Everywhere I turn, pastors are seeking capable leaders—and more of them. Often, the solution is sitting in their pews. I refer to the talented women in their midst.
I appreciate the significant role females have filled in Foursquare life. In addition to founder Aimee Semple McPherson, our congregation—New Life Church (Bakersfield Southwest Foursquare Church) in Bakersfield, Calif.—emerged from a home group led by a female leader. Half of New Life’s 26 ordained pastors are women, as are two members of our church council.
Yet, despite the obvious potential of female leaders, the church as a whole remains handicapped by a failure to utilize such resources. Changing this calls for proactive steps, particularly among male leaders. One secret to mentoring women is quite simple: identify the gift. Many pastors aren’t even looking.
Searching for female leaders can result in “I see in you” conversations. Like the one I had about 11 years ago with Wendy Nolasco, the newly appointed district supervisor of the MidSouth District. Wendy found herself back to church after a period of disillusionment. We started by training and discipling her; she excelled at everything we asked her to do. Finally, I told her: “I see you as a leader and would like you to consider that.”
Eventually, Wendy became a staff member. Our small groups flourished under her direction. She later held the role of executive pastor and helped our northwest campus to expand from an attendance of 250 to 1,000.
In addition to recognizing the potential of female leaders, pastors can celebrate women by encouraging them publicly and giving them roles on the platform. That’s part of creating a culture where it’s normal for a woman to believe she can become a leader.
This doesn’t just happen on Sunday mornings. As the lead pastor, you have to be a chief cheerleader for this idea by talking about it in staff meetings and on other occasions.
I never felt pressure to raise up women because of an obligation to fill some kind of quota. I want to identify God’s grace, gifts and calling. If a woman is the best choice for a particular position, that’s who I appoint.
Not only does failing to raise up female leaders mean the church misses out on valuable contributions, it damages our witness. We have an opportunity to show the world that we are an inclusive, empowering body. Projecting a male-dominated image yields an incomplete picture.
Naturally, with male pastors and female mentees, there are gender issues and possible problems. But those aren’t “deal killers.” For example, group mentoring avoids complications. At a recent leadership breakfast, two women were among the nine persons attending.
For male pastors, getting your spouse onboard will be a huge plus. My wife, Lydia, helps develop women and builds relationships with them, serving as a great example and role model. She initiates many relationships and helps me see the gifts and potential of various women that I would often miss without her insights.
There will always be those that object to our theology on this matter. The first time Lydia preached, a dozen families got up and walked out. I understand such feelings, but it is my conviction that we must release women if we expect to win the world to Christ.
I see equipping females as a scriptural mandate. It would be sad if the Foursquare family never knew the blessings of a Wendy Nolasco. Or Angela Claiborne, my former assistant who is now on the leadership team at Valley Christian Center (Fresno First Foursquare Church) in Fresno, Calif. Or Jeanette Mulhause, a former business executive who is our executive pastor.
If we’ll get on board this train, we can reach our destination.
This article was written with Ken Walker, a freelance writer in Huntington, W.Va.