Females in church leadership is a controversial topic, and although I am not normally one to engage in such an emotionally-charged debate, this one continues to bubble up in almost every conversation or leadership engagement I have. Because I come from a spiritually rich and eclectic Christian church background, I have grown to love, understand, and appreciate people and ministries on all sides of this theological issue.
I hope to highlight the issues and help church leaders think more critically about what they believe and how they can be even more intentional about elevating and empowering the female leaders serving on their teams and sitting in their congregations.
One male executive pastor put it this way: “There are all these talented women in our congregation, but it’s like they can’t break through, even as volunteers. We want them to, but we just can’t seem to figure it out.” If we clearly have needs that a female leader could fill and we have qualified women available, what is the holdup? To answer that question, you have to get a little inside a woman’s head.
You have to learn what many of the women in your congregation are battling internally so you can encourage and challenge them in the right ways. Tendencies women have of holding themselves back from growing into leadership have become known as the “sticky floor.” The glass ceiling is one thing, but the sticky floor is often just as limiting, especially in ministry circles.
The key to this issue is to “seek to understand” on an individual basis. Take the time to have conversations with the female leaders you have on your team and in your congregation. Ask them about their stories and how they have impacted their view of themselves as leaders. This is the first and best place to start.