Month: September 2017

Intentional Influence through Writing

by Peggy Kuethe

Words are transformative.

Recall Genesis 1 when God spoke the universe into existence, and Genesis 3:15 when He spoke the promise of a Redeemer. Recall John 2:1-11, when Jesus spoke the water into wine and 1 Peter 1:3 where He gives us new life in Him. God’s words have immeasurable transformative power.

Language is an intentional gift from God. He also intends for us to use words to communicate with Him and with others.  It is the foundation of our relationships.

You are fashioned in the image of a creative God. He gives you words and language, a mind and a heart and a voice. Along with that comes the desire to connect with others, to establish community, to form social bonds. Perhaps, as you do, you feel compelled to share a message, to communicate from your Spirit-inspired point of view. Sometimes a few words via Twitter or Facebook just aren’t enough. You want more space to express your thoughts, to tell your story. You want … to write a blog or a book or a Bible study!

Our words cannot do such miraculous things as transforming one thing into another thing or to give life where there is none. But they have transformative, intentional power. One of the most exciting ways you can influence others is through the written word made public. Thanks to technological advances and the Internet, publishing has never been easier. If you want to publish, you can.

Perhaps you’ve heard that eight out of ten people say they want to (or “should”) write a book. It sounds so simple. Write it. Publish it. Check that off your bucket list.

On the surface, it really is that simple. Scratch that surface though, and things begin to get a little complicated. Writing can be tedious. Publishing can be difficult. And selling—that’s a real challenge.

Eight out of ten say they want to publish, but how many do it? If just one person gets it done, why not let it be you? After all, the Holy Spirit may be nudging you. Your best friend is encouraging you. The members of your Bible study group are asking you. But where do you begin?

First, you write.

  • Every writer discovers a process and a work style that, well, “works.” An hour first thing every morning. One day a month sequestered with the computer. Midnight the day before a deadline. Something in the middle is more likely. Find what suits you and stick with it.
  • Decide what to write and who you are writing to.
  • Edit. Revise. Repeat. (A few writers get it perfect the first time. Most don’t.) (Don’t even ask me how many false starts I made while writing this short article!)

Second, you publish.

  • Make an informed decision between traditional publishing and self-publishing.
  • Market, promote, and sell. The work you do after you write, regardless which publishing route you choose, is key to getting your message out there, to making it public. (See the second bullet point above.)

I’m writing this on a Monday. Yesterday, one of our communion hymns was “Take My Life, and Let It Be.” The third stanza brought to mind all of you: “Take my voice, and let me sing / Always, only, for my King; / Take my lips, and let them be / Filled with messages from Thee.”

As Christian writers, we have the responsibility—and the joy—of filling our messages with the hope, peace, mercy, comfort, and truth that are Christ’s own Gospel. Let us serve Him with our talents and our words!

Peggy Kuethe is the Senior Editor of Women’s Resources and Children’s Books at Concordia Publishing House. Peggy has worked in the publishing industry since high school (if you count the yearbook and student newspaper, that is). In the years since, she has worked as a newspaper reporter, periodicals editor and writer, marketing copywriter, and book editor.

Christian Women in Leadership: Peggy Kuethe

For Peggy Kuethe, Christian leadership is all about keeping Christ at the core of all she does. Read on….

What does it look like to be a woman in a leadership role? How does Christian faith impact leadership? And what happens when you put the two together?

Peggy Kuethe is a Senior Editor at Concordia Publishing House in St. Louis, Missouri—where she has worked for 20 years. She has BA in English and Journalism from Illinois State University and an MA in English from Southern Illinois University. She has served on the WLI Board in the past and is now a WLI ambassador. She has been a presenter at previous WLI conferences and will be talking about “Christian Writing for Publication” at the Gifted to Influence Conference.

We asked Peggy a few questions about her job and her views on Christian Leadership:

What’s the favorite part of your job? 

I often tell people that I have the best job at CPH—I am privileged to do what I’m good at, where I want to do it, and with people I want to be with—all to the glory of God! (That’s my favorite part.)

How would you define Christian leadership?

