QUESTION: What are your thoughts on men vs. women in leadership roles in single adult ministries?
ANSWER: The issue of men vs. women in leadership should be discussed from two perspectives: The pastor/director and the leadership team.
Both women and men can be excellent leaders. There are effective ministries across the country led by women, and there are also effective ministries led by men. The philosophy of the senior pastor and church board regarding women in leadership may have an influence/role in selecting either a man or woman for the position. The crucial need, however, is to appoint a person who will be a strong spiritual leader passionate about ministry to/with single adults, and can be effective in developing other leaders to help build the ministry and minister to people.
At the risk of sounding one-sided or too general, here are some basics I have learned regarding the gender of the pastor/director. These are not hard and fast rules, but are definite tendencies and common observations which contribute to growth in the ministry:
* Men will usually attract and retain both genders better than women, especially for groups targeting people 40 years old and older. This is because men born before 1970 were raised to appreciate and be more comfortable with men than women in visible leadership positions.
* The smaller the church or ministry, the more significance the leader’s gender may carry in beginning and leading the ministry due to having less people to attract to it. Men will want to see other men in the group, but with a 2-to-1 or higher ratio of women to men being common a small ministry is wise to secure a male leader/director.
* Women may usually have more organizational skills than men.
* Men may be perceived as having more spiritual authority than women because males have dominated key leadership positions in the church world for many years and, still today, out-number women in top leadership/ministry roles.
* Leaders should usually be of the same approximate age as the target-age of the ministry age group.
These same general principles apply when selecting men and women for the leadership team. I would also, however, add these additional principles:
* Men (40 +) generally want to see men in leadership, especially in up front roles. In an interview with Jim Smoke, who some consider to be the “grandfather of single adult ministry,” he states, If you have strong leaders, men or women, you will have men involved because men respect strength of leadership. However, I think it’s important to remember that men will not come (as easily) if the ministry is mostly run by women. There must be men in visible areas of leadership (taken from: Jones, Jerry, Growing A Single Adult Ministry, Colorado Springs, Cook Publishing Co., 1994, 117).
* Men and women on the leadership team will learn from each other and their strengths will complement each other.
* Generally, the older the group’s age, the more important, but difficult it is to find male leadership. This principle makes it important for the pastor/director and leadership team to work diligently at finding male leadership.
* Many men in the boomer age category (born 1946-1964) may have more trouble following a female leader than those in the buster age category (born 1965-1982). The older the man, the more likely he is to have grown up in a society dominated by men in leadership.
* Some men have egos which make it difficult to accept women in authority roles.
Let me reiterate…I have observed in single adult ministry groups over the last 32 years that men in leadership roles attract and retain both genders better than women attract and retain both genders. This has been confirmed by women and men alike. I have heard this comment expressed numerous times, “If the men come, the women will come.” Unfortunately, the opposite does not carry as much truth. If it did, the ratio of women to men in ministries across the country would not be what it is today.