This past weekend I enjoyed the a privilege of sharing at the Christians for Biblical Equality Australian conference on the topic ‘Raising Women as Leaders’. This post is a summary of the first part of this workshop. The second part will follow in coming days.
As with anyone, male or female, the key to raising leaders is growing disciples. Leaders are disciples who understand how to disciple others. Discipleship is imitating Christ, surrendering to His Lordship and being obedient to His leading.
When it comes to discipling women there are 6 key areas we need to focus on:
Male or female one of the key things we need to disciple people in is character. Understanding their identity in Christ, and learning to surrender every part of themselves to the Lordship of Christ. It’s a life on life process, that requires time, investment, and walking with them in the every day. It won’t happen in one hour once a month!
One of the things I have experienced over the years is the incredible growth for women’s characters around having children and raising a family. Nothing teaches the core heart of servant leadership more than having children! Your life is no longer your own, nor is your personal space, your right to clean clothes, trips to the toilet… you get the picture!
So many people see this time, especially if women leaders step out of ministry as a ‘break’ or ‘time away’ from preparing for leadership. Please, let me encourage you, don’t stop discipling women because they have kids, keep investing! They need it, and it will be one of the most fruitful times of character development you will ever see!
Obviously one of the things we need to disciple people in is skills. The ability to grow and engage in different tasks. If you haven’t seen the leadership square that 3DM uses, or the apprenticeship model which is common in leadership circles, check it out. https://firstcoastmissional.org/the-discipleship-square-multiplying-disciples/
This is key when aiming to grow competency in women. It explains the drop in confidence you can sometimes see after starting a task, and the value of gradually handing over responsibility. Walking alongside women as you train them in competency helps to encourage them to step into new spaces.
For women, this one is key. In ministry situations, when people are questioning your right to lead, your right to preach, you need be 100% clear on your calling.
We need to disciple women to understand their gifting, their personality, and what God is calling them into. We need to help them to understand who God has created them individually to be and to do, and help them step into that calling.
Women! Our first call, is to be obedient to Jesus. If you know your calling, you need to be obedient to it. We need to not let fear stop us! Step forward, be brave. If God has called you into it, he will guide you through it.
We need to disciple capacity into our women leaders. We need to grow their ability to use their gifts and their influence in different settings. This means nothing less than pulling them alongside and giving them real tangible opportunities to stretch and use their gifts.
One of my commitments here has been to intentionally share the platform with young women I am discipling. If I’m invited to speak, I usually seek to bring one of the women I am discipling with me, and give them a chance to speak as part of the presentation. If I have a significant ministry task to do, I seek to ask who can I walk through this with? Women need significant, tangible experiences to stretch their capacity and grow as leaders.
We need to disciple our young women to be courageous and resilient. #ThingsOnlyChristianWomanHear is a great example of why. Life and ministry for young women is still an uneven playing field. There are people who will come against you from a theological perspective, denying your right to speak and lead. Even when theologically people support women, there is still an unconscious bias that women must stand against. It's not an easy road. We need to raise women of courage. Women resilient to the careless comments of others. Women resilient to verbal attacks. Women resilient to some who will walk out of the room when they stand to preach. Women who will be resilient even when people leave the church when they are appointed as a pastor.
Let’s not sell the women we are discipling a ministry of puppies and rainbows! Let’s prepare them appropriately to withstand the battle.
Finally, we need to disciple women in the context of community. I think one of the devil’s key schemes is to make people feel isolated. That’s easy when you’re the only woman in your ministry, or workplace, or boardroom. Discipling women in groups gives them a place to process all those #ThingsOnlyChristianWomanHear, and a place of trust and encouragement to continue living out their calling.
It is also a way for men to more easily engage in discipling women. Gather 4-6 leaders together and journey together. Disciple a mixed group, I do it in groups no larger than 6 ideally. 3DM uses the term huddle for these groups, we simply call them discipleship groups. Small groups of leaders gathering together in an environment of encouragement and accountability to process what God is leading them into and how they are responding to Him. Women are often quicker to trust and launch head first into vulnerability in these spaces, which can be a great lead for the men in the group to do the same.
Let's invest in discipling women, and seeking to raise up a community of courageous women with leadership capacity, competent in skills and character, knowing their calling and not afraid to step into it!