The familiar Christmas song, “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer,” has a line none of us want to personally experience, “All of the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names. They never let poor Rudolph join in any reindeer games.”
Yet, the reality is that if you serve in leadership—especially as a woman on a mostly-male ministry staff—there may be times you feel excluded or a little like the reindeer with the bright and shiny nose. As a female ministry leader, there may be times when you feel a little left out of a conversation, and you can tell decisions are sometimes made outside of your presence. There’s nothing like showing up on Sunday morning and realizing you didn’t “get the memo” about a decision that was made in your absence yet it still affects you.
How do you handle this dilemma? How can you develop a better working relationship with the guys on your team when you feel excluded? While there are a lot of dynamics when it comes to working with male ministry leaders, here are four tips to help you negotiate this type of relationship dynamic.
1. Consider their perspective. Just like you probably enjoy the company of females over lunch, shopping, or exercising together, the men on your staff need to experience life together outside of church responsibilities. They need male friendships, accountability, and time to discuss problems they are encountering. They may not be intentional about leaving you out, but it’s natural for them to connect with each other through healthy friendships. Try to see this as a positive and not a negative.
2. Communicate when you’re feeling excluded. If you are excluded to the point that it affects your ministry performance, schedule a time with your male counterpart or team leader and share your concerns. Keep the points simple (translation: few words) and provide specific examples of how it affects your ability to work (translation: bullet points). If you’re excluded from staff meetings, initiate a conversation to explore the reason and share your desire to be part of discussions that affect your ministry. Give them practical examples, not emotional ones.
3. Create opportunities and boundaries that build appropriate friendships. Initiate a group lunch with others on your staff. Invite male staff and their wives to spend time with your family. Getting to know their wives can develop trust and a message that you care about their families. Ask them to help you think through a direction for the future of your ministry and give them freedom to speak into your leadership. Talk in the language of “how would you handle…” and invite them into collaborative and coaching conversations. Show respect for their position and for their experience.
4. Encourage a come and see mentality. Invite male staff to one of your ministry activities. Let them see how women are learning God’s Word through Bible study, a mission project, or an event. Don’t give them a task to complete, but provide an open invitation for them to observe women’s ministry in action. When you’ve completed a major event or responsibility, provide concrete numbers and an evaluation so they get a review of how the Lord worked in the ministry you steward. Show the male staff that you are competent with responsibility, with finances, and with follow through.
Finally, remember there are times they may feel excluded from your ministry. Ask them to visit your next leadership meeting, to give a devotional, or to deliver a welcome or prayer at your next gathering. You never know when they might shout with glee, and you’ll go down in history.
Kelly King is the Women’s Ministry Specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources and oversees the YOU Lead events. Join her this year and get to know her heart for ministry leaders. Follow her on Twitter @kellydking.