Dare Mighty Things: Mapping the Challenges of Leadership for Christian Women

Dare Mighty Things: Mapping the Challenges of Leadership for Christian Women

by Halee Gray Scott


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The main challenges and strategies of success for


Are you showing up for your own life? Or are you watching it slowly drain away, each moment emptied of its potential?

At age twenty, Halee Gray Scott was doing things her way when God challenged her with these two questions. Confronted with the brevity of human life, she determined to start living with purpose and passion and help others do the same. For the last seven years, Halee has been studying the lives of female Christian leaders to determine what keeps them from fully flourishing as people of influence. It’s not that Christian women cannot or do not want to lead; it’s that their way is fraught with roadblocks.

In Dare Mighty Things, Halee unpacks the results of her research, tackling the top challenges for Christian women, including:

  • What prevents us from seeing ourselves as leaders
  • How to discern what we are really, truly meant to do
  • How to navigate between our roles as women and leaders
  • How the myth that only “exceptional” Christian women can lead hurts all Christian women

Dare Mighty Things is a guidebook for women navigating the difficult waters of leadership. Packed with helpful advice and strategies for success, it will challenge you to claim your God-given potential and lead with confidence, poise, and grace.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780310514442
Publisher: Zondervan
Publication date: 02/25/2014
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Halee Gray Scott (Ph D, Talbot School of Theology) is an author, scholar, and global leadership consultant focusing on leadership development and strategic planning based on original research. She teaches seminary courses in spiritual formation, theology, and leadership in seminaries across the country. Her writing has appeared in Christianity Today, Christian Education Journal, Real Clear Religion, and Relevant.

Read an Excerpt

Dare Mighty Things

mapping the challenges of leadership for Christian women

By Halee Gray Scott


Copyright © 2014 Halee Gray Scott
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-310-51444-2




To lose track of our stories is to be profoundly impoverished not only humanly but also spiritually.

—Frederick Buechner, Telling Secrets

For as long as I can remember, I have been drawn to lonely places, to places long forgotten or places undiscovered. The badlands of the Texas Panhandle are the beginning of the American West. Most people, from Spanish explorers in the sixteenth century to modern-day travelers of US Route 66, thought of the Panhandle, an area sparsely vegetated with cacti, crooked honey mesquite, and juniper trees, as a land you just passed through.

Our family passed through it every year at Christmas as we made our way from one set of grandparents to the other. Through the back window of my parents' Grand Marquis, I would peer out at the arid landscape riddled with canyons filled with tall grasses, plums, and hackberries and long for another kind of life. I daydreamed about being a cowgirl exploring the Palo Duro Canyons on a palomino quarter horse.

Years later, while going to grad school, my husband and I lived in a parsonage on the edge of the San Gabriel Mountains in Glendora, California. Los Angeles County is the most populous county in the nation, but you would never know it from the top of Colby Trail. Despite a demanding schedule working three jobs in addition to full-time PhD coursework, I still headed out my back door three or four times a week to explore miles of often-isolated trails.

Still even more years later, I chiseled out my dissertation on the edge of another range of mountains—the Colorado Rockies. Local lore is filled with harrowing tales of expedition and discovery, but the story that made the biggest impression on me was the story of Lewis and Clark, who passed through the Rocky Mountains near Lincoln, Montana.

When Meriwether Lewis and William Clark embarked on their legendary expedition in May of 1804, President Thomas Jefferson commissioned them to find a direct water route across the continent to facilitate commerce, and to discover and document the resources in the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase. In May 1804, the land stretching from North Dakota westward to the Pacific was terra incognita—unknown territory.

The story of Lewis and Clark underscored something I had believed from those early days sitting in the back seat of my parents' car: it is not that lonely places have no stories; it is that their stories are still waiting to be told. I guess it is this same impulse to find the untold stories that first stoked my interest in female Christian leaders. In the twenty-first century, we are inclined to think that there are no unknown territories, no frontiers left uncharted. Yet when we seek to explore and explain the experiences of female Christian leaders, we are embarking, like Lewis and Clark, on a journey into terra incognita.

Though there are women leading in almost every area of Christian ministry, they are not that visible. We know very little about their experiences and the challenges they face. Because of this, Christian women are often either sidelined or their efforts are altogether derailed.


Samantha was thirteen months old when her parents divorced. Her father was never around or involved in her life, and her mother worked seventy hours a week to support Samantha and her three siblings. For most of her life, Samantha felt that she had to figure things out on her own. I met Samantha during her sophomore year at Azusa Pacific University (APU), where I worked as an adjunct professor and reference librarian.

When you are nineteen years old and fresh out of your parents' home, it's easy to get caught up in the carefree college days and put off making big decisions like which major to pursue or what career God may be calling you to. But Samantha did not waste any time. She double-majored in political science and history and worked part-time at the library to pay the amount of her tuition that was not covered by her scholarship.

