September 14, 2010

Complementarity and Team Partnerships (pt5)

This is now the 5th post in my series ‘Complementarity and Partnership. Starting with the initial introductory post , the series then follows a sequence of proposals aimed at exploring how our theology of complementarity may be expressed in teams, with men and women in relationship together in servant ministry.

Here is proposal 4….

Proposal 4: Partnership means, not only ministering together but also training, strategizing and thinking theologically together:

Employing women onto ministry teams is the first step in the process of building true partnership in gospel ministry. Thinking through how that team might then function in a complementarian way (both with men and women on staff teams as well as with lay men and women ministering alongside each other in the church) is where the heart of complementarity begins to take shape, where it is made concrete in our day-to-day relationships.

In previous posts (1 ,2 ,3 and 4 ) we’ve already begun to unpack something of the ‘how’ of complementarity in team partnerships. 

In this post I’d like to propose that true complementary partnership takes place when we intentionally provide women with appropriate avenues to lead, teach & train other women, when we consciously model complementarity throughout the church, and when we encourage and foster opportunities for men and women to engage together in robust theological discussion, ministry practice and mission strategy.

a: Partnership means modeling complementarity throughout the church:

It’s one thing to subscribe to a theology of complementarity, to give token lip service to the belief that men and women ought to partner together in a complementary way, it’s a whole other thing to thoughtfully implement that belief and to carefully consider how that theological conviction translates in the way we develop and deploy our ministry teams.

Whether done formally or informally, it’s imperative that we begin to put our belief into practice, to begin to consciously and purposefully model throughout each layer of church life what it might mean for our team, our church ministries, our marriage’s to be complementarian.

We must begin to actuate and demonstrate what we understand of complementarian partnership. 

Whether that be in the selection of staff leadership positions, the way we allocate oversight of appropriate ministries, through to how we encourage the men and women in our congregations, our bible studies, our pastoral ministries, to serve and minister together in a ‘complementary way,’ that is- together and differently.

Therefore if we want to truly demonstrate the courage of our convictions we need to have thought through the relational and ministry implications of complementarity. We need to model that belief and practice in our leadership teams, and to begin to unpack how these principles are to be modelled and practised in the various contexts of life and ministry in the church.

b: Partnership means training, strategizing, and thinking theologically together:

Sometimes we can expect too little of women theologically or in ministry strategy and methodology (sometimes women expect too little of themselves in this regard too). But lowering the bar of expectation is not only unhelpful but also extremely short sighted. If we’re serious about expanding the mission of the church and growing those who serve in it, then we need to become serious about broadening out those whom we include in our ministry training and our theological equipping.

In this regard it is critical that we include both female staff members and key lay leaders in our think-tanking, our strategizing, and in our theological discussions, even if initially some of the lay women in particular may not have much to say.

Bob Johnson, in his 9Marks article, reflects on the importance of this inclusion this way:
“The ministry of our churches is woefully incomplete without women. 
Our churches need women who love gutsy theology, gritty service, and the rigors of gospel counseling. This is especially so because there are some situations, particularly in ministering to other women, in which women will generally be far more effective than men…
As pastors, we are right to insist on the biblical guidelines that reserve the office of elder for men, and we should therefore be concerned about the character and theological acumen of our men. However, we must also intentionally minister to the women so they can mature and provide gospel help to the body in order to present every man and woman complete in Christ”.
Equally, our female leaders need to be encouraged and challenged to pursue the same practical and personal training and accountability as are men. 
Like the Apostle Paul, and our Lord Jesus before him, genuine ministry partnership meant preparing and equipping men and women for the kind of rigours, realities, disappointments, and heartaches they were likely to face in ministry and mission at the coalface (2Tim 1&2,Jn 15:18-16:4).

-image care of LIFE-

Likewise, as we seek to pursue our Diocesan mission, it’s important to include women leaders in the broader planning of the church and to train them, alongside the men, in the art of mission and church growth strategies. 

This is especially important for the lay women we appoint to leadership. Often we delegate to these women the key responsibilities of leading and teaching the women under their care, and therefore it is our negligence and to their detriment to leave them ill equipped, unguided and unsupported in the task.

c: Partnership means serving together in an attitude of trust and affirmation not micromanagement:

Confidence, affirmation and trust are critical to any workable partnership, and ministry teams are no different. This is especially necessary in women’s ministry where so much of what the woman on team does doesn’t take place on the public platform nor is it often as observable to the men on team.

