In the process of completing a degree in leadership, I have read a good share of the academic literature on the topic of leadership over the past two years. This semester, the focus is on mentoring, and I was required to read much of the academic literature on the topic of mentoring. Something I find puzzling:

  • Over 90% of the leadership material is written by men.
  • Over 90% of the mentoring material is written by women.

It would seem that there is something about the typing of these roles that is gender-specific.

How does that translate to practices of church leadership and disciple-making? Have the same stereotypes been assumed in the practices of christian life? Visible leadership is a male role? Women serve in relational roles?¬† Is the reason disciple-making has been neglected because of an embedded female typing of that role versus the primarily male typing of “leadership” in the church?

What are your thoughts?

9 thoughts on “Disciple-making

  1. The church has divorced leadership from disciple-making, obviously. Whether that’s due to gender typing or not, I’m not sure. Honestly I haven’t seen all that much mentoring or disciple-making on the female side of the church,either.

  2. Maria,
    In my experience, the majority of the more relational roles in traditional church – children’s ministry, sunday school teaching (except the adult classes), and bible studies – are typically led by and populated with women, and the men are more frequently involved in roles of church government. My assumption (correct or not) is that disciple-making is more likely in the relational roles of church ministry. I just thought this was an interesting parallel in a non-religious realm.

  3. Of course, you can probably guess that I think there is definitely strong gender-typing at play here. :) Thanks for bringing greater awareness and highlighting it as it relates to conceptions of ‘leadership’ and ‘mentoring.

  4. Don’t forget folks that Mary Magdalene may have had a more prominent ‘leadership’ role in the early Jesus movement than the male church historians of the 2nd/3rd century gave her credit for. Her transformation into the ex-demoniac prostitute was a great spin job by the Rome centered male leadership.

    Incidentally I think we have to understand spiritual leadership in a more Middle Eastern way. The Aramaic view of discipleship was about coming into the same vibration of living or inner harmony as the Master. Not an authoritarian thing at all.

  5. it seems to me that, often (but not always):

    GQ > EQ –> U C me
    EQ > GQ –> no C U

    in doing the math there, it seems that abbreviated roles just don’t add up right …

    … so how about this “formula”?

    EQ = GQ –> way through

  6. Interesting. My experience is quite different, in terms of who does the “relational” ministry and/or mentoring. It’s been pretty much both genders there.

    And while some of my church experience has had mostly male leadership, more than half of my church experience has seen male and female leaders. And some of the female leaders were just as controlling/insecure as some of the males. And vice versa.

    Like the “new look” of your blog, “Katy”. :)

  7. I don’t think the lack of disciple-making is related to male/female roles. Both leadership and mentoring styles lend themselves to misuse by authoritarian hierarchical motivations that seem to dominate the church. The mentoring style is not as common because its not as effective as a tool of domination. As long as the goal is domination, no disciples of Jesus will be made. We will make disciples of Bob or Suzy, but no disciples of Jesus. I don’t think the domination is necessarily overt or even intended, but I think it happens because of the church structures.

    In some ways, mentoring can be more insidious than top down leadership. In such a relationship, the mentor becomes close, personal, friendly. They offer sage friendship in exchange for allegiance to the system. It can become conditional really fast.

    I’m really hung up on the motivation thing. I’m convinced that most church leaders want to do it right, but the structures are overwhelming and they cave in to self preservation.

  8. Mentoring requires TIME, and really entering into the LIFE of the other individual. True mentoring also requires vulnerability of the mentor by being willing to be open about one’s own failures. Jesus discipled those with him (male and female) by simply sharing LIFE with them, teaching as they walked together, and by His examples as He responded to the needs of others. And so should we (whether “leaders” or “mentors”), BUT always leading to JESUS.

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