“The propensity to dwell on failure and mistakes, and an inability to shut out the outside world are, the biggest psychological impediments for female players” Mike Thibault, Mystics basketball coach, Confidence Code.
Mike Thibault, legendary coach was in a unique position as he had trained both men and women at NBA level. Mike observed the differences between the players and the results were surprising. Even in one of the most aggressive and challenging professional sports that women can play there was still a clear difference. “Let’s say I have a bad game. I’ll think, Oh my gosh, we lost and I really wanted to help the team win, and win for the fans. With guys, if they had a bad game, they’re thinking “I have had a bad game” they shrug off the loss more quickly”. Its been said that after making a mistake on court it takes men a couple of hours to bounce back, for women its more like two weeks. Here is another example of how that plays out.
Katty Kay in the Confidence Code quotes a female research student from a top league University on how she internalised setbacks: “the other day a professor criticised my research paper. The guy I’d worked on it with just brushed it off. It didn’t seem to bother him. It took me weeks to get over it.”
Failure and rejection are part of life and yet our inability to handle it are a massive set back for many. For women they have already found it harder to offer themselves to serve in church (see my first blog post in this series – She doesn’t feel good enough to serve in your church). But once they have the courage to do this, they’ll need support. When something goes wrong, they’ll feel they have failed in some way. This could be; over thinking, replaying their mistakes or convincing themselves that someone better could do it.
So when failure comes, it is going to take women longer to recover than you may think. I often do talks for Christian Unions and afterwards have a deep sense of failure and shame. I question myself and my ability and often wonder if someone else could have done a better job than me. I can take two weeks or more to recover. In fact being honest, when my husband suggests I ask for feedback from a talk, I often avoid it incase its too crushing.
So how do you take an average person like me and help her flourish in your church? God has gifted men and women to serve their church. And yet in many churches women are struggling to use gifts given by the Spirit. One area we seem to be weak on is mentoring. There is often a lack of encouragement, feedback and support. You may think that we’re weak on mentoring for everyone, but from what I can see its far worse for women.
In many churches you hear the phrase “blokes worth watching”. This gives the impression that those that have value and a future in the church are men. As I look around yet another preachers club for young men is being set up, most of my male peers have now been sent to theological college, paid to go and have a clear way to serve the church. In many churches a lack of role models and clear pathways for women is a real problem. I’ve worked for decades with gifted women. So many of them once they leave a parachurch organisation find that certain gifts end up shelved and forgotten. I recently saw a women write this. “I’ve been asked to give an evangelistic talk for women, I used to do this regularly but since finishing my job as a student worker I haven’t given a single talk”. But its not just whether we mentor, it’s the kind of mentoring that we do.
Men don’t seem to mentor women and Women don’t seem to mentor men. Why is this?
A desire for purity means that it could seem inappropriate to mentor someone from the opposite sex. Or maybe we put women in boxes for roles they’d like to serve in and consequently that limits the areas that we can offer mentoring in.
At this point I think we should pause and look into what the Bible says about mentoring.
Mentoring across genders is Biblical
In the Bible you see men mentoring men, women mentoring men, women mentoring women and men mentoring women.
As we see in the New Testament, both male and female believers have been called to discernment and to teach, encourage, and admonish each other (see Phil. 1:9, Col 3:16, and 1 Thess. 5:11,14). Take some time to look at these verses…
- Priscilla, Aquilla and Apollos Acts 18
- Naomi and Ruth – Ruth 1
- Jesus and Martha – John 11
- Jesus and the Samaritan woman – John 4
- Jesus and Mary john 20:11-18
- List of women Paul lifts up as his coworkers – Romans 16
- Louis, Eunice and Timothy – 2 Timothy 1:5
Rachel Green Miller helpfully writes “In all these discussions, I wonder what the modern Reformed Christian community would make of Priscilla if she lived today. In Acts 18, Luke tells us about Priscilla and her husband Aquila. They were Jewish believers who had left Rome. Paul, who shared their occupation as tent-makers, stayed with them in Corinth. They travelled with Paul to Ephesus and stayed there when Paul continued on his missionary work. Verses 24-26 tell of how they instructed Apollos in the faith.” Is there a place for Priscilla in our churches?
In order for women to grow and flourish in serving the church, they need mentoring. I’d even like to suggest that for your church to mirror early church Biblical practise that women need to be mentored by men and men need mentoring by women too.
Three things that women need
To be asked, to be given feedback, to be asked again
I set up Passion for Evangelism a few years ago to raise up female evangelists and help them flourish, at the time there were very few public female evangelists. We have a Facebook group of over 600 women. Initially I thought the reason there are so few female evangelists is because they’re not being asked. We often post and ask for women to write evangelistic blogs for us, and normally get only one or two people responding. However if I write and individually ask women, explaining why I think they could do this, then the answer is more often a yes. When I get sent the blog, I notice how often there is a caveat, don’t worry if this isn’t any good, please feel free not to use it!! When you’re thinking about helping your church flourish, consider the women in your church. Consider those who may not offer themselves, they will most likely be equally competent to others and will potentially say yes if you ask them. Within your own theological framework are their roles in your church that culturally have always been taken up by men? You may have gifted women, given by the Spirit to serve in these roles. Don’t presume they don’t want to be involved, just ask them, mentor them and ask them again.
In PFE we are committed to mentoring. Each term we run a project called The Greenhouse. The aim is to help women grow in communicating the gospel to their friends and the culture around them. We want to help women grow in both character and skills.
This term 11 women are part of the GH project. They’ve received training on producing short evangelistic videos. Five women from the network are responsible for the training and mentoring, so it’s a great opportunity for them to grow too. The mentoring takes place over 5 weeks and consists of; online training, small groups and live Q&A. Then on the final week all the women post their videos online. Here’s what Beth said… “It’s grown my confidence that maybe I can do it! We do our best trusting that God will use our efforts in his kingdom work”.
And when we do fail, we must remember what Jesus said to Peter before his failure:
“I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
Jon Bloom says this about failure “Peter was going to sin — miserably. But Jesus had prayed for him. Jesus’ prayer was stronger than Peter’s sin, and it’s stronger than our sin too. Peter’s failure did not define him. And ours will not define us. They are horrible, humbling stumbles along the path of following Jesus, who paid for them all on the cross. And Jesus specializes in transforming failures into rocks of strength for his church“. Jon Bloom. Jesus chooses and uses failures like you and me, but lets do all we can to help women in their failure to flourish in your church.
For church leaders
In your church or organisation who is being mentored?
Are you mentoring women?
Are you being Biblical in how you mentor your church?
How will you react to your “failure” this week? How will you seek help from sisters and brothers?