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March 23, 2011

Lost Leaders

Is the church in danger of losing its next generation of women leaders?

A couple of years ago a leadership mentor challenged me with a tough statement. She said, "Jenni, how you steward your influence as a leader will directly impact the rest of the women in your church." That statement has haunted me ever since.

I'm ashamed to admit that up until that conversation, my leadership had been very me-centric. I was worried about me instead of being intentional about developing other leaders, especially the young women leaders around me. In fact, I wasn't even sure who the young women leaders were in our church. There were hundreds of 20- to 30-something women coming in and out of our doors each week, but I was seeing very few of them lead.

I knew it wasn't because they didn't have the potential. Statistics tell us that there are more single women in the U.S. than married, and those who do marry wait until age 30, on average, to do so. Women also are more educated than ever before.

I also learned by way of conversations and observations that many of the single women in our church were serving at local non-profits and other organizations throughout our city. They want to serve; they have time to serve. But their volunteer and leadership horsepower wasn't being put to use in the church. Why?

Simply put, we hadn't made it obvious that there was a place for them to serve in the church. And I, as a female leader in our church, hadn't made a way for them. If you had asked me, I would have said, "Of course we have places for women to volunteer as leaders." But we hadn't made these opportunities obvious to today's up-and-coming women leaders whose lives look a lot different from their predecessors at church. We hadn't adjusted our communication and our volunteer opportunities to the shifts that have taken place in the lives of these young women.

I started to look for ways to actively engage their gifts and strengths. I began to realize that if we didn't engage them, we'd lose them. How about your church? Have you found effective ways to build relationships with younger women who possess skills, passion, and time to invest in the church? Here are some questions to help you evaluate whether you're making a way for them to lead at your church:

• Where do women most visibly serve in your church? The cafe, the nursery? How about production, on stage, on leadership teams?

• What percentage of your key leaders are women?

• When do you offer women's groups and at what times? Are they mostly during the day and targeted to moms? Or do you have evening groups and subjects that connect with professional women and singles?

• If you were a single, professional young woman would you be able to easily identify where you fit inside your church?

As women leaders, I challenge you to consider how you can actively engage today's young women to be a part of your ministry. How we steward our influence directly affects them, and they're depending on us!

Jenni Catron serves as the Executive Director of Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN, where she leads a staff of 30 at 4 campuses. She loves a fabulous cup of tea, great books, learning the game of tennis and hanging out with her husband and border collie. Jenni's passion is to lead well and to inspire, equip and encourage other women to do the same. That passion drove Jenni to start the women's leadership community, Cultivate Her. Jenni blogs there and at


I find it rather strange & hard - that Churches are lagging behind in progressing with leadership opportunities for women. Tho' in the work environment, outside of Church, there are women executive leaders, I primarily found it challenging for Church to accept & encourage any women leadership outside of their own family - ofcourse, referencing an independent church environment.

Thanks for these great reminders Jenni. I have an intern who serves with me as a constant reminder that I need to be raising these gifted young women up.

Thanks for this encouragement! I'm now finding myself in an increasing role of discipleship and mentoring of women. The more these opportunities grow, the more I find myself at a loss because I don't feel like I was ever strongly encouraged and engaged by another woman in leadership. Its hard to pass on what I was never given!

Great thoughts, Jenni! You know, I recently read an article (by the author who wrote "Half the Sky") who found that in countries where women are heads of state, the women in their country fare no better than in the countries where men are the head. In fact, sometimes women fare worse.

I don't think that phenomenon is limited to state governments. Too often women in positions of church leadership or influence do not advocate for the women in the church. Thanks for the reminder that as women leaders, our actions will have very direct consequences for the other women in our church. It is an important responsibility to take seriously!

@ Sarah so on any family, you cannot pass on what you have not learned.

Sometimes I think we take the world more seriously than we do them church and it isn a shame because one is temporary and the other eternal. One we see our reward now and the other later.

This hit me rather hard because at one point in my Christian walk.....this was my ultimate grow young women.

Forgive me Lord for blending in with mediocrity.

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