Bruce Hall in his recent #Briefing article makes this comment: 
“My observation is that women feel confident to work in these sorts of teams because of the displayed confidence in them, even though the Senior Minister may not see what they do in detail. He trusts them to get on with the ministry”.
The lack of readily accessible public awareness and recognition of her role, can mean women staff can sometimes feel less valued in the team task.

Lack of clear role definition can also mean, that rather than being able to vision, grow and self-manage the ministry she’s been given, she becomes vulnerable to that ministry being directed, managed or even micromanaged by each team member she works alongside.  

So, rather than building vision, confidence and competence in her sphere of ministry, as Bruce Hall rightly observes, often the exact opposite can result:  
“The Senior Minister will not be able to control the quality of the ministry by micromanagement...micromanagement is the death of growth, it does not produce unity or quality”.
Research shows that once team members have developed a certain level of competence and confidence, those who are given autonomy and responsibility within their team feel valued and are more willing to take on new challenges and learn new skills. 

Therefore to help team members, both male and female, feel trusted and affirmed in ministry together, and to grow in confidence and competence will require entirely different attitudes, skills and oversight from leaders.

A good team is one in which men and women will not only have opportunities to increase their areas of competence, but are also acknowledged and engaged for the experience and competencies they’ve already mastered. And, this is especially important when women often work long term on teams under the perpetual leadership of others.

d: Partnership means intentionally providing women with appropriate avenues to lead, teach and train other women:

J.Ligon Duncan in the book ‘Women’s Ministry in the Local Church’ lists 5 reasons why it’s imperative that every church has a women’s ministry.

Not the least of these is that such ministries provide appropriate opportunities and avenues in which women are given responsibility to fulfil the Titus 2 mandate to teach, train and disciple other women.
…“such ministries help Christian women appreciate the manifold areas of service that are open to them in the church and to equip them distinctively as women to fulfil their ministry. But this will never happen if our approach to discipleship in the church is androgynous-that is, if it refuses to take into account the gender distinctives of the disciple”.
Whilst we would never affirm that any women’s ministry operate independently of the ethos, mission and integrated ministries of the church (see my previous post), we must never overturn our commitment to engage women to take up their rightful place in God’s purposes.

Ligon:  “It is not sufficient for churches that hold male headship simply to compile a list of things that are permissible for women to do. 
We must go to the Scriptures and determine what is needful for women to do. 
God pronounced gender-aloneness “not good” in the garden. He did not give his benediction of “it is very good” until man and woman stood side by side, equal but different”.

e: Partnership means thinking through staff ministry models:

Lastly, as churches explore the current trend towards restructuring staff teams away from a traditional ‘generalist ministry model’ to that of ‘staff specialization’ model (a trend I support, having worked on the strategic planning team developing just such a model at St Ives) we must make sure that we do so in a way that continues to maintain and promote biblical complementarity on our teams and within our leadership.

The strength of the specialization model is that theologically trained women, rather than being deployed as a women’s generalist, often just filling the gaps in pastoral care or other sundry areas of need, is much more strategically deployed. Particularly if her role, as mine was at St Ives, is geared towards the equipping, mentoring and mobilization of women for ministry and mission in the church.

Depending on how these ministry portfolios are structured, this new model could also potentially become a hindrance to complementary partnerships being a practical reality within our teams. Under some variations of this model, it would be entirely possible that a church would never employ a woman on their staff team, except perhaps as the children’s specialist or, if financially affluent enough, in the role of assistant youth or co-small groups leader. Especially as most specialization roles by necessity require male leadership (eg.a preaching pastor, small groups pastor, services pastor, youth pastor etc). 

If this particular type of specialization model were to become normative in our churches it would certainly have significant implications, not only for the future training and employment of women, but also implications for how we most helpfully express complementarity on our ministry teams and within our ministry partnerships.

* Bob Johnson- 9Marks website
Bruce Hall-Some Reflections on Team Leadership’ The Briefing,  #381 (June 2010)

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