Wednesday, 26 October 2011

How gender makes a difference

How does gender make a difference in Church leadership?
That was the question I was invited to address for the October issue of FutureFirst, a news digest for church leaders: 'providing facts for forward planning'. So how does gender make a difference?
Well, it does and it doesn't. I'm increasingly convinced that the 'men are from Mars' version of difference may have a few elements of truth - but that's all. Research suggests that women and men doing the same leadership task tend to do it in similar ways.
The differences are all about women's different experiences. For starters, it's still difficult for women to be seen as leaders in some contexts, even when the theology allows them to be. A double whammy, if you like.
The most obvious difference is that just being born female means you may not be able to be a Christian leader at all - depending on your theology or that of your church. So it's not surprising that there are fewer young women than young men in Christian leadership. So for young women, it can be a lonely place.
Then there are worrying patterns of deployment. Women are more likely to be leading rural or urban churches and less likely to be leading suburban ones. I wonder why...? OK, I do have a few ideas why that might be.
So it follows that they are less likely than men to be leading larger churches, especially evangelical ones. And also less likely to be in senior posts, though this is changing more quickly than the larger churches situation, where at my last count, there were only 4 women out of about 172 larger churches led by women.
I suppose one could also suggest that the experience of being a clergy husband is quite different from being a clergy wife. If you are anywhere near Durham on 24th Novemember, there is an event that evening on clergy spouses, led by Dr Sarah-Jane Page. See the Durham website for details: and you need to email in advance if you want to go. Sounds fascinating!

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