Training and Leadership Development in Ladies Ministry
Until fairly recently feminine leadership in the church was considered by many to be an oxymoron. Women were not supposed to be leaders, just followers supporting leaders. Of course, this presented a problem for women to whom the spiritual gifts of leading, administration, and teaching were given. Did the Holy Spirit make a mistake? Were they given these gifts to frustrate them because there was no place for them to serve? (1 Corinthians 12:11). All these spiritual gifts are the work of one and the same Spirit, and He gives them to each one, just as He determines: “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7). The church has not historically given gifted women a significant place to serve with all the gifts for the edification of the whole body. Yet as we have seen already, God has assigned at least one ministry to women that only women can do (besides being a wife and mother), and that ministry is investing in the lives of other women.
Surely this provides a place for their gifts, creativity, and relational skills to have complete freedom to develop and be a blessing to others. Titus 2:3-5 is clear that spiritually mature women are to teach and train the generations following them, and they are also to be role models of godly womanhood. It’s obvious, isn’t it, that only a woman can both teach and role model what it looks like for a woman to live to please God? That’s something men cannot do. So our ministry is vital. I’m not implying that this is the only area where women can exercise their leadership ability in the local church; there are many things we can do. But this unique area is our baby! No one can do it but us!
The Need Recognized
Today as more churches are recognizing the need to have biblical women’s ministries relevant to the needs of today’s women, the issue of developing leadership in women becomes critical.
What does feminine leadership look like? Does it mean that women become like men in the way they lead? Does it mean that we take a strident, militant, feminist posture? Does it mean that we go around with a permanent chip on our shoulders? Does it mean that we put aside our natural feminine qualities-our nurturing capabilities and our relational skills in order to be good leaders? The answer is an emphatic NO! Rather, we should bring to leadership those very qualities that define womanhood and bring all the advantages that our gender offers to the leadership of women. The feminine face of leadership will be as distinctive as the difference between men and women.
Jesus the Leadership Model
The comprehensive image of God is the male and female together. Each of us is personally created in God’s image, yet there are distinctive differences in the way that image is reflected in the male and female so that we complement and complete each other. That distinctiveness should be evident in the way we lead. We women have a unique contribution to make to everything we touch. Whatever our role, we should want to realize the potential God has for us as women. The only man whose leadership style we should follow is our Lord Jesus Christ. We want to be the kind of leader Jesus was.
As always, Jesus is our best model in any area of life. We will be considering a number of aspects of leadership development involved in women’s ministry following His example. Jesus observed, recruited, developed, and supported those He called to follow Him. Let’s consider together how we can bring those same aspects of leadership development to bear in the lives of the women we lead in Women’s Ministries.
Getting people involved in various areas of service gives us the chance to observe their talents and gifts. We can see how well they work as a team member, respecting what the other person has to do and say and cooperating with them. Do they get their job done on time? Do they procrastinate? Are they wise in how they use their time?
Do they volunteer for more than they have time to really do well? Do they always seek recognition and prominence? Are they punctual or always rushing in ten minutes late?
I remember a woman who had many qualifications for leadership except for the fact that she was chronically about forty-five minutes late for everything she had to do, not just in regard to church. This was something she never chose to deal with; thus it disqualified her from serving with us as well.
What do you observe that a person does well and does not do well? Sometimes a very creative person will get so bogged down in details that she fails to communicate the total picture well. Therefore, people become frustrated as they try to help her. In that case, help her see that she will need someone to come alongside to assist her in communication and organization, and to help her clarify what she needs to accomplish. In a good team, each member makes a significant contribution to the whole.
I am often asked how we select members for the Women’s Ministries Board. We do not hold elections. Women are invited to serve. Since each board member is committed to a two-year term, we stagger their terms so only half go off the board each May. We start as early as January to discuss potential candidates for these positions. However, we are always looking for women to develop as leaders who have shown commitment to the Women’s Ministries Program.
Here are some of our considerations.
*May have taught electives
*Often volunteer to serve
*Demonstrate responsibility and skill in service
*Show a love for God in all they do
*Love and care for other women
*Are members of our church
We also look at their giftedness. For instance, when we look for an outreach coordinator, we want someone who can organize, delegate, and supervise the various ministries under her care. When we want a hospitality coordinator, we look for a woman who is warm, creative, and hospitable in her own home. When the board agrees unanimously to invite a woman to fill a position, I call or visit personally with her.
After encouraging her about my observations of her interest and enthusiastic support of Women’s Ministries, I ask her several questions, such as those below and give appropriate explanations and encouragement:
*Are you a member of the church?
If the answer is no, are you willing to become a member of the church?
If she is not, everything else I will say is dependent upon her being willing to join. (We do not require church membership for participation in Women’s Ministries Programs, but we do require it for a board position.)
*How involved are you this coming year in other activities?
