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Bias Impacts Both Male and Female Church Leaders

In today’s society, it’s easy to pinpoint others’ biases: we easily spot them in the opposing political party, the opposite gender, other groups who don’t see eye to eye with us. A bias is a prejudice in favor of a certain person, group, or thing. The term denotes an unfair preference, or one that has little to no logical foundation.

Biases affect both male and female leaders. Why? Because, whether we’d like to admit it or not, we all have them. We all struggle with them. Our upbringing, culture, friend groups, workplaces, faith, and other factors combine to inform who we are. The first step to overcoming our individual biases is to acknowledge that they exist.

As I’ve worked with church leaders nationwide, I’ve found the same propensity in those circles: it’s easy for church leaders to pinpoint the biases of those who hold different theological beliefs. For instance, two churches who fall on opposite sides of the theological spectrum on a certain issue may be quick to point out each other’s biases.

However, the main issue isn’t where a church, or leadership team, falls on the theological spectrum. Instead, the solution is a level of healthy communication within church leadership teams.

This is a large part of the bias against female leadership in the church that we have today. Regardless of where your church falls on the theological spectrum, women have a part to play in God’s Church. However, when leadership teams fail to communicate that, women can begin to believe they aren’t wanted or needed, and men can begin to believe that their contributions are more valuable than their female counterparts.

Female leaders also hold themselves by the biases they hold. We talk a lot about the glass ceiling (or the stained glass ceiling, as it’s often referred to in church circles).

However, there’s another dynamic holding women back: the Sticky Floor. The Sticky Floor is comprised of the beliefs and practices of female leaders. These practices could be things such as assuming their voice doesn’t matter, perfectionism (or unrealistic expectations on oneself), playing the gender/mom/wife card, and so on.

It’s clear that biases, whether or not we admit to having them, largely determine how effectively we’re able to live out our God-given callings. Male and female leaders alike have been held back by their unconscious biases. This is why it’s so crucial to start a conversation about the beliefs we’ve grown up with, and to dismantle those that clearly aren’t Biblical. No matter what church you serve at, whether you’re a male or a female, or what your role is, bias has the potential to hinder your purpose. Be sure to acknowledge and address your biases, and encourage those on your team to do the same.


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