For many women in ministry leadership, there are challenges that don’t always apply to their male colleagues. Many times, these challenges go unseen and unaddressed. Dr. Rhonda Davis at The King’s University is pioneering a program called Women in Ministry Leadership to help encourage and validate women on their ministry journeys. She also hosts a podcast of the same name.
In this episode of the Church InTension podcast, TKU President, Dr. Jon Chasteen, speaks with Dr. Davis about some of these challenges and how leaders can foster a balanced team.
Dr. Jon Chasteen: Today, I’m really excited about our guest. She is a really good friend of mine, and we actually work together. Our guest is Dr. Rhonda Davis. Dr. Davis is, I’m going to call you Rhonda though, Rhonda is the vice president for student development and enrollment management here at the King’s University. And most recently was just appointed executive vice president.
So, you’re like my sidekick.
Dr. Rhonda Davis: Yeah, I guess so. Partner in crime. I don’t know.
Jon: Partner in crime, I like it. So, one, before we get into the meat of this, just want to let you know how much I appreciate you, how amazing of a leader you are. TKU benefits from you greatly. I benefit from your leadership, the cabinet benefits from your leadership. So, wanted to say that.
Jon: On top of all these things that Rhonda does, she also is the director leader of something we call the Women in Ministry Leadership Program here at The King’s University. There’s a bachelor’s you can get a concentration in it, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree. Doctorate degree is coming, I understand.
Rhonda: Coming, yeah. Fall ’23.
Jon: So, I really want to dive into this, because this is really a fascinating topic. It is a tension point in the church, in some regards, because there’s differences of opinions of what women’s roles in leadership should be. And so, I’m really interested to dive into this, but I also want to touch on real quick for our listeners. And we’ll hit this again later. You’re starting a new podcast called Women in Ministry Leadership.
Rhonda: That’s right.
Jon: So, if you’re listening to this and you have friends or you yourself are a woman in ministry leadership or desire to be, you need to look up this podcast. At the time of this airing, it will be either launched or just about to launch. So, just search for that. So, let’s talk about women in ministry leadership. Let’s talk first about why is there, it’s kind of hilarious that, why is there a need for a program? There’s not a Men in Ministry Leadership Program. Well, just the fact that we have to have a program called Women in Ministry Leadership, addresses something.
Rhonda: Right. Exactly. And I think for a long time I would be asked to talk about this or consider creating a program. And I thought, “No, I don’t, I don’t want to. This program, we shouldn’t have to have that. Shouldn’t need that. Why do we have to do that? Why do we have to name it that way?” And after a while I realized maybe we need a program like that, so someday in the future they don’t have to exist. Maybe we start it, and we have the conversation, and we get to a place where we don’t need it so much. But right now, there are a lot of tension points with women in ministry leadership. Theologically, in ministry practice, lots of different thoughts and feelings around it. But there are women who are still saying yes to the call, and they deserve to be developed in unique ways because they experience a unique landscape. So, we have programs like that, so hopefully one day we don’t have to.
Jon: Yeah. So, let’s talk a little bit about your experience. I introduced you as your current role, but what does your career look like? You started in ministry, obviously higher ed, walk us through what those years looked like?
Rhonda: Well, I grew up kind of wanting to be in public service really. I grew up and even through early college visits and all those kinds of things, I really was interested in public service. And ironically hoped that one day I would maybe be a Senator or something like that, which I’m really glad I didn’t. I’m really glad I didn’t do that.
Jon: Well you never know.
Rhonda: But so I always wanted to lead in some way, wanted to do that. And in college actually, really just felt a call from the Lord into full-time ministry. But at that time, I didn’t have any models of what that looked like. You didn’t-
Jon: Were you a preacher’s kid?
Rhonda: I was.
Jon: You were.
Rhonda: I was a preacher’s kid. And I had awesome, I had parents who were the real deal. And my parents were like, “You can be anything you want to be Rhonda.” My mom was an educator. My dad was in ministry leadership, organizational leadership for a long time. But anyway, so I said, “Yes,” not really knowing what that looked like. And in the denomination that I grew up in, there was a limit on how far women could go in terms of leading organizationally. They could pastor, they could be missionaries, but they couldn’t lead the organization.
Jon: What age did you figure that out? That you came to the realization, “Oh, I didn’t realize there was a glass ceiling.”
