Senior Pastors, Are Your Staff Women Credentialed?
I love the prayers of Paul documented in Ephesians 1:17-19, Philippians 1:9-11, and Colossians 1:9-12. We can see Paul’s shepherd heart and the passion that he has to see the church and its leaders grow. His prayers remind me of my own desire as a church leader to be filled with the knowledge and insight of God, and lately I have been praying these not just for myself, but for all the women on staff across our EFCA churches.
As a local church staff member for the majority of the last 25 years and on staff in the EFCA for the last 13 of those, it has been so meaningful to me when my senior pastor/supervisor has cared about my development and growth as a follower of Jesus and leader on his staff.
Over the years, I have heard my husband say repeatedly that he wants his direct reports to be more equipped to lead in the area of finance and internal audit because they have worked under his leadership and I have watched his actions back that up. I have witnessed him coaching his female staff over the phone and on conference calls just as many hours as the men. I challenge you as a senior pastor to adopt that same attitude towards your staff, both men and women.
I have to confess that over the years, I have been envious of those women working in secular organizations and have had the thought that they are being developed as people and leaders so much more intentionally than most women employed in the church. I have personally felt behind those women and less able to lead with the professionalism, communication skills and expertise that they do. And as happy as I been watching churches employ those gifted women in roles of leadership who have been trained and developed in corporate America, I have felt myself selfishly thinking, “What about those women who have been devoted to vocational service to the local church all this time? Do we have to work in the secular world or non-profit organizations to be given the opportunity for development?”
In the book, “Designed to Lead,” Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck make the argument that the church should be the primary leadership locus in our communities. We should be developing leaders for our world more diligently than any other organization, and I would add, even more so for those on our staff teams, men and women alike. An easy place to start is with credentialing.
How would you answer this question, “Why do you want your male church leaders to go through the credentialing process?” I imagine some of the possible answers to that question are:
2. to have their call to Christian ministry affirmed;
3. to make sure that they accurately handle the Word of God as they preach, teach, and lead your congregation;
4. to publicly affirm their character.
I want to challenge you that those are the very same reasons that you need all of your staff to do the same. I would add to that list: choosing curriculum, writing women’s ministry studies, teaching children, youth, and women, leading groups, and equipping volunteers to lead as additional answers. My point: women need to be credentialed, too.
I have held various roles in ministry over the years: Children’s Director, Outreach Director, and currently, Adult Ministries Director. I have found in every role a need to be grounded in the gospel essentials represented in our Statement of Faith. I love the inclusiveness in our denomination, but there are also things that we won’t budge on, and I have benefitted from knowing the difference as I help create the culture and help maintain doctrinal purity in my local EFCA congregation.
Consider encouraging your whole staff to pursue credentialing together or send your staff ladies to Gateway. It’s a great place to start as you create a development plan for your women on staff.
In closing, I want to mention that some of the women on your staff may struggle to see themselves as a leader. Women have been told for a long time what they should and shouldn’t do in the church, and though every single follower of Jesus is given the mandate to rule and have dominion over earth as well as to make disciples of all nations teaching them to obey, some of us struggle to identify as a leader in the church for fear that we are doing something wrong. Leadership is one of my spiritual gifts and it has taken me longer than it needed to allow myself to truly embrace who God created me to be. So, you may have to provide extra affirmation to the women on your staff to allow them to embrace the influence that God has given them and to live into all that God wants them to be as leaders of the gospel message. You can help them see themselves as leaders worthy of investment, and our churches will be stronger and more effective in our mission for it.
If you need more information about credentialing or the Gateway course, contact your District Superintendent. They would love to help you find the right resources for your staff. We have also started a community for women working in the EFCA that invests in their leadership development and spiritual health. If any of the women on your staff are interested in joining, have them email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Currently, we are meeting monthly on Zoom for training and encouragement.