Jen Pollock Michel takes me to task on that over at Christianity Today’s her.meneutics blog, which provides news and analysis from the perspective of evangelical women.
But the thing is: she’s right. And, she’s very gracious. She understands the book, enjoyed it, and found it helpful. The whole review is excellent and I highly commend it to you.
She isn’t saying that the book totally misses it on a woman’s perspective. Not at all. But she points to some important correctives. She argues that the first half of the book, where I give a theology of productivity, is right on. Her point is that when I enter into the second, more practical half, I tend to leave behind issues that are most specifically relevant to women. She summarizes this very well:
The first half of What’s Best Next demonstrates clearly that Matt Perman values all work. “Good works are not simply the rare, special, extraordinary, or super spiritual things we do. Rather, they are anything that we do in faith.” I only wish the second half of the book had made more mention of so-called women’s work. (In fact, upon closer examination of the book, I realize how “male” the book really is, not only in terms of its conception of time and work, but in its consultation. All 12 endorsers are male, and of the 20 books in the recommended reading list, only two are written by women.)
Thank you, Jen. You make very good points, and I appreciate that you pointed this out to me in such a gracious way. This is exactly the type of push-back that helps all of us grow — and we especially need it in areas like this, which is something that honestly was not on my radar at all (which is why I am especially thankful for her critique).
I will do better in the future, and will seek to think about productivity in a more holistic way that doesn’t end up narrowing in on things in such a way that areas that are especially important to a woman’s perspective are left out. And, I agree that it would have been better if more of the books I recommended and interacted with had been by women. I will try to broaden my perspective there as well.
This also raises a larger issue. I do think that women have traditionally been under-represented in Christian writing and leadership. And I think that, as men, we share significant responsibility for that because of being too narrowly focused on ourselves and own perspectives. I actually do try to do something about that (though I could do better); I make a special effort to learn when women speak up in the church, not out of some strange affirmative action thinking but because I consistently find it helpful. Everyone is better off when both men and women are encouraged to make all the contributions they are capable of.
The good news is that things are changing. Some of the most helpful and engaging books on leadership and the Christian life right now are more and more being written by women. As a few examples on the Christian life and productivity side, let me commend to you Jen’s own upcoming book Teach Us to Want: Longing, Ambition, and the Life of Faith, which looks fantastic and much-needed; Gloria Furman’s new book Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full: Gospel Meditations for Busy Moms; Aimee Bird’s recent Housewife Theologian: How the Gospel Transforms the Ordinary; Melissa McDonald’s excellent blog The Cross and the Kitchen Sink, with its great tagline “because the cross changes everything
but including the kitchen sink”; and, of course, Christianity Today’s her.meneutics blog where you can find more of Jen’s writings along with contributions from many other excellent writers looking at faith and news from the perspective of evangelical women.
And specifically on the leadership side, Jenni Catron is one of the best thinkers on leadership in the church right now, and I highly commend her new book Clout: Unleash Your God-Given Potential, with a foreword by Patrick Lencioni, one of the greatest management thinkers of our day.
So women are making an incredible contribution in the church today to Christian thought. That is an excellent thing that we need to celebrate. And Jen’s review of What’s Best Next shows how someone like me still needs to grow in this, and how easy it is to not even realize how often we unconsciously overlook the need to, as Jen puts it in her post, “understand a women’s perspective in the time management conversation” — or whatever else we are writing on.
So, thanks again, Jen, for your review.