Rhonda: Oh, I think I really had witnessed that early on. Just having been around pastors and heard the conversation and would hear the frustration and things like that. So, in my context, if you were a woman and you were interested in leading, you went into education. And I had no desire to be a teacher. There are a lot of teachers in my family. So, I was offered a job in higher ed in student development. And I took it and I realized this is a beautiful blend of developing people and ministering to people. My husband and I served on pastoral staff and leadership at several different places, but always had a tie to higher education and realized that it was a calling.
Jon: Yeah. That’s awesome. Daniel, her husband, by the way, obviously pastored, he’s been in higher education. He has a doctorate degree as well. He’s brilliant. I would consider Daniel a theologian. He’s amazing. So, as you stepped into this, well, before I go there, why don’t you tell us, how does TKU juggle this? So, to speak. Kind of putting you on the spot. Because we don’t necessarily have a strong stance on the theological side. We just say we’re here to empower you and equip you. So, unpack that a little bit.
Rhonda: Well, I think that’s one of the great things about TKU, is we can be a gathering place that can be hospitable to people that have views that land in different places of the spectrum, right? In all kinds of ways. But women in ministry leadership is one of them. So, we don’t have a hard and fast stance. Obviously, we believe that women can lead. We have women on our board of trustees. I’m in leadership, there are faculty here that are women, but we have students that are coming here and in their ministry context, may be more limiting to the female voice or it may be very supportive. So, we want people to be able to come and find a place here, to dialogue and to have conversation. Because TKU doesn’t do the calling, God does the calling, right? We don’t do that. We don’t say what it is you’re supposed to do with your life. But we do want to facilitate that development and we want to make your voice as strong as possible. So, I think TKU is a special place in that way.
Jon: Yeah. So, I kind of want to get down into what it’s like being a woman in leadership. And ministry leadership and maybe not even ministry leadership, just leadership in general and the president’s cabinet here at TKU, there’s five of us? Five of us, I can count, five. Two of the five are women. And so, we’ve had to kind of go through those dynamics of what that looks like going on leadership retreats. A lot of leadership teams are just a bunch of men, so it’s easier. Everyone’s going to go camping. You’re going to go to a resort. You’re going to do whatever on some retreat. We have to be strategic and think differently.
So, I kind of want to unpack some practical things from a woman in ministry leadership, some of the challenges that it brings, some of the rewards. So, do you have any, I don’t know if you can share any on the podcast, but do you have any horror stories of really bad experiences that you had, where maybe even the leader didn’t even realize they were isolating you or treating you a certain way? I don’t want to box you in. Do you have any horror stories?
Rhonda: I mean, everybody has horror stories.
Jon: We love gossipy, icky, sticky, give us the dirt.
Rhonda: I’ve been really fortunate to have had really supportive leaders around me.
Jon: Boo. We want a story.
Rhonda: But also, I have had, nothing like… Well, there have been, yeah, I do have some stories.
Jon: If you listening to this and Rhonda worked for you, she’s not talking about you.
Rhonda: No someone else, all together.
Jon: It’s someone else.
Rhonda: So, let me give you an example. There are some little things, like many times I have found myself as the only woman in the room or the only woman at the table. And so, more than one time, the person who was leading a meeting or something like that, assumed that I was in the room to take notes.
Jon: Get you coffee.
Rhonda: Yeah. “Did you get that?” And I’m like, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Jon: I’m not taking the minutes.
Rhonda: Yeah, “What are you?” So, there’s been a lot of like awkward moments there where someone has to intervene and like, “She’s here to speak.”
Jon: But we’ve talked about this, I love how you handle those moments because a really insecure woman would lash out in that moment. Or they may try to be domineering or be overly vocal. I think you carry a real grace on that and I’ve heard you talk about this and it was one of your hesitations to even wanting to start a program. Because you don’t want to create a bunch of woman power movement either.
Jon: What’s your heart on that?
Rhonda: Yeah. I mean, that’s the worst thing, is to create an angry tribe of women who are storming the gates. I mean, that’s not how anybody got ahead. And nor do we want to run around, if you have to tell someone that you’re the leader, you’re not the leader.
Jon: That’s really good.