Christian leadership is most effective when Christ is at the core of what we do and when we use our gifts, talents, abilities, and interests with that uppermost in mind. Our Lord will guide us to serve where and how He wills. Sometimes that means stepping out of our comfort zone to take the help, speak up, get our hands dirty. And sometimes that means stepping back to let someone else take on those tasks. We can’t all be in charge all the time. When we prayerfully consider what is asked of us and what is asked of others, we lead … even when we follow!

How do you bring your Christian values into your work?

The Christian workplace is like any other workplace in that we have daily work to do, and we bring our sinful human nature into every task. Sometimes, because it’s a Christian workplace, Satan works overtime to thwart our mission and to separate us from God. What’s wonderful about bringing Christian values into a Christian workplace is that we can openly point out when that happens and pray together and pray for one another. At CPH, our mission is clear and we know that every job and every task has a purpose.

Looking back, is there a time on your leadership journey where you perhaps felt uncertain about the future, but God had a bigger plan?

Prior to coming to CPH, I worked at a company where I did not fit in. At all. On my way home from work every day, I drove under an over pass where someone repeatedly sprayed graffiti. No matter how many times the state workers cleaned off the graffiti or painted over it, within a day or so it would be back. The graffiti was in the form of two words: Trust Jesus. I would see those words every evening, Monday through Friday, and pray, “Okay, Lord. I will. I’m not happy, but I trust You.” It took four years, but eventually I was hired at CPH for my dream job. I drive the same way home, but the graffiti no longer appears. It could have been a coincidence, but I choose to believe that God used that anonymous graffiti artist to give me the assurance I needed. There is no question that that prior job prepared me for this one. I just had to trust for God’s bigger plan for me.

How does working in a religious or secular setting change the way you lead as a Christian?

I am blessed to work in an organization that applies God’s Word to every situation. When I’m called upon to lead, I follow that example with confidence.

Who are your biggest role models as a leader?

There are so many people, I don’t even know where to begin!

Is there a passage in scripture that resonates with you as a Christian woman in leadership? 

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

What most prepared you to be a Christian leader in the workplace? 

Years and years ago, I was appointed to fill a vacant spot on our little Lutheran school’s board for Christian day school. That one-year appointment turned into nine years of service, including six as our 150-year-old congregation’s first female school board chair. You can imagine the countless opportunities I had to learn about teamwork, leadership, compromise, and mission. It was a beautiful lesson of faith that God will always provide.

What challenges do you face as a Christian leader in your workplace?

I am my own worst enemy, so the challenges I face are self-inflicted. When I pray first and act second, the result is always gratifying.

What is the most important piece of advice you would want to pass along to other Christian women in leadership?

Your local congregation is not only a good place to learn the mechanics and nuances of leadership, it might be precisely where the Lord is leading you to serve. We might not see the ripple effect of even the smallest role until later.

Peggy Kuethe is the Senior Editor of Women’s Resources and Children’s Books at Concordia Publishing House. Peggy has worked in the publishing industry since high school (if you count the yearbook and student newspaper, that is). In the years since, she has worked as a newspaper reporter, periodicals editor and writer, marketing copywriter, and book editor.

Christian Women in Leadership: Dr. Tamara Ferry

Dr. Tamara Ferry works each day to educate Christian leaders by helping them serve with the gifts God has given them. Read on…

What does it look like to be a woman in a leadership role? How does Christian faith impact leadership? And what happens when you put the two together?

To find out, we caught up with friend of WLI and past presenter Tamara Ferry who is the Director of Institutional Research and Director of Assessment for the School of Pharmacy at Concordia University Wisconsin. She holds a B.S. in Elementary Education from Concordia College, Portland, an M.S. in Secondary School Guidance Counseling from St. Cloud State University, and a Ph.D. in Urban Education and Education Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Tamara is all a speaker at the upcoming WLI National Conference where she will lead a workshop on Identity Theft: Putting on Christ, an Identity the World Can’t Steal!

We asked her a few questions about her job and her views on Christian leadership:

What’s the favorite part of your job?

Everyday I’m amazed at how the responsibilities and expectations of my job build on and match the interest and skills the Lord has given me.  I’m so thankful for my calling here at Concordia and I’m blessed to work in a position where my gifts and the needs of the university overlap. So, I guess my favorite part of my job is the sense of purpose I feel every day.