Samantha was thoughtful, disciplined, and desperate to make a difference in the world, but she was often frustrated by the lack of thoughtful resources for Christian women. "I feel called to do something in ministry," she told me, "but I have no idea how to get there. When I go to a bookstore to look for guidance on how to develop as a female Christian leader, I don't find any meaningful Christian resources to help me. I don't know any female Christian leaders in the organizations I'd like to serve in."

Helen was a fellow professor at APU. One spring morning we talked softly in the library, savoring the lull in activity that always comes midsemester. The semester had been launched, lesson plans were written, and final exams were in the distant future. We talked about theology, about our students, about our stage fright when giving lectures. But most of all, we talked about our futures. Both of us had achieved significant accomplishments at a fairly early age: she had been the recipient of the only full scholarship that Fuller Theological Seminary offers MDiv students, and I was a published writer wrapping up the final semester of coursework for my PhD.

Both of us had been encouraged by mentors throughout our academic careers, about our potential for contributing to the academic community, about charting new territories for female Christian scholars. And we loved academia and the life of the mind. We never thought—in all our years of learning and studying and teaching and writing—that anything, even our gender, would stand in our way. Both the feminists and our fathers had taught us that we could accomplish anything we wanted to, that the world was ours for the taking, that we were limited only by the things we chose not to do.

But on that March morning, we secretly admitted that we did not feel the academic world was all we wanted out of life. We did not just want to be Christian scholars and professors; we wanted to be mothers. And we wondered how on earth two such demanding, seemingly opposing spheres of life could ever be reconciled and how we could participate fully, incarnationally, in both worlds. I remember the tension building as we spoke, our minds scrambling for answers to what we thought were new questions. "The problem," I said, "is that we have no maps." At the time, neither one of us had appropriate role models to guide us; our mentors were either men or women with no children.

Sally was one of the best in the business. She knew how to get things done and how to build relationships with potential donors. For years, she had been a happy stay-at-home mom to her three kids, until her husband lost his job and the financial house of cards came tumbling down. Sally got an entry-level job at a local nonprofit Christian ministry, and soon her quick mind for business catapulted her through the ranks of the organization.

When I met Sally, she was a senior vice president at a nonprofit Christian ministry, the only female vice president the company had ever had. For the most part, Sally loved her job, her staff, and her relationships with donors, but she struggled in her relationship to the president and the other vice presidents. As is the case with most organizations, a great deal of knowledge and information was shared during informal meetings, such as at lunch or during an afternoon of golf, but because she was female, she was often excluded from these informal get-togethers.

As a result, Sally found it impossible to get decisions made in her division. She cared about the quality of her work and the ministry her organization did, and she wanted to find out how to circumvent this issue. "I'm the only woman VP I know," Sally told me. "How do other women manage this?"

The stories of Samantha, Helen, and Sally illustrate the felt need that Christian women have—to respond well to God's calling on their lives by exercising and stewarding their giftedness. But they also point to a certain degree of isolation and confusion about how to do so. Though there are women serving as leaders in most Christian organizations, the stories of these women have been lost.


It is not just contemporary stories of women that have been "lost." A quick review of published history texts reveals that women have disappeared from the annals of church history as well. In their book, Daughters of the Church, Ruth Tucker and Walter Liefeld note that the role of women in religion "down through the ages has been f lagrantly neglected, despite longstanding appeals to historians to do otherwise." Tucker and Liefeld wrote Daughters of the Church, which traces the contributions of Christian women throughout church history, because they believed "separate volumes on women in the church are the only way of telling their story."

Tucker and Liefeld dive deeply into ancient texts to uncover and tell the stories of women in church history. But how do you tell the stories of Christian women serving in ministry today? One of the best and most efficient ways we have for uncovering truth—for telling the stories—in our time is research, which is the systematic investigation into a particular subject. Like the detective work of Sherlock Holmes or the best investigative reporting, research helps us to explore, explain, and describe. From research we are able to understand reality and take action accordingly.

For example, throughout most of history, if you went to the doctor for a headache, he most likely would have tried to alleviate the pain by removing small amounts of your blood using vacuum cups, lancets, or leeches. Bloodletting was the most common medical practice throughout the world. It was such a common practice that the Roman encyclopedist Aulus Cornelius Celsus wrote that "to let blood by incising a vein is no novelty; what is novel is that there should be scarcely any malady in which blood may not be let." Luckily, the research of a young scientist named Louis Pasteur, by changing what was known, changed the practice of medicine. Bloodletting fell into disfavor with the emergence of the germ theory of disease, which postulates that illness is caused by bacteria, not by an imbalance in bodily humors.

