50 Ways to Encourage a Woman Leader

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : November 1, 2007

Here’s a post by Heather Kirk-Davidoff over at Emerging Women:

I’ve been seeing way too many comments here and elsewhere about how hard it is to find women who are willing to lead in various emerging church contexts–by speaking up front, writing articles, writing books, or otherwise getting their voice out into the public sphere. I’m particularly disturbed by comments by men along the lines of, “I would love to have more women involved in leading (insert project here), but every women I asked turned me down!”

There’s something not right in this picture. I know so many brilliant women involved in the emerging church in various forms–women who have a lot to say, women who have a unique perspective, women who have leadership qualities in spades. I find myself thinking that if these women turn down a chance to speak or write or lead in some other way, then the project must not be worth doing. But then I take a deep breath and try to remember that for all sorts of reasons, women’s leadership is not as easy as it should be–in the church and outside of it.

So, let’s take to heart Mother Jone’s advice: “Don’t mourn, organize.” Let’s create a list of 50 ways to encourage a woman leader. (Notice that I didn’t say, “encourage a woman to lead”!) I’ll start and please add more ideas in our comments.

1. Include women’s voices and perspectives from the beginning. Don’t plan the event, outline the book, organize the tour, and THEN try to find a woman or two to add diversity. The entire project might look different if women are involved from the get-go, and it might be more appealing to women leaders.

2. Don’t just include one woman–include ten. No one likes to be a token.

3. Ask a woman leader what she would like to write about, speak about, sing about, make art about, and then make room for her to do that. Don’t just come to her with an idea about what you’d like her to say.

4. Invite women to tell their story as leaders (to you, or to everyone). If a woman isn’t claiming and celebrating her own leadership abilities, listen to her story and notice out loud the ways in which she has already been leading. Thank her.

5. Introduce the women leaders you know to each other. Too often, women leaders are isolated within their own churches or networks. Women do a tremendous job encouraging each other to step up to the plate–if only they know each other.

What else??

This post hits a little close to home. When I asked people to collaborate on this blog, I just left it as an open invitation. We have one lone female voice (thanks for signing on, Kathy). I could have done a much better job contacting female bloggers, or even wooing female non-bloggers into writing on this site. The truth is, the Christian blogosphere in general (and the emerging church blogosphere in specific) is overwhelmingly male, and it distorts the realities of the movement.

Don’t add to the list here…go over to Emerging Women and leave your ideas there.

for further reading . . .

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4 Responses to “50 Ways to Encourage a Woman Leader”

  1. Makeesha Fisher on November 1st, 2007 11:20 am

    well done Mark, thank you for your proactive attitude.

    and fwiw, I didn’t even know you had asked for collaborators, I think your blog was absent from my reader for some time after I moved to google so I probably missed that post

  2. Rebekah on November 1st, 2007 4:10 pm

    I have my own blog and contribute to another. So I think maybe it’s that your audience has a lot more going on.

  3. Beyond Words on November 1st, 2007 4:32 pm

    Maybe it’s hard for women to put their toes in the water since the Christian blogosphere is so male dominated and sometimes snarky (and the females can be snarky, too!).

    I almost didn’t answer your request for collaborators because I assumed you’d be so overwhelmed that you wouldn’t need my voice. Thank you for the opportunity to write here–maybe the Spirit wants to use an older woman who’s “emerging” in an unexpected way.

  4. Makeesha Fisher on November 1st, 2007 5:14 pm

    I dunno Rebekah, I have my own blog, run and write for 3 others and contribute on a couple and I’m going to be contributing. I think for some people that might be but I’ve also discovered that blogging and email is sort of “transient” and it’s often hard to get anything you say to be seen much less to “stick”.

    I have experienced this in the brick and mortar world too - making announcements to a group or putting something in a bulletin rarely gets response - you have to talk to one person, face to face, in a personal way. I think it’s a sign of many things in this generation, not the least of which is our overwhelmed lives where everything that isn’t immediate or personal drowns in the fog of our brains.

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