Gender plays a significant role when we talk about how women and men can lead well together in the church and workplace. As a lead pastor of a church and a program director at a seminary, I have come to see that it is both an opportunity as well as a challenge to co-labor with men in leadership. It doesn’t take long to realize that we will never be done learning to do this well. Though it hasn’t always been easy, I believe that it is well worth the effort.
Here are a few things I have learned over the years to help establish healthy and effective leadership alongside men in the church.
1. Solidify your commitment to mutuality and co-laboring.
If you’re going to lead with men, or anyone different from you for that matter, you need to be committed to team leadership and mutuality. The vision in the creation narrative in Genesis is that of women and men created to work together as image bearers of God and coworkers tasked with caring for the earth.
This vision is so compelling that it inspires me to push through the hard work of leading with people different than me. If we are going to lead well with men, we need to be committed to God’s vision of men and women coming together to bear God’s image—something we do much better together than apart. If we are going to do this well for the long haul, we need to be committed even when it becomes challenging.
2. Determine his experience with leading alongside women.
When we are on a team with a man, the most loving thing we can do is figure out where they are in the process of leading with women. At times I have found myself on a team with men who have not had much experience leading with women. It’s not that they don’t want to or that they don’t appreciate hearing from women, it simply has not been typical for them.
So I figure out where he’s at when it comes to leading with women. Is it a new experience for him, or does he have a moderate amount of experience? Is he just beginning to see how to create space for women on the team, or does he have a track record of lifting up women’s voices? This will help you understand the right balance between encouragement and challenge to offer as you work with him. Working through difficult challenges like this doesn’t happen overnight. It may even feel like swimming upstream at times. And let’s not forget that we have an enemy that trips us up because he would rather we didn’t co-labor for God’s kingdom.