How to Handle Your Call to Lead When You're a Woman

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Have Integrity in All Things Christian leaders of either gender cannot afford a lapse of integrity. King Jehoshaphat instructed leaders under him to "'always act in the fear of the Lord, with integrity and with undivided hearts'" (2 Chr. 19:9). His words still apply today. This should be true in personal, professional and ministry settings.

Do not mix personal and ministry funds. Ensure legal compliance unless a law opposes Scripture, which is sometimes the case in closed countries. Thoroughly examine every accusation of wrongdoing in your organization. If there is any truth to it, set the record straight.

Count the cost before making a commitment and then keep your word, even when it hurts (see Ps. 15:4). Show yourself faithful even in the small things, which indicates how you will handle greater responsibility (see Luke 16:10).

 Avoid All Appearance of Evil Many eyes are upon today's Christian leaders. Some folks are looking for a role model, while others are watching for a leader to slip up so they can once again ridicule a follower of Christ.

It is wise to implement safeguards in advance to avoid compromising situations.This becomes increasingly important as more men and women serve together in leadership. Consider these practical suggestions: 

  • Do not spend long periods of time alone with any man, unless he is a relative.
  • Reserve your most intimate thoughts and feelings for your husband, family or female accountability partner.
  • If you must travel with an unrelated man, keep an appropriate distance physically and emotionally. If either of you are married, avoid one-on-one social interaction.
  • If you travel to minister, take along your spouse or a female "armor bearer." Have them accompany you to your room each evening.
  • If you feel drawn into an unhealthy relationship with anyone—man or woman—disengage immediately, and discuss it with your spiritual accountability partner.
  • Dress modestly at all times. If you are young, be accountable in your clothing to a godly woman who is at least 10 years older.
  • Although you have freedom in what you eat and drink, do not let your freedom be a stumbling block for those who are less mature. Seek God about what freedoms you can enjoy.

    Christian leaders must be willing to be accountable to others for their actions and appearance. Believers cannot live by the standards of the world. Our standard must be Christ and Him alone. We are called to be "'holy, because [He is] holy'" (1 Pet. 1:16).

    Choose a Good Team Every leader needs a team. Someone who fulfills a vision alone may be a very gifted individual but is no leader. The first step in assembling a good team is determining what gifts and strengths are needed to accomplish the mission. Then, honestly assess the gifting, strengths and weaknesses of team members.

    Ask God to bring people with a complementary mission who have the missing gifting and strengths. Be willing to wait for the right fit. Understand God brings some people for only a short time. Be willing to release and bless them when they feel called to go elsewhere. Don't be afraid to bring aboard gifted men. Be ready to lead them.

    Leading men and women is very similar. Everyone needs a clear understanding of the mission and direction. Everyone enjoys using their gifting and strengths for something meaningful. Everyone responds well to confident, caring leadership. Many men respond well to a direct communication style, but not all. That is more a function of personality type than gender. One of the main differences is how men and women build camaraderie. Men tend to lean toward joking and active fun.

    Women prefer compliments and personal sharing. Finding a healthy balance for mixed gender teams is possible and makes for effective and joyful ministry dynamics.

    Through the years, God has placed many men—including former senior pastors—on my team. As of yet, there have been no authority issues. Each has come in obedience to God and in fulfillment of his own mission.

    As leader, my role has been to point them in the right direction and serve them so their gifting is used effectively in furthering our mission. All have respected that. We have learned from one another, and the kingdom has benefited as a result.

    What About Spiritual Chauvinists? Although many Christian men are embracing the new way God is using women in ministry leadership, not all are willing to—just yet. Some have been taught that Christian leadership is not a woman's place. Some may have cultural biases. Some are threatened by anyone else in leadership—man or woman.

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