Rhonda: So, you just have to be able to sit and be confident in who you are and secure and respectful. There’s nothing, I’ve never regretted, honoring or being respectful or those times to just lovingly correct. I’ve never regretted and thought, “Man, I wish I would’ve really given them what for.” No, I have learned when you’re asked to be at a table, you need to come to that table prepared and come to that table, ready to speak. You’re never a token, unless you don’t speak.
Jon: That’s really good.
Rhonda: Unless you don’t use the voice that you’ve been given. But you can always be respectful. So, even in those times of those stories, horror stories, there were times where I was asked to consult with or provide insight to a board that women weren’t allowed to be on. So, I sat outside that board room where the chairman would text me questions so that I could answer for the presentation that I’d created. But all of those times, I think were the making of leadership. What’s more important? My face and my voice being heard right now or the growth and forward movement of the Kingdom. So, all of those things, was I angry? Absolutely. I was so mad and got to come home and have it out and scream in my car and all those kinds of thing.
Jon: Daniel got to hear about it.
Rhonda: Yeah, yeah, he definitely did. But I don’t regret that. Because when we come to things with an angry voice or we’re just storming our way in where we haven’t been invited, it’s a lot harder to make progress.
Jon: That’s really good. We’ve talked about this several times and you kind of brought this to my attention and I never thought about it. And I want you to unpack that you probably know where I’m going, this idea of before you speak, you have to weigh stuff. So, unpack that a little bit.
I think the women listeners would totally get what you’re saying. And I think the male listeners, it might be a wake up call for some of us. I know it was for me.
Rhonda: Yeah. There’s stereotypes that follow all of us. There’s stereotypes that follow men, that follow women. There’s assumptions that are made. And so, especially earlier on when I didn’t have very much practice, I was always weighing in my mind how every word would be perceived. Am I going to be perceived as too emotional? Because I’m a passionate person. I have strong beliefs and opinions and I want to share those things. But I couldn’t always share them in as passionate a way as my male colleagues, because it would be received… You’re kind of always in this tension of too much or not enough. You don’t give enough input or you’re giving too much for everyone to consider.
So, sometimes being a woman in leadership is just being comfortable in that tension. And resting and continuing to speak until you find your sweet spot. So, yeah, you’re thinking about how am I going to be perceived? Does this sound intelligent? Does it sound too emotional? What is my face doing while I’m talking? How do I get in here? How do I speak their language? So, there’s just a lot of things, and the more practice you have, the less you have to think about.
Jon: Well, the more relational equity you earn with your team too, that we know the true Rhonda. So, we’re not worried about it, but it’s definitely something you have to weigh. And we started having this conversation around the time when all the racial tension started elevating in 2020 as well. And so, it made me think, not just in terms of gender, but even race and how different races, ethnicities may have to think more before they speak. And I became really aware in that season of as a white male, I don’t know that I, this sounds really bad, I don’t know if I think before I talk. That’s really bad. But I don’t have to really weigh my words, I don’t feel like, so there’s a little bit of a learning to do there, I think.
Rhonda: But you also though have the experience of making room at a table for other people in a way that others haven’t. So, there’s give and take there.
Jon: Sure, sure. So, we talked about this right before we hit record on, on the podcast because something happened just yesterday. This is so funny. So, tell this story and then I love this.
Rhonda: So, yesterday we were in a meeting, our cabinet was meeting together and I was sharing.
Jon: And the other female was gone. Ashley wasn’t there. So, Rhonda was the only female.
Rhonda: Yeah. So, I was just sharing about something that had happened in my work in the last few weeks and something that was concerned, on my mind. And I felt like we should all be concerned about it, as we think and strategize about things that are coming and what we want to do in the future, we have a lot of big initiatives that we want to do here. We want TKU to grow. And so, as we think about those things, I just wanted us to have in mind, what students were experiencing and all of this. I wasn’t bringing a problem to solve. I didn’t think, to the table.
Jon: So, this is such an interesting element to leading with women and men and women leading together that I’d never really had thought about. So, what’s the book, Women are from Venus. Is it Men are from Venus? I can’t remember which one is from Venus.
Rhonda: I don’t remember which planet is which.
