Tag Archives: pioneering

A Leader & A Woman

Being a woman ain’t easy.  Being a woman in church leadership, well that is a whole other thing.  However, this is no pity-post.  Because while there are significant challenges to talk about, there are also significant opportunities to be seized, as well.

Here are some thoughts on both the problems & possibilities I encounter most regularly being a woman in ministry, and specifically in leading leaders:

Leading Other Women

“There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” -Madeleine Albright

Challenge:  This one is probably really shocking to everyone.  At first pass, we’d all think that women would be the biggest supporters and fans of other women in leadership.  Sisterhood and all that.  But we can get awfully territorial and jealous and insecure and threatened by each other at times, unfortunately.  And even in the best of cases where there is no suspicion or mistrust, there are relational sensitivities that plague us, especially in the face of conflict.

Opportunity:  Women can get a lot of stuff done once we are on the same page and committed to the cause/person.  It can just take some work to overcome initial roadblocks (see Challenge A above).  Women can be very protective of each other and care for each other really well.  Because many of us do invest emotionally and relationally in everything that we do, there is an all-in mentality that makes working with women really fulfilling and highly productive.

Facing condescension  and hypocrisy with grace

Challenge:  I work in one of the most egalitarian and supportive church environments a woman could hope for.  Still, not everyone in ministry and if I’m honest with myself, probably not everyone within my own church, has acclimated to women in church leadership.

My favorite is when my Pastor introduces me to other ministry leaders outside of our community.  They are all very kind and warm when he starts with “This is Tracey Rouse, my Executive” and then he finishes his sentence, “Pastor” which they immediately translate into “Assistant” until they realize those 2 words don’t sound anything alike and that they heard him incorrectly.  They quickly try to either mask their shock that a woman would have the second highest seat of authority in our church and play it cool OR they play up their shock in an attempt to provide some levity in the awkwardness.  Sometimes there is a bit of “girl power” rhetoric like women’s suffrage happened 5 minutes ago and we are so radical.

Pastor Jonathan: “This is Tracey Rouse, my executive pastor.”

Traveling evangelist:  “Executive PASTOR?! WHAT?! You go, girl!”

Me to myself:  “If he tries to fist bump me I might punch him.”

___

Me:  “Hi, I’m Tracey Rouse.  I’m the Executive Pastor here at Renovatus.”

Visitor: “So, you and your husband do that?”

Me:  “Nope, just me.  He stays home with our 2 daughters and also runs a theater & film company.”

Visitor:  Blank stare.  Long pause.   Does not compute.  “Oh… that’s great!”

___

Opportunity:  What an enormous exercise of grace & faith!  Grace for the ignorant- some people have honestly never conceived of women in pastoral roles, let alone met & worked or cared for one!  Grace for the close-minded- I wasn’t the one to close it and am not responsible for opening it either.  Grace to believe the best in others.  Sure, sometimes the condescension is overt.  But most of the time it is unintentional.  People don’t usually recognize their own preconceived notions of gender roles and while women in leadership isn’t novel or new for the corporate world, it is for the Church, which is typically a few decades behind the broader culture anyway.  There will always be generational hurdles to jump, theological minefields to cross, and social expectations to handle.  In those times, I want my response, both in my heart and in my speech, to be full of grace.

I walk by faith in my calling because I know and trust the One who called me.  I am convinced that the Lord alone is my Justifier.  Each time I face condescension I have a choice to make.  I can either attempt to defend and explain myself OR I can trust that the Lord alone qualifies me and let that be more than sufficient.  I will believe that I am included in the “we” referenced in 2 Peter 1.3 and that I have been granted all things that pertain to life and godliness by my gracious Father.  What else do I need?

On a bad day, all of these things, all of these scenarios can make me see red.  They can make me question my gifts and vocation.  Luckily, those days usually happen in the company of the most amazing staff who encourage me and follow me faithfully.  On good days those stories become good laughs.  I wrote a post a few months ago called Reluctant Pioneer.  It’s my actual life title.  Some people get to end their signatures with things like MD or PhD or Esq or DMin.  I’m going to try out Tracey M. Rouse, RP.  I’m not the first woman to be in church leadership and there are godly women in ministry facing far more daunting circumstances than anything that I will ever come across.  But nevertheless, it still feels like pioneering out here and the wild west doesn’t know quite what to do with us “little ladies” who are leading with strength and conviction.

