Women in leadership in church and the challenges they face

women in leadership in church

Regardless of whether you’re a man or a woman, leadership is just plain hard at times. But you’re simply delusional if you don’t acknowledge that women encounter far more challenges in leadership than men. This is especially true for women leaders in Christian ministries, churches, or organizations. Women in leadership in church is a term I will use to explore the concepts of what barriers women in ministry leadership encounter.

To be clear, I’m referring to women who serve in leadership roles in the church. I’m not targeting the issue of women as senior pastors. That would require a book and I already have written two of those.

I was motivated to write this because I’ve been part of a church where women could speak from the pulpit. They were not pastors, necessarily, but they were missionaries reporting on their work around the world and what God was doing.

We also had a licensed psychologist person speak on God’s word.

Now, I attend a church where my husband does not believe in women preaching. However, he does recognize the value they bring as ministry leaders.

So complex.

I want to talk about this because it’s an interesting topic to think about.

I’m going to talk about male “hangups,” and a few women may have them, too. These hangups often stem from societal expectations and pressures that dictate how men and women should behave or feel.

For men, these hangups can include issues like feeling women are inferior to them in some ways. Others interpret scriptures as being clear about women not being in pastoral roles.

Similarly, women may face their own set of challenges related to women in ministry.

Either way, I’m going to try to write this piece without letting my biases or opinions infiltrate the text.

Let’s see if I can do it.

Okay, women in leadership in church and the challenges they face.

Ready to talk about why people go bananas when women assume leadership positions?

I could list a million reasons women face difficulty in leadership in general. Leadership in the church is a whole other ball of wax for Christian women.

I am no Bible expert.

You’ve never heard me say I’m a theologian and I’d rather be a constipated, 3-eyed Martin than a pastor.

However, I have common sense, and I know my Bible.

Experience and consistent Bible study teaches us that God has used women in spiritual roles usually held by men. 

Immediately, my mind thinks of the judge, Deborah. 

Then I think of Miriam, who had some role in worship. 

She was also a prophetess.

Oftentimes, the term “prophetess” means someone married to a prophet. I think she was more of a worship leader, though.

Secondly, I think of Huldah. No one talks about her much.

Huldah, the prophetess, lived in Jerusalem during the reign of King Josiah, one of the few good kings of Judah. She was “the wife of Shallum son of Tokhath, the son of Hasrah, keeper of the wardrobe” (2 Chronicles 34:22). During a bookkeeping task, Hilkiah, the high priest, found a lost copy of the Book of the Law and brought it to the king. This book, given by God through Moses, was the foundation of Israel’s religious and political system and had not been seen for many years. This neglect illustrates the deep apostasy during the reigns of Manasseh and Amon. You can read more here.

She was married to a clothing guy (so he was not a prophet), yet she is still esteemed [in scripture] as a prophetess. She is recorded saying, “This is what the Lord God says….” Yep, she was a prophet.

women in leadership in church

God is God.  He uses yielded women in ways He sees fit. Don’t put Him in a box. It won’t work.  Don’t even try.  It will be useless.

It’s beyond narrow-minded to say God cannot use women in leadership roles. Still, some people (and denominations) believe this to be absolute truth. 

I feel for my sisters in leadership. They not only have to overcome the snares of the enemy, but they also have to watch out for the traps of their ill-informed brothers and sisters in Christ.  Sad.

This is why women in leadership in church have so many problems.

The second challenge you’ll face in leadership is men with issues (abbreviated as MWI – not to be confused with NWA).

Sorry, let me get back on point.

Some men have mental “noise” originating from previous experiences with women. Maybe their mom was domineering or manipulative and hence, they cannot follow the leadership of a female.

Perhaps the mom used her parental authority as a bully – thwarting their masculine development and self-perceptions. 

Now, years later, they perceive that every woman is trying to attack their ego and usurp their power.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, what if a guy’s mom was under-performing? If she was dim-witted and accomplished little he could be proud of, this guy may assume all women have limited capacity.

Yes, these are “issues”.

Thank the Lord He came to set us free from our “issues.”  

Still, in this type of situation, the only thing you can do is pray for this guy’s deliverance (and his wife because of his issues) while exercising patience.

If you are a man reading this, get over yourself.

Moving on.

women in leadership in church

Jealousy is a factor for so many people even for women in leadership in church. 

It’s a snare and a wicked trap that keeps you second-guessing yourself. I wrote about my own experiences with jealousy.

I also wrote about what you can do when people are jealous of you – which is precisely what I’m talking about here.

In my opinion, jealousy usually stems from the foolishness of comparisons—from comparing oneself to someone else.

Sadly, women in leadership in church will run into this from both men and women.

Immature people may strive to sabotage the very people they admire. It’s kind of crazy.

The person who seems against you probably admires qualities in you they wish they had.

Again, be patient.

If God has gifted you with a massive vision and stellar leadership ability, people will be envious. It’s only natural.

When Christians walk according to natural principles – instead of spiritually mature Christian ones – they behave like the world. Jealousy and insecurity are rooted in the world and associated with sickness.

Numerous Bible verses about jealousy provide insights into its impact.

For instance, James 3:16 states, “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” This highlights the negative consequences of harboring jealousy.

