Jo Saxton is an author and speaker known for her passion to help women step into their calling to lead. She is the director of 3D Ministries, a global organization focused on helping leaders to implement discipleship and missions in their churches. The international organization’s roots lie at St. Thomas Church in Sheffield in the U.K., where Saxton served as a youth pastor and college pastor before moving to the U.S. with her husband.
What are some of the issues you take on with the Lead Stories podcast you host with Steph Williams?
It grew out of a sense of there are a lot of women and—we have…maybe 20 percent of our listeners are guys—but there are a lot of women in particular who say, “You know, I do feel called to stuff. I’ve got an idea. I’ve got a dream, but there’s no one to invest in me.” And we wanted something that was accessible, that was free, and that would hopefully be a resource to people who are trying to work out how they lead. We also wanted to give room to voices that maybe people don’t normally hear.
My personal feeling is we have so much to learn from everybody but we don’t often have the chance to if we go to a church which has one majority group and such. So we wanted to hear what do our different brothers and sisters from different churches, different ethnicities, different socioeconomic groups, what can they teach us about everything? About leadership, about discipleship, about giving, about pioneering, about family, about marriage, about life? So part of what we do is do our general stuff on leadership and then we love to do interviews with people that can just help inform us all and speak to our lives in general, our leadership life because everybody’s got something to share.
“Nigerian culture in the actual…I mean we are a tribe, we are a people. Extended family is our norm. So for me, when I think of leadership and thriving as a leader, I cannot think of it without extended family, without thinking of who my people are, because if I don’t have my people I can’t lead.”
Are there any particular standout guests or moments from the Lead Stories podcast that have impacted you personally?
I think the standout moment, and one where we’ve had a lot of response to, was a series we did basically on holistic health and burnout. The amount of feedback we got from leaders who were at the end of themselves who are caring for their families, who are often the sandwich generation—caring for their kids but also for the parents, also working a job and who are stretched on every level. I just found it very humbling. Then there’s a series we did call “The Leader Behind the Scene” talking about the self-management stuff, how do we deal with our way of doing relationship, our own personal hurts, our own struggles, things like that. And how to do we build community.
The U.K. can be quite individualistic on certain points, but Nigerian culture in the actual…I mean we are a tribe, we are a people. Extended family is our norm. So for me, when I think of leadership and thriving as a leader, I cannot think of it without extended family, without thinking of who my people are, because if I don’t have my people I can’t lead. It’s not even my philosophy. It’s just part of my being. So [I] wanted to share that with people as well and say, “Well, you know that that may not be [your] cultural background but you still need your people if you’re going to come into your own, rather than just be by yourself.” I think the most humbling part of doing the podcast is when we meet people, like when we’re speaking in places, and people are in tears. It’s been humbling. It’s just been really humbling to recognize how much need there is for encouragement and resource, that it’s a valuable thing.
You mentioned that about 20 percent of the “Lead Stories” podcast listeners are men. How do you advise men for whom the idea of women as pastors is foreign? Or men who feel uncomfortable or insecure about embracing women as leaders?
We talk about it on the podcast, but we’ve realized we don’t actually talk about it that much, which I haven’t worked out if it’s a good or a bad thing, partly because we want the content that we give to do the talking. And we want to be unapologetic about who we are was women, so we share from our perspective and we assume that’s valid. We assume it has something to say to men, just as when men are leading and teaching and preaching, I assume they have things to say to me. I expect it to be vice-versa.
Sometimes we ask guys if there are particular questions they have. So they may ask us questions about women in leadership and things like that. Now, I remember one time meeting a guy who hadn’t heard the podcast when I was at an event. And he said, “You know, I was fine with everything until I realized that you were a pastor. Then I felt really conflicted because I’ve already heard you speak. I really enjoyed it, and now I don’t know what to think. Will you help me?” I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it, to be honest. But I asked him to take another look at the Bible and ask what the women [were already doing]. What was Deborah already doing? What was Phoebe already doing? What was Priscilla already doing? [I would] say, “I’m not here to convince you but I would encourage you to look afresh. There will always be people with different points of view but if you’re saying to me that God is speaking to you through this, then maybe that’s the conversation you need to have with God. If you’re finding that you’ve already been inspired or challenged or encouraged, then maybe that’s the beginning of your journey with God on [that] stuff. Because God has invited us all into his Great Commission.”
One thing we do address, we do address guys who are saying, “I want to equip my women leaders. How do I do this we?” We do actually have some podcasts dedicated to that space and giving that voice and saying these are some of the mistakes that we would really encourage you not to make, and to think through. I actually was surprised by the guys who were listening. I didn’t expect it. We just thought we’d put it out there and see who came our way. So it’s been great to discover that there’s this community of guys who are listening and sharing. One of my daughter’s choir teachers, he listens to it regularly and tells his friends to listen to it, which I didn’t know. He just came up and told me he did.
If you enjoyed this excerpt of Faithfully Magazine’s Q&A with Jo Saxton on Women Who Lead, purchase Issue No. 1 to read the full interview. In Faithfully Magazine No. 1, Saxton discusses her experiences doing life and ministry in the U.K. and how it compares with her ministry in the U.S.; how, as a pastor, she finally came to understand the meaning behind the oft-asked question of “where’s your husband?”; and much more.
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