I've been seeing way too many comments here and elsewhere about how hard it is to find women who are willing to lead in various emerging church contexts--by speaking up front, writing articles, writing books, or otherwise getting their voice out into the public sphere. I'm particularly disturbed by comments by men along the lines of, "I would love to have more women involved in leading (insert project here), but every women I asked turned me down!"
There's something not right in this picture. I know so many brilliant women involved in the emerging church in various forms--women who have a lot to say, women who have a unique perspective, women who have leadership qualities in spades. I find myself thinking that if these women turn down a chance to speak or write or lead in some other way, then the project must not be worth doing. But then I take a deep breath and try to remember that for all sorts of reasons, women's leadership is not as easy as it should be--in the church and outside of it.
So, let's take to heart Mother Jone's advice: "Don't mourn, organize." Let's create a list of 50 ways to encourage a woman leader. (Notice that I didn't say, "encourage a woman to lead"!) I'll start and please add more ideas in our comments.
1. Include women's voices and perspectives from the beginning. Don't plan the event, outline the book, organize the tour, and THEN try to find a woman or two to add diversity. The entire project might look different if women are involved from the get-go, and it might be more appealing to women leaders.
2. Don't just include one woman--include ten. No one likes to be a token.
3. Ask a woman leader what she would like to write about, speak about, sing about, make art about, and then make room for her to do that. Don't just come to her with an idea about what you'd like her to say.
4. Invite women to tell their story as leaders (to you, or to everyone). If a woman isn't claiming and celebrating her own leadership abilities, listen to her story and notice out loud the ways in which she has already been leading. Thank her.
5. Introduce the women leaders you know to each other. Too often, women leaders are isolated within their own churches or networks. Women do a tremendous job encouraging each other to step up to the plate--if only they know each other.
Labels: Emerging Church, Gender Issues, Women in Ministry