How can men pave the way for women to have greater opportunities in the church?

Pastor Eugene Cho makes this powerful point about the role that men play in supporting women in church leadership:

‘Power, voice, and influence are not easily pursued and obtained. It must be distributed and shared by those who have that very power, voice, and influence. And because it is so counter-cultural, we have to be that much more intentional. As a male, I am embarrassed at times at the manner in which we [men] directly, indirectly or systematically oppress our sisters.’

If you are a male pastor, elder, deacon, councilor, board member, partner, or a member of your church than you have the opportunity to use your power, voice, and influence to advocate on behalf of the women in your church, especially on behalf of those who are gifted and called to church leadership. But as Cho points out, it requires intentionality.

In his brilliant book, ‘Holding Up Half the Sky’ Dr. Graham Joseph Hill speaks to his male colleagues and peers in church ministry, presenting 15 strategies by which men can empower and releasing more female leaders in the church. We have highlighted five of these strategies below:

Get real about empowering female leaders.
Prioritise it, give it more than just a nod! Make it a value of your institution and hold yourself and your team accountable for that.

Enable women to sit at the table.
This will involve you intentionally seeking out women to invite into leadership discussions. As Sheryl Sandberg points out in her book, Lean In, men reach for opportunities far more readily than women. If you want to add women to your leadership teams, boards, platforms and conversations, then you will need to invite them, invest in them and encourage them to be assertive and believe in themselves.

Build cultures where men and women can equally succeed.
If you are the senior leader in your church, think about the working environment you have created for your team. There may be hidden barriers to women succeeding that may be more easily spotted by the women in the team. It may require you to ask questions of the women in the team; how have they experienced marginalisation, neglect, or discrimination?

Get proactive about women speakers.
Give women the chance to preach to your congregation. If they’ve never previously been given an opportunity, help find mentors and trainers for them. Link them with those who can help them hone their skills and give them opportunities to grow. In environments where men are groomed for ministry roles, young men have often had the opportunity to improve in many ways and over time. Women, on the other hand, are sometimes thrown in the deep end and expected to perform well, often with the pressure of representing all women! In addition to raising your own female speakers, find experienced guest female speakers and give them a platform in your own church.

Help women see women at the table.
Help expand the imaginations of women for their roles in ministry. When women see other women flourishing in ministry leadership, it gives them a greater sense of what God might be calling them to do too. Provide networking opportunities for female leaders, invite emerging leaders to denominational gatherings where they will have the opportunity to meet other female ministers, introduce them to your female colleagues in ministry and help them find female mentors and sponsors.

Holding up half the sky: A biblical case for women leading and teaching in the church by Graham Joseph Hill (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2020).

Questions in this series:
1. How do we read the Bible to decide what to do today?
2. What principles of interpreting Scripture should we apply to understand the passages that are used to limit women’s leadership in the church?
3. What roles did women play in the early church?
4. Did Jesus have female disciples?
5. Does the Holy Spirit give spiritual gifts to all Christians?
6. How can men pave the way for women to have greater opportunities in the church?
7. Why is it important to hear women preach and teach Scripture?
8. I am uncomfortable with the fact that women are restricted from leading and teaching men in my church. What advice can you give to help me raise this issue at my church?

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