A leader and a woman.  It’s intimidating, I know.  But you’ll see soon enough that the proof is in our work and our worth is not found in the hands of man, but in the face of Christ.

Amen?

 


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The Reluctant Pioneer

When I’m old and wise and have life stories to tell, I think I’ll call my memoir The Reluctant Pioneer.

Until then, I’ll just use it for a blog post.

I think I was born to pioneer.

(To be clear, not in the traditional “settler” or “frontier woman” way- I don’t know how to sew or ring a chicken or mill wheat or milk a cow or anything.  But in the ever-exploring, “building something new” kind of way.  Hopefully you see the distinction.)

And I say ‘reluctant’ because pioneering is not something that I seek out.  It’s not even something I particularly feel gifted in.  I am not the fearless, risk-taking type. By nature, I love order and predictability.  I love knowing what to expect and I like rules!  I also really hate to fail.

My idea of a pioneer is a daring dreamer who thrives on chance and defying odds.  No part of that sentence describes me.

Even so, despite my very precise picture of a pioneer, it seems I am eternally curious and like a good challenge more than I care to admit. Thus, I always seem to find myself somewhere new, working on something new– creating, establishing, shaping.

I’m not a true pioneer, but I apparently get pretty inspired by them and can’t seem to resist joining the team!  How else could I explain how I ended up as the Executive Pastor at Renovatus Church in Charlotte, NC?!

My husband Nathan and I moved from Columbus, GA to Charlotte, NC in 2006.  We had some dear friends who we deeply believed in that felt called to plant a church. Years prior we promised that when that time came, we would pack our bags and follow them wherever they started this new work.  We began our plans to move with no idea where we’d live once we got here or what jobs we’d find to support ourselves, but we were up for the adventure.

Renovatus was officially commissioned that year and there was a lot to do.  Pastor Jonathan asked me to be his administrative assistant and run the church office on a part-time basis.  I was his first hire.

So, here we were a new church with 2 employees; the Lead Pastor who has never been a lead pastor before and an admin assistant who had never assisted before.  Oh, and a host of volunteer staff who also had no prior direct experience in the areas they were serving.  It was QUITE a learning curve.  It was a long season of pioneering on every front.  We were making it up as we went as best as we could.  As my friend Mat likes to say, we were building the boat while out at sea.  And that’s not the easiest way to build a boat, my friend!

Since then, every season of growth thereafter for the church has brought about new endeavors to pioneer.

Some we receive with joy and exuberance.  Others with more reluctance and discomfort than you can know.

In some we soar.  In others we flail about just trying to get off the ground.  In all of them we learn.  (As an aside: Sometimes I think learning is enough.  But in more than one of those occasions I’d maintain that learning is overrated!)

Planting a church, growing a church, being the church is non-stop pioneering.  Almost 6 years in, I’m still learning to embrace it.  I’m still learning to lean into the adventure and walk by faith.

Here are a few beautiful things I’ve reluctantly learned about pioneering along the way:

1.  Pioneering is quite the crucible!  New challenges are refining and developing.  Character is revealed.  Leaders and ideas emerge from unlikely places.

2.  Pioneering keeps you open.  Keeps you expectant.  Keeps you curious. Every idea is worth exploring and every option is entertained. Everything has potential and possibility when you are a pioneer.  In this way, pioneering can often foster humility & imagination.  It can also help keep cynicism & close-mindedness at bay.

3.  Pioneering keeps you dependent.  I once heard Dallas Willard speaking on the subject of dependence upon the Lord.  Someone attempted to challenge him and said, “We can’t always live at the end of our rope, though, right?”  His reply was simply, “I don’t know where else you’d live.”

Pioneering is the perfect means by which you reluctantly take up permanent residence at the end of your rope and hang on for dear Life.