Another verse, Proverbs 14:30, states, “A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot,” emphasizing the corrosive effects of jealousy on both physical and spiritual well-being.

Throughout the scriptures, we are advised to cast aside jealousy.

Still, people are going to be jealous of you in the church.

However, this cannot thwart what God has designed for you to do.

Just keep moving and be aware.

women in leadership in church

You know this one.

Self-doubt, that ever-present, lurking enemy, is a huge challenge to women in (or preparing for) Christian authority.

I think it is the most difficult one to conquer because it is self-inflicted and embedded in one’s own heart.

You know it’s true:  our biggest enemy is often us.

Don’t worry. You’re not alone and there is hope.

If you search scripture, you’ll find lots of scenarios in which the “called” doubt their abilities (or lack thereof). It’s ok.

Sometimes, it seems God chooses the most unlikely among us to be instruments of His glory, solidifying His plan through their extraordinary journeys.

It’s imperative that people (and all of us) know that our successes, resilience, and leadership are clear results of God’s grace, power, and strength.

We can do nothing in our own strength.

He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

John 15:5

In our brokenness and frailness, we can still succeed beyond logic. 

By that I mean we can do great things when it doesn’t make sense on paper.

Then, the “wise” of this world are confused and thoroughly convinced the God of the universe exists! 

That’s how the Lord Jesus wants it. He wants all eyes on Him so people can run to Him and be fulfilled, saved, and blessed.

He wants to use you and all women in leadership in church to be beacons of God’s grace and immense power.

It’s part of our purpose to be great, big, fat magnets, drawing folks to a loving, kind, and REAL God!

Get rid of the soul-polluting Self-doubt. Instead activate your God-faith by renewing your mind in Bible study.

Trust that God has called you into your leadership role. If you don’t believe He has, then step down into the realm of mediocrity. Plenty of people are there – bound by fear – so you’ll have lots of company.

You will be equipped and sustained as long as you stay close to Him.

You know, I can’t think of anything I wanted to be less than a pastor’s wife.

Girl, in my twenties, I think I would have rather married a speckled pig than a pastor. But, all along I knew it was part of my destiny.

All the reasons I didn’t want to do this (mostly insecurity were self-focused. They were not God-focused.

It was all about what I didn’t have or could not do.

But, God equipped me with a grace that often confuses folks who know me.

Hey, I’m nowhere near perfect, but I am a self-proclaimed vessel of Jesus Christ.

On top of being that vessel, I’m an empty one. 

I have nothing to offer outside of Him.

Just recently, I earned a graduate degree. But, I could not in any way have earned it without HIm. I started during a global pandemic. My mom grew very ill and began to have dementia. I was devastated and broken.

Because of God’s grace, I was able to do everything I needed to do and even graduate.

I’m nothing without Him.

Listen, the Holy Spirit supplies the wisdom I need to support, help, or advise others.

I live in a confidence and ability that can only be supernatural.

Girl, my sufficiency is from Christ alone. A

nd because of Him, I’m able to do anything He calls me to do. So, I don’t feel like a stupid pastor’s wife anymore. I’m an overcomer with an anointing to live out my life.

If you are one of the women in leadership in the church, I want you to grab hold of the same position.

women in leadership in church

Another common challenge may be that of your spouse.

It’s very difficult for many men when their wives step from anonymity or mediocrity into leadership.

I don’t think this is as much a reflection on the man’s character as it is on a society that influenced him. 

Society has held such a misogynistic view of manhood for generations. I believe, as a result of this, many men think they are superior to their feminine counterparts in church. It’s poisoned their minds since their youth.

Women in leadership in church may find a difficult balance between being help-meet in the context of marriage and being a roaring lion of a leader at church.

Nonetheless, I believe that if God puts you in a leadership role, He will give you the wisdom to navigate it.

Allow God to define his position in your ministry and in the kingdom of God. 

I think you should exercise some caution when inflicting your expectations on him.

Do not expect him to support your leadership role in the beginning. In fact, he may tolerate it more than support it.

Instead, consider any help he provides as gravy until he is completely on board with your position.

If God has not guided him to take a role in your ministry, be careful of assigning one.

God ordained them as loving, empowering heads of the family.

This doesn’t change because you’re in a leadership position.  Women in leadership in church are still under their husband’s spiritual covering even while they are leaders.

Be sensitive to that.  Pray for him often. Pray the Holy Spirit will give you wisdom.
That’s my take on the challenges women face in Christian leadership.

One last point: if God called you into a leadership position, step into it.

Don’t apologize for it and don’t look to your left or to your right.

No! Keep your eyes focused on God in heaven. You are living to please Him first and primarily. Everything else will fall into place


Amen? Amen.

Book for single Christian women written by Christian Lifestyle blogger
women in leadership in church

About The Author

GodsyGirl

Godsygirl.com is your go-to Christian lifestyle blog where faith meets everyday life! I’m Teri, and I’m passionate about providing Christian encouragement for women to help you grow in faith and navigate life's challenges with grace. Here, you’ll find Christian words of encouragement, inspiration, and practical advice tailored for women seeking to embrace their God-given potential. Join our warm and supportive community and discover a wealth of resources and heartfelt discussions designed to uplift and empower you on your spiritual journey.

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