Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Halee Gray Scott’s new book Dare Mighty Things: Mapping the Challenges of Leadership for Christian Women (Zondervan, 2014).
God calls and equips women to lead just as much as he does so with men. Yet women face more challenges than men as they try to serve God and other people in leadership roles. That’s because, too often, churches and other Christian organizations have failed to cast a comprehensive vision of what God can accomplish in and through the lives of women.
Many women sense God’s call to lead in a variety of different ways – from starting a Bible study or a food pantry, to serving in a pastoral role at church or as an executive at a nonprofit organization – but tragically lack the opportunities, encouragement, and support they need to do the work God is calling them to do.
If you’re a woman who senses God calling you to dare to do something mighty for his kingdom, don’t be afraid to step out to do so. Despite the leadership challenges you might face, you can count on God himself to make it possible for you to accomplish whatever he calls you to do. Here’s how you can dare to do mighty things for God as a woman:
Dare to believe that you can make a significant, positive difference in the world. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you that your life matters, you’re gifted and called by God, and you’re needed to join his redemptive work in the world. Since God promises to work through you when you trust and rely on him, choose to do so every day, and God will give you the faith, confidence, and power you need to do your leadership work well.
Recognize the value of taking risks. It’s worthwhile to take risks in your quest to serve God as a leader because the process of taking risks helps you grow into a stronger person. Whether you succeed or fail, doing something risky can: expand your vision of what’s possible; build your character; and help you develop the skills, confidence, and attributes you need to navigate life’s difficult situations well.
Focus on working productively with others rather than arguing about women’s leadership roles. Don’t waste valuable time or energy on theological debates with other Christians about varying opinions of what specific roles women should or shouldn’t fill as leaders in God’s kingdom. Instead, respect the diversity among believers in the body of Christ while working in unity to fulfill God’s purposes together. No matter what theological perspective Christians have on women’s leadership roles, they all agree that: women can be leaders, God freely gives spiritual gifts to all believers regardless of their gender, all Christians – including women – have a responsibility to develop and use their spiritual gifts, and faith communities have a responsibility to ensure that women are free to put their spiritual gifts into action.
Learn to see yourself as a leader. Too often, women don’t view themselves as leaders, due to a lack of encouragement, a tendency to shrink their ambitions down to fit others’ expectations, and shame that makes them feel as if they don’t deserve to reach their full potential. But if you’re a Christian, you’re a leader as well, because God has given everyone in the body of Christ unique and important work to do in his kingdom. Keep in mind that leadership is simply a process whereby an individual influences a group of people to achieve a common goal. You can do that in small ways as well as great ways, and still achieve significantly valuable results from an eternal perspective. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you see yourself as God sees you, so you can be confident that you’re a leader with tremendous potential whose life and work truly matters.
Discern your calling. God has given you both a general calling and a specific one. Generally, you’re called to become like Jesus, and be a conduit through which that likeness spreads to others. Specifically, you’re called to use your spiritual gifts (God-given abilities to serve people in the church) and natural talents (God-given abilities to serve people in the world) to fulfill unique purposes. Pray for guidance about your calling. Identify what you do best and what you’re most interested in doing. Then ask the Holy Spirit to show you how that fits best with the ministry needs you notice around you, so you can figure out how to use your gifts and talents to help meet those needs.
Adjust your expectations to reality. Break free from the pressure of trying to do more at work or at home than is realistic to do well simultaneously. Choose to accept your circumstances and simply do the best you can in those circumstances. Resist comparing yourself to other women so you can focus on how God is working distinctively in your own life. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you creative ways to piece together the varied aspects of your life in realistic and effective ways.
Successfully navigate the double bind that female leaders face. If people perceive you as too tough, they won’t like you, but if people perceive you as too soft, they won’t respect you as a leader. So avoid the extremes of communicating too aggressively or softly, and seek out leadership training programs and mentoring relationships that can help you learn how to communicate in ways that others will hear and respond to best.
Help build a women’s ministry at your church that will prepare women to dare to do mighty things for God. Don’t settle for frivolous activities that are focused on making the women at your church feel comfortable; instead, work with other women in your congregation to push each other out of your comfort zones and into working on projects that help overcome injustices in the world.
Approach locked doors and detours wisely. When you’re rejected or make a mistake while trying to achieve a leadership goal, remember that just because you’ve experienced failure doesn’t make you a failure. In fact, if you live courageously – as God calls you to do – you definitely will fail sometimes. But if you learn from your failures and keep moving forward doing the best you can serving God and others, you’ll keep finding new opportunities to succeed as a leader.
Build healthy cross-gender ministry relationships. Establish clear, wise boundaries about how to best interact with your male colleagues while working together so your leadership won’t be hindered by the distractions of sexuality expressed in inappropriate ways.
Embrace courage. Rely on God every day to give you fresh doses of courage as you move forward with your work as a leader. Doing so will help you overcome fear, bitterness, and burnout.
Become a virtuous leader. Ask God to help you become the kind of person you yourself would want to follow. Keep in mind that to lead well, you must live well and love well – which you can do by developing virtues such as faith, hope, love, prudence, justice, temperance, and courage. So practice spiritual disciplines that will help you develop those virtues in your character (those disciplines include Bible reading, studying, meditating, and memorizing; prayer; solitude; and participating in community with other believers).
Adapted from Dare Mighty Things: Mapping the Challenges of Leadership for Christian Women, copyright 2014 by Halee Gray Scott. Published by Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Mich., www.zondervan.com.
Halee Gray Scott (PhD, Talbot School of Theology) is an author, scholar, and global leadership consultant focusing on leadership development and strategic planning based on original research. She teaches seminary courses in spiritual formation, theology, and leadership in seminaries across the United States. Her writing has appeared in Christianity Today, Christian Education Journal, Real Clear Religion, and Relevant.
Whitney Hopler, who has served as a Crosswalk.com contributing writer for many years, is author of the Christian novel Dream Factory, which is set during Hollywood's golden age. Visit her website at: whitneyhopler.naiwe.com.
Publication date: March 6, 2014Page Source (url): http://www.crosswalk.com/faith/women/how-to-dare-to-do-mighty-things-for-god-as-a-woman.html