Jon: One of them is from Venus and one of them is from Mars. And that kind of just unpacks the differences of women. And all the fellas listening will understand, all the married fellows will understand what I’m saying. When your wife talks to you about a problem or an issue, your first thing is, “I got to fix this. What do I got to do? Oh, okay. I’ll fix this. What am I going to do?” And if you’ve been married for any length of time, Michelle and I have been married almost 21 years, I learned the hard way that most of the time she doesn’t want me to fix it. She just wants me to…
Rhonda: Be aware.
Jon: Which doesn’t make sense. It’s so stupid. Why would you tell me if you didn’t want me to fix it? It doesn’t make sense.
Rhonda: I think that maybe, I think a lot about like, what is the uniqueness of female leadership? What makes it different? If we need both, if God intended that we lead together, which is what I would say, then what makes us unique? What’s the uniqueness? And situations like yesterday, which I was bringing awareness and everybody was like, “Well, Rhonda, we can do this. We can do this. Maybe we.”
Jon: We threw 20 ideas at you. And you were like, “What are you? I didn’t ask for ideas.”
Rhonda: “What are you guys talking?” But I realize maybe that’s some of the uniqueness.
Jon: It totally is.
Rhonda: Maybe as a female leader, I’m able to bring context. And just say, “Hey, as we make this decision, let’s look all the way around it and consider what everybody’s thinking.”
Jon: I think it’s because men are incapable of having long term thoughts. I like to use the analogy of a computer. Women can have 12 to 20 windows open at one time and they can minimize one and they can work on multiple things at once. They can keep things running in the background, so to speak. Men, we’re like, “No, I’m closing that software down. I’m opening the next one. And when I close that one down, I don’t know when I’m going to think about it again.” So, women have this thing of, let’s just be aware.
Rhonda: There’s more to consider.
Jon: You’re saying, “Let’s think about this for a while.” And guys are like, “No, in 10 minutes, I’m going to forget about this. So, I need to fix it now, or I’m going to forget about it.” But I think you’re right. I think we complement each other, and we make each other better, in the process.
Rhonda: Absolutely. We need both of those things. We need solutions. We need decisions. We need to move forward, but we also need to consider the context.
Jon: Yeah. So, what are your hopes? What do you hope the WIML program, and we say WIML, Women in Ministry Leadership, you just learned a new acronym. Around here, we call it WIML. So, you can steal that if you want to. What do you want WIML to accomplish at TKU, at the King’s University? What are you hoping to accomplish?
Rhonda: Yeah. I hope that graduates of that program are leaders who are so much bigger on the inside than they are on the outside. So, it’s one thing to come and learn leadership skill and to develop your voice and practice and all of those things that are really important. But in order for female leaders to be able to play the long game, which is, we want to see a Kingdom where men and women are working together. Where gender is received, men and women together, races together. Where there’s a beautiful unity and diversity in Kingdom leadership. In order to navigate that minefield, then our souls have to be strong. We have to be spiritually formed, so that we don’t just speak out of anger or frustration or we aren’t grasping at leadership. But we are entering leadership from a place of rest and security. So, my hope is that women who graduate from this program are valuable contributors in whatever context they’re invited to serve in. That they’re secure enough and understand who is calling them enough to not strive and fight, but to just lead well.
Jon: So, what is some of the practicality of the program look like? What are some of the, get in the weeds for a second, is it retreats? Is it like, what does that program, that concentration involve?
Rhonda: Well, it’s three courses. You take three courses, you start with the history of women in ministry leadership. It’s really difficult to argue with what God has done throughout history. It takes a look at women from the early church all the way through to today. How has God used women? And then the theology of women in ministry leadership, because there’s so many iterations of that. And so, that is the sticky point. That’s a place where we get messed up. So, women need to be really sure about what they believe, what their theology is, before they enter an environment that may or may not be different than theirs. So, they need to be able to understand that and articulate their own theology.
And then there’s a course in current issues where we just talk about what’s happening. There’s a lot going on in the church right now around spiritual abuse, even now, especially affecting women, let’s talk about that. What is going on there? How do we need to respond to that? And then we have an annual retreat that’s really just to get away and grow in our ability to hear God for ourselves.
Jon: Wow. That’s really good. What are some of your alumni or current students, like what kind of feedback are you getting? Any certain stories or?
Rhonda: Yeah, one of the things that I hear consistently from them as they go through the program is this idea that, “Man, I thought I was going to get into this and we were just going to talk about how we take charge.”
Jon: Do it. Take ground.