How would you define Christian leadership?

I would say that for me Christian leadership means living my life centered on where and how the Lord has called me: living my vocation basically. Such as living my vocation as a spouse by being the best spouse I can be, living my vocation as a professional by being the best employee I can be. Christian leadership also entails servant leadership. As a servant leader, I try to serve and lead by helping those around me live their vocations.  In my relationships with colleagues and students at Concordia I find myself asking, “How can I help them be servant leaders?” “How can I encourage them, highlighting and acknowledging their gifts, calling, and vocation?”

How do you bring your Christian values into your work?

I bring my Christian values to work by interacting with my colleagues and students in a way that I hope inspires them toward engagement…engaging in a life of service and leadership that comes from knowing we are God’s handiwork created in Christ Jesus.

Can you remember a specific experience where you relied on your Christian faith or values to lead you through a tough decision or important task?

My professional role encompasses a multitude of tasks and responsibilities, most of which feel difficult to me!  So it’s hard to separate out a specific experience. I’m constantly relying on God’s guidance and strength in all my undertakings. But lately a tough challenge has been gaining a better understanding of the concept of “big data” and everything “big data” entails. We are working toward bringing all of our somewhat isolated and fragmented data structures into a “data warehouse” that will enable us to answer complex and strategic questions in a more consistent and timely fashion. The process and technology behind this project is tough for me to comprehend so I’m relying heavily on some very talented and smart colleagues!

Looking back is there a time on your leadership journey where you perhaps felt uncertain about the future, but God had a bigger plan?

Well, 20 years ago when we received the call that Pat was chosen to be president of Concordia we were shocked!  At 38-years-old he had no administrative experience and we were completely planning on a cross-country move to Texas, where Pat had already accepted a new position. Our house was sold! But God’s plan was bigger so we trusted in His plan for our lives and how He would use us according to His will to fulfill His purpose.

Then, a couple years later, Pat asked me to take on my current position of being Concordia’s Director of Institutional Research. I said, “No way!” I really just wanted to teach and I thought this position sounded really hard and, frankly, boring. But here I am, 18 years later, working as both the Director of Institutional Research and Director of Assessment for the School of Pharmacy and loving it.

How does working in a religious or secular setting change the way you lead as a Christian?

Working in a religious setting allows me to freely convey my faith and express who God intended me to be.  It enhances my ability to reflect the love of God in Jesus in all of my conversations, meetings, decisions etc….  I hope my co-workers see that I’m grounded in the knowledge that God has a plan and that He is using me according to His purpose. The Lord says in Jeremiah 29, verse 11: “For surely I know the plans I have for you, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”

Who are your biggest role models as a leader?

The president of Concordia! Over the years, I’ve watched my husband solve complex problems and sticky situations with great integrity and strength. I’ve witnessed Pat’s tenacity, humility, and patience. He is steadfast, disciplined, and visionary. His faith is active in love! I can’t count the number of times Pat has encouraged, comforted, and inspired others through the gospel message. He’s also a loving and devoted husband, father, and grandpa and our family is his highest priority. For over 30 years he’s supported all of my personal and professional endeavors, encouraging me to fully use my talents however I’d like.

Is there a passage in scripture that resonates with you as a Christian woman in leadership? 

Be still and know that I am God – Psalm 46:10

What most prepared you to be a Christian leader in the workplace?

I’m a lifelong LCMS Lutheran and my passion for the value of a faith inspired university experience stems from the experiences I had growing up as a professor’s kid on the campus of a Lutheran college. In fact, after I was born my parents brought me home from the hospital to a college dorm where they lived as dorm counselors. So it feels like God has been preparing me for this work since the day I was born!

What challenges do you face as a Christian leader in your workplace?

The challenges I face stem from personal limitations. There are aspects of leadership that I don’t do very well, probably because I have a tendency to avoid risk and stay in my comfort zone. So my biggest challenges involve trusting and surrendering…trusting God’s plan and surrendering to His will.  Also technology!

What is the most important piece of advice you would want to pass along to other Christian women in leadership?

