I am a girl. (surprise!)
And 50 percent of the people I work with are guys. Students, parents, volunteers and fellow staff members.
For many reasons, we tend to see the world differently. The point of this post isn’t to exam the reasons but to ask how do we work together despite how different we are from each other.
The benefits for working well together are endless both personally and for our ministries. My own life and ministry have been so blessed by “cross-gender” friendships…both in the past and in the present.
The roadblocks tend to be connected to our differences but are also connected to the assumptions made about cross-gender relationships.
Take a Chance– I am a huge fan of boundaries and setting them up to protect yourself from inappropriate relationships with the opposite sex. But I would like to ask you to take a chance and engage in safe and meaningful friendships with others. Too many times we start with fear…of what might become of our interactions. Fear keeps us from powerful relationships and partnerships. Take a chance and engage without doubt.
Learn to Listen- Most of the dilemmas related to our differences are connected to how we communicate with each other. Stop thinking of what to say next and listen. Pardon my generalized statements: Ladies, we tend to hear everything so personally but maybe we should just listen without assumptions. Dudes, maybe don’t think about how to solve the problem without taking into account what the other might be really saying. Just…stop…listen.
Honor Differences– When we honor our differences we give power to what the Body of Christ should look like. We should celebrate that we are different. Different isn’t bad…it is good and healthy. The next time, someone suggests an idea or a response to something that is totally different than you would…don’t brush it off but honor it. You might find that it is just what you your ministry needs.
Be Sensitive – We celebrate our differences but we also need to be sensitive to our differences. Be aware of what your body language or your words do to the opposite sex. I once was talking to a youth pastor who asked me why his female volunteers didn’t trust him…I sat down to engage in the conversation but he stayed standing the whole time staring down at me. Right away I knew my answer, realize that your body language communicates something…whether it is power, compassion or judgement. Be sensitive to cues that you get from those around you.
Have Fun- One of the easiest ways to break down the walls and build friendships is through laughter. Celebrate your ministry victories together. Gather all your families together for a picnic at beach…whatever it may be just have fun together.
Even though it has not always been easy or natural, I love working with a team of volunteers, staff members and students who are different than me and I am certain that my ministry has been better because of it.
So what about you, how do you work with those that are different than you in your setting?