Rhonda: “How do we change this? And it’s really been about my own personal growth and there’s more spiritual formation involved than than I realized I needed.” And so, I love that. I love that, because leadership is leadership. I mean, we can learn from so many people about that. But we have even alums right now they’re in doctoral programs. They’re serving in churches around the country. And it’s just exciting to see what God’s doing through them.
Jon: I’m kind of putting you on the spot on this one. But if you had to give the warning signs of an organization. Say there’s women out here that are going to be applying for a job, or maybe they’re at a current position in ministry. What kind of warning signs would you tell them to look for where you might be in an organization that really doesn’t support this?
Rhonda: That’s a great question.
Jon: Because I know your heart would be to, “Hey, don’t raise a fuss. Don’t become this crazy person.” But at the same time, you would never want anyone to ever be held back or be in an abusive environment either. So, do you have any advice or any thoughts on what might be some triggers or some things to watch for?
Rhonda: Yeah. That’s a great question.
Jon: That’s usually when somebody says, “That’s a great question.” It means like, “I’m stalling.”
Rhonda: Wow. Yes.
Jon: And even right now, I’m stalling for you. I think, maybe we should take a drink of our water here and talk about…
Rhonda: You have to look at how organizations treat anyone. So, a warning sign is, is there only one leader in the organization that is affirmed?
Jon: Oh wow.
Rhonda: If there’s only one or two leaders in an organization that are ever affirmed or praised, then whether you’re a woman or a man, you are not going to be celebrated.
Jon: You’re not going to be lifted up.
Rhonda: Yeah. No. Is the organization open? Are they transparent? Are they willing to talk about hard things? Do you feel like you can ask questions? If you don’t feel like you can be curious or ask questions in an organization, then it’s probably not going to be friendly toward you. Are there lots of policies regulating every kind of behavior? I have found that organizations that are regulating every type of behavior, are often hiding some kind of behavior. So, are they open? Are you able to openly talk? Is there trust there? Is there trust among leaders there? What does that look like?
But if people aren’t celebrated, you’re not going to be celebrated either. Whether you’re a male or a female. I think that it’s always better, if women in ministry leadership is a deal breaker for you… I’ve worked in places that were very supportive of female leadership. I’ve worked in places that were not, and I’ve also been a part of organizations that were trying to figure that out. Which can require the most patience and grace. When they’re trying to figure out how to have room for mess-ups and things like that. But I think that you have to be able to ask the question and expect a clear answer. And whether that’s, “No, yes, or we’re we just don’t know yet.” So, if you don’t feel like you can be curious and ask questions, you may be in the wrong place.
You might be. That’s really good. You answered that very well off the cuff like that.
Yeah. I’m going to take a drink.
What’s in that cup, Rhonda, what is in that cup?
It’s really good.
Okay. Good. Well, wet your whistle. What do you think are some subtle things that leaders might unknowingly do to make women feel disempowered? I don’t know that there’s a lot of leaders that would intentionally do this. If there are, you definitely need to leave that organization. But I think it’s sometimes it’s the little foxes, it’s the things that we do that we don’t know we’re doing. We don’t know what we don’t know. And some of them are simple little things like what we’ve been talking about. But what are some other little things that male leaders, even maybe you could throw me under the bus, something that I’ve done sometime that have made you feel…
Rhonda: I’ve been waiting for this moment.
Jon: “Remember that time, John, that you blank.” I mean, what are some examples of that you think?
Rhonda: I think it’s a lot of times it’s in our language and the way we talk to one another and just not even realizing it. There have been many times that trying to celebrate me or support me, I’ve had male leaders say, “We just love her. She’s so sweet.” Or something like that.
Jon: Or you can tell they’re overcompensating.
Rhonda: Yes. And it’s like, “Would you say this to your male colleague?” Like “He’s such a neat guy.” I mean like, “What?” So, we will do that.
Jon: “She’s so talented.” Like you’re surprised I’m talented almost.
Rhonda: And just diminish. So, a lot of times it’s just in our language. Sometimes it’s an unspoken subculture. So, there are ways decisions are formally made in organizations. And then there are the real ways that decisions are made. So, sometimes the subculture within an organization can limit and be demeaning and nobody even realizes it because it’s happened over time.