Research tells us what is, and from there we are able to make informed decisions and take appropriate actions in a given situation. It inoculates us against isolation and the futility of recreating the wheel or repeating the same mistakes because it shows us that others have already been where we are. For female Christian leaders serving in ministry, the trouble is that there is hardly any research that speaks directly to their situation. This is one reason why Samantha found it so difficult to find thoughtful Christian resources to help her grow as a Christian leader.

In contrast, there is so much secular research about female leaders that one can hardly get to the end of it. Since the early 1970s, at the height of the feminist movement, researchers the world over have investigated whatever question or concern one could possibly have regarding women and leadership. We know the efficacy of female leaders in a variety of contexts—from business to politics to law to the military to secular nonprofit humanitarian organizations. We know, roughly, the number of female leaders in a given context, how female leaders compare with men, the styles of leadership that women adopt, how to expand opportunities for female leaders, the common challenges they face, and how these challenges are overcome.

We do not have the same information about Christian female leaders because Christian female leaders have rarely been subjects of serious study. Even in a lightning-fast information age, female Christian leaders have escaped our notice largely because we do not have enough of the right people asking enough of the right questions. The Association of Theological Schools (ATS) is an organizing body of 253 seminaries and other graduate schools of theology. Thirty-five percent of these graduate schools are related to an undergraduate college or university. Though women earn more than half of both master's degrees and PhDs in the US overall, women in ATS-accredited schools comprise only 34 percent of the student body and 22 percent of the faculty. Fewer women in these schools leads to fewer women examining Christian leadership issues at the doctoral or faculty levels.

Of course, there are ways to learn about the stories of female Christian leaders apart from research, such as through networking, media, social media, and think-tank groups like the Barna Group, but the issue of female leaders is greatly complicated by the often contentious theological disagreement between complementarians and egalitarians on the nature of women's leadership.


The bulk of the conversation about female Christian leaders is centered firmly on the theological debate between complementarians and egalitarians. The arguments of complementarians can be summarized in three statements. First, complementarians believe that while women are equal to men in value and status before God, men and women are designed for a complementary relationship, one enhancing the role of the other. According to John Piper and Wayne Grudem, men are to serve as the "head" or leader in the home and in the church, while women are to serve as helpers in submissive assistance to men. Piper and Grudem further state, "Biblical headship for the husband is the divine calling to take primary responsibility for Christlike, servant-leadership, protection, and provision in the home. Biblical submission for the wife is the divine calling to honor and affirm her husband's leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts."

Second, the fall disrupted God's original created design, introducing a host of issues within the relationship between the man and the woman, including a desire on the part of the woman to "conquer or rule over, or else an urge or impulse ... to oppose her husband, an impulse to act against him, which would ultimately result in man ruling over her not as one who leads among equals, but rather one who rules by virtue of power and strength, and sometimes even rules harshly and selfishly."

Third, through redemption in Christ, gender roles between the man and woman in marriage and in the church are properly restored to what God created them to be and differentiated from one another. Man is instructed to exercise male headship and woman is instructed to graciously submit to the authority of her husband.

The complementarian argument for differentiation in gender roles is generally centered around six passages of Scripture, including Genesis 1–3; 1 Corinthians 11:1–16; 1 Corinthians 14:33–36; 1 Tim othy 2:8–15; Ephesians 5:21–33; and 1 Peter 3:7. In contrast to the positions articulated by complementarians, egalitarians believe that women are both equal to men in value and status before God, as well as functionally equal to men. Women should have the same opportunities for leadership as do men, without prohibitions barring them from official positions such as senior pastor.

The logical flow of the arguments by egalitarians can, like the complementarian arguments, be summarized in three statements. First, egalitarians believe that it is logically inconsistent to say that men and women are equal in essence or being, but not in function. Rebecca Merrill Groothuis writes, "The question of whether a being/function distinction is logically applicable to a defense of gender hierarchy is a crucial one, because this distinction is foundational to every traditionalist argument today. When traditionalists affirm in theory the essential, spiritual equality of women and men, but feel no obligation to advocate the full practical ramifications of such equality, they invoke as their rationale the notion that women's subordination is only 'functional' and has nothing to do with her essential being." Both men and women are created in God's image (ontological equality), and both are given the task of stewarding the rest of creation (functional equality).

Second, egalitarians claim that the fall disrupted the equality between men and women. Men and women were given dominion (i.e., stewardship) over the earth, and when Adam and Eve transgressed and used that dominion inappropriately, the punishment involved a disruption in the relationship between the man and the woman. Consequently, "her sociability was mixed with the problem of social enmeshment, which continues to hamper the proper exercise of her dominion in the world at large," while the man's legitimate dominion "became laced with the problems of domination —which has been interfering with his relationships—to God, to the creation, and to other people, including women, ever since."

