Women in ministry leadership tend to face challenges that men in similar positions do not. In many cases, their male colleagues are unaware of these changes. This introductory episode of the Women in Ministry Leadership podcast will introduce hosts Dr. Rhonda Davis and Julie Cole, explain the vision behind the show, and talk about the Women in Ministry Leadership program at The King’s University.
Dr. Rhonda Davis: Hi everyone. And welcome to the Women in Ministry Leadership podcast. My name is Rhonda Davis and I am excited to be here with my friend and co-host Julie Cole. And this is our first episode. So we are here to talk about beginnings.
Julie Cole: And you love beginnings.
Rhonda: I do love beginnings.
Julie: So you’re excited?
Rhonda: Yes. I love the start of things. In fact right now we’re in the middle of the winter Olympics, and I love the Olympics. And my favorite part of the Olympics is the opening ceremony. Because anybody could win.
Julie: Yep. And I am the pepper to your salt. I like the ends. So I’m going to be watching the closing ceremonies and cheering for what happened and thinking about the amazing things that went on and who won and who lost. So I think maybe we’re a good combo.
Rhonda: I think so.
Julie: That’s my hope.
Julie: So why are we here?
Rhonda: Why are we here? Well, this podcast is really birthed out of The Women in Ministry Leadership program that is housed at the Kings University and Seminary, where we do a lot of work with students, undergrad students, and graduate students, as they discover God’s call in their life.
Julie: And that just didn’t drop out of the sky.
Julie: That was a process of how that started. You called me to be your partner in crime, but you’re the one that birthed this thing. You want to tell a little bit of how that started?
Rhonda: Yeah. I think I have been in ministry leadership for about 25 years or so. And for a lot of those years, people would continually ask me to do ministry toward women or talk about women in leadership. And a lot of times I would say no. Because it seemed so controversial or sometimes it could seem like a battleground that I really wasn’t wanting to enter. But, this time it was a little bit different. And I just noticed how God was working in the lives of women and students, particularly, that were around us. And I wanted to be a part of that.
Julie: Yep. And you were in a chapel. And one of our women’s students was overseeing the chapel and doing such a great job. And God said something to you. What’d he say?
Rhonda: Yeah. So I was sitting there watching her. She’s a young leader, really emerging, powerful voice and was sitting there and just felt the Lord whisper to me in the way that he does that. You know, we’re bringing voices here and it’s up to you to release them. So as I started talking to the women that were close to me, and leaders that were close to me, I realized that sometimes women who are saying yes to the call of God, just need a place. They need a place to develop. They need a place to have conversation, they want to feel heard. And it seemed like maybe we could do that here. So I just took the opportunity. It’s been fun.
Julie: A lot has come from that. We’ve got an undergraduate co-curricular program. We’ve got a graduate concentration. We have retreats that our undergrads and graduates go on. But then after we started thinking, why not a podcast? Why the generic name, The Women in Ministry Leadership Podcast. Because we tossed around a few cute ideas. Why the generic name?
Rhonda: Well, I think because women have varying stories, we’re here for everybody, right? We don’t need a necessarily want a flashy or cute name, but we are here to talk to women who are saying yes to ministry leadership.
Julie: Yep. And when I think of that, I think of the many women that are functioning in a gift and calling from the Lord, but without the title, in a generic way. And I think about women that maybe are unsure that they’re even allowed to call themselves something because of the context they’re in. So our hope is that in just the conversations we have here, that we can help women become more confident in their calling. We talk at women ministry leadership program here, you’re called, you’re formed, and then you’re commissioned. And we would hope that women can be more confident in their calling, and then find that place of formation and being commissioned. Yeah. Knowing what you’re called to and then who you’re called to.
Some of the women that are going to listen in are called in context, where maybe women in leadership isn’t really happening. But if you’re called to that context, the grace of God is on that. Some women are called to context where you go girl and the grace of God is on that. So yeah.
Rhonda: There’s so many stories that need to be told and heard. And there’s so much power in just the narrative of women and the way that they’ve said yes. And the things that they’ve faced. And we want to really amplify those stories. And amplify the voices that are within all of those narratives. So I think this program and even our conversations here. I love a quote from Dallas Willard when he said that, We are not in the world for God, but we are in God for the world.” So as we have conversations together, and as we talk to other women who are ministry leaders, I want to talk to them about how they are in God and then how they are in the world. So how is God forming? What is he doing on the inside of them? And then what are they being commissioned to? Like you said.
Julie: Yeah. As we’ve gotten into this together and talked to the different women that are entering our program and those that have come to present to our women, the stories are so varied. So I’d love to hear your story, the reader’s digest version that you can share this morning.