Jon: Well, something that I had to wrestle with and figure out how to navigate and I’m probably still trying to figure it out, is even small things like oversights with my direct reports. If it’s Brian or Rob or somebody on the team. A lot of times I’ll be like, “Hey, let’s just go to lunch. Let’s just hop in the car and go to lunch together. We’ll meet over lunch.” But I can’t do that with you and Ashley. Of course, I still pastor a church and we’re very strict on these policies of we don’t ride in cars with the opposite sex. We don’t go on trips with the opposite sex. Those are just safeguards, guardrails that we put into place.
So, in a lot of ways, women can get nudged out and golf. I heard it said one time, that some of the biggest deals in the world are made on the golf course. Well, if you’re a woman and you’re on the team and you don’t play golf. You’re the only woman on the team and all the guys go golfing. And so, you’re like, “Well, I wonder what they’re talking about when I’m not there.” So, there’s a lot of those little elements like that, that it is a sacrifice, and we have to be intentional about it, but there’s still ways to work around that.
Jon: There’s still ways to work around that.
Rhonda: And some of it’s on us as the female teammates just to say, “Hey, I took golf lessons for that very reason.” Like that’s on me.
Jon: Did you really?
Rhonda: Yeah. That’s on me. I’ve got to be able to keep up. And like, I can play golf. That’s no big deal.
Jon: The chances are the guys that you’re going to play with are terrible anyways.
Jon: I can spray balls into the woods too.
Rhonda: I can hit this really far. So, sometimes that’s on me. I’ve got to be a meaningful member of the team too. And I get to come toward the team just as much as I want the team to come towards me. And just speaking up. Again, those kinds of things come because there’s this subculture to the organization and there may not even be full awareness. I’ve worked, some of it’s part of the country, there’s probably people listening that have had an experience like, I’ve worked in other places of the country and in other contexts where that really wasn’t that big of a deal. There wasn’t any kind of concern about that.
Jon: You could go to lunch with a male or whatever.
Rhonda: Yeah. It was just very different. So, there’s kind of two sides to that same coin. If there are those safeguards in place or those policies in place, then we have to honor those. And we have to ask questions about that like, “Hey, this is how this is coming across to me. I feel like I don’t have enough voice or I need some more time with you as my leader. I’ve got some ideas I want to share. And I can’t because of this.” We have to be open and honest. And able to give that feedback and receive it.
Jon: That’s the key.
Rhonda: Yeah. And we have to be careful of what we’re teaching people. So, are we teaching people that if we see a man and woman eating together, they for sure are having an affair?
Jon: That’s so true.
Rhonda: Are we teaching that? How are we cultivating the thoughts and minds of people that like, two adults just can’t handle themselves. So, there’s two sides to that. We have to honor the things that are in place. We have to be willing to give feedback and we hope that our leaders and our colleagues are willing to receive that feedback. But I found that if I say something, most of the time, it’s like, “I didn’t even realize that it’s happening.”
Jon: I agree. I think most of the time that’s the case. And it’s just a matter of having the open lines of communication to where one or the other feels like they have the freedom or the empowerment to come and say, “Hey, yesterday, this happened and it bothered me. It affected me.” Just having healthy communication.
Are there any other aspects of women in ministry leadership that you feel like we haven’t touched on that you came thinking about? I don’t want to just go down a list of questions that I have here and not give you opportunities to share things that you’ve noticed or you’ve seen?
Rhonda: No, I think these are all really valuable talking points.
Jon: So, I’ll ask you one more here, kind of a loaded question. What does every woman wish that they could say to a male leader?
Rhonda: Oh, that’s dangerous.
Jon: No cussing. We don’t cuss on this show. Wait till we push stop. And then you can cuss. We love Jesus, but we cuss a little.
Rhonda: Say what’s really on my mind.
Jon: Yeah. No, really. This is the Church InTension Podcast. So, have at it.
Rhonda: Yeah. I think women would say, something that I would love for male leaders to recognize is, “I just need more reps.” One of the things that I have found that creates insecurity in female leaders, is the fact that they just haven’t had as much practice. They haven’t had as much practice with the mic in their hand. They haven’t had as much practice leading meetings. They haven’t had as much that’s much practice talking and they just haven’t had enough reps, but they’re judged on the one chance that they get.
Jon: That’s really true, Rhonda.
