Becky Hunter-Kelm leads The CROSS Project in Wakefield, and leads at her church Mosaic Church Leeds. She loves swimming, sunshine and reading. She’s about to be outnumbered by the males in her household as she and her husband expect a baby boy this summer.
As a team leader of a schools work charity and a leader of a church as part of a team, these are some thoughts and practicalities of considering gender equality in ministry and work – in the practical outworking, and with regards to professional opportunities.
Push for people to try different things and learn new skills. Don’t keep people niched to existing gifts of skills regardless of whether they are a man or a woman. Have you sat down with individuals and found out their passions, strengths and gifts? For example you might have a guy on your team who is super gifted with technology and setting up visual/audio things. It might seem obvious that he could be sent on some training to develop, say, your office software, but perhaps he has an incredible pastoral gift and could benefit from being developed as a mentor? Do something like the Strengths-Finder test with your team and don’t pigeon hole people with stereotypical roles or just what you have seen them do well before. Perhaps a female member of staff would like to be trained in football coaching, and a male worker has an interest in tackling eating disorders.
I always try and mix and match workers in schools when I can to role model a man and woman working together. For example in lessons or assemblies in schools we joke in our team that if there is a man and woman working together kids always think you’re dating or married. We’ve found amazing opportunities to talk to teenagers about this assumption and to share why/what is it like to be single/dating/married. We seek to demonstrate men and women working together well and honouring one another. This might be different to what young people see at home in parental or family relationships. It also demonstrates equality in the workplace. Younger kids don’t like working with the opposite sex so it helps to demonstrate this being done well.
It’s important to be aware of the values within different cultural or ethnic groups. Some young people may not have experience within their own culture or ethnicity of women having authority or women able to work in a job to the same level as a man. When I work with a male colleague who respects me, we can help to model gender equality. Similarly, if I go into a context that doesn’t value women leaders, I need to be aware that it might be a massive stumbling block if I were to preach or teach. As hard as this can be emotionally for me, I would much rather not share if people won’t even be able to hear a word I say. On this I also think we should not be tokenistic when it comes to having women lead or speak- like anyone else we should honour leadership by seeking Godly character, gifts and calling whether people are male or female.