Developing Female Leaders | Book Review


As a Pentecostal minister, I support women’s leadership in the church. I believe the Holy Spirit calls and empowers women to exercise their spiritual gifts, just as He does for men, whether those gifts prepare them for service as a lead pastor, a leading volunteer, or something in between. And I am grateful to be an ordained minister in the Assemblies of God, a denomination that affirms women’s leadership in both its theology and governing documents.

Even so, I recognize that women continue to face obstacles on the road to fulfilling their God-given callings. One major obstacle is theological: Too many evangelical churches and denominations value women’s congregational ministries but continue to cap their leadership at the point where women might exercise authority over men. The other major obstacle is practical and common even in churches and denominations like mine that affirm women’s leadership. Here, the problem is that such organizations make inadequate provision for the recruitment, development, and retention of women leaders.

Kadi Cole’s Developing Female Leadersdoes not weigh in on the theological obstacle to women’s leadership. Instead, she focuses on the practical obstacle. Whatever a church’s theology of women’s leadership, she argues, all churches can do better at developing women to serve at the highest level that the church’s theology allows. This is a shrewd move on Cole’s part, given the intractable debates among evangelicals about gender roles in church and society. It allows her to help all churches, whatever their theologies of women’s leadership, improve their practices of developing women leaders.

Here is a synopsis of the eight “best practices” Cole recommends in her book:

  1. Seek to understand. “Take the time to have a conversation with the female leaders you have on your team and in your congregation. Ask them about their stories and how they have impacted their view of themselves as leaders.”
  2. Clearly define what you believe. “Even if you have confidence that your [theological] stance is extremely clear, there have likely been mixed messages in how this has played out for [women] in your church and in [their] leadership. In my experience, most godly women are very aware there is a line somewhere, and because they are concerned about overstepping that line, they will often stay way below what you believe they have an opportunity to do. This gap is one of the places where you have incredible untapped leadership potential.”
  3. Mine the marketplace. Professional women “have been given projects to manage, a staff to lead, and initiatives to implement. They have received formal and informal leadership development and have withstood the rigors of the business world.” Consequently, Cole advises, “Never assume that an established, professional female isn’t interested in working with or for you. Many incredible leaders would love the opportunity to use their marketplace skills in the kingdom.”
  4. Integrate spiritual formation and leadership development. “Integrating spiritual growth and leadership development is a critical component of developing healthy, strong, and capable female leaders within your church. A woman cannot lead from a healthy soul if we do not help integrate her relationship with Christ with the gifts and calling He has given her.”
  5. Be an “other.”“Being and providing quality ‘others’ in the form of male mentors, male sponsors, and female coaches will give your female leaders the supportive connections and authentic relationships they need to learn, grow, and develop into the capable leaders your church needs and the fruitful leaders God has called them to be.”
  6. Create an environment of safety. “Creating a safe work environment free from harassment or predatorial behavior by anyone is imperative to the development of both male and female leaders who are godly, healthy, and trustworthy.”
  7. Upgrade your people practices. “In everything from recruiting practices to retirement benefits, making sure female leaders receive equal and ethical treatment for the work they contribute was an important issue, not just for women, but as a statement about how churches function as employers within our communities.”
  8. Take on your culture. “By reevaluating your stated values and use of language, redefining borders, and integrating strategic symbols, you can help your culture shift to an environment that not only welcomes and supports new female leadership, but creates an opportunity for many more leaders to grow and thrive.”

While this synopsis accurately summarizes the best practices Developing Female Leadersrecommends, it fails to articulate the wisdom, empathy, and granularity of good advice that runs throughout each chapter of the book.

If you are a male church leader, you really need to read this book. It will open your eyes to the obstacles that the more-than-half of your congregation which is female routinely face as they seek to perform their ministries, whether on staff or as volunteers. More importantly, however, it will give you a detailed plan to clear those obstacles and develop women leaders better. My guess is that as your leadership development practices for women improve, the overall quality of your leadership pipeline will improve too, for both men and women. Finally, for women leaders reading this book, it concludes with a bonus chapter titled, “Best Practices for Female Leaders.”

I cannot recommend this book highly enough!

Book Reviewed
Kadi Cole, Developing Female Leaders: Navigate the Minefields and Release the Potential of Women in Your Church(Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2019).

P.S. If you liked my review, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.

P.P.S. This review is cross-posted at InfluenceMagazine.com.

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Recommended Reading for Leaders | Influence Magazine


I write the Read Like a Leader section of each issue of Influence magazine. In the January-February 2019 issue, I recommended these three leadership books. My recommendations first appeared at InfluenceMagazine.com, and they are posted here with permission.

FIX IT!
Rob Ketterling (River Valley Resources)

When your church faces a problem, who is responsible to fix it? Pastors often say, “I am,” but taking responsibility for every problem results in burned-out pastors and underutilized church members. Rob Ketterling suggests a better way forward in Fix It!, one that revolves around three simple words: you, them, and God. “Define what you’re responsible to do, delegate to others who will share the load, and expect God to do what only He can do, including a change in direction from time to time.” This book is filled with biblical insight, practical suggestions, and real-life examples.

P.S. If you found this review helpful, please vote “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.

HELP! I’M IN CHARGE
Rod Loy (Influence Resources)

Help! I’m in Chargeexamines “stuff leadership excerpts didn’t tell you,” in the words of the subtitle. Most church leadership experts discuss mission, vision, and values from a 30,000-foot level. In this book, Rod Loy gets into the weeds, talking about the nitty-gritty of leadership on the ground. Chapter 5, “Your Ability Won’t Get You Far if People Don’t Like You,” and chapter 9, “Everyone Wants to Be Treated with Respect,” alone are worth the price of the book. Help! I’m in Chargeis biblically grounded, personally authentic, and seasoned advice for pastors and other church leaders.