If she has many commitments, I ask if any are ending soon. If none are, I suggest waiting for another year. If some are ending, I continue and explain the position that is open, describing some of its responsibilities.
*Does this position suit your interests and your gifts?
It is essential to ask this question, and it will free the woman from a sense of guilt if she is truly not suited to the position.
*Are you willing to make a two-year commitment?
As mentioned before, a two-year commitment allows for staggered terms and the training of new people. When setting up a board initially, it will be necessary to start with half of the members serving for either one year, or three. From then only one-half of the board will complete their term each year and that will provide needed continuity for the board.
When the woman expresses an interest, I make clear from the start that we are asking that the Women’s Ministries Program take priority over her other activities outside her home and family responsibilities during her service on the board. Jesus taught that it was important to count the cost before making a commitment (Luke 14:28).
If she is involved in a parachurch organization, I always encourage her but suggest that serving on the Women’s Ministries Board provides her with relationships with and ministry to women of her own church. I am grateful to these many groups that equip women in the Scripture and train them to serve. We are not in competition with them. Rather, we need to give these equipped women opportunity for significant ministry in the local church. We have many women who have invested their lives in our ministry, and I think it is significant that in the fourteen Women’s Ministries
Boards I’ve served with, only three women ever repeated their service. This variety has resulted in continual development of new methods to accomplish our goals to equip and mentor women. We are always grooming leadership at every age. Each year there are a variety of ages on the board.
Not only do we enjoy a diversity of ages; we also strive to reach out with economic and educational diversity. Again we follow in this the example of Jesus. The twelve disciples came from a wide spectrum of society, from tax collectors to fishermen. Jesus called them to follow Him and to work together in a unity formed from diversity.
In today’s church culture, we have women who have a wide range of educational and economic backgrounds. Many young women have high levels of education. A young lawyer whose limited practice from her home allowed her to care for her young family led one of our electives. Her elective was called “Legal Matter Chatter,” dealing with common legal issues women face daily. Another woman, self-educated in the stock market, led another very popular elective called Stock Market 101.
We also utilize diverse levels of spiritual maturity. There are many places in the program where even a person recently coming to faith can serve effectively. I remember a neighbor of one of our women coming to the Bible study and when we asked for those interested in leading an elective, she volunteered to lead a step aerobics class, as she did this professionally. Since we were not certain of her spiritual maturity, we asked a mature leader to team with her and to handle the shepherding aspects of the class, to get to know her better and to minister to her. This young woman encouraged by nurturing support became one of our most enthusiastic members.
Ladder of Leadership
In many ways Women’s Ministries provides a ladder of leadership development. The beginning rungs include jobs, although important, where failure to complete them adequately would not destroy the program. As you move up the ladder, the level of responsibility grows and the impact of unfaithfulness or irresponsibility is greater. Sharing hostessing responsibilities with coffee and snacks or sharing committee responsibilities in planning events are good places to train and test your volunteers. As we just discussed, leading electives gives greater opportunity to observe faithfulness and can accommodate volunteers. However, other jobs, such as serving on the board and teaching responsibilities are those that need to be filled with women chosen rather than filled with untested volunteers.
If you think of these broad areas of service, you can see that in many places leadership
Part of my job in helping a person learn to delegate might be to ask her to give me a list of committee heads under her assignment within a certain time frame, for example, two weeks. Delegation develops people, and that is one of our main goals in the Women’s Ministries Program.
Recently I spoke at a Christmas banquet where they began a Women’s Ministries Program along our guidelines. This was their Christmas dinner. Throughout the meal two of the leaders peppered me with questions. “How do you get women to volunteer? How do you get women to take responsibility? What do you do if they don’t do their job?”
I discovered that the entire dinner, the cooking and the decorations, had fallen almost entirely on these two women. They were discouraged and burned out. I asked if they had committees for these different jobs. Yes, they had. What kinds of reports had they had on their progress?
Well, they had asked the various chairmen, “How is the dinner coming?” “Fine,” came back the answer.
However, at the last minute, one chairman became ill, and nothing had been done, so it fell to those two women to pick up the slack.
I suggested that in their follow-up they needed much more specific information. They needed the names of each person assigned to specific tasks. They needed to know exactly how much each one had completed or what her plans were at least one month prior to the event.
Accountability in Teaching
Another important area of accountability concerns what is being taught. I heard one of our teachers, an avid pet lover, say in answer to a question during one of her lessons that she was sure there would be pets in heaven. She said it with humor, but a Bible teacher has an authority given by Scripture, and it concerned me. Words spoken from a podium impact the hearers greatly.
After praying about it, I made the opportunity to speak to her. First, I praised her for the lesson and all the insights she had shared. Then I asked her about her statement. What passage in Scripture supported it? I suggested that we must make a clear distinction between what we wish or hope to be true and what we know for certain the Bible teaches. She was very gracious, understood what I meant, and thanked me. I felt I was protecting her ministry as an effective teacher and protecting those who relied upon her teaching as well.