Rhonda: Yeah. So, especially if you think about like a church weekend services, right? So, there’s usually some kind of quota that the church is trying to meet with the women preaching at least so many times.
Jon: Let’s see, we haven’t had a woman take up the offering in a little while.
Rhonda: We should probably do that. So, she’s asked, but she probably hasn’t been doing that in any other way.
Jon: And probably never been trained to do it.
Rhonda: Right. But if she messes up, it’s done for all women for the future, because we can’t see.
Jon: That’s so good. Ronda.
Rhonda: “See, we shouldn’t have given her a microphone.” So, just like, “Hey, can I have some more reps? Can you give me some more projects? Can you give me some more opportunities? Maybe that wouldn’t take such a public failure if I messed up. Could I just try? Could I open up the meeting with a short devotion? Could I pray publicly in this context? Could I make some announcements to the team before I get up in front of the whole church?” We just don’t get as many reps. So, we practice and practice and practice and practice before we’re just pushed out there publicly. So, I think that’s one thing that I would say.
Jon: You just dropped some gold right there. That’s really unfair. And I think that that’s maybe going back to the question of what are some subtle things that leaders do that we don’t know we’re doing. And I think that’s one. And probably what we’re doing is we’re, at some point along our path, the way we were raised, what we’ve been exposed to, we kind of create these preconceived ideas, whether we verbalize them or not, maybe they’re in our subconscious. And then whenever we give someone a “chance” and they don’t do well, it just affirms what we thought all along, “I told you.”
Rhonda: Yeah. When the desire, it’s a positive desire, right?
Rhonda: We do want this. We want more women to be empowered to lead. We want to do this. And so, we do that, but all the pressure is on that one moment when maybe her male teammate has been, they were giving announcements in the youth group. So, it just can be difficult and there’s a lot of pressure there.
Jon: That’s really good. So, talk about one more thing. Talk about being a mother in leadership. Sometimes going back to the culture and the way things are, there’s this stigma from the early decades of America and well, all of history really, is the mom stays home barefoot and pregnant meals, everything, kids. And dad is going out killing dinner and dragging at home for the family. And you are a woman in a very prestigious leadership role at a university. You’re an executive vice president. Your husband obviously supports that. How do you juggle, you have kids. How do you juggle this? How do you manage that?
Rhonda: Yeah. Well obviously my husband Daniel, we’re teammates. We’re partners in this. And so, I am so grateful for that. And so, he sees that. He sees much more in me than I’ve ever seen in myself. So, he’s always been very, very supportive and there have been seasons where one of us is a little bit more out front and the other one’s helping more. And it goes back and forth and we’ve just always understood that. But a couple of things that I would say to that, and I love, I have a book by Kadi Cole and it’s called Developing Female Leaders. And she talks about this quite a lot, but there’s two things I think that have helped me juggle all of that.
One is, I did decide early on that I wasn’t going to play the family card. So, my male colleagues don’t play that card. They don’t say that “They can’t all the time because,” and use family as an excuse. So, I decided early on that if I was going to do this, I was going to do it. I was going to lead. I wasn’t going to lead with excuses. I was just going to lead.
Jon: Wow, that’s really good.
Rhonda: And so, I had to figure it out. I had to figure out what that was going to look like. I couldn’t be the housewife of 40 years ago. I couldn’t take on those stereotypes, nor could I take on the guilt of not being all of those things. So, I didn’t want to do that. And I just have to realize that it takes a team. In leadership, gone is the day of the one dictator at the top.
Everything is, we have teams. We are better leaders when we can create teams. And I know that at work and I had to learn that at home too. I need a team. So, like right now, for me, in this season of my life, those people at Walmart that shop for me and deliver it to my car, they’re part of my team. So, like, we’re probably not going to have much at the Davis house if it can’t be picked up or delivered. And so, when those really beautiful men and women put those groceries in the back of my car, I’m like, “Go team go.” So, we need more people on our team. So, there are just some things that I have to say no to, so that I can say yes to other things. We can’t have it all at the same time. So, I wasn’t ever going to let my family be an excuse to hide behind. Nor was I going to force them to suffer because of my schedule.
Jon: Well, you’ve done a great job. Your kids are teenagers now. Are all your kids teenagers now? They are aren’t they?
Rhonda: Two of them are, one’s 11. So, he’s coming up close.
