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There has been a long-standing debate about women in leadership in ministry. This is not new, although the way the debate has found its way online makes it feel like it is new. But really, this conversation has gone on for decades, and, if you ask me, we have made very little progress. Both sides use scripture to defend their positions. Both are fully convinced they are right. Both assume God is on their side. And very few have ever “won” someone to the opposing side. To be honest, I’m tired of arguing about it. In fact, I don’t think I want to engage in the debate any longer. What I want to do, instead, is celebrate the gifts women everywhere are already bringing to the table. None of these qualities are exclusive to women, nor do all women possess these traits. But in my many years working in and around churches, and with pastors, I’ve encountered many women who have brought these invaluable traits to the table, and our teams would have been worse off without them. What gifts could you be missing by not engaging the women in your community? 1. Empathy I’ve worked with women who have the ability to empathize with situations, people and circumstances in a way that seemed foreign to me and to many of my colleagues. In fact, there were times when it seemed these women had a sixth sense for what was happening beneath the surface of a conflict, problem or the tension in a meeting. Using their skills of empathy, the women I’ve worked with have been able to navigate these delicate circumstances to achieve a more positive outcome for all involved. 2. Multitasking I don’t mean multitasking in the simplest form of the word. I’m not talking about the ability to walk and talk at the same time. I’m talking about the ability to focus on many different objectives, to see things in a nuanced way and notice the connections between things that someone else might have missed. This is so vital to the church environment because, no matter what we’re working on, there are always multiple layers involved. We are not only trying to accomplish a tangible objective (like putting together a Sunday service) but also need to be in tune to more abstract objectives—like listening to spiritual direction and trying to serve a community of people with unique needs and wants. 3. Gentleness Many of the women I’ve worked with have had the incredible ability to communicate a message in such a way that truth is not sacrificed, but neither is gentleness. Both in public communication and interpersonal communication, I’ve seen hearts softened to a difficult message because of the gift a woman has to communicate in a palatable way. 4. Passion Just because the women I’ve worked with in ministry have been gentle doesn’t mean they haven’t been passionate. In fact, one of the things I love about working with women in the church is that they’re full of ideas and thoughts and aren’t afraid to share what they are thinking. The passion they have is like a strong engine that keeps the vehicle moving, even when things get hard. 5. Relational Savvy Pastoral ministry is incredibly relational, and unless we have people on our leadership team who are gifted with cultivating and developing relationships, our church will suffer. Of course, relational savvy isn’t limited to women, but I’ve watched countless women in ministry be able to navigate difficult relational problems in the workplace and I wouldn’t want to miss out on this quality. 6. Optimism Women tend to be more optimistic than men. They tend to look at the glass as half-full and seek to see opportunities, even in the worst circumstances. This is not just my opinion. It’s proven to be true. Check out this Forbes article. 7. Integrity If you click through the Forbes article, you’ll notice women also tend to display a higher degree of integrity and honor than men. I have to say, in my experience, this is true. Although I’ve worked with all kinds of men and women who have incredible integrity, I’m grateful for the way the women on our teams are open and receptive to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and tend to to point us back to Jesus.
The email stung me. The writer spoke of my negativity about local churches, about how much of my writings are about problems in local congregations. But there was truth in his critique. A lot of my writings do indeed express my concerns about the health and future of congregations. I admit my desire to help church leaders and laypersons confront reality. But balance is needed. There are many traditional or established churches doing things well. And though we can’t make categorical statements about any group of churches, it is indeed true that there are some elements in traditional churches we need to celebrate. Here are five of them. 1. The members have a deep love and concern for one another. Go into many traditional churches and you will see members caring for one another, taking meals to each other and praying consistently for one another. 2. They are loyal to the institution. I have argued in other articles that institutional loyalty taken to an extreme is unhealthy. But the inverse is true as well. Members with no institutional loyalty will move from one church to another with little concern. Traditional church members tend to be fiercely loyal to the churches where they are members. 3. They are passionate about giving to missions. It seems to be in the congregational DNA of many traditional churches. If there is a mission cause put before the church, these members often give abundantly. 4. They offer stability to the congregation. Because of their loyalty and devotion to their church, traditional church members offer stability and steadiness to local congregations. They will continue to give, to serve and to care for others even in challenging times in the church. 5. The members have a historical perspective that can be healthy for the church. Many of them have seen the best of times and the worst of times. The traditional church member has a healthy perspective that realizes God is above the crisis or the situation of the moment. Sometimes just hearing from these members about how the church survived a crisis in the past can be encouragement for the congregation to move to the future. If you have read or heard me in recent years, I have cried out to churches, “Change or die!” I will continue to sound that warning without hesitation. But, in my efforts to sound warnings, I can overlook the good things taking place in many churches, including traditional churches. This article is my apology for being shortsighted toward traditional churches. And it is my opportunity to thank the millions of church members in these congregations for their faithfulness though the years.
If there’s someone in the worship world who feels alone and forgotten, it’s the worship leader who leads a small team. Because you’re not focused on being cool or different. You’re trying to make it through Sunday. You’re trying to give your church the best worship experience possible. But sometimes your drummer doesn’t show up. Your piano player doesn’t know how to keep it simple. Your vocalists don’t have the greatest tone or pitch. Maybe you don’t have a clue what you’re doing. You feel stuck, confused, not sure where to go next. Sound familiar? Leading a small team can be the result of lazy leadership—you don’t recruit, you don’t take the time it takes to grow it. But I’m not talking about that. That’s for another blog post. Sometimes it has to do with where your church is located. Or the size of your church. Or some other dynamics we can’t even see. And I want to encourage you today, small church worship leader, to lift your head high and rise up to the next level. Here are a few steps you can take: 1. Become the Excellence You Want to See: Just being real, sometimes we are the ones who stand in our own way. We can alienate people by our personality. We can frustrate others by our disorganization. Don’t be the reason your team lacks momentum. Step it up and worship, lead, organize and be the excellence you’d love to see spread across your team. 2. Realize What Makes Worship Powerful: You could have the largest team in the world with the best musicians in the world playing the best songs in the world. And still, it could be dry, lifeless, fake. Powerful worship doesn’t consist in the size and quality of your band. It consists in the hunger of the worshipers. How hungry are you? How hungry is your team, no matter how small it is? How hungry is your church? Focus on stoking that flame of desire, no matter how small or inexperienced your team is. 3. Be OK With Simple: I get it—you’d love to provide your church with something more dynamic. They’ve heard the acoustic guitar and cajon long enough. I get it. But just realize that simple is the song of the people. Concert style worship has its place too, but in most local church settings, it doesn’t connect. People don’t believe it. They watch, they don’t engage. They’re not impressed because they didn’t come to be impressed. They’re looking to get close to Jesus. Use your simple setup to your advantage. 4. Take Baby Steps: If you want to try something new, take it one step at a time. Add one new instrument. Simplify your vocal line. Use pad loops or MultiTracks. Try software keys. Provide an online course for your team to go through. Whatever it is, try it one step at a time. Don’t feel the need to overhaul everything quickly. 5. Prioritize People: The reason you are in a local church is to disciple people. That’s also the best way to grow a church. Be present with your church, with your team. Pray for them, challenge them, call them to higher things. Don’t use people to move up in your ministry career. Ministry is and always will be about the people. I’d love to hear from you. What is the size of your church and what are the struggles you are having?