CNLP 362: Danielle Strickland on Dumping the Billy Graham Rule, Why Women Speakers Don’t Need to Hit Home Runs, and Spirituality That’s Way Too Heady

In a wide-ranging conversation, Danielle Strickland joins Carey in his home studio to talk about why it’s unfair to expect women speakers to hit home runs every time they communicate and why she started the Women’s Speaker Collective.

Danielle explains why, despite Billy Graham’s amazing legacy, the Billy Graham rule that men and women never meet alone together is both outdated and unhelpful, and where the path to healing the divide between men and women in life and at work can move next.

Plus, Danielle discusses why so much Western Christianity is all head and needs to grow a body.

Welcome to Episode 362 of the podcastListen and access the show notes below or search for the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts and listen for free.

Plus, in this episode’s What I’m Thinking About segment, Carey talks about how your workflow system is hurting your productivity.

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1. The Billy Graham Rule might be doing more harm than good for female leaders today

Danielle believe Billy Graham was and is ‘awesome’ and totally understands why Billy Graham put the boundaries in place that he did not not meet with a woman alone. However, his rules were written in 1948, and the world has changed significantly since then, so his rules should be adapted accordingly.

For example, one of his rules was that his yearly salary was capped at $15,000 per year. If pastors and leaders take Billy’s rule about never being alone in a room with a woman completely literal, they should also take the $15,000 salary cap rule completely literal.

In 1948, there were no women leaders, or not nearly as many as today, so Danielle argues it’s unfair to project that standard on today’s system where ministry has men and women working side by side. She offers other nuances and suggestions in the interview (and her book) on how men and women can work together.

2. When there aren’t enough women speakers, train them

One of the movements Danielle has spearheaded is the Women Speakers Collective. She started this because she saw not a lot of women on main stages, especially talking to mixed audiences. When she saw this, she started asking, “Why? Where are the women? What’s happening?”

As an answer to this problem, Danielle started the Women Speakers Collective to help train, equip and empower more female speakers, and to increase awareness and knowledge of female speakers among event hosts.

3. If you want to become a diverse organization, aim for the 30% level

So many organizations buy into becoming more diverse, or being intentional about having more females on their leadership teams, but only end up adding one female leader onto the 10 member leadership team. This is tokenism when you do this, and their opinion will never be heard because they are alone.

If you really want to go through cultural change, you need to hit the 30% level (where 30% of your team is composed of the people you’re including). If you want to experience the positive effects of diversity on your team, you need your team to be at least 30% of that group.

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Next Episode: Jon Tyson

Jon Tyson thinks the church missed a moment in rushing to get back to normal after COVID, and is perhaps missing a moment because of our response to racial reconciliation. As usual, Jon offers some deep insights into this cultural moment, what the future church needs to do, how he and his family recovered from catching Coronavirus, and how to find real rest in the midst of an exhausting era.

Subscribe for free now so you won’t miss Episode 363.

CNLP 362: Danielle Strickland on Dumping the Billy Graham Rule, Why Women Speakers Don’t Need to Hit Home Runs, and Spirituality That’s Way Too Heady


  1. bill (cycleguy) on September 1, 2020 at 9:45 am

    Hi Carey!

    I listened to the podcast and wanted to respond but then held back. But then I decided “why not?” and noticed that someone else had the same feeling I had. it is concerning the BGR. I have to say I totally disagree with Denielle and her (what I thought was) condescension of the BGR. I tend to agree with Scott in this. Whether I meet with a woman alone or in a group or when someone is around has NOTHING to do with who they are or aren’t. It has everything to do with two things; 1) temptation and 2) the biggest of the two: what others think. Yes, I do care. All it takes is for one tongue to wag and my ministry in this small town that I have grown to love after being here 15 years is over. The accusation may or may not be true or false, but small town gossip goes deep. I don’t even go out to eat alone with the church secretary. (I have been married for 47 years and she for 31). We work together but to go out to eat alone? No. The youth pastor will go out with us. We go to places together as a threesome but never just us two. My wife will come to the office or I will schedule an appointment here when someone else is around just to be on the safe side. So, while I understand Danielle’s concern, I will kindly disagree. You know yourself there are way too many stories of men and women who have fallen in real time or have seen ministries blown apart by gossip and unfounded accusations. It is tough enough maintaining integrity and a “successful” ministry without outside influence destroying it. My apologies for going on so long.

