Is Coleading Right for Us?

We were at dinner with another pastor couple when the conversation of CoLeadership came up.

The two of them leaned in, asking us question after question about the role I (Jamie) fill in our church, the dynamic between us, and how CoLeadership affects our church. During a pause, the other wife slowly shook her head, her eyes wide with either amazement or disbelief, and said, “I could never do that. It’s enough for me to just support the call of God in his life.”

Many women share her stance. They feel called to the home or to a career outside of the church or even to an area of community service that doesn’t always seem like it fits within church leadership. We’re not here to change your mind about what God has called you to. Just the opposite, actually.

CoLeadership only works with some specific elements in place. Otherwise, it feels a lot like the conversation I have with my lanky teenage son about why he shouldn’t go out for the football team. He’s built for basketball, not football. As parents, we’re trying to help him embrace who he is instead of trying to be something he’s not.

Here’s what you need to CoLead together:

1. Both of you need to be called to leadership individually.

Often, in ministry, the guy has a leadership call on his life. And much of the time the girl is trying to figure out if she’s called to leadership and at what level. Because women have traditionally received fewer resources and opportunities in this area, she might not realize there are desires and capability for leadership in her until much later than he does.

2. Your marriage needs a strong enough foundation to handle conflict resolution well.

The closer you work together, the more opportunity there is for disagreement. CoLeadership is dangerous for a marriage on the rocks. We’d suggest getting a good marriage counselor and investing in the foundation of your relationship before venturing into the waters of CoLeadership. Danny always says, “I can start over on ministry, but this is my only marriage. It takes priority.”

3. Each of you needs development and accountability for your leadership.

There are lots of resources these days for all of us to grow in our leadership. Conferences. Books. Support ministries like CoLead. It’s important for each of you individually and together as a couple to identify how you’re investing in your leadership and who will speak into the process. Rogue leaders are dangerous leaders.

4. You need oversight and a team that fully support female leadership in the church.

The role that women can and should fill in the church is still highly debated across the Body of Christ. CoLeading will bring you into the middle of the crossfire. You will face criticism from other christian leaders and people who attend your church, but you shouldn’t be having those kinds of conversations with your overseers or team. We’d recommend doing the hard work of getting everyone on the same page as soon as possible.

5. Together, you need to define your roles on the team.

Without clear roles, it's easy to step on each other’s toes or for one of you to end up catching all the dropped balls. We’ve found that our strengths become clearer over time. So this is an on-going conversation for us that continues to impact how we lead together.

6. Each of you needs to carry a high level of respect for the other's leadership.

If you don’t communicate a high level of honor for each other’s leadership, it creates competition and tension in your team. To lead together, each of you has to be willing to listen and follow the other one’s leadership.

7. Both of you need to be committed to the journey of CoLeadership.

If we’re honest, leading in the traditional sense of Danny being the one to pastor the church and Jamie taking the bulk of responsibility in the home sounds appealing sometimes. It takes more work to figure out how to lead and manage our home in a way that provides Jamie the ability to also lead at the highest levels of the church. The reason we’re willing to make the necessary sacrifices is because we feel called to CoLead. We believe you should have that same conviction before starting on this journey.

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