Rhonda: Sure. Well, I was raised in a ministry family, so my full disclosure. So my parents were involved in ministry and ministry education. But the denomination that I grew up in, for a hundred years, did ordain women into the ministry. They ordained them there, and they could shepherd congregations, but they weren’t allowed to serve in organizational leadership at that time. So I came up, growing up, I was just one of those kind of people that knew that I was a leader. I would organize like tetherball tournaments on the playground and create brackets. And I would organize all of those things. And I loved doing that, and I loved cheer people on. I knew that was a big part of my life, but I didn’t necessarily know where that fit. So in my context that I grew up in, when a woman was really called to lead, she often went into higher education.
And so that was the path that I took, the doors that God opened for me. Interestingly after 100 years, that denomination that I grew up in has now changed that. And now they are welcoming women to organizational leadership. So I’ve had experiences in ministry where I was really limited, where my voice was diminished. Yes, I have had that. But I have also had amazing mentors and sponsors and champions that have encouraged me to release my voice and given my leadership place. So I love doing that for other people. So it’s just been a process. And my story is one of God’s ability and grace to sustain a life. I’ve gone through the doors that were open to me.
Julie: I love that. I love that. A lot of times God uses open doors. He uses closed doors too to develop us. Yeah.
Rhonda: Tell us about your story though, Julie.
Julie: have always had a heart for leaders in the church, and that showed up even when I was a young girl. I grew up in the shadow of television ministry. My dad worked at a college where there was a big television ministry and education family too, Christian education family. But I remember seeing some of the leaders have moral failures or obvious hurts that were never really dealt with. And I remember as a girl thinking, who can they talk to? Who’s their safe place? So my natural path was to go Christian counseling, which I mean I’m 61. So it wasn’t that popular, Christian counseling wasn’t when I entered it, it was like what? Christian counseling? But I didn’t know it then. But I was feeling the early nudges of I’m called to the church to serve the church, to help bring health to the church. So I have always been a counselor or teacher in a Christian university and helping that population.
But as I helped that population, I noticed that there were so many amazing young women coming and getting trained in ministry degrees. But when they graduated, there weren’t many opportunities for them. So I started to have this burden for what are we doing? Why are we taking money and training women that can minister excellently and then there aren’t opportunities? And so from there, I just felt the burden of the Lord saying his plan is for women and men together to advance the kingdom. And I know that’s a big focus that we have here at the King’s University. Is for men and women together. We don’t want women to come to the table angry. We talk about that in our program. But when we’re side by side, it’s a fuller picture of the Imago day. So yeah, that’s my story. And I’ve had champions along the way.
I’ve had pushback in places that I’ve spoken in churches, and places that weren’t really that excited about me being somewhere to present. But mostly I feel like my role is to champion the young women that are coming behind me.
Rhonda: Who would you say championed you through your ministry?
Julie: You know, sometimes you don’t know what’s always been right in front of you. And just in the last two weeks, my father passed away. And at his Memorial service, so many of his women, staff members that had worked for him, he had been at the same place for 52 years.
Julie: He had staff members that had been there for 45 years. And many of the women that came to his Memorial said, your father saw something in me that I didn’t see. And he kept promoting me and telling me I could do it. And I realized, my dad did that to me too. I just had always grown up with it. So when I got pushed back from some of the first people, like, why are you presenting this? Women can’t do this. I thought, what’s that about? I’ve never heard that.
Rhonda: Why not?
Julie: So I had to develop an answer. I had to step back and figure, God did you call me? And then once I got firm on that, then I was able to present a little bit more solidly. But my dad was the foundation of it. I have a husband that fully supports what I do. And he pushes me forward. I send a hold back. He’s always encouraging me to step forward. And then I had a mentor along the way in counseling that really believed in me, and I tried to quit multiple times when I was starting my counseling. And he would say, let’s go to lunch. And he would say, you’re not allowed to quit. You have a gift, you know? So he championed me. Yeah. And I stuck with it. And I’m glad I did. How about you?
Rhonda: Yeah. I think it’s important for women to have champions. I think it’s important for us to have sponsors.
Rhonda: I think it’s important for us to have mentors, to have coaches. Those are all different roles that people play in the life of the leader, not just female leaders, but especially trying to find our way in a minefield that can be the ministry landscape for women. It’s important to have all of those voices. So I’ve had many champions, friends in ministry that really wanted to amplify what I was doing and championed me. And like you were saying that your husband does pushing you forward and your professor did. I’ve had that in my friends, in a circle of friends. That’s beautiful. I’ve had sponsors, I’ve had male sponsors in my career that have seen something in me and opened a door that I couldn’t have necessarily opened for myself. They used the power in those organizations that they had to make away for me.
