How to Disagree at a Leadership Table

As a female pastor, sitting at a table in a room full of men can be intimidating and isolating. You may feel outnumbered, dismissed, or even attacked.

Thankfully, that is not the case for me. When I sit around a leadership table as the only female leader, it actually excites me to know that I GET TO bring a new perspective using my "unique" backgrounds.

Just as a family is stronger when Mom and Dad work together for a common goal, Church is healthier when people of God work together toward a Kingdom-goal regardless of genders. Gender does not quality one for ministry; the Holy Spirit does (Acts 2:16-17) . Our job is to simply  honor God by building a healthy Church in the spirit of unity. 

Having said that, in my recent pastoral meeting, I had an amazing experience that helped me become a better pastor-leader. These brothers in Christ, co-laborers, are incredibly humble and God-fearing people. They love me and care for me like your real brothers would. And because they care so much, they are compelled by the Spirit to bring up a concern if/when they notice one.

As a church planting US missionary, I send out monthly newsletter to the sponsors who partner with my family through prayer and financial investment (If the Lord prompts your heart to check it out, then please visit www.durans.org). In our last newsletter I posted the following as one of the ministries to be celebrated!

1.jpg

MULTICULTURAL ALLIANCE:

We are keep moving forward with forming a 501c3 group called Springfield Multicultural Alliance. The purpose of this group is to promote and celebrate ethnic/cultural diversity in Southwest Missouri. Our leadership is forming cautiously. In the picture are people of diverse cultures, including that of LGBTQ.

Isn't it awesome to work toward a common good of the community despite our differences? Our prayer is that we can be the light in/to this world by being Christ's reflection without avoiding the world all together! Please continue to pray for positive process and outcome for our community!

What was your initial reaction after reading this? Was it, "Way to go, Saehee! Keep doing what you're doing!" Or was it something like, "Oh, No! I hope her sponsors won't read that wrong and start judging not only her but also her lead pastoral team who didn't hold her accountable!"

One of the pastors read it as a red flag and brought it to my attention in the meeting. My first reaction was, "What's wrong with being transparent and allowing my sponsors to know where their investment is going!" I didn't argue, but explained my logic behind it while assuring them that "I see how it can be misread and rub people the wrong way." Then I thanked the pastor who brought it up and we moved on to the next item on the agenda.

You see, when someone questions or challenges your "good intention," our initial reaction is to defend our position. But when we keep on defending without considering others' input, then I suddenly become an unteachable, hard-headed, chip-on-the-shoulder kind of female leader. 

Of course, you don't want to receive every correction made by everyone. We have to discern where this wisdom is coming from. The pastor who courageously brought up his concern is a godly man whom I highly respect. So I welcomed his advice and accepted it. 

The letter has been sent already to all my ministry-partners, and I have yet to hear any negative feedback from it. I want to believe that it is because they are all cheering me on and celebrating the fact that God is using me and my family to be His reflection in the marketplace, not just within a Christian bubble. 

So here are some things I learned from this experience as a lead pastor:

  1. Be teachable. That's the best way to grow.

  2. Don't justify; just explain your logic. Justifying says, "I'm still right!" But when you explain your logic, you are telling them "why you did what you did." It doesn't ask for an agreement; it just... explains your position.

  3. Disagree if needed, but don't argue. Disagreeing is part of the process of building a stronger team. Don't avoid it. And more importantly, don't sit at the table with people who agree with you all the time. You need a team that challenges you to think outside your "own box."

  4. Finish it well. At the end of a disagreement, you don't want to walk away fuming or make others question your leadership or judgment. Verbally appreciate the person and/or the team for caring enough to discuss a hot-topic. If apology is needed, then apology. Make sure you leave in the spirit of unity.

  5. Move on. Don't dwell on it. If you are like me, you may not even have time to dwell on one disagreement since your mind is occupied with thousand other things to take care of. But if you find it difficult to move on, I encourage you to first pray for wisdom and peace; then, serve. When we work, serve, and lead others our minds shift from being me-focused to others-focused and Christ-centered.

I am praying for each of you who reads this to be courageous, calm, and caring when you find yourself in the midst of disagreement next time. Let's embrace life and the gift of trials! We can only grow when our eyes are fixed on Jesus!