Breaking the Sound Barrier: Women Married to Men in Ministry


A guidebook to equip women striving to bring about radical paradigm changes in congregations.
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A guidebook to equip women striving to bring about radical paradigm changes in congregations.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780687491858
  • Publisher: Abingdon Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2007
  • Pages: 144
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface: Just Becoming Ourselves


Introduction: Great Commission Flights: Women in Ministries of Transformation

Part 1 Making It through the Shaking

1 Breaking the Sound Barrier: Changing Times, Changing Paradigms 3

2 Realities of Living in Systemic Change 19

Part 2 Making It to Mach 1

3 Journey through Time 37

4 Flight Plan 49

5 Getting Ready to Launch 61

Part 3 Moving toward Mach 10

6 Voices Now and Then 75

7 Co-ministry Couples and Copiloting the Plane 85

8 Transformed through the Journey 99

9 Self-care for Success of Whole-person Copilots 111

10 Flight Teams and a View from Space 125

Appendix 1 Next Step: Pack Your Parachute! 139

Appendix 2 Questions about Systemic Change 141

Appendix 3 Resources 145

Notes 149

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First Chapter

Women Married to Men in Ministry

Breaking the Sound Barrier Together
By Teresa Flint-Borden

Abingdon Press

Copyright © 2007 The United Methodist Publishing House
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-687-49185-8

Chapter One

Breaking the Sound Barrier: Changing Times, Changing Paradigms

Regarding the challenge of change, Machiavelli wrote in 1513, "There is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage than the creation of a new system. For the initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old institutions and merely lukewarm defenders of those who would gain by the new ones" (The Prince). This is certainly true worldwide.

William Bridges, in his book Managing Transitions, distinguishes organizational change from personal transitions as our response to change. Change is easy—it happens naturally. It's the transition that is difficult— it has to happen intentionally. The story of Growing Healthy Churches represents a number of intentional strategies that reflect new ways of thinking and acting. You can read a full description of the vision, mission, strategies, and tactics in Hit the Bullseye (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2003) by Paul Borden. As a result of the successful change and transformation of churches in our region, Growing Healthy Churches has become a national, and international, multidenominational movement in the church. Here is a very condensed version of our first conference. Then I'll share how it relates to the problem of faulty perspectives and approaches that hinder authentic ministries of transformation.

Our National and Global Journey

The first "Hit the Bull's Eye Conference" was held in June 2006. People attended from thirty denominations, twenty states, and three countries besides the United States—Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The Bull's Eye Conference featured twenty-four pastor leaders who led the transitions within our own geographical region of northern California and northwest Nevada. There were ten panel discussion groups, two of which were made up of Women Married to Men in Ministry and another of couples in ministry.

Without a doubt, the changes that have occurred within our region have been nothing short of miraculous and are following God's Great Commission to go and make disciples. These changes have required incredible focus, time, hard work, and sacrifice, and they challenged what someone has called "the seven last words of the church": we've never done it that way before.

Still, we found there is a tremendous desire for renewal, change, and transformation of churches and denominations using the Bull's Eye principles. But this system requires people to think and act differently in order for deep changes to take place. The seven first words of the new paradigm are: we can't do it that way again. There is another way.

This is especially true regarding Women Married to Men in Ministry and the stereotypical image of them as "pastors' wives." Our conference in 2006 explored the unique position of Women Married to Men in Ministry, their view of the system of expectations, and their responses to it. This was the first time we'd ever heard of such a panel discussion being offered, and postconference evaluations stated that this was one of the most valuable parts of the event.

What Can a Turnaround Paradigm Look Like? Two Contemporary Examples

Our typical question about turnaround churches involves "What?" A much better question would involve "Who?" Who could a turnaround church look like? The following turnaround snapshots reflect the personal experiences of two ministerial couples who benefited from using our Bull's Eye principles and partnering with our consultants.

Sam and Doris had been called into ministry together and served a number of congregations as co-pastors. All of these congregations had been small and ineffective in reaching out to their communities. Their current congregation, a fifteen-year-old church plant, never had more than 120 people in worship. It was dominated by one lay couple who wanted everyone involved in their large Bible study ministry; yet all the study of the Bible had not produced much, if any, growth through conversions. We say we believe the Scriptures are the living word of God. How could they have so little impact if they were being communicated accurately and vividly? What was missing? Why was this Bible study a stagnant pool rather than life-giving water for the soul?

During a weekend consultation session, the Bull's Eye consultant confronted the lay leaders who admitted that when the church started, they and others were much more open to sharing the gospel with strangers than they were now. The consultant also encouraged Sam and Doris to become leader pastors in this church and equip people for Great Commission ministry, not act as if they were in a "hospital church" where the only way they could serve would be as chaplain caregivers.

