A Chemistry Conversation with Kadi Cole
It was an honor to have Kadi Cole join us for a Chemistry Conversation as we talked about hiring and developing women leaders. She reveals that "Most churches in America are 61% female, and so the majority of our congregations are women, but they make up less than 10% of our formal leadership roles." How do we remedy this while still holding to and honoring each church's theological stance?
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Matt Steen: Hey, this is Matt Steen, Co-Founder of Chemistry Staffing, and we're here for another Chemistry conversation. I'm really excited today. I have Kadi Cole joining us. Now, Kadi, she's done a little bit of everything I think, if I understand correctly. She's spent about 16 years on staff with churches. She was at, I think, Christ Fellowship down in Florida, finished up as the Executive Director of Multisite. Then left to go and help churches and organizations really think through leadership development. One of the things that she's really gotten into lately is this idea of how do we develop female leaders in the church. She wrote the book on it, both literally and figuratively. But Kadi, thank you for taking some time to talk to us this morning.
Kadi Cole: Well thanks for having me, Matt. I'm really glad to be here.
Matt Steen: Well good, good. So Kadi, one of the things, we work with churches all the time that are wanting to rethink who they're hiring and who they're bringing on their staff team. One of the things that we get from time to time is, hey, we'd really like to consider hiring a woman for this position. Now, I don't think that this will be a surprise, but for so long pastoral ministry and ministry staff teams have been predominantly men. Right? So bringing a woman onto a pastoral staff or ministry staff position a lot of times is just a new concept for so many of the churches we work with. So I was wondering if maybe we could spend some time, talk a little bit about what does a church need to know when bringing a woman into a leadership position on their staff team, and maybe how do we help develop their leadership and how to we help develop them in that role over the time that they're there? Is that [CROSSTALK]?
Kadi Cole: Absolutely. That's a great question, Matt. And I'm always excited to hear that, that churches are wanting to figure out a way to bring more women on the staff. I think many churches, regardless of their theology, are seeing the value of women, are seeing the giftedness of women. Most churches in America are 61% female, and so the majority of our congregations are women, but they make up less than 10% of our leadership roles, our formal leadership roles. And that discrepancy really plays itself out in the congregation. I think even during this time of the pandemic when we don't necessarily have our typical Sunday morning gatherings the way we always have. Women are 30% more likely to volunteer. The majority of them run their finances and make the majority of the decisions around where tithes are directed. And so if we're not paying attention to women and their role in our churches and the decisions they're making that really have a big impact on our ministry, we're really missing an opportunity to really serve all of our body. So brining women on staff is a huge piece of that. I would say one of the most important things to look at is, what is the current culture of women serving in leadership. And many churches have a lot of women on staff, so I would encourage leaders, particularly senior leaders, executive teams, to not just take a look at and think, "Gosh, we have a ton of women on staff." Are they actually women in real leadership roles that have authority and responsibility? Are they held accountable to things? When you're wanting to really use women's voices and women's leadership gifts, you want to make sure we're talking about leadership roles. And then if you don't have a lot of women in those roles, there's probably a reason. Could be things that are from the area of country you're in. It could be the guy who ran the church before you was really outspoken about the issue of women in leadership. It could be maybe that you are carrying on some traditions or some practices that without even realizing it you may be sending messages about women in leadership or not in leadership that might be unintentional, that are preventing women from stepping forward.
Matt Steen: Can you unpack that a little bit? You said you might not realize that this is some of what you're doing. What are some of those things that we might not realize, if I'm the executive pastor, that I might not realize I'm doing that discourages women from leading?
Kadi Cole: Sure. So one of the biggest ones is to do an audit of your weekend service. And I talk a lot about these kinds of practical steps in the book. But one of the most important is an audit of your weekend service because we communicate a lot about our church values and our culture and what we think of leaders on the weekend platform. So even if you're still totally online or if you're having services or if you're in many campuses or just one location, what we do on Sunday morning or Saturday night communicates our values. If there are hardly any women on the platform, that's communicating something. It probably isn't intentional. No one sits around and thinks how can we prevent women from being in front of the congregation. But unless we're intentional about it, it does send a hidden message. If you've got a whole bunch of women in your worship team but only the guy ever uses the microphone to speak, that's sending a message. So we may be doing some of those things in our practices that just a few tweaks. Even if you're in a very conservative or complementarian environment, there are a lot of things that don't have spiritual authority connected to them in our weekend services that you can easily invite women to be a part of. Making the announcements, doing a setup for a song and explaining the history of the song, doing transitions. There's many ways. Coming up and talking about her women's small group, by celebrating small groups. You're affirming leadership, you're affirming women without necessarily violating anything that you hold deeply in your values. And that's the biggest issue, right? Really knowing your theology and then being clear about it so that your culture carries out your theology. Most of the time when I work with churches, there's a miss on that. And it happens in both directions. We have varying complementarian churches that have women leading at all levels including the executive team and are staying very faithful to their theology. And we have very strong progressive or egalitarian churches that have almost no women leading at all levels of leadership, and that actually is against their theology. So we want to make sure that what we believe we're living out. That's where women can find the most empowerment and be the strongest leaders and, most importantly, can contribute to the mission of your church. The goal is to move your church forward. We need all the gifts that God gives us in order to be able to do that.
