I am sure I echo the sentiment of many of my cohort-mates who desire to bring change in their contexts, that this was a refreshing look at a complicated matter. Diane Zemke uses her expertise in leadership studies, combined with a clear passion for the church, to provide an informed, insightful look at congregational change.
For the past few weeks (and for many weeks to come), I have been researching pentecostal/charismatic spirituality and its effect on the female ministry leader. Of special interest have been the aspects of narrative and community in the spiritual and leadership development of female leaders. Zemke’s work has offered increased perspective on my findings.
According to Zemke, “as stories are told in a congregation, new people evaluate how they fit or don’t fit into the larger narrative.” In my field research, the aspect of faith nurtured through the collective narrative surfaced often. Each of the leaders I interviewed (all from the pentecostal tradition) described their own experiences in terms of how they related to others. In fact, much of their description of formative experiences had to do with the response of the community: whether they were received positively or negatively. This aligns with Zemke’s understanding of the role of narrative in congregational culture.
I appreciated Zemke’s discussion on the realities for women in congregational life in her section on Wisdom for Women. She provides relevant, real-life examples of the challenges of being a female change agent within the congregation. This was especially helpful in light of the previous section on tempered radicals:
Tempered radicals also tend to be deeply oriented toward ministry arising out of calling and gifting rather than requirements of position, education, and gender. They truly understand that the fields are ready to harvest and the workers are few.”
In my research, I am discovering that many current female ministry leaders could be classified as tempered radicals. Like Zemke says, they are “drawn to the relational life embodied by congregations,” and they desire to see the gifts and callings of congregational members be affirmed, regardless of demographic concerns. The unique value placed on narrative within pentecostal spirituality offers these tempered radicals a path forward to cultural change. Perhaps Zemke has something special to offer female change agents in pentecostal congregations, especially as they work to remove barriers that prevent their ministry…writing new stories and changing the narrative.
This was a fast, practical read that I am sure I will be referencing again in the future.
 Diane Zemke, Being SMART about Congregational Change, (Create Space Independent Publishing 2014), Kindle.