The results of their initial work to shift paradigms have been nothing short of miraculous. In a very short time, the congregation has seen new growth and excitement. People are contributing their dollars, time, and energy for outreach. The congregational coach is helping both Sam and Doris learn how to behave consistently as leaders, with their major task being to keep the congregation on target in fulfilling its mission and vision.

Stewart has been leading a turnaround congregation that has seen major changes in six years. When Stewart and his wife, Leah, arrived, there were forty in worship. People from another turnaround congregation in their denomination, not liking what happened at their previous church, attended Stewart's congregation to make sure that his congregation would not adopt an attitude of change. During those six years of ministry, Stewart—with support from his denomination—not only helped those resistant people exit, he led the congregation to an average worship attendance of 250 while reaching out to the surrounding community.

When asked about his biggest learning experience, Stewart says,

My wife, Leah, and I had to understand that God called us to lead. We also learned that in the midst of great strife, all we had was God. If we were going to serve our God well, we needed to stay, be firm, and be willing to risk all. The result has been a miracle. God has intervened, and the congregational controllers are all gone. We are no longer hostages! We are seeing our community being reached through ministries of evangelism, compassion, and mercy.

Those anecdotes barely introduce Sam and Doris and Stewart and Leah. We'll share more from the stories of other leaders in turnaround churches in other chapters. Meanwhile, let's look at some of the dynamics that maintain old paradigms and create barriers to transformation in this new world.

Dynamics of Staying Static: Misusing the Power of Metaphors and Stereotypes

All paradigms use metaphors and stereotypes. Metaphors compare a significant number of particulars and processes between two different things—almost viewing them as twins. Thus, they create memorable ways for us to reflect on our world. Scripture is full of rich metaphors. For instance, Jesus is the lamb of God, bread of life, living water.

Metaphors serve as powerful methods of communication. Metaphors help empower, give voice, vision, and understanding. They can assist us in our mental images of ourselves, and they can cultivate an atmosphere for metamorphosis, change marked by an alteration of character and/or appearance. However, if a metaphor is insufficient, misunderstood, or interpreted out of context, it can stifle growth and change at both the personal and corporate levels. For instance, if we view our church as a "hospital for the spiritually wounded," it is too easy to focus on care without cure for those who have been traumatized by life's experiences and never help these individuals move toward wholistic health. It's just hard for people who see themselves only as sick to see themselves well; they have too much investment in reaping the benefits of their wounds.

Stereotypes serve as a quick method to label a person according to collective characteristics (that is, a group to which they belong) rather than their unique, individual characteristics. The original use of the word stereotype came from the field of printing. It described making multiple stampings from a single mold.

Words have power, and history repeatedly shows that labeling individuals or groups by stereotyping has many long-term ramifications. For instance, some stereotypes create scapegoats that can lead to segregation, discrimination, and conflict. Think of what you may have heard about how the British view the French, how the French view the Americans, or how Evangelicals, mainline Protestants, Pentecostals, Fundamentalists, Catholics, Charismatics, and Orthodox all tend to view one another.

Current church-culture metaphors and stereotypes support a static paradigm, not a dynamic movement of growth for God's kingdom. So, I believe that when we operate within the present interpretation typical of church culture, we do a great deal of damage to both ministry couples and the growth of the church, the body of Christ. I'd like us to get more specific and look at two key metaphors and related stereotypes that create barriers to copilot and transformational ministry. First, we'll explore the metaphor of Pastor as Shepherd versus the Pastor as Shepherd-Leader. Later, we'll look at its counterpart for the wife of a minister.

Battle of Two Metaphors: "Pastor as Shepherd" versus "Pastor as Shepherd-Leader"

I agree with Paul Borden's definition of the pastor metaphor with the shepherd being an entrepreneur—the shepherd made his living from raising sheep—as described in Hit the Bullseye (pp. 20–23). I would say that more than the misinterpretation of words, however, about who a shepherd is and what a shepherd does, is the picture of a shepherd we see in our mind's eye from childhood. The image may have no relationship at all to the Scripture. But, like it or not, our imaginations are shaped and our thoughts are formed by the pictures we see.

The picture I am thinking of typically portrays Jesus standing in a rural scene with his clothing perfectly draped and sparkling clean. His face is placid, calm, kind, and gentle. He has a flock of soft woolly sheep gathered around his feet. Off in the distance, other sheep are grazing calmly, surrounded by green pastures and flowing streams. Also notice that most of these pictures feature a light-complexioned man with European features, light eyes, and blond or brown hair that is long and flowing enough to be used in advertisements for shampoo and conditioner!

