance to lead

Every job I have applied for, or hired for, has required experience of one kind or another. Software experience. Task experience. Leadership experience. I can't think of one job description I have ever written that included the line "no experience necessary."

Because let's face it: we don't want to take a risk on someone cutting their leadership teeth on our projects and our teams. We know everyone has to get experience somewhere—we would just prefer it be somewhere else. And yet "no experience" may be exactly what is necessary in order to access what is perhaps the church's greatest untapped resource: young women leaders.

Go with me for a moment. Because of the intensity of our world's challenges and the pace at which they are changing, young leaders' voices, ideas, and perspectives are needed now. Their collaborative, connected, and complex approach to life is a different kind of "experience." And we simply don't have the luxury of waiting 10 to 15 years for them to get the experience we think they need.

When I was leading the ministry to women at our church, we hired a seminary student in her early 20's. Aubrey had zero ministry experience but was passionate about theology and eager to learn how that played out practically. She was a little rebellious and outspoken compared to her seminary peers. And yet Aubrey went silent when she joined our team.

I took her to lunch and asked her why she never spoke up in our team meetings. Her eyes filled with tears. She shared with me how her dad was a former pastor and had advised her to keep her head down, work hard, and keep quiet. He told her we were the experts and she was there to listen and learn; to be seen but not heard.

I quickly told Aubrey that success in this role depended on not taking her dad's advice. I assured her our team not only wanted, but needed her input on decisions and ideas for improvement.

Maybe some of our job descriptions need to say, "Your experience necessary."

So if we take the risk and engage young women leaders, how do we do so without all the "green" missteps that come with them? Simple answer: We don't.

When Aubrey began to speak into what we were doing, she was like a breath of fresh air for our ministry. But admittedly, there were times when she misjudged her timing or audience. She was a driven, hard worker who had to learn some new "soft skills" around communication, conflict, and change. And as she benefitted from our leadership experience, we benefitted from her life experience.

April15, 2013 at 8:00 AM

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