My words of advice are God’s words, “Be still and know that I am God.” Leadership can be demanding and draining. So, don’t forget to take time to be fed and to rest in God’s promise of peace. When you’re having a crazy, hectic day, and your patience gets short remember these words – even better, say these words. “Be still and know that I am God.”  Your future is in God’s hands and He will carry you there.

Christian Women in Leadership: Janelle Fuhrmann

Janelle Fuhrmann’s leadership style stems from this idea: Don’t be afraid to live out your Christian faith in the workplace. Read on…

What does it look like to be a woman in a leadership role? How does Christian faith impact leadership? And what happens when you put the two together?

To find out, we caught up with Janelle Fuhrmann, Managing Partner Northeast Wisconsin and Upper Peninsula of Michigan Region for Thrivent Financial.  Janelle has worked her way up into her current leadership position during her 30 years with Thrivent. She holds a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, her CFP from the College for Financial Planning in Denver, CO, and her CHFC from the American College of Financial Services in Bryn Mawr, PA. Janelle is also speaking at the upcoming WLI National Conference where she will lead a workshop on Finding Spiritual Peace in Christian Leadership.

We asked Janelle a few questions about her job and her views on Christian Leadership:

What’s the favorite part of your job? 

Encouraging and training our financial advisors to approach planning with their clients with a different point of view that links faith and finances together and leads people to be more generous in their lives.

How would you define Christian leadership?

Modeling Christian values in both your personal and work life to help and motivate others on their faith journey.

How do you bring your Christian values into your work?

We pray before meetings and I let people know I’m praying for them during difficult times. We highlight activities within the workplace that foster sharing and generosity with others.

Looking back, is there a time on your leadership journey where you perhaps felt uncertain about the future, but God had a bigger plan? 

I had some circumstances the last couple of years that made me question whether I wanted to continue in my leadership role, but God’s plan seemed to be steering me to stay. What I thought might be a time to do something different turned out to be a reawakening in spirit and a sign to continue the leadership journey where I’m working currently.

Who are your biggest role models as a leader?

I would say my entire family, from my parents to my brothers to my husband of 24 years.

 Is there a passage in scripture that resonates with you as a Christian woman in leadership?

For God has not given a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.  2 Timothy 1:7

What most prepared you to be a Christian leader in the workplace? 

My upbringing and being raised by parents who led with Christian values.  My dad was the mayor of our town and had a passion to help the community.  In addition, my parents sent my brothers and myself to a parochial school that helped instill Christian values.

I also have the benefit of working for an organization (Thrivent Financial) that helps people live out their values by linking faith and finances together.

My husband and I try to live out our faith in our community.  We have tried to instill the importance of these values to our children.

What is the most important piece of advice you would want to pass along to other Christian women in leadership?

Don’t let fear stop you from carrying out your purpose in God’s plan. Remember that fear doesn’t come from Jesus; Jesus came to make us brave!

Being an Assertive Christian Woman

By Ruth Koch

Sometimes it seems like life is uphill all the way.  Someone is rude to you, verbally abusive, takes advantage of you—whatever—and you, being raised as many women are, to ‘make nice,’ just don’t know how to handle the situation.  If you make a big effort to ‘make nice’ with the person who is doing wrong, you will encourage the behavior and participate in their wrongdoing.  You don’t want to be the doormat woman who forfeits the respect of those around her.

And I’ll bet you’ve seen too many women who hold it in and hold it in and then just blow up, raining nasty words and red-hot anger and even hatred that has been fermenting for way too long.  You don’t want to be that woman who behaves aggressively—hurting others and later regretting it.

And, besides, you’re a Christian woman and that is at the very center of your identity.  You want to represent Christ well in all your interactions with others, but you may not be sure just how to balance the whole counsel of God which tells us, for example, to put the needs of others ahead of our own (Philippians 2:3) but also tells us to ‘look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others,’ (Philippians 2:4), affirming that it is appropriate to look to our own interests.  To untangle some of these competing instructions, we need to look at the concept of assertiveness, the healthy antidote to both passive and aggressive behaviors.