I always listen to tapes of teachers I have not personally heard. Once, upon hearing a tape of a woman recommended as a retreat speaker, I was mystified. She spent the first fifteen minutes telling jokes like a stand-up comedian. She hardly used any Scripture at all. Her entire message consisted of a potpourri of thoughts about many subjects. This kind of teaching would definitely not build our women spiritually. Don’t ask speakers to come just because they are well known. Ask instead, “Do they teach God’s Word? Do they make it relevant to our lives today?”
When we invite a woman to speak for Bible studies or for retreats or luncheons, we also ask her to include the gospel. We assume that there is usually someone in the audience who does not know the Lord. We always encourage our women to bring friends and neighbors.
We had a woman with an important position in Washington, D.C., speak at our Christmas luncheon. Since we had asked her to do so, she gave her own personal testimony. She shared how she came to faith in Christ and continued by telling us how her present, unique position stretched her as she trusted the Lord to overcome her fears and enable her to do her job well. Later over lunch I thanked her for giving the gospel so clearly. She told me she had never done it previously as a part of her message. She included it because we specifically asked her to, but she said she would make it a regular part of her messages in the future.
Clear lines of authority and responsibility help develop leaders as well. Everyone involved in Women’s Ministries activities is accountable to the board. The board is responsible to supervise every area and help wherever there is a need. But when someone is not doing her job, she must be confronted lovingly but firmly. The solution is not to do it for her, as the women trying to prepare the Christmas banquet did.
Most of us prefer to avoid confrontation. We don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. We don’t want people to go away, mad. We don’t want to discourage them from serving. We don’t want them to say bad things about us.
But bear in mind, when God gives us spiritual responsibility for the welfare of others, we must be diligent to help them develop in various ways. Self-control is one of the stated areas in which Titus 2 instructs the older women to train the younger women. Helpful and specific follow-up, as well as using people in the area of their giftedness, provides opportunities for success.
Jesus and his disciples spent much time together. A working retreat provides time not only to develop leadership but to develop deeper relationships as well.
We select our board replacements for outgoing members by February. Then the new members coming on can work alongside the persons they are replacing and become familiar with their responsibilities. In early May we have an overnight retreat with the current board and the new members. We also invite past board chairmen for their input as well.
This is a working retreat. Before coming everyone is asked to revise her job description, bringing it up-to-date. We first take time for prayer and for some encouragement from the Bible. Then we review the entire year’s program and consider such questions as these:
*What should we change?
*What should we continue?
*What works most effectively?
*What needs to be improved?
*What did we enjoy most?
*What should we add?
*What was most difficult?
*Who might be a good Bible teacher?
*What new women who have not served previously might we invite to serve on committees?
*What new areas of outreach or support groups might we consider?
We thoroughly discuss everything. We also plan the next year’s calendar so that our schedule can be placed on the church calendar as soon as possible to avoid scheduling conflicts where we can.
Evaluation and Feedback
This kind of continual evaluation and feedback, not only from the board but also from the entire body of women served by the Women’s Ministries Program, strengthens our ministry. We build it into the process throughout. We are continually surveying for interest areas and evaluating the effectiveness of the various aspects of the programs.
We are committed to stay open to change whenever it seems we are losing our edge. I also seek feedback from the staff and pastors in my contacts with them. In this rapidly changing world, this kind of flexibility protects us from becoming obsolete.
I like to think that we have created an atmosphere open to innovation. Many of our outreach and elective ministries have come when someone has an idea or burden. If she or someone else will head it, we are open to giving it a try.
There are just a few basic parameters. The ministry must be squarely based on biblical truth, and there must be someone willing to take responsibility for leading it.
We worship a creative God, and we are open to following His direction in our Women’s Ministries Program.
Moving People to Change
“Moving people to change is the essence of leadership. Ten per cent of any group will be early adapters who respond eagerly to new ideas. At the other end will be the 10 percent who will never change. The 80 percent in between will move slowly in new directions.” Women never cease to amaze me with the extent of their creativity and new ideas.
Every time we fill a board position with a new person, she brings new ideas and methods to her area. Each of us should have a realistic view of our own strengths and weaknesses, and our areas of interest and disinterest. Then we’ll appreciate the creativity of others. We won’t get stuck in the rut of doing the same things over and over. We’ll drop programs that have run their course and start new ones as needs are expressed.
I have found that the way to lead women is to give them responsibility with guidelines. And within the framework of those guidelines she is free to be as creative as she can be. But she is also accountable to the leaders, the staff, and the board. She is not a loose cannon doing her own thing. There’s a fine balance here. They are accountable, but as their leaders we are responsible to help them be the best they can be.
The above article, “Training and Leadership Development in Ladies Ministry” was written by Vickie Kraft. The article was excerpted from the book Women Mentoring Women.
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.”