the shape of leadership

Donna Barrett: Trailblazer and Servant

Meet the new general secretary of the Assemblies of God

On June 1, Donna Barrett began her term as general secretary of the Assemblies of God, becoming the first woman to serve on the Executive Leadership Team.

The Ohio native’s selection demonstrates that the Fellowship’s egalitarian stance toward women in ministry extends even to the highest levels.

“I have a tremendous amount of admiration and respect for our general superintendent, Doug Clay, and our 21-member Executive Presbytery for making this move toward helping our Church be more relevant from the leadership table,” Barrett says.

While Clay says Barrett’s selection was not based on her gender, he acknowledges that this is a historic occasion in the AG.

“I know this moment will be meaningful for many women who feel God’s calling on their lives,” Clay says.

Barrett succeeded James Bradford, who resigned his post to serve as full-time lead pastor of Central Assembly of God in Springfield, Missouri.

Barrett’s faith journey began in 1975, when she accepted Christ as Savior and experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit as a teenager at Highway Tabernacle Assembly of God in Youngstown, Ohio.

As a young adult, Barrett spent time working at a law office as a paralegal, while volunteering as a lay leader in her church. When she sensed God calling her to ministry, she pursued credentials through Global University, becoming an Assemblies of God licensed minister in 1988 and ordained in 1999.

Barrett was a youth pastor and an associate pastor before planting Rockside Church outside Cleveland in 2002. She also served the Ohio Ministry Network as church planting coordinator, then network executive presbyter, then general presbyter, each for four years.

Barrett is grateful to be part of a denomination that values the leadership contributions of both genders.

“As Pentecostals, we’re awakened through the Scriptures to the reality that the Holy Spirit — poured out on both men and women — gives gifts, including the gift of leadership,” says Barrett, who is single. “If we neglect to open doors of opportunity, we are stifling the activity of the Holy Spirit.”

As a church planter who led a congregation of just over 100, Barrett brings valuable experience and perspective to her post.

“If we neglect to open doors of opportunity, we are stifling the activity of the Holy Spirit.” — Donna Barrett

“Not only do I identify with 25 percent of our ministers who are women, but I identify with our small-church pastors, which is the larger number of our pastors,” she says.

Barrett hopes her presence on the ELT will encourage other women in the Assemblies of God to consider serving in church leadership positions.

She offers this advice to women stepping out to follow a call to ministry: “Be faithful. Walk through whatever doors God opens for you, even if it’s scary. Participate actively, serve where invited. Honor your male colleagues and leaders as unto the Lord, and don’t have a chip on your shoulder. Work hard, be a lifelong learner, and take advantage of whatever training opportunities are before you.”

Barrett wants people to know her not just as a trailblazer for women leaders, but as a faithful servant to this diverse Fellowship and the kingdom of God. One of her favorite passages of Scripture is 1 Corinthians 1:3–4, which she paraphrases this way: “With the same grace you’ve received, turn and help others.”

When asked what she would like to be known for, Barrett said, “I want to be a prayerful, humble servant who helps the Church bring glory to God. Our superintendent has vision I look forward to helping carry out.”

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2018 edition of Influence magazine.


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