Jon: So, you’ve done well, you’ve got great kids, all love the Lord. So, there’s a testament to that, but there’s also a testimony to where you’re at. I know you’re not supposed to divulge ages, which by the way, today is your birthday.
Rhonda: Yes. It’s my birthday.
Jon: Do you want to tell everyone how old you are or you don’t really want to say that.
Rhonda: Hey, no, I’m good. I’m 41 today.
Rhonda: Hey, it’s going to be a great year.
Jon: I love our team at TKU, our cabinet. We’re a bunch of young bucks.
Rhonda: Yeah, we are.
Jon: I’m 42.
Rhonda: I’m claiming that as long as I can.
Jon: You’re 41. Rob is 40-something. Brian’s 40-something. Ashley’s 40. No, Ashley’s…
Rhonda: She’s the young buck of us.
Jon: Is she 30 something?
So, I don’t know, I got sidetracked there. So, my point is you’re a testament to women that may be listening or watching this show that have aspirations and dreams of a calling, but it doesn’t mean they have to sacrifice family.
Rhonda: That’s right.
Jon: So, there may be a woman that’s listening to this that’s 19 20, 23, 24, just getting married and they want to have babies. And they know that’s going to cause kind of a pause in a sense or they have this yearning to be home with their kids, but they also have a desire to do more. I just think it’s cool that you’re a testimony to that. You’re 41. You’re an executive VP at university. You have a doctorate degree, you have three kids and you’ve managed this incredibly well, but without sacrificing your family.
Rhonda: Yeah. And it’s seasons. There was a season when I had to say no a lot more. And there will be a season in the future where I get to say yes a lot more.
Jon: And nothing’s wasted.
Rhonda: No nothing’s wasted. And I think that we mess up as women when we feel like there’s a scarcity of opportunity. So, if I don’t do this right now, this one window that’s been open to me, if I don’t take advantage of it, it will never come back around again. And that’s just not true. God’s purposes will not be lost on us. They will not be stopped. But sometimes exercising that and just recognizing the season that you’re in, it keeps you from feeling guilty and it also rightly places ministry and leadership in your life. It’s not everything that I do. So, it’s good to have more than just that.
Jon: This has been so awesome. Any last words you want to share to women who may be listening or men, if you want to shout at the men and whisper to the women, whatever you want to do. Do you have anything you want to add? Anything parting, maybe to a young woman that’s out there that has dreams and aspirations, but feels held back by family, whatever, anything that you’d want to share to them?
Rhonda: Leadership is hard. Leadership can be really hard. It requires a lot of discipline. And I would just say, if I could look back at myself when I was just getting started, I’ve always been a pretty hungry person. I’ve had a lot of initiative and I’ve wanted to do things and have been, and come into times of frustration, especially early on. Early on, there would’ve been a lot of carnage behind me. I just was plowing forward and I didn’t really care. But I would just say that, those hidden times and those hidden seasons, when you feel like, “I’m not being discovered. I have so much to offer and I really want to contribute. I really desire that.” Those hidden seasons are so valuable and so important because whenever you’re given the opportunity… We don’t want to spend so much time fighting for a seat at the table, that when we are offered a seat at the table, we have nothing to contribute.
Jon: Oh, that’s so good.
Rhonda: So, spend those times with the Lord. Be a learner. My kids are 12 months apart and there was like three years that I didn’t really even shower. And so, I wish that I had spent more time learning, more time learning. We’re always going to wish that, but those opportunities will always be there.
Jon: That’s so good. Well, I said at the beginning, but I want to let you know how much I appreciate you and your leadership and you make us better. You make this team better. I’m thankful God brought you to TKU. And so, thanks for being on the show today.
Rhonda: It’s been fun. Thanks it’s a pleasure.
Jon: So, tell the listeners, if they want to be in touch with you, don’t give them your cell phone number, but what’s the best way to social media, anything. And then also kind of put a cap on this WIML program, if they’re interested in learning more about that, where should they go?
Rhonda: Yeah. So, with me, you can find me on social media, rdavis1216. That’s my anniversary.
Jon: It’s not your birthday.
Jon: Because today’s your birthday.Rhonda: Rdavis1216. And then if you’re interested in the program, you can email email@example.com. And I’d love to connect with anybody that might be interested in talking about the program for sure.