At North Creek Church our pastoral staff currently has 8 key paid leadership positions (some part time, some full time) filled by 50% male and 50% female leaders. I’m certain that North Creek is on the far end of the spectrum because women in church leadership is still a controversial subject in the 21st century. Today I’ll take some time and let you in on how our leadership team is built and how it works.
Here is our breakdown of positions:
- Lead Pastor – Male (My husband)
- Associate Pastor – Female (Myself – I actually don’t have a title. No one has figured out what I do in the last ten years, but it’s a mixture of keeping the ship moving while creating enormous chaos with my latest great idea. The guys have a few opinions of the words “great idea”…)
- Youth Pastor – Female
- Catalyst Pastor – Female (oversees 140+ volunteers and makes Sundays run like clockwork)
- Executive Pastor – Male
- Worship Pastor – Male
- Children’s Pastor – Female
- Deaf Church Lead Pastor – Male (His wife plays a key pastoral position that I could easily add to this list as well, but at the moment is unpaid.)
(One thing to note is that our leadership team has incredible longevity. I listed the order above by how long we’ve worked with each person. The first five have been at North Creek for over 10 years, while the bottom three have been with us about 5 years. That, as well, is nearly unheard of in church leadership roles. Perhaps I’ll write a blog later about how to develop a team that sticks. Once I figure out how we did that…)
Here are some behind the scenes thoughts we had as we developed our team:
First, we didn’t set out to hire women.
If you are thinking, “I’ve got to go find a qualified woman to develop some diversity in our church”, you are starting off on the wrong foot. All of our leadership team came from within our church, and quite simply, we hired the person who was the most qualified and already doing the work. If you look around every time you need to hire and can only find one gender who is strong and capable, you probably have to address red flags in your church culture and preaching.
Here’s our hiring process in one sentence: Chris became one of our key preachers/executive pastor because he is an excellent communicator and leader. Andrea became our children’s pastor because she is extremely gifted in communicating the Gospel and growing children. Kris became our youth pastor because she simply could not stop leading teenagers to Jesus. Rachael became our organizer because she is the perfect mixture of control and grace. Jim became our Deaf Church pastor because he understands and loves the deaf culture…and he knows sign language…talk about job security! Matt became our worship leader because he wrangles a team of very talented, artsy, creative types….a lot like chasing cats… And so on… We picked exceptional leaders and didn’t worry about “balancing our staff with gender diversity”. Simply put…nobody wants to be hired because of their gender. They want to be added to the team because someone recognized their intrinsic gifts and worth.
Second, we developed a team culture that is a secure place for both men and women to interact with absolute integrity.
Our core team culture includes that we never meet alone with the opposite gender and that we don’t entertain conversations about our relationship struggles with the opposite gender. Why? Because we’ve watched great men and women fall to temptation and we will never assume that we are above being led astray either. I’m sure that all of our marriages have had mountains and valleys while we’ve known each other. We’ve probably all been vulnerable at different points. The enemy has tried to get us all when we are weak…
This may be an uncomfortable reality to address in church staff, but if you address health on the front side, you are more likely to have health on the back side. I watch our staff as a whole keep our conversations where our spouses would feel honored, our physical contact to an appropriate level, and our meetings are open door. This may sound extreme, but it has never been a problem. It has never hindered ministry. We have never had to say, “Man, people won’t know about Jesus unless we have this private, closed door meeting without accountability.” The men and women on our team are some of the closest friends I’ve seen, but it is actually the boundaries that allows our healthy friendship to even happen at all. It breeds trust among each other and keeps our team above reproach.
Third, we believe that if you want to get the best out of parents (men and women) in church leadership, empower them to do their jobs and then let them have freedom in their schedule.
Quite frankly, ministry requires enough sacrifice. The pace is often relentless, the task is often overwhelming, and the emotional baggage is heavy on many days. On top of that, we can’t pay them enough to miss out on school plays, soccer games, and dance recitals for their amazing kids. So we have very few boundaries on required staff times. And the magic that we watch day in and day out is that they all do far more than they should. They are pastors at heart, motivated by Jesus himself, and they work with a diligence and honor that trumps the need to demand set office hours. This may be even more true for the women. The fact of the matter is that most women are still the main childcare providers for the families. But if Jesus has called them to a pastor, trust me…they also have the time and energy to pour their lives into ministry…IF someone will work with their kid’s schedules. I’ve watched the mothers on our team navigate being wonderful moms and high capacity pastors with grace and excellence. They know God has a call and a place for them, but they also want to be on the forefront of raising their kids. I know that need intimately, and while not all jobs can accommodate that for working women, ministry very often can. So we do. And it has never failed us.
So, there is a taste of what’s behind the scenes of North Creek and our DNA. It’s not perfect by any means. Sometimes our gender differences rub each other the wrong way. And I guarantee that our team probably cries more than most teams. (Mostly the men…) All that aside, I wouldn’t change it for the world! It goes much deeper and wider than this 1000 words, but I can tell you that I love what it produces in the church as a whole. We have STRONG women and STRONG men in our church who are comfortable in whatever role God is calling them to step into.
Disclaimer to all Women in Ministry
**I am very aware that most women stepping into ministry are highly discouraged by what they are finding out there in our church culture. Perhaps this blog will encourage you to know that there are churches who are simply paving the way by creating diverse teams from a very normal foundation of merit and passion. As a licensed female pastor, I am cheering you on, raising up a generation who thinks highly of you, and storming the gates of Hell right alongside of you in my heels and lipstick. Let’s do this!
This is a great post! I’ve been on staff at two churches- both full and part time and both as the childrnw’s ministry director. I’ve appreciated that in both places I was totally respected, however in my current church I feel like there is a different level of equality that I’ve appreciated so much. All your points have been true where I am. Thanks for putting great words to what it means to be a healthy church that equips and empowers women.
Thank you so much!