Rhonda: The first, other than like I said, like you said, I had a dad who thought I could do anything I ever wanted to do. I mean he was convinced that I would be the first female president of the United States. I mean, he just knew-
Julie: Your life isn’t over.
Rhonda: That’s so true. So he was just convinced, and my mother was very strong and independent. And so she modeled for me, such a beautiful picture of tenacity and never giving up. And so I had those role models at home for sure. But when I went to seminary, I was in a program that was predominantly male. And I sometimes found myself stepping back or not bringing all of my ideas to the table. And I wasn’t even aware of it. I just was doing it subconsciously. And I had a professor, and he took me aside one day and very lovingly, but very clearly let me know how I was diminishing what God had given me and the thoughts that God had given me. And through time and through conversations and dialogue, even in the classroom, he would begin calling on me when I didn’t raise my hand or things like that.
And just suggesting maybe you should do this. And all of the pastors that have invited me to share their pulpit, those were champions for me. That invited me and have made a space for that. So I feel like while sometimes we can really hone in on those negative statements that are said or those limiting beliefs that we have, really there’s been so much more good and so much more open arms and welcome for me and in my life. At least that’s been my experience.
Julie: Yeah. Yeah. Is there a certain type of person or woman that comes to mind when you think of who this is for, and in this podcast?
Rhonda: Sometimes I think a few different ways we could look at that, but one, I hope is a lot of especially young female leaders will, or new female ministry leaders will often come and ask questions, like, should I even be thinking about doing this? Would God call me in this way? I really have a desire to open this mission field or begin this nonprofit or plant this church in this difficult area. And should I even be letting my mind go there? Would God speak to me that way? And I hope that when people, even when they hear our voices and the stories of other female leaders that they’re able to see themselves in those stories. And maybe be a little bit easier to say, yes, we talk about being called, formed, and commissioned.
So I think, I hope that people that would be listening to our conversations that are wondering if they’re hearing that call clearly would be able to say yes. Or I also think about women who are trying to shore up, not just their leadership skills, but their leadership soul.
Julie: That’s great. I love that.
Rhonda: Strengthening their soul and finding ways and opportunities to do that. Maybe that just hasn’t been clear or hasn’t been their background. And then those that just need a push, just go and do it. Run, go. So I think about it in those ways. I guess, those are the stages and stages that I’ve gone through. What about you?
Julie: I want to see every kind of person listening to this. I mean, I talked about men and women advancing the kingdom together. I’d love it if some men tuned in, but I was thinking this morning, how I’m 61, you’re-
Julie: 40. If I had had children earlier, I could have birthed you, Rhonda. But I don’t think about that when we’re working together. You’re actually my oversight. And that feels fine to me, because the barriers broken, I’m not thinking I’m old enough to be your mother. Why are you bossing me around? No, we are having a great time. Starting things, running things, seeing if things work, you are great at lighting of fire under me when I get too passive or don’t believe in myself. And I’m good at calming you down.
Rhonda: Yeah. Right. Like today for instance.
Julie: Yes. So I love the way that God brings the team, the people to the table. And I would love to believe that it’s going to be men and women old and young, every color I know it is going to be. We read about that. So it’s kingdom work. So in some small way, I hope this is a part of that, this stirs that up in some way.
Julie: What do you think you would like to see happen from this podcast?
Rhonda: I would love to challenge maybe presuppositions and assumptions about what female leaders look like or act like. There’s lots of stereotypes out there. I think we’ll probably be talking about that. Lots of stereotypes that we can undo. So, I hope to challenge some of those perspectives. I hope to nurture the call and soul of female leaders, like we said, and I hope to give maybe some language to male sponsors, that might be able to use the places that they have found themselves in ministry to open doors for women. Yeah.
Julie: I’m always thinking of the ones that feel invisible. I would hope that just somebody tunes into this and starts to realize, you know what, maybe I am a leader. Maybe God does have a call on my life, and urge them a little bit further down the road.
Rhonda: Yeah. There are lots of barriers to female ministry leadership. There are theological barriers, there are cultural barriers. There are historic barriers. And so I’m looking forward to some conversations in the future to hearing some stories, to having some conversations that maybe turn those around, I guess.
Rhonda: But this has been fun, Julie.
Julie: Yeah. I’m excited about what’s ahead. And for those that listen today, I hope they’re inspired and want to tune in again.
Rhonda: Yeah. Thanks for joining us, everyone. If you like what you heard, hit the subscribe button, and we look forward to next time. See you later.