Matt Steen: That's awesome. That's awesome. I really like the idea of, hey there's ways that you can do this and still honor your theology. This doesn't need to be the theological war that so many times is becomes, but there's ways to do this and still honor where you're coming from and your tradition. That's great. Talk to me a little bit about how this works in the day-to-day life in a church staff team. Senior pastor, executive pastor who's a male - how to they help to pour into and develop the leadership gifts of a children's director or children's pastor, whatever language the church is using, right. Or small groups director or pastor, whatever that role is. How do they do that in a way that, what do we not typically think of that we need to think of differently when this is a woman?
Kadi Cole: Well I like to encourage leaders to think of this not as a male or female strategy. This is a leader strategy. So if you have a non-leader in a leadership role, you should not treat them like a leader. But if you have a leader in a leadership role, please treat him or her like a leader. And leaders need to be coached. Leaders need to be challenged. Leaders need to be corrected. Leaders need to be encouraged. Leaders need to be sponsored for opportunities and promotions. They need to be mentored. All of those qualities that you would do for a guy leader you need to offer a female leader because she's a leader, she needs all of those things. I have been a big fan and supporter of the Billy Graham rule, which is where we have a lot of professional boundaries around men meeting with men and men meeting with women and women with men alone. I've been a recipient of that. I actually go into great detail about it on the book because the history of it is really fascinating. We've lost some of the original intent of what Billy Graham and his team originated those sort of guidelines. My challenge for leaders is that we have been living under sort of this bubble of the Billy Graham rule and how we interact with one another protects us from sexual sin. And in some ways, it does. But we live in a technology, texting, email, private online things. Most of the churches I've consulted through a moral failure have not violated the Billy Graham rule explicitly. And so it's really not as protective as we think it is. We also live in an LGBTQ world where men meeting just with men one on one is no longer above reproach. So we need to kind of get our head out of the sand and actually change our leadership practices for safety and inclusion for everyone, not just around gender. So one practical tip I like to encourage people is, there's sort of this old leadership adage to always take someone along with you. Which is when you go to the hospital or go to a conference, you just bring someone with you and debrief along the way. I really encourage all leaders to always take two people along with you. So if you go to the funeral home, take two young staffers with you. If you go to a conference, take two people. If you're going to lunch to meet with one of the elders, take two people with you. It gives you coverage. It also allows you to invite everyone. Bring one guy and one girl, bring two guys, bring two girls. You automatically give yourself covering, and you open up and expand your opportunity to develop women in the same ways that you're developing men.
Matt Steen: That's awesome, that's awesome. Now when you start to unpack this, do you get pushback when you say, "Hey, take two people with you" or anything like that?
Kadi Cole: No. I think actually what I mostly get is senior pastors looking at me and going, "I never thought about it that way. First of all, I never thought about me and my latest seminary intern traveling together and sharing a room to save cost. It never dawned on me that that was putting me in a compromising position. And secondly, it never dawned on me that I can only do that with men. I didn't make the connection that I was actually sending this message to women that I didn't care enough to develop their leadership like I do these other guys." And again, both unintentional, good-hearted pastors, really godly wonderful leaders. But our past historical practices that worked for us, and really the way most of us if you're in your 40's or later, we were raised developmentally by pastors where those protections were wonderful for their career. They’re not wonderful for our career anymore. They will not work anymore for us, and so we have to reinvent them in a way that expands the kingdom, it doesn't limit the kingdom.
Matt Steen: That's great. That's great. I want to honor your time in this, so as we begin to wrap up, anything that you have to share that would be helpful for young women that are coming up into the ministry world right now? Any wisdom that you'd like to pass on that maybe you wish somebody had passed onto you, I don't know, 10 years ago, 15 years ago?
Kadi Cole: Sure. Well I think first of all, I would just like women and guys to realize this is a conversation God is really moving in. I see people wrestling with it all over the place. And I really do feel like he has been prompting this in the hearts of leaders for many years but in the last three or four years particularly. We have a more urgent need for it, and I think everyone is aware of that. And that wrestling, you're not alone in that wrestling, and it's important that we lean into that as the sort of bigger, global church around this topic. And particularly for women, I just want to encourage you that it is shifting. And to be ready if you get doors of opportunity. I think one of the challenges for women when they're young in leadership, not necessarily young in age, but if you're young in your leadership, you're taking your steps, maybe God's opening doors for the first time is to actually take some time to imagine what you could do for God. Most women, if we have not seen other people like us advance in leadership or be leading from the platform or be leading a whole group of people that are both men and women. If we've only seen women lead in one way, our imaginations tend to go to that one way, and so we just perpetuate the process. We're really the generation of women where almost anything can be possible for us, but we have to live it in our imagination, kind of what I call a prayerful imagination. It's not like you go crazy and can imagine anything, but with God directing you, dream and envision what could be. There's no guarantee it will happen, but it will be almost impossible for it to happen if you haven't at least imagined something like it happening. Because women tend to say "no" to opportunities they can't imagine happening for themselves. So let's just start imagining and envisioning. And you guys out there, please help us know what's possible. Walk by a woman leader on your team and say, "Hey, just so you know, you got this great gift. I can't wait to see what God is going to do with you here with that gift."
Matt Steen: That's so cool, that's so cool. Kadi, thank you so much for taking some time to talk with us this morning. If you want to learn more about Kadi, kadicole.com. And we'll link to this down below. Or check out Developing Female Leaders, we'll link off to that as well. But Kadi, thank you so much.
Kadi Cole: Thanks for having me, Matt.