I’ve written extensively this year on the role of church. One of the foundations that sits in the background, but has not yet been expressed is the need for women in church leadership. The doctoral program that I am in has worked extensively on understanding the theology of women in ministry. Today I’d like to look at the practical aspects of this discussion.
I walk into this discussion with deep humility. I am well aware that the issue is complex, and many highly respected men and women do not agree with my viewpoint.
However, as a recent article in Leadership Journal points out, our femaleness and maleness both demonstrate parts of God’s nature, and “the core divide in humanity is across the genders. If the way that we’re manifesting the gospel within our churches is not addressing this primary divide, we’re not truly reflecting what the gospel asks us to do—bring reconciliation to the world.”
So in this article, we will address some of the basic aspects of what it is to be male and female through the lens of brain science.*
Guarding the Organization
How do men and women approach life and leadership differently? And why should any leadership team be comprised of both sexes?**
First, let’s consider the way that men and women guard an organization. Men, whose brain chemistry moves toward action under stress, tend to be systems protectors. Women, whose brain chemistry focuses toward conversation under stress, tend to be process protectors. One can easily visualize how these two stress responses work in tandem to help a church.
Many churches have started a large change campaign only to find a good portion of their membership has jumped ship part way through the process. The system was being protect by change, but the process did not ensure that the people stuck with the system.
Other churches face the painful transitions caused by pastoral moral failures.
Personally, I believe that men need women at the table as colleagues in order to avoid this sort of devastation. Women colleagues can help a leadership team move forward with integrity. Women will tend to bring a different view. In general, men focus on the goal, women focus on how we get there. When women are given an equal voice at the table, they will be able to help steer an organization to avoid pitfalls, and provide new insights to avoid failures.
How we view leadership
The second area to consider is how men and women view leadership. (I’ve spoken on this some in recent weeks.) Men tend to view leadership as boxes in a hierarchy. Women tend to see leadership in net-like (or web-like) structures. This may be is the physiological reason that men don’t connect with women in leadership – they can’t see them. In other words, when men look for a colleague, they look for a suitable box while women are working with nets. In fact, when I took this language to women co-laborers, they didn’t even want to talk about a web of multiple boxes. Instead they viewed themselves as wearing multiple hats. We are mom, wife, cook, pastor, writer, speaker, coach, etc. each as a different hat. When women are asked for their occupation, they may find it very hard to define one specific “box.”
Therefore, education of both sexes is vital. Men who understand the need for net-like support within the organization will look for net-builders; and women who understand the need to be clearly identified within a hierarchy will work to bring definition to their life and calling beyond the structure and nature of their relationships.
The dual approaches of men and women in leadership situations complement each other and enhance our work. An organization that raises up women to work alongside men in leadership will be stronger, more self-aware, and better protected – not just from the outside, but from the inside as well.
So what do you think? Please use the comments section below to add to the conversation.
*It is important to understand that the statements herein are generalizations and thus stated as absolutes. Individuals may place themselves closer to the center, as no two brains are wired exactly the same. In fact, Gurian and Annis suggest that women who have been trained to male leadership roles operate more as a third sex – a mix of both male and female leadership tendencies.
**(For more information on this, you can read the book Leadership and the Sexes: Using Gender Science to Create Success in Business. by Gurian and Annis)