And thus we look to the Word, and to Jesus’ life, for the answer to this important life dilemma.  In the gospels, you can observe Jesus’ behaviors, His attitudes, His loving, compassionate interactions and His sometimes direct, fiery interactions as well.  Jesus embodied a higher law, the law of love.  Jesus was beautifully assertive in His interactions with others, discerning what would most effectively accomplish His goal of salvation and service.  The heart of assertive behavior is that it embodies both self respect and respect for others.

Mark 10:17-22 is the story of the rich young man who came to Jesus.  Quite proud of himself and determined not to be vulnerable, the rich young man asked Jesus what he must do to be saved.  Jesus knew his heart, wanted him to know salvation and began where the young man was by telling him that he must obey the commandments.  “No problem!  Been doing that all my life,” the young man answered.  And Jesus looked straight at him with love (v.21)How easy it would have been to dismiss this arrogant young man!  But Jesus loved him and wanted him to be a part of God’s kingdom.  So He looked into the young man’s heart, saw how it was tangled up in riches, and spoke assertively and directly to him: “Sell it all, give it to the poor and follow me.”  Jesus did not compromise His mission to bring salvation to this young man, nor did He mince words and try to make nice.  Too much was at stake!  His loving engagement reinforced His words.

Alas, we are told that the rich young man’s face fell, and “he went away sorrowful, because he was very rich” (v. 22).  Important to note that Jesus was loving, direct, focused on His own mission of redemption and fully engaged with this young man.  All that, however, did not guarantee that the man’s response would be to repent, sell and follow Jesus.  Behaving assertively does not guarantee success, but it greatly increases the likelihood that a genuine and authentic encounter will take place

At its heart, Christian assertiveness is dedicated to the welfare and respect of others as well as honoring a commitment to the mission and ministry set before each Christian.  An assertive Christian is not asserting rights, but is instead choosing behaviors that support, enhance and celebrate that Christian’s call to love and serve God and others, living out respect for self and the person God has created you to be—and respect for the other person as beloved and precious to God.

Christians can wade into messy situations and gather up our courage, knowing we are called to imitate the beautifully, lovingly assertive Christ.

Ruth N. Koch, M.A., NCC is a mental health educator and National Certified Counselor. Trained in both social work and counseling, she specializes in conflict management, grief education, and everyday mental health issues that impact personal and family relations. She is the co-author of Speaking the Truth in Love: How to Be an Assertive Christian, Stephen Ministries, St. Louis, MO. Come to the Gifted to Influence Conference in Milwaukee, WI September 29 – October 1 to hear Ruth’s presentation, “Neither Passive nor Aggressive:  The Assertive Christian Woman.”

Living as a Deployed Digital Missioner

by Connie Denninger—Visual Faith Ministries

Social media tools have become a part of our everyday life. How do we create the time and space for engagement that makes sense with all the things that juggle for our time? Part of the plan is to understand the niche for the story that we have as bearers of the Gospel message. This world is hungry for the hope that we have and social media tools bring us the means to share that Good News. We can use tools that are cost-effective—basically free, reach the world from our living room, and offer places of encouragement and even discipleship.

There is a spot for everyone. There are content creators and curators. Then the cheerleaders like, pin, and share. All three positions are necessary and everyone can hold multiple roles. Perhaps your niche is as educator: women’s ministry or Christian leadership in the workplace. In the amazing versatile role of women, we also serve as wives, sisters, mothers, and grandmothers and that brings more areas of passion and experience. What could we do to leverage the social media choices to bring framework to Christian parenting and impact the Lutheran school parent? What if a staff shared the task to bring the best insights, information, and encouragement to the church and school community that they serve?

So what is a missioner?  A missioner is a person sent by a church into an area to carry on evangelism or educational activities. It is a person strongly in favor of a set of principles and they live on mission. Perhaps it is time to sort that out and write a mission statement. For YOU have been called for “such a time as this” to use the technology of this age, to the end of this age. We don’t necessarily need to be sent by a church, as we have all been given the Great Commission to go and make disciples. What if we chose to use Facebook as a place to bring LIGHT to Social media and tell the story of what faith-life living looks like? There are the event invitations and glimpses of our everyday life. Perhaps we need to tell the story of who came, what happened when we gathered, and what we learned from each other when we were together. What is the AFTER STORY? Perhaps we could use a tool like the VRSLY app that creates a Word and world intersection in a shareable format.