The image does not embody a person of Jewish heritage, as we know Jesus to be. It also gives a misleading representation of what it meant to be a shepherd. Yet, for many, this picture persists in their mind's eye as some romantic notion that life in Christ is a field day with no wolves, enough food, nice weather, no worries—an easy life. In reality, during biblical times, shepherds were considered unsavory characters. There were hot, sweaty days, with long, sleepless nights. It was a poor man's profession, with the unenviable task of trying to keep obstinate, easily spooked sheep out of harm's way.

A more realistic metaphor of the shepherd has been understood throughout the ages in agricultural societies. But in today's industrialized and technological culture of city dwellers, there are people in the United States and around the world who have never seen a sheep and don't know what a shepherd does. Nevertheless, this flawed image of placid rural life is still used throughout churches. So, if we look at the real role of a shepherd, we need to leave the comforts of our childhood picture behind and see that shepherds were businesspeople. Their livelihood came from raising sheep for milk, food, and clothing for their families and to sell or barter with others. They also mated sheep to guarantee future business resources.

We take comfort in hearing about the shepherd going after the one lost sheep that went astray. The truth is, the shepherd would go after a lost sheep two times, and then he would break its leg, take it back to camp, splint it, and keep it close to himself. This was a difficult lesson so obstinate sheep would learn to hear the shepherd, listen to his voice, and follow.

The Scripture is very clear that it is the obligation of sheep to listen and to follow. That means a shepherd is a leader who is supposed to be followed. The biblical norm is a "Shepherd-Leader Pastor" model. The two-pronged problem is that many pastors do not see themselves as the leader, and congregations often view pastors as caretakers who must run around day and night, tending to all the sheep. In this insufficient model, the pastor follows the sheep.

Where did this faulty metaphor of the placid pastor as shepherd develop? I have concluded that it is certainly more culturally picturesque than scriptural. And so is its counterpart, the "Shepherd's Wife."

The "Shepherd's Wife" Metaphor

The shepherd's-wife metaphor comes with a long list of usually unspoken and unwritten expectations for Women Married to Men in Ministry. This list ranges from playing a musical instrument, heading committees, providing childcare, and attending every function the church offers to anything else that supposedly needs to be done. (As some congregants unfortunately jest, "We got two for the price of one!") Many times she is unfairly scrutinized about her appearance, her housekeeping skills, and her philosophy of parenting. Those are just a few of the expectations.

As finite persons, we all have unresolved issues, either from childhood or trauma or just from living in a world with hurtful people. When, however, a person constantly tries to fit into an ill-fitting mold or a pattern of exaggerated expectations, whether from herself or others, she will burn out, drop out, or serve under duress. Either way, a very unhealthy pattern emerges. If the pattern persists, happiness and abundant living drain out of her like blood from her veins, leaving behind drudgery and dread, fear and unhappiness, depression, and, eventually, spiritual death. Who would choose to live like that? There is a better way, which leads to a question.

Why in the twenty-first century are we operating under such a burdensome paradigm in the first place? I can find no biblical mandate for this shepherd's-wife cultural stereotype, which is where I think these false expectations come from. My understanding of Scripture is that we are all called once we have accepted Christ as our personal Savior. Some then are gifted as teachers and leaders with skills that can be used in the church. Perhaps the second part of this equation comes from whether a woman embraces her husband's position as an unassailable calling or simply sees his gifts being used in a position of employment in God's service.

I think until we look at this faulty perspective and begin to define who we are as women and what roles we will take in the area of ministry, it is like putting a new patch on an old garment, wearing it day in and day out until the fabric begins to tear and separate. It just isn't working. And it definitely won't work where radical change is taking place within the church.

Misunderstanding of the Shepherd Pastor metaphor is particularly damaging for a woman ordained in ministry who is in a pastoral position. It reinforces the caregiver model, leaving no room for the leadership model. Rather, it relegates her to a supporting role with the idea of inherent feminine caregiving—that she is just too subservient and too ineffective to lead and take charge. It leaves her with mundane tasks and busywork with little or no authority to lead. The female minister is expected to attend endless meetings and do regular visitation taking her off course and task for leadership. Oftentimes when a female minister does try to lead she is referred to pejoratively as a female dog. Congregations need to be taught that collaboration, teamwork, and integration are powerful leadership skills. More on this later.

First and foremost, we are women created by God as individuals, and this unchangeable, universal reality must be honored above all else regarding varying local cultural perspectives and expectations. We are daughters, granddaughters, sisters, nieces. Some of us become wives and mothers. We are each given special gifts. Some women will want to use those gifts and talents in a career outside the home, while others may see their careers and services develop within the church or the home.


Excerpted from Women Married to Men in Ministry by Teresa Flint-Borden Copyright © 2007 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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