    Still would love to have you do some interviews with small town pastors and how covid affected their church and what they are doing to make things happen.

  2. Pauline Gruer-Caulfield on August 26, 2020 at 10:08 pm

    So many golden nuggets in this conversation! May it lead from awareness into action. Let’s use our power, whatever it may be, to lift those without power. Let’s work together. Be that city on the hill!

  3. Heather Dawn on August 26, 2020 at 9:14 am

    Thank you for this podcast. I just had to leave a few thoughts as this one means a lot to me personally…

    I am glad the “Billy Graham rule” was addressed. It is flawed for so many reasons.

    1. It is an expression itself of male privilege. Only men have been able historically to decide who and who they will not meet with; women, who do not historically hold the keys of leadership, have never had that option, even when they WERE threatened by the one they were meeting (yes, in the church arena and outside of it). In an age of “Me too”, this rule represents male privilege, well-intentioned or otherwise.

    2. It does not promote healthy male-female relationships. It does breed fear and mistrust towards women. I have been at the receiving end of that. The best way to minimize temptation is not avoiding women, but actually learning how to humanize women, form healthy relationships and keep each other accountable to that. Avoiding women to prevent temptation only actually makes the issue much worse…

    3. When men hold the upper rung of leadership, the only way to promote female leadership is through mentorship. This is possible with healthy boundaries, and other fields of influence outside the church have learned this. I worked once with a male leader who took the time to talk one on one with all his junior leaders, men and women, about their career goals, their challenges etc. It was such a meaningful conversation that meant a lot to me.

    I hope this will be intentionally made possible in every arena.

  4. Scott on August 25, 2020 at 4:24 pm


    I don’t think I’ve ever left a comment on your stuff before but I want to thank you for your ministry. You’re from a different circle than me and that’s one of the reasons I love listening to your podcast, it exposes me to stuff I normally wouldn’t be exposed to and forces me to think about things from a different perspective.

    I just have a comment about the section of the podcast where the Billy Graham Rule was discussed. I think Danielle made a good point about how an unintended conscience of the Billy Graham Rule is a void of women in positions of leadership and a lack of discipleship among women. That’s something I agree male pastors and leaders need to think carefully about how to work with women on their teams and develop and disciple them so they can better serve the church.

    Despite my agreement with that point I was disappointed that Danielle was allowed to get away with presenting a caricature of the Billy Graham Rule. Pastors and christian leaders I know that hold the BGR don’t practice it because they are afraid of women, it’s because they take the threat of temptation seriously. It’s the same reason they don’t watch movies or TV shows with with nudity or sexual content, or they have software on their computer to block porn sites. It’s the same reason some people choose not to drink at all verses drinking only a little. Pastors falling because of adulterous relationships wasn’t just an issue for Billy Graham’s contemporaries, it still happens all the time today. There are ways for male leaders to invest in women that still guard against temptation. When there is such a crisis of sexual abuse, scandal, pornography, etc. I don’t think the best way to help men is to criticize principles and actions that are meant to guard them against temptation and hold them accountable. If men need anything today, it’s more accountability, not less.

    Thanks for the podcasts brother, keep em coming!

  5. Stewart on August 25, 2020 at 12:06 pm

    I found the discussion of giving and receiving interesting. One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do is accept charity from people who were desperately poor. One instance in particular I remember was when I pastored a church in Washington DC. We had a homeless veteran who attended our services regularly. I got to know “Wayne” over a few years. I’d see him at church. We sat together at church lunches. I’d see him around town occasionally.

    One day I saw him around town and it was near lunch time. He asked if I had lunch yet. I said “no”. He asked if I’d like to join him. “Sure.” We went to a deli nearby. I assumed I was paying since he was homeless. But when we got to the cashier, he pulled out cash and paid for us both. I tried to object. But he insisted. He explained – “if this relationship can’t go both ways, we can’t be friends.”

    I never forgot that.

  6. Mark on August 25, 2020 at 8:03 am

    Leadership often likes to start up programs and then sit back and watch them run. With web based services and Bible studies, you have to watch the metrics in real time not only on the newest podcast/video but older ones as well. This requires constant examination and a lot of work. Yes, you’ll be able to see who’s viewing your website, know if they’re members or visitors (questionable), see where they are, and then re-engage them with next steps,” but you will need to plot a strategy for re-engagement and next steps.

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