P.S. If you found this review helpful, please vote “Helpful” on my Amazon review page, where I’ve posted a longer review. 

LEADERS: MYTH AND REALITY
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Jeff Eggers, and Jason Mangone (Portfolio/Penguin)

John Maxwell famously defined leadership as “influence.” That’s true to an extent, but it’s also too simple because it’s leader-centric, as if influence flowed only one way. In Leaders, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Jeff Eggers, and Jason Mangone profile 13 leaders from diverse backgrounds and fields of endeavor. Based on those profiles, they identify three myths people believe about leaders, then offer a new definition of leadership. It is “a complex system of relationships between leaders and followers, in a particular context, that provides meaning to its members.” This is a fascinating book, biographically informative and analytically shrewd.

P.S. If you found this review helpful, please vote “Helpful” on my Amazon review page, where I’ve posted a longer review.

When Ministers Change Jobs | Influence Podcast


In today’s Influence Podcast, I talk to my friend Mike McCrary about how to navigate transitions in ministry jobs. Mike is director of Funding for the Church Multiplication Network, a role he began this year–on my birthday, no less!–after nearly two decades of ministry in local churches. His recent experience gives him a unique perspective on what happens when ministers change jobs.

Wednesday’s Influence Online Articles


Today, over at InfluenceMagazine.com:

  • Karen Huber offers advice about how pastors can make sure their kids don’t run second to their ministries.
  • Yours truly reviews Multipliers (rev. ed.) by Liz Wiseman. Although this is a secular business book, I think it has application to church and nonprofit ministry contexts.
  • We note a Barna study indicating that 1 in 4 pastors struggle with doubt, especially early in their ministries.

Please make sure to follow and like InfluenceInfluence magazine on Facebook, Twitter, and iTunes!

Review of ‘Catch the Wind of the Spirit’ by Carolyn Tennant


Catch_the_Wind_350Carolyn Tennant, Catch the Wind of the Spirit: How the 5 Ministry Gifts Can Transform Your Church (Springfield, MO: Vital Resources, 2016).

In Ephesians 4:11–12, the apostle Paul wrote: “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…” These five ministries played an obvious and fundamental role in the Church, according to the apostle, yet they are the occasion of no small amount of controversy today. Do the apostolic and prophetic ministries continue to operate today? If so, do they constitute offices within the Church? Should we call specific ministers “Apostle So-and-so” or “Prophet Such-and-such”?

Many classical Pentecostals believe that too much emphasis has been placed on office and more emphasize should be placed on function. In other words, the question should not be whether such-and-such a person bears the office and title of apostle or prophet but whether apostolic and prophetic functions are taking place in the Church. This emphasis on function is the position of the Assemblies of God. It is also the emphasis of Carolyn Tennant in her new book from Vital Resources, Catch the Wind of the Spirit. “The vast majority of teaching on this [subject] has focused on church leadership,” she writes. “I’m firmly convinced, however, that God is focused upon the ministry currents that each person is supposed to oversee. He means for the whole church to get involved.”

What are the five currents Ephesians 4 identifies? Tennant outlines them this way:

  1. Seeing people come to Christ (The Powerful Wooing Current)
  2. Ensuring new believers learn to follow Him closely and mature into what He desires them to be (The Radical Forming Current)
  3. Caring for His disciples in the body of believers so they may stay health, and connected, and know they are loved (The Synchronized Choreography Current)
  4. Providing direction for the church: correcting and restoring, affirming and encouraging (The Housecleaning Directional Current)
  5. Pushing back the darkness and taking new territory for the kingdom of God (The Miraculous Sending Current)

Each chapter describing these currents is paired with a chapter describing, “what kind of people are needed to oversee the current and where they might be in our churches.” Tennant seems indifferent to whether these “overseers” are church offices filled by paid ministers, and she pays careful attention to “misconceptions” that frequently attach themselves to the ministries of apostles and prophets. Here are the “overseers” for each of the currents above, respectively:

  1. The Evangelist
  2. The Teacher
  3. The Pastor
  4. The Prophetic Servant
  5. The Apostolic Emissary

Tennant clearly longs to experience the renewal and revitalization of North American churches. She is thoroughly Pentecostal in both theology and practice. (If you doubt that the Holy Spirit speaks directly to believers today, make sure to read the story she tells on pages 160–162 about the Spirit sending her to talk to a man in the parking lot of a run-down strip mall. It’s like a contemporary version of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch.) In addition to sharp biblical insight and poignant personal anecdotes, Tennant highlights the Spirit-filled missionary endeavors of St. Patrick and other Celtic missionaries in the early medieval era. That’s a surprising move, given how many Pentecostals, charismatics, and evangelicals view the state of the early medieval Church. On the other hand, when you see how downright “Pentecostal” those missionaries could be—including St. Patrick’s experience with speaking in tongues—you realize that the connection between a vibrant experience of the Spirit and power for mission to the world have always gone together, both biblically and in Church history.

I’ll wrap up my review by quoting Tennant’s concluding words:

When God is free to move, as He is in revival, the Triune God brings a fresh flow of each and every current. The Trinity has been working in every one of them all along from the beginning, and the Three are all desirous of pouring out even more upon us. Will we receive it?

That’s a very good question.

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P.S. This review first appeared at InfluenceMagazine.com.

P.P.S. If you found this review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon review page.