WEEK 1 - Seek to Understand

Before You Get Started

Welcome to Week 1 of the Developing Female Leaders course. Below you will find our first masterclass video that you can watch on your own or with your team, and your challenge for this week.

You can complete these sessions at your own pace, but we will be sending you the next video and weekly challenge every Tuesday morning.

We hope you enjoy learning about this week’s Best Practice and we will be praying for you as you develop the female leaders on your team!

Video One: Seek to Understand

This Week's Challenge...

This is a 2×2 Challenge: Talk to two female leaders from different parts of your organization. Ask them 2 things:

1 – Are there any assumptions you think people have made about you because you are a woman that are incorrect?

2 – What has been your experience being a female leader here?

Discuss With Your Team...

Take some time this week to have some valuable discussion with your team. Discuss these questions:

1 – What kind of gender roles did you grow up with and how did they affect you or your perception of leadership when it comes to gender?

2 – In what ways does your team or church do a good job of elevating and empowering women? In what areas can you improve?

3 – In the 2×2 challenge, I suggest a series of questions for leaders to ask the women on their teams. What other questions can you and your team craft that may help inform you about how the women on your team are doing?

Video - Becca Rowe

Becca serves as the Executive Director of Ministries at
Lifepoint Church in Fredericksburg, VA.

Video - Crystal Cunningham

Crystal serves as the Administrative Director at Family Church, Sutherlin, OR.

Overview - Week 1

Welcome to the Developing Female Leaders course. We are going to spend the next several weeks taking a look at The Eight Best Practices you can implement to grow in your ability to develop the female leaders on your team.

I thought I’d start out by telling you a little bit about the genesis of this book.

Several months ago I had the weirdest thing happen. And then 2 weeks later, it happened again. And then, it kept happening. Teams of male pastors were reaching out to me and asking for my help in developing the female leaders on their team.

Now, I’ve worked in some pretty high-level roles in churches for the past twenty years, and I have never had this happen before.

It was clear the conversation about women leading in churches was shifting. These guys were all from different types of churches, from different cultural contexts, and had some very different theological beliefs. But they all had one thing in common… they saw leadership talent in their churches going un-used and they wanted to access it. They knew the mission of their church needed these women to grow and develop, and they were determined to help them. These were the good guys.

But there was one, little problem.

What they were doing was… well… not really helping. In fact, many of their good intentions were actually hurting the future of these talented women. These guys couldn’t really see it and, to be honest, I didn’t know quite how to explain to them where to start.

After all, women in leadership is a BIG topic. And in many places, it’s a COMPLICATED topic. But when it comes to faith-based environments, particularly churches, it’s also a RISKY topic.

But at this time and place in history, especially with the #metoo and #churchtoo movements, it is a CRITICAL topic. And I wanted to help.

So, I did what any good book-loving, HR nerd would do… I started researching. I pulled data from ministry, academics and the marketplace, I interviewed 30 high-level female church leaders from a variety of church contexts, and I surveyed over twelve hundred female ministry leaders representing several different countries. What emerged were The Eight Best Practices for Developing Female Leaders – practical actions that any leader, team or church could do to develop the women in their lives and those they serve with.

And let me tell you, I learned a LOT.

One of the most important things I learned was that even I have some biases against women. I know, that sounds crazy, right? But biases are tricky because we don’t usually know that we have them. In fact, the research indicates that the fewer biases we think we have, the more biased our actions and behaviors actually are.

Part of the challenge with understanding our own biases is they have less to do with who we are, and a lot more to do with how we grew up, the kinds of media images we see, the conversations we hear, and the cultures we are a part of. I like to think of them as the ultimate blind spots, and we all have them.

Why is this? Well, our brains are made to notice patterns, make generalizations and create categories. It’s what helps us navigate our complex world and make sense of all the constant information coming at us all the time. If we didn’t look past some of the details and group “like things” together, we would be too overwhelmed and over stimulated to be able to make a decision.

But this also sets us up to OVER-generalize. To connect dots or attributes that don’t really go together all the time. In a nutshell, we are primed to jump to conclusions, especially about people.

And this shows up in all sorts of ways – the color of someone’s skin, their age, their physical appearance, their accent, and their socio-economic level – all these qualities tend to be attached to a generalization that we’ve each formed based on what we’ve been taught and our own experiences.

This is called unconscious or implicit bias.

For the sake of this conversation, there are some qualities that tend to be biases for both men and women. Have you ever heard any of these stereotypes?

Men are better at science, technology, finance, problem-solving, and video games. All men enjoy working on cars, fixing things around the house, politics, sports and outdoor activities like fishing and hunting. Men are usually sloppy, lazy, and do not cook or clean. All men are competitive and natural leaders.

Women, on the other hand, are naturally talented at teaching, organizing, cooking, cleaning and relationships. All women enjoy kids, fashion, spending money, decorating, shopping and dancing. Women are neither technical nor able to fix things such as cars or household appliance. Women avoid physically demanding work and prefer not to sweat. Women are relational peacemakers and natural followers.

Now, you might actually know some men and women who fall into these generalizations pretty well. The challenging part about bias is that sometimes, these conclusions are true! And when we see someone who behaves in a way that matches our generalization, it only reinforces our bias.

But you also probably know some men and women who would disagree with these statements. Maybe YOU disagree with some of these generalizations about you simply based on your gender.

And that is the problem. These generalizations don’t take into account each individual person’s unique qualities and perspective.

To begin to understand how to support and develop the female leaders around you, the first step is to begin to unravel the implicit gender biases you may carry.

Right about now you might be asking… “But Kadi, if I’m blind to my biases, how do I begin to unravel them?”

I’m glad you asked

I go into a lot more detail about this in the book, but the first step is to shift your mindset about women to being CURIOUS. If you are open to learning and truly understanding what makes the women leaders around you tick, you’ll begin to learn and appreciate what is unique about them and their story. As you posture your heart to be open and position your assumptions to be challenged, and your biases will slowly begin to crumble.

But, here is the key. You have to stay open-minded. Implicit biases are strong, so you’ll need to actively resist the urge to translate what she is saying into your own words or connect it to your own experience. Just listen. Don’t judge, don’t assume, and don’t make any conclusions. Just ask her about her experience and try to learn from her perspective.


Have any questions about this masterclass?  Please contact Kate Lincoln on our support team. She’ll be happy to assist!