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Personal Observations From Recent Conferences…

Michael Gatlin

Michael Gatlin

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During the past month I’ve had the opportunity to speak with quite a few women who are exploring the idea of church planting and pastoral leadership. These conversations have been so encouraging to me personally.

The first opportunity was at our church during a women’s conference called, “Engaging In The Kingdom,” which was held in Duluth, Minnesota. At one point during the event I gave a short invitation, asking these women to consider accepting God’s invitation for them to be part of, or quite possibly to lead as church planters in the Vineyard. Several women around the room stood up to receive prayer when I asked, “Who of you feel like God might be inviting you to be a planter, or help plant a New Vineyard church?”

Here is a response I received from one woman:

“…the sentiment against women in ministry that I have encountered in local evangelical churches has not only depressed me, it has been oppressive. So, your words of invitation and inclusion in church ministry were like precious water to this parched soul!!”

She continued:

“During Worship that Saturday morning, I experienced God’s Spirit nudging me about committing to the vision of bringing a Vibrant Vineyard Small Group to the area [where I live]. So, when you extended the call to stand up if God had been working in us about church planting, I could not not stand up!”

How sweet is that? I just love the way God is inviting us to participate in what he’s doing, right where we live.

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The second opportunity came just this past week. Brenda and I attended a great two-day conference which was put on by the Vineyard Women In Leadership Network. The event was called, “One in Christ: Men and Women Together in Ministry,” and I found it quite informative and helpful. Here are a few of the main things that stood out to me:

Honor. It was so encouraging for me to see how much every presenter and participant worked to honor everyone else. Even when people disagreed on a particular point or strategy, I saw trust and honor being exchanged as the primary currency. This was so encouraging, especially when in our wider culture, around difficult topics honor can be quite rare. I felt deeply encouraged as I watched and participated in many discussions about the difficulties and the opportunities of women and men learning to work together in ministry leadership.

Freedom. I also noticed the freedom that was given, even encouraged, to engage difficult questions and uncomfortable conversations. As a movement we’ve been pretty much male dominated at our highest levels of leadership, although that has been changing over the past few years, and it will continue to change. So, as you can well imagine, there are lots of difficult conversations to be had. But because of the respect we have for one another, the willingness to learn and listen…there was a high degree of freedom to talk about all of the issues folks wanted to bring up. And as a man who has been a leader of one type or another, it was wonderful to engage the issues in this venue.

For instance, one of the helpful discussions for me was around the boundaries we’ve established to help foster healthy relationships as we work and lead together. And mostly, when we establish these boundaries it is because we don’t want to repeat the same mistakes we’ve seen other leaders make. We had a great conversation around how boundaries, in and of themselves, do not make broken people more healthy. And we talked about how these boundaries can tend to make women feel like they are the problem that men must avoid. This prompted lots of great discussion on the topic and highlighted for me, the need for much clearer communication with the leaders I work with.

Accessibility. As always, I continue to be impressed with the way our local, regional and national Vineyard leaders make themselves available for conversation (even if the topic is uncomfortable and difficult), and for the giving and receiving of prayer ministry. Let me encourage you, if you want to learn and develop and grow as a leader within the Vineyard, there are lots of opportunities and people who are more than willing to help. Just ask and you may be surprised at what you find.

I’m curious, what do you think about these topics? Let’s continue the conversation here.

I love being part of a movement of churches where opportunities to lead and influence others towards Christ is not based on gender, but rather on the specific gifts and abilities God has given to us.  Lead on and lead well.

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