Let’s Take Women’s Leadership Seriously
Saleama A. Ruvalcaba
In John C. Maxwell’s book Developing the Leader Within You, he explains that the majority of people believe being a leader is a position or title. Most often we strive for a title or status and believe that once we achieve the particular status, we become leaders. He goes on to challenge readers by asking what type of leaders they are. Hitler was a leader. Jim Jones was also a leader.
My first few years as a new believer were extremely difficult, and since then 1 have worked hard to become the leader that God wants me to be. The road I traveled in developing my leadership skills was fraught with uncertainty and dismay. After a year at my church, as a fairly new believer, I was asked to assume a leadership role in the women’s ministry. As you can imagine, I was thrilled. I knew that God had called me into ministry, so I believed I had “arrived.” However, it was not the arrival that I had anticipated. I was totally unprepared for the high school-like, drama-filled atmosphere that defined much of the leadership functioning in the women’s ministry.
In the church that I attended, I saw hundreds of hurting people, and many among them were the women we were supposed to be serving. Witnessing the pain and need around me, I had no idea why I, as a new believer, had been asked to lead in such a large role. I could have understood it more if I had been asked and then properly trained to serve. At that time, I brought good intentions and willingness to serve, but little else in the way of training.
Unfortunately, my experience represents normal procedure in a lot of churches. Women’s ministry is marginalized and viewed as a social function rather than a vehicle to reach out to the hurting women in our communities and to train future leaders. During my first year in women’s ministry leadership, I spent a lot of time in planning meetings and not once was a woman’s salvation brought up. We never discussed who accepted the Lord each month. We never discussed who followed up with the women who did accept Jesus. We never discussed how to implement more activities to help women thrive as they began a new journey with Christ. We did, however, discuss how we could add more programs. We did discuss who was not acting in a loving way toward other women inside the body. We never prayed for the women who we “judged” as not being loving; we simply criticized them. In retrospect, the process was much like some of my high school pep club experiences. We quickly dismissed substantive topics to move on to the “juicier topics” that involved gossip, judgment, and criticism.
This first year in leadership caused me to rethink and explore the role of leadership in the women’s ministry. How do we recognize a leader? A true leader in the women’s ministry is a person of positive influence. We are called into leadership to be the hands and feet of Jesus, not to fulfill our personal agendas. Nor are we tasked with creating simple social outlets for the women in our congregations. We have a far greater responsibility to the women we serve. The living God requires no less from women than from men, and he expects women to be given the same tools to lead to their salvation.
I became so frustrated and disenchanted with what I perceived to be my failure as a leader that I removed myself from that role. However, I could not get beyond the feeling that God had called and I had not responded as he expected.
A few years later, my family relocated to a new church. It had been several years since I had served in women’s ministry. Without realizing it, I had lost the passion God gave me to serve.
Unfortunately, I looked at my failure in serving as a reflection on myself when in reality, it was more a reflection on not having proper training. When I was a child, my grandmother would often say, “God gave man tools and skills so that man could build strong structures.”
The memory of my grandmother’s saying was brought back to me on a Sunday morning at my new church, when I heard an announcement that the fall session of a leadership training program called “Timothy” was about to begin. This 12-week program prepares men and women to serve in whatever capacity the Lord leads them. Only 6 people would be chosen to participate. I submitted my application and was one of the people chosen. During the 12 weeks, we read 12 different books on leadership, prayer, spiritual warfare, and being an armor bearer. We had to write a paper on each book, attended classes with the senior pastor each week, and were allowed only two excused absences.
After completing the leadership program, I understood what being a leader for God was about and I was excited again to be on this journey with him. Finally, I realized that when God calls us to serve we must answer, “Yes, Lord, I will make myself ready and worthy by using the tools and skills that you have provided.” Soon after the “Timothy” program, I began to serve on the hospitality team at church. I love being one of the first smiling faces people see as they come into the house of the Lord. In addition, I assumed a board position on the Christian homeschool group our family belongs to. I am eager and excited as I put my new training into practice.
Becoming an effective leader requires more than good intentions and the willingness to serve; it requires proper training and preparation. We owe it to God, ourselves, our communities, and those hurting in our churches to be well-trained for kingdom work.
As women, it is important that we are serious about our leadership roles. It is very easy to get caught up in popularity, and when that happens we have lost complete focus on God and what he has called us to do. Additionally, to be effective in women’s ministry it is necessary to understand that women are not the secondary or cheering section of the congregation. We are not simply to be relegated to roles as ushers, hostesses for teas, and sponsors for congregational social gatherings. Instead, as we serve in these areas, we should understand that we are a vital part of the church body and we need to be grounded and informed in the tenets of our faith and committed to actions and behaviors that lead us to our Lord and Savior.
In my new church home, I have seen God move when there is total and complete unity inside the body. Preparation and training have given us a unity of purpose and a common direction. The women in the ministry are using newly acquired skills to heal, deliver, and save. We recognized that our answer to God’s call was in the proper preparation and training necessary to do his work. If successful, we can do just as Jesus told his disciples: “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Saleama A. Ruvalcaba is a wife and mother of four. She is a home educator and Bible student working toward a degree in Theological Studies at The King’s University. Saleama is an avid reader and enjoys her calling as an author, writing as the Lord leads her.
The above article, “Let’s Take Women’s Leadership Seriously” was written by Saleama A. Ruvalcaba. The article was excerpted from www.christianitytoday.com web site. April 2011.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”