Third, egalitarians maintain that through the life and teachings of Jesus, as well as his atoning work through the cross, the effects of the fall have been reversed and equality has been restored. Into the patriarchal society that had been inappropriately dominated by men throughout history came a rabbi with a surprising view toward women—who openly taught women, encouraged their learning and growth, whose teachings included feminine perspectives at times, who "allowed women to be the first witnesses of his resurrection and a woman to proclaim that event to his male disciples."


Excerpted from Dare Mighty Things by Halee Gray Scott. Copyright © 2014 Halee Gray Scott. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
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.

Table of Contents

Christian Women and Leadership
Chapter 1: Terra Incognita
Chapter 2: Where Are the Women?
Chapter 3: The Invisible Army—ministries of Christian women
Chapter 4: Calling
Chapter 5: Quo Vadis?

Barriers for Christian Women Leaders
Chapter 6: The Great Debate
Chapter 7: Limitations of Women’s Ministries
Chapter 8: Great Expectations
Chapter 9: Iron Ladies
Chapter 10: Superwomen
Chapter 11: Letting Men Get the Door

Strategies for Success
Chapter 12: Mentoring
Chapter 13: Brave New Women
Chapter 14: (Un)twisted Sisters
Chapter 15: Live Well, Love Well, Lead Well
Chapter 16: Ezer Kenegdo
Epilogue: A World in Crisis

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Halee Gray Scott’s timely book moves women beyond the gender debate zone to deal with the practical challenges women face in the often uncharted territory of ministry leadership. We need to get on with the work God is calling us to do and to call other women to join us. Dare Mighty Things is full of practical wisdom to help women leaders avoid the potholes in the road ahead that slow us down unnecessarily and cause avoidable casualties. This book is an important resource I will be recommending to women leaders I know. — Carolyn Custis James, author of Half the Church

Halee Gray Scott dares women to discover how their lives matter, how they are gifted and called by God, and how they are needed as leaders today. She does not pit Christian complementarians and egalitarians against one another. Instead she finds points of collaboration: how women can be leaders, how spiritual gifts are not engendered, how all Christians—including women—have a responsibility to exercise and steward their giftedness, and how churches have a responsibility to ensure that women are able to exercise their giftedness in freedom. Scott’s book is soundly biblical and theological, critical and creative, inspiring and practically applicable. — Don Thorsen, Professor of Theology, Azusa Pacific University

Halee Gray Scott is a committed Christ-follower whose passion is that all humans—especially women—live out their influence. She models a life that dares mighty things and inspires others to take up the challenge for themselves. — Elisa Morgan, Speaker, Author, President Emerita, MOPS International

Dr. Halee Scott’s Dare Mighty Things is a much-needed book for all Christian women, especially women who sense a call to ministry work. Halee acknowledges and articulates obstacles of female leadership within the church, but she doesn’t let us wallow there. She challenges us to redefine the meaning of leadership, to live with grit, to work hard, and to dare too much rather than too little. Dare Mighty Things invites women into the high call of living all out for Jesus and his kingdom work. — Dr. Jackie Roese, President of The Marcella Project

I once heard a speaker say that many Christian women either fall into the trap of trying to “lead like a man” or “be nice like a girl.” Halee Gray Scott offers an alternative. She calls for women to live as women in Christ Jesus. From the table of contents to the very last page, this book is inspiring and instructive, especially to those women who can feel a sense of destiny inside them. If you're female and you want to live for God, then dare mighty things, because God created women to show his greatness. — Sarah Sumner, author of Men and Women in the Church: Building Consensus on Christian Leadership

Occasionally a book comes along with the power to inspire significant change. Dare Mighty Things qualifies—and I couldn’t put it down. Halee tackles the key leadership challenges Christian women face today with researched insight, candor, and optimism. Over and over, I marveled at the wisdom of her beautiful young voice, calling women out of the shadows to experience the joy of leading for the Lord. I wish I could whisper these truths in the ear of every woman who wonders why she is here and how God wants her to spend her life. Dare Mighty Things provides a map that could revolutionize her world and rejuvenate the church. — Dr. Sue Edwards, Associate Professor of Educational Ministries and Leadership, Dallas Theological Seminary

Reading Dare Mighty Things, I felt that Halee Scott knew me intimately and urgently spoke the truth I needed to hear. I’ve spent thirty years as a marketplace Christian leader, and now I serve as a nonprofit ministry leader. I’ve never heard anyone articulate so vividly the challenges we face as leaders and how God would have us stand in the face of them. This book activated new resolve and passion for the mighty things God is calling me to do. It will do the same for you! — Tami Heim, President and CEO of Christian Leadership Alliance

Finally someone has filled the need for a smart, savvy, and balanced resource for women in leadership. Women who often find themselves emerging alone are now part of the honest conversation Halee Gray Scott brings. As a pastor who has worked with women for more than a decade, I have been waiting years for a resource like this. Thank you, Halee! — Rev. Tracey Bianchi, Pastor for Worship and Women, Christ Church of Oak Brook

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