We would never say that a man who is not a pastor or an elder is therefore not a leader in the local church. So why do we presume the same about women? No matter the context to which you define a leader we cannot make a blanket statement that women aren’t to lead or be leaders.  Both men and women are called to be leaders.

It's true that women aren’t leaders in the same way that men are leaders. God specifically made man and woman gifted and equipped to lead in different ways. He did not make us as one greater than the other, but in beauty, we were created to lead uniquely.

We are seeing more and more in our culture a loss of gender. From gender–bending in fashion to sexuality, the poor notions of masculinity and femininity or the total loss of them won’t stop but continue to dissipate or be skewed. We are a generation blurring the lines of gender, going from one extreme to the other. . . either forcing the distinctions to disappear, see gender as old fashioned or even sometimes in the church we function in a law driven, fearful roles of gender for fear of culture.

We need the distinction of gender in our churches and we need both men and women leaders in our churches, in the marketplace, in our neighborhoods and in our homes.  Our Creator knew what He was doing when He created both and male and female equally in his image, yet uniquely different.

I knew I was a leader early on in my life when I schemed and convinced everyone it was a good idea to sneak out and prank someone. It was confirmed again when I became the captain of my club volleyball team, then again in college through various organizations, professors, and my church leadership. It was confirmed when I was in management in the marketplace. Later on, I joined a church staff and felt confined. I felt as if I couldn’t lead because I was fearful of crossing gender lines if I spoke up or did something because I am a woman and speaking up would be wrong.  

It is still hard at times to navigate and I often feel tension. I want to get things done but I still want to be respectful to how God has created me and gifted me. I’m thankful and realize it’s not the norm to work alongside pastors who remind me to respond in freedom and not fear. . . freeing me to lead as a woman in the church. I fully believe Scripture and as such, believe that the position of Pastor and Elder are only to be held by men (Titus 1). However, there are often more opportunities for women to lead and teach in the local church that are missed because we are responding in fear rather than freedom.

Women lead not by having the loudest voice in the room but through submission and humility.

  • A leader regardless if she is single or married is first submissive to the Lord.
  • A leader knows not to fake it till they make it, but to admit when they don’t know the answer.
  • A leader knows how to die to her self and her needs for the greater good of those she is around.

Women lead in giving life not just physically, but through their God-given wisdom, their words, their time, and their resources.  

  • A leader doesn’t gossip but speaks in love using words that will edify those she’s with.
  • A leader uses her time to invest in other women and children.
  • A leader uses her resources including her home, money, talents to honor others.

Women lead by asking questions and listening. 

  • A leader knows when to speak and when to listen. She cares for people by probing beyond the surface.

Women lead by being strong helpers.

  • A leader who helps others is not just a doormat for others to step on, but being a strong leader is being a strong helper by teaching, guiding, mentoring and loving well.
  • A leader helps others accomplish goals. This is the very definition of a leader. 
  • A leader identifies a need and steps into that need with strength not timidity.

Women lead in wisdom.

  • A leader knows God both intellectually and emotionally.
  • A leader responds in wisdom and not folly.

Women lead by nurturing.

  • A leader cares genuinely for others.
  • A leader develops (through the grace of God) other leaders.

It’s our role to raise up this next generation of women in the church to be leaders prepared to care for other's in all areas of life. We all need to move beyond the gender roles and bending to step into being leaders who are seeking the advancement of God’s fame to be great in our homes, neighborhoods, workplaces, churches, and throughout the world. 

Amanda Edmondson is on staff at Sojourn Community Church is Louisville, Kentucky. You can follow her @amandaedmondson.