Next Leadership is an organisation committed to
providing leaders in the public, private, voluntary, and church
arenas with opportunities to sharpen their leadership
I'm also chair of the Evangelical Alliance
Council, which is the largest body serving Evangelical
Christians in Britain.
And I am a Baptist minister. I was President of
the Baptist Union of Great Britain in 2006.
I don't see mentoring and ministry as distinct and
separate. Mentoring is very much a part of my ministry.
From the beginning, I was always mentoring - usually church leaders
at the outset, and I was in full-time ministry for 25 years. But in
2010 I made the shift from local ministry to more extended national
and international work.
It's possibly the steepest learning curve ever;
but I'm enjoying it. I've found my niche.
Many of my experiences of ministry have been similar to
those of my male colleagues. But my experience of ministry
and leadership has also, undoubtedly, been textured by my gender,
culture, and ethnicity. They've informed my perspectives,
priorities, and concerns. And, far too often, they've affected -
negatively - how I have been viewed, interacted with, or treated by
I wrote 7 Deadly Sins of Women in Leadership
[Next Leadership, 2010] primarily because, during my 25 or so years
of leadership, I've encountered women leaders nationally and
internationally, within and beyond church circles, wrestling with
these issues. Second, because I recognised that much of
the literature produced for leaders is written by men - and
sometimes women - with men in mind, often unconsciously. So, I
wanted to write something that didn't overlook many of the unique
challenges faced by women leaders.
More than anything else, I wanted to write the
book that I could have done with reading before I started on the
road to leadership, and came face to face with my own deadly
The seven deadly sins in my book, not
specifically to do with church leadership, are: limiting
self-perceptions; failure to draw the line (not keeping good
boundaries); inadequate personal vision; too little life in the
work (not keeping good work-life rhythms - balance isn't what we're
aiming for, but getting the rhythm right is important); the
"disease to please", or approval addiction; colluding, not
confronting (how we deal with leaders who behave badly); and
neglect in family matters.
I want to help women have a proper perspective on family
life. It isn't everything that life's about, but neither
should we dismiss it in favour of our career.
The interesting thing is when we run the
[7 Deadly Sins]
programme. Each day, the women who run the
programme say: "This is the worst one." But the one I think is the
most debilitating is our limited self-perceptions. We run this in
differ-ent parts of the country; we're just about to start one in
Bristol, in April.
A woman's relationship with Jesus may be the most
fulfilling and affirming of all her relationships. This is
certainly true for me. By contrast, some churches can be among the
most difficult and soul-destroying places for Christian women to
attempt to flourish. The rhetoric of a church may be "equality",
but its practice can be far removed from it. This can leave women -
regardless of their context - diminished and uncertain of their
value and validity.
Christ gifts his Church in many ways, and some
of the gifts are people, both male and female. When churches
neglect the gifts of leadership that some women bring, they
sentence themselves to being less than God intends.
Whether you start with Catholics at one end, or
more fundamentalist Christians at the other, you'll find groups in
every context who are very positive about women's leadership,
including a number of Evangelical Alliance churches, and Black-led
and Bible-based Charismatic Churches - though there are some that
aren't. In fact, some can be more liberated than some of the more
so-called "liberal" churches. In many Black Pentecostal churches,
the expectation is of a co-leadership of men and women.
There's a book, How I Changed My Mind About Women in
Leadership, by a number of American and British
leaders. It goes back to scripture, and sees if the text
says what people have been led to believe it says. I encourage
people to ex-plore women's roles.
In Ghana, women's roles are viewed somewhat differently,
despite the ex-colonial context. Public invisibility?
Lacking the physical capability to do heavy work? That was only
ever a perspective that existed for white middle-class women in the
West. Most women have been in servitude and expected to do heavy
work. So the whole issue of roles is highly confusing: the things
many conservative commentators underline as being inappropriate for
women to do have only ever ap- plied to a very small group of
women. When people really examine their beliefs, the Bible, and
what they can see beyond their own context, they question whether
what they've been led to believe is reality.
I was 18 years old when I first seriously encountered
Jesus. I was at a Christian rock concert, to my surprise,
and had what can only be described as a Damascus-road experience. I
had been very anti-Christian beforehand: my encounter was
incredibly powerful, and everyone I knew, including me, was shocked
and surprised when it happened.
My immediate family includes both blood relatives and
close friends, who are hugely important to me. I've also
got extended family in Britain, Ghana (where I was born), the US,
and, until recently, Libya. It's a complicated family structure by
British standards, but fairly common by Ghanaian standards.
At the age of 11, I told my head teacher, with
my father in the room, that I wanted to be a poet. My father was
determined that I would become a doctor; so I did eventually study
paramedical sciences at university.
Some people would say the way I preach is a bit like
poetry. I love the power of words and so, in a sense, yes,
I still write poetry.
I remember particularly a sermon called "Leading while
bleeding" by T. D. Jakes.
I regret not having my mother around for much of my
childhood. I only got to know her well in my late teens.
My parents split up when I was very young, and I was raised by my
father and stepmothers. My father was a great father. He had a
number of daughters, and was very good with us. There were always
female role-models around us.
There's someone who inspires you in each
season. Many of those have been women. My mother was one:
she was a teacher, and having a profession was unusual for women in
Two important mentors have been Elaine Storkey and
Emmanuel Lartey. Elaine has been a huge influence. I first
heard her when I was at university, and then met her many years
later. It's not just the way she teaches, and her pioneering work.
She recognised what I had and made room for it. She gave me
opportunities and provided a platform when others didn't.
Emmanuel Lartey, also from Ghana, is now in the
States; but he was then the leading Black theologian in
the UK, and he affirmed me - recognising what I had, drawing it
out, challenging me, and helping me reconnect with who I was as a
black person. He was a bit of father-figure, and Elaine was a bit
of a mother-figure, though I don't know if she'd appreciate it.
A book? At the moment it's got to be
Scaredy Squirrel and Jesus' Day Off.
Scotland: there's no place on earth like it.
Its beauty and ruggedness -you're close to God up there, I think.
If Scotland was sunny, I'd live there.
Proverbs 3.3-6 is significant: it's my life
verse. At the moment, my least favourite part of the Bible
is the story of the appalling abuse, both before and after death,
of the Levite's concubine in Judges 19.
I love the sound of water by the sea, a lake, or a
I'm annoyed by lack of thinking and
consideration, just making things unnecessarily difficult;
re-cently, the craziness of an institutional decision that
effectively un-dermined the mission of some churches. I can't say
what, no. But it's that sort of stuff that gets to me the most.
Women often just give up on the system and go it alone, church
planting, or setting up their own businesses, because systems tend
to have a more masculine culture, and it can be difficult for women
to thrive in them.
I'm happiest when I'm relaxing with
I pray most for people I mentor and work
That God is still for us in spite of us -
that's what gives me hope.
I'd like to be locked in a church by myself. I
spend most of my time interacting with other people, so just me and
God for a while sounds great.
The Revd Dr Kate Coleman was talking to Terence Handley