the shape of leadership

Answering the Call to Lead

5 questions with Beth Backes

Influence Magazine on October 19, 2017

Over 20 years ago, Beth Backes launched into ministry as an urban church planter in Minneapolis, New York City and Seattle. Today, she serves as the director of pastoral care for the Northwest Ministry Network (Assemblies of God).

Influence: How are you maximizing your influence through the ministries you lead?
Beth Backes:
At the Northwest Ministry Network, I have the opportunity to serve nearly 1,400 ministers and over 340 churches. I also put my years of church planting into practice as I lead the Church Multiplication Network training for all church planters in the Northwest. Saying “yes” to where Jesus has called me has led to unexpected adventures in ministry.

Women represent the fastest-growing demographic of credential holders in the Assemblies of God, yet they remain underrepresented in ministry positions in our churches. How can we change that?
It’s going to take serious teamwork. Our superintendent, Don Ross, accurately describes the situation this way: “The Assemblies of God has constitutional acceptance, yet cultural resistance to women in ministry.”

Male leadership can start by asking themselves: Does my theology come into alignment with my practice regarding women in ministry? If not, what steps can I take to initiate change in my thinking and in my church?

“Saying ‘yes’ to where Jesus has called me has led to unexpected adventures in ministry.”                         — Beth Backes

Both men and women need to take responsibility for their role in this issue. Women need to step out and pursue ministry positions instead of passively waiting for men to give them an invitation. Together, we can change the culture to include both men and women in key leadership positions.

How have you navigated obstacles as a woman in ministry when your options seemed to be limited?
I remember the resistance received when first telling my pastor I wanted to pursue vocational ministry. Many women experience similar barriers, and it can be discouraging. A wise mentor once told me, “You have a call, not a cause.”

That nugget of truth has kept me focused on pursuing my calling in spite of injustices I face — and there have been many. By staying persistent and focused on my calling, God has a way of opening doors that others have locked.

What are some practical ways male pastors can empower women who are called to ministry?
A nationally known pastor recently admitted that the Church simply isn’t developing women in ministry. It’s the elephant in the room we need to start talking about. Women who sense a call to ministry have the same needs as their male colleagues. They need mentoring, leadership training, and opportunities to put their gifts into practice. This process doesn’t happen by accident, but requires intentionality.

If you are a male pastor with influence, how can you identify and invest in the women called to ministry in your church? Here are three practical ways: Encourage them to attend conferences or pursue a degree, make sure they have a mentor who will challenge them, and invite them to preach and lead in ways that will develop their gifts.

What advice would you give to women who are pursuing a call to ministry?
Change comes from the inside. Have confidence in your calling. Get ordained, pursue higher education, and apply for various leadership positions. Don’t lose hope that God is building a Church where both men and women can flourish. Recent studies show the importance of having women on teams, so have patience and grace with others in the midst of change.

Church leaders are recognizing the value of women in ministry, and our best days are ahead of us, so lead on, my friends!

This article originally appeared in the October/November/December 2017 edition of Influence magazine.


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