Donna R. Patrick, speaker, author, and worship leader, talks with us today about why we might have issues getting involved in church, and why men and women are not equal in the church.
4word: Was being a church leader something you’ve always been passionate about?
Donna: I would say yes. Growing up in the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, I saw adult church leaders who served with integrity. They were serious about God’s work and it was important to them that they teach and lead in a manner that would positively impact us as kids. So when I got old enough to hold some leadership position, whether musician, usher, Sunday School Secretary, etc., it was important to me, too, to serve with excellence. Today, being a Minister of Music, Worship Leader, and Conference Speaker are very important leadership roles to me because God is holding us accountable for our leadership. It is isn’t about the title for me, but whether God gets the glory in my leadership.
4word: Has it ever felt “different” being a female church leader? Do you feel equal with your male colleagues?
Donna: Equal? Not necessarily so, only because I believe men AND women bring power to what we do. The key is to know what God called us to do, and do that. Also, God gave men something He did not give us (and vice versa); and that is the voice of authority. For example, a mother might call her child’s name two or three times before that child answers her, but when Dad calls his child’s name ONCE, they move! That’s just an example, but while God gave women a special intuition and discernment, He gave men that voice of authority. So, yes, equal in ministry leadership, but not necessarily so in terms of gender qualities.
4word: Has it ever felt “different” being a female church leader?
Donna: No, it hasn’t. I have never viewed my leadership as “female” leadership – I don’t believe God equipped women any different than men when it comes to leadership. Esther prepared herself and went into the King with the goal in mind to save her people from annihilation, knowing it might cost her life. Deborah, a judge and prophetess, went into battle with Barak. Miriam led the praise dance after God had eliminated Pharaoh’s army at their attempted crossing of the Red Sea. The Israelites crossed over on dry ground, while their enemies drowned in their attempt to go after them. But I think personality matters, as well. I have served many times with men in leadership, and God just gave me the confidence to fulfill my role in that. I was raised by a very strong woman, so it really wasn’t an issue being a woman.
4word: How do you think women can become more involved in their churches?
Donna: I believe women can become more involved by learning what it is they are gifted to do. Many times we don’t know what God has purposed us to do, making it difficult to become involved. When you know your God-given purpose you are in better position to choose the ministry area that is best suited for you. God has given all of us at least one gift, some of us more than one – mine is teaching. I believe the single most important factor is knowing your purpose. And if you don’t know that, be honest with yourself and with God, and go into prayer for the specific purpose of asking Him what He would have you to do. God will speak to you when you ask Him to show you what it is He wants you to do.
4word: Your role in the church involves worship. Should worship be more of a ritual or more of a lifestyle?
Donna: Definitely not ritual! God warns us in Isaiah 29:13 that the people draw near to Him with their lips, but their hearts are far from Him. Jesus makes a similar reference in Matthew 15:8. We are ALL under divine mandate to worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24). Every church, regardless of denomination, has a culture and what works in one church may not work in another. But worship is universal, regardless of denomination or size of the church.
Worship is a lifestyle, in that everything we do in our lives encompasses worship – at home, in the workplace, while on vacation, in our stewardship, in our relationships with people, etc. Our lives should be a testament to the worship of God, and how we place Him first in all that we do. And that includes more than just coming to church on Sunday morning. There is a difference between the churchgoer and the worshiper. The churchgoer merely attends church service because it’s Sunday (ritual), but the worshiper has a very different motive: to meet God in His most holy presence and surrender everything to Him (lifestyle) because the worshiper understands that we owe God our very lives.
4word: As a leader, what advice would you have for both current and future church leaders? Can skills learned as a church leader translate into the workplace, too?
Donna: I would tell current and future church leaders to first of all, be teachable. Being a leader in the church doesn’t make us better than anyone else, and it doesn’t give us an instant ticket into God’s presence. A heart close to Him does that. Being a leader doesn’t mean we know it all, it just means we have been entrusted to sow into people’s lives. The people that we lead do not belong to us. They belong to God, and that’s how we must approach that.
I would also tell them that leaders make other leaders. If we do not teach those we lead what we know, we have not done our job as leaders. We cannot lead as though we will hold our positions forever. It behooves us as leaders to train and develop others to do what we do.
Last, I would say we must lead in love. Being a church leader takes patience and compassion because the personalities and spiritual growth levels are different. We are not all on the same level spiritually. Some have grown to a higher level than others, but, again, that doesn’t make us better than anyone else. We have to exercise patience and love when leading.
One thing I believe we must keep in mind as leaders is that we never know what another person is dealing with. I have learned that there are reasons people act as they do – whether good or bad. Based on that, I believe as leaders we must be careful how we relate to others and use wisdom in our human relationships.
Can skills as a church leader translate into the workplace, too? Yes, I believe they can. Although the church and the workplace are two VERY DIFFERENT environments with very different sets of “rules,” the love and compassion all leaders should possess can definitely translate to the workplace. While there are hurting people at church, there are hurting people at work, too. The church ought to be a hospital where hurting people can receive healing and restoration. However, in the workplace, because of looming deadlines, pressure to perform, meeting the bottom line, etc., the environment is not conducive to healing hurting people. As Christians, we MUST take love into the workplace as well. Jesus told us people would know we were His by how we love each other. He didn’t qualify that whether in the church or the workplace – He just said to love others. Difficult? Yes, sometimes. But Jesus knew that, too. He made all of us, so He knows what we are all capable of, whether positive or negative.
4word: Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Donna: In addition to being a musician, worship leader, speaker, and author (twice), I am also a radio host on The Fishbowl Radio Network, an internet radio station. On The Donna Patrick Show we talk all things praise and worship. Guests on my show are active in worship ministry on various levels. Worship education is my passion because worship is not all about great music; it’s about surrender. Music is a tool, but music and worship are not the same thing.
My passion for worship ministry led me to self-publish two devotionals focused on praise and worship. In 2012 At All Times was released through Westbow Press. In 2015 It’s In Your Praise! was released, also through Westbow Press.
Has your worship become more ritual than lifestyle? Are you struggling to find your place in your church family? We hope Donna’s advice has helped you determine which steps you need to take to engage in your church as God intended you to!
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Donna R. Patrick is passionate about worship ministry. She has been a musician for a majority of her life, and a worship leader for the past 20 years. She is an award-winning author of two devotionals; At All Times (2012), and It’s In Your Praise! (2015). She is a former contributing writer for ExperiencingWorship.com and a guest commentator to The African American Lectionary. She serves as the Music Director at Hill Chapel CME Church in Plano, Texas.