I work mostly with Family Ministry teams and leaders. Most Family Ministry, or NextGen teams are beautiful examples of diverse groups of people that bring different gifts, talents, background, and callings. For the most part, they are also a healthy mix of both male and female leaders. One of the marks of a healthy NextGen team is alignment, everyone working together toward the same end-in-mind for the sake of kids and students. A common vision and strategy that keeps the team laser-focused for success. Teams are no longer siloed, student teams champion kidmin teams and vice versa. It used to be that student teams were typically all male and kid teams were mostly female. Today we’re seeing more and more female student pastors which is awesome and more men stepping into children’s ministry. Teams are gender diverse which is so healthy for kids and students. Together male and female we represent the full image of God, so when our teams are a healthy balance of both men and women leaders, we bring all of God’s image into our ministries!
When it comes to gender diverse teams, it takes an incredible amount of leadership skill, emotional intelligence and intentionality to build a healthy environment where everyone can lead to their highest potential and the growth of the ministry. We’ve all seen, read or experienced what happens when people are careless with this. We either become too restricted out of fear of temptation and beyond, or we neglect to set healthy boundaries. There has to be a middle ground. The Holy Spirit makes no differentiation when he gives us gifts, and Paul reminds us in Galatians 3:28, “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” I just keep thinking, if we’re all created in God’s image, and we are each gifted and called to ministry as followers of Jesus, can’t we work together without it getting weird and awkward?
As leaders of teams with both male and female it’s worth setting aside some time to dig into this so that everyone on our teams has the best opportunity to grow into who God created them to be and build a team that reaches the “nations” for Christ.
Here are some thoughts about leading a gender-diverse team:
- Gender-bias: Watch who you answer first, listen to and champion in meetings. This exercise could reveal a gender-bias. Gender-bias’ are stealth and I’m discovering even those of us who are trying to think about this, find ourselves owning our own gender-bias’ just when we least expect it. And here’s another thing, gender-bias happens on both ends of the rope. Women can be pretty hard on other women. Just sayin’.
- Isolated Conversations: Be aware of where conversations happen that exclude any part of the team. This is innocent enough, and I totally don’t believe that people mean to exclude. For example a bio-break during a meeting that congregates all the guys in one bathroom and all the gals in the other bathroom can naturally be a place to continue a group discussion without the “rest” of the group present (for obvious reasons). Car rides, lunches with the “guys” or the “ladies” can become where the “rest” of the meeting agenda gets discussed.
- Mentor everyone: One thing I hear from a lot of female leaders is that they don’t have the same opportunity to be mentored as their male counterparts by senior leaders, because there just aren’t any senior women leaders. If you are a male leader and you have females on your team, they are dying to learn from your experience and knowledge. They want to learn how to prepare a message, how to speak better, how to coach, counsel and mentor. We’re all really smart people, we can figure out safe ways to do this that protect everyone’s integrity. If you’re a female leader, don’t be harder on the women on your team than the men. Also, don’t abdicate your leadership responsibility to mentor and coach the men on your team to other men on staff.
- Have fun… all together. If you’re a team, be a team. If you plan a golf day, invite everyone. If you plan a painting night, invite everyone. One of the funnest and most insightful things I ever did with one of my teams was a ropes course. It was a blast, everyone participated and everyone cheered each other on, even the people who were challenged by the height. It also gave me an insight that I’d never seen before on my team; those that were ready to take on a new adventure and those that were a bit more reserved.
- Mix it up. Whether it’s a all-staff meeting or a ministry area meeting, make them mix it up. Sit next to someone you don’t work with that you don’t know very well or someone of the opposite gender. We are such creatures of habit and will stay in our comfort zones. Part of creating a safe environment is creating a culture where people are comfortable sitting next to or at a table with people they don’t typically have the opportunity to spend time with. It drives me crazy when I walk into a meeting and all the women are on one side of the room and all the men are on the other side. This isn’t a middle school dance, mix it up, meet someone new, ask good questions and be curious. People are awesome, meet some more of them!
These probably seem like silly and maybe even superficial things, but trust me, these are “things”. As you become more aware as a leader, you will begin to see subtle hints of what might be barriers for people on your team because of gender. Here’s my heart, that we could all be who God created us to be, do what God created us to do and do it together.
I’d love to hear from you. What frustrates you about this topic and what motivates you? How are you breaking down the gender walls so that the entire image of God is participating in your ministry?