An area of concern is the total amassed time spent on our virtual devices. The upcoming generation would probably state that their phones are their reality. That is also the perspective of a growing segment of adults. Managing the choices becomes the leverage that make sense in both the diversity of the options and the sinkhole possibilities of never ending “rabbit holes.” There also happens to be an app, Moment, that tracks the amount of time spent on our Smartphones. When we know our purpose for engagement, this gives parameters and clues for the best use of our time and energy. Learning about Visual Faith tools and the communities that support these practices has brought a framework for Christian engagement. We can share Good News promise in winsome ways to reach countries and people that we can only imagine impacting. When we couple social media presence with the work of the Holy Spirit and give free rein to His movement in the Kingdom, we are believers living as missionaries. What a blessing to be serving in this place in time, with Kingdom View eyes, in collaborative learning communities that delight in sharing the hope of the Gospel. Time to learn about deployment.

Connie Denninger is a family life educator, blogger, gardener, Kingdom Impact Pinner and Visual Faith Coach.  Connie loves beauty in the sacred space of home and is learning to live life as prayer. She is also an encourager, a mom, mate and Gigi to 4 little boys. Come hear her presentation, “Living As A Deployed Digital Missionary,” at the Gifted to Influence Conference in Milwaukee, WI September 29 – October 1.

Workplace Connections: The Blessings and Challenges of Being a Millennial and Working With One

By Rachel Morton & Rebekah Karolus

Generational studies are all the rage right now. Over the past five years in particular, people have spent a lot of time speculating about the differences between generations and what impact those differences have on social, economic, and religious levels. At the moment, one of the most talked-about generations—in both positive and negative ways—is the millennial generation (our generation). Millennials are defined as anyone born between the year 1980 and 1997 (give or take a year or two depending on the study). Most recently millennials made headline news as they officially surpassed the baby boomers as the largest (by population) living generation in the United States!

You may be asking yourself, “What does this information have to do with the workplace or with ‘workplace connections’?” Well, at some point in your life you will find yourself sitting across the interview table from a millennial. You might be the one hiring or you might be the one hoping to get a job. In either of those situations, it would be helpful to know a little bit about the generation you will be working with in order to create a more positive work environment.

The thought of working with millennials might actually be something that worries you. After all, we’ve all heard the stereotypes about them: they’ve been called the “me, me, me” generation, lazy, entitled, self-obsessed, and even narcissistic. Who would want to work with someone like that? However, they also have been given some positive stereotypes. People have called them open-minded, generous, self-expressive, upbeat, definitely tech-savvy, and passionate about social causes. We promise…they aren’t all as scary as you might think!

So let’s get real. Have you ever wondered if there is any truth behind the stereotypes about millennials? Have these stereotypes positively or negatively affected your desire to ever work with this generation? Do you think these stereotypes affect the millennials’ abilities to work with other generations and vice versa? Have you ever wondered what stereotypes about older generations might be affecting the millennials’ desire to work with them? And at the end of it all, what kind of example are we setting for future generations by letting different stereotypes affect how we all work together?

Regardless of whether or not any of the stereotypes are true, the fact that they exist has already affected the ability of different generations to work together. Each generation already has a pre-conceived idea about the other. In some instances that has helped workplace connections, and in others it has hurt them. Regardless of your generation, we can all benefit from the perspective of different generations in the workplace. Better perspective allows us to more effectively connect with and support one another, creating a healthier work environment. How do we gain this perspective? By talking together.

Rachel Morton is a graduate of Concordia University Wisconsin’s Master of Church Music program, serves as Assistant Worship Director at St. John’s Lutheran Church in West Bend, Wisconsin. She directs all traditional worship services and musical groups, serves as primary organist, collaborates in the writing of school chapel services, and oversees the Women’s Retreat Committee.

Rebekah Karolus is a graduate of Concordia University Wisconsin with a degree in both Theology and Lay Ministry. She currently serves as the Director of the Sr. High Youth Ministry, College Ministry, Young-Adult Ministry, and Women’s Ministry at St. John’s Lutheran Church in West Bend, Wisconsin. 

Come to their presentation, “Workplace