May 5, 2016 Tony Morgan

Churches Need to Close the Women in Leadership Gap

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Last year we released the Next Level Teams report, a survey of more than 600 leaders from churches of all different shapes and sizes. The research uncovered many encouraging findings about how churches are leveraging their leadership resources for Kingdom impact.

One particular finding, though, really alarmed me.

Of the churches we surveyed, 41% still do not have any women on their senior leadership teams.

That means two out of every five churches only have men in these key leadership roles. Most surprising was the fact that megachurches with more than 3,000 people in attendance were the least likely to involve women on their senior leadership teams.

Here are a few reasons why I think churches need to be more proactive on this issue:

#1 – The culture is wrestling with this issue.

This is a topic that is impacting the culture around us. Catalyst has confirmed that though women make up 47% of the total labor force in the United States, only 4% hold CEO positions at S&P 500 companies. If you extend that to all senior-level leadership roles, the number climbs to 25%, but that’s still not close to reflecting the overall engagement of women in the workforce.

As a result, businesses across the country are being confronted with the leadership gender gap. Companies like Google, Twitter, Apple, and Facebook have all come under fire for gender diversity problems, and as a result all have proactive strategies to close the gap. Every time one of these companies improves or falls behind, it becomes a trending topic on social media. It becomes news because the culture sees this as an issue that needs to be addressed.

This is an opportunity for the church to lead by example. We should be helping to shape the culture’s perspective on leveraging women leaders.

#2 – God gives women leadership gifts.

Let’s get back to the basics. As Christ-followers, we all have spiritual gifts (1 Peter 4:10). One of the spiritual gifts that some Christ-followers have is leadership (Romans 12:8). We are all called to use these gifts as part of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12).

Nowhere in the Bible does it indicate that only men receive the leadership gift. Like all the spiritual gifts, leadership is gender-neutral. That means if women in your church with the leadership gift don’t have the opportunity to lead and carry out their role in the body of Christ, you are asking them to disobey God. And, you are not fulfilling your responsibility to equip God’s people to do his work (Ephesians 4:12).

There’s actually a very long history of God using women to lead. One great example was Deborah whose story is told in Judges 4. Deborah was a wife. She was noted for speaking God’s truth. She was one of the first leaders of Israel. She was a warrior, leading men into battle. It baffles me that we’ve gone from God using women leaders like Deborah to fulfill his purposes to a place where churches are unwilling to empower women to use their leadership gifts.

As a side note, I know many churches and denominations have restrictions preventing women from being called pastors or being allowed to teach. Though I don’t personally agree with those doctrinal positions, I still want to challenge these churches to allow women with strong leadership gifts to serve in senior leadership roles. You may not be allowed to let them teach or call them “pastors,” but can you at least let them lead?

#3 – Women lead differently than men.

I’m in the camp that generally believes men and women have unique wirings. That’s a good thing for many reasons, but it certainly has practical implications when it comes to leadership.

Studies have shown that women leaders are more focused on developing relationships on the team. They are more facilitative which probably explains why they’re more likely to develop consensus in decision-making. They’re more instructional and have greater capacity to develop processes. Their wiring allows them to develop strong self-interest in the organization’s goals.

Women generally have a different leadership style than men, and that’s very positive. In fact, the Peterson Institute for International Economics has confirmed that businesses with more women in senior leadership roles are also more profitable. I love when research confirms what God has designed. When we allow women to use their gifts to their full potential, the organization gets healthier and performs better.


Just so you know, this is a priority for The Unstuck Group as well. We’re trying to be very intentional about identifying leaders and consultants who reflect the gender and ethnic diversity of the church. We have some work to do. Two of our top five leaders are women, and women make up a third of our entire team. Our challenge, of course, is that we draw our team from healthy, growing churches. We are a reflection of you.

With that, we’d like to help disrupt the status quo on this topic. We want to elevate the conversation so that others will join us in trying to empower women leaders in the church. With that, I’ve asked our team to pull together a series of articles that we’ll share in the coming days. I hope you’ll engage this conversation with your team and begin to develop an intentional strategy to make sure your leadership reflects the entire body of Christ.


Photo Credit: Mac Nicolae via CC0

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Tony Morgan

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of The Unstuck Group, For 14 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams at West Ridge Church (Dallas, GA), NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC) and Granger Community Church (Granger, IN). He's written several books and articles that have been featured with the Willow Creek Association, Catalyst and
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