Women and Men in Leadership and Conversation: my YL write up.

IMG_2832This is a post I wrote for the Young Life Midwest Women’s Leadership Network Blog. The journey of crafting words and researching story, asking for input and editing for softer language, ended up like it will read below. I was grateful for the chance to write but most of all, am hoping it will be read and used for necessary growth and change.


 Women and Men Around the Young Life Leadership Table:

Ingredients for healthy meetings and a helpful perspective on working with the other gender. 

February 25, 2016

I was fortunate to  attend the Women’s Leadership Network gathering during YL75. After sampling fancy and fabulous cold cracker spreads, we gathered in a semi-circle to hear from mission leaders. All three leaders affirmed the idea that men and women, working together, most fully represent the fullness of God in kingdom work.

Although women have not always been affirmed in leadership in Young Life’s past, we are very thankful for the major steps forward in this journey made by men and women towards health and equality. Because some women still have a steep hill to climb towards equality of opportunity in our mission, we will press on with hope.

On my own, in one blog, I cannot write to encapsulate a comprehensive history, or sum up experiences, beautiful or broken, in our mission or Christian ministry on the whole. So, I’ll slice out a sliver of the pie that’s been in my eye this past year: sometimes strong, capable, creative, and intelligent women staff encounter tension and challenge with their male supervisors.

Here are some ideas on what to avoid, and the essentials to include, in posture, philosophy and personal interactions in the working relationship.

Women staff, in your relationships with male supervisors:   

  • Acknowledge your primary identity is an image-bearing beloved child of God. You are the treasured child of a king with a beloved identity (Ephesians 1:3-6) and a royal authority (Romans 8:16&17), just the same as the guy across the table.
  • Do your own work to embrace your identity and voice. A supervisor who might be frustrating you is most likely not purposefully against you, but unaware. He or she might not know you feel overlooked or undervalued. Be your own best advocate, in a gracious way.

  • Possess your possessions. Use your own abilities and do not enable patriarchy by waiting for a man’s approval or invitation if the position or power is already in your hands.

  • Speak freely- with confidence, honesty and respect.

  • Believe in your ideas, remember the confidence of your calling, and take risks.

  • Keep healthy relationships with girlfriends. Pursue healing of deeper issues in your past that have not been brought to light or redeemed, and do the hard work of healing, forgiving, and growing outside of any staff obligation or meeting.

  • Say NO and mean it. Say YES and mean that too.

  • Appreciate the effort your supervisor is taking to lead you in the way he or she knows how and be honest and upfront when you feel there is an issue that needs to be addressed.

  • Talk directly to your boss before bringing in other staff peers or higher ups.

  • Respond well to female leadership and encourage the respect of all women leaders at any levels of ministry in Young Life. As women, let’s build each other up!

  • Be bold and brave. You’re blessed to be a blessing.


Male supervisors, in your working relationships with female staff, I recommend…

  • Acknowledge and stay aware of your inherent male privilege – the reality that you don’t have to think about being male, and that society gives men concessions not often given to women. Realize you come to the meeting with a power you didn’t necessary grasp for, but were given. Realize you’re not coming with a history of peers who were refused seats at the table, and that this inherently impacts the dynamic of the table, even though both you and the woman sitting across from you may wish it were not that way.

  • Become familiar with the reality of your lens for seeing the world through your gender, culture and circumstances. Each of us has one and we serve each other well when we try to understand the other.

  • With awareness of how your previous prejudices or embedded biases (which we all have) come into play in interactions with women, work towards a healthy head and heart.

  • Employ accountability and self-check-ins to ensure you’re walking mindfully into meetings with a woman,  acknowledging her identity as one made in God’s own image, unconditionally loved, and wholly called. Prepare to embrace her as a capable co-worker, an educated and equipped co-minister, and move to employ the full spectrum of her gifts and talents.



With a mindful perspective of one’s self and the person across the table, a working relationship is set up for success. Here are a few more considerations I’d like to mention.

  •  Listen well. Hear her whole ideas. Ask clarifying or follow up questions, agree, disagree, challenge and listen more.
  • Call out her gifts and strengths. An experienced staff friend of mine said he sees a lot of “women who have great competence

  • but lack confidence.” When he observes a woman excelling, he is sure to call it out so she can hear and build confidence. When a woman will not self-promote, she can benefit from champions raising her up.

  • See women as a way to expand the limits of your ministry. Different gifts that fill the gaps or widen the reach of what a man can accomplish alone, open up the door for women to fully live out their gifts, and more importantly, for the Kingdom to grow.

  • Ask for the woman’s perspective and listen to what she offers. Assure her you want to hear what she thinks, that you affirm her position, that her ideas are valid and you want/need her to verbalize what she knows, thinks, wonders, is angry about, cannot stand, will always stick up for, and wants.

  • Never use her as a babysitter or nanny.

  • Be her boss, not her best friend, counselor, or pastor.

  • Advocate for her with the leaders and committee in the area. Empower her to use her very valid authority and gifts to their fullest.


Women, you are capable and strong. You do not need to doubt yourself or the leadership gifts God has given you.

Men, you are capable and strong. You have the privilege of leading well out of your strengths, for the furthering of a kingdom team.

With humility, and some experience, with hope and faith that ensures the culmination of what we cannot yet see, I submit myself and our mission to growing and changing, as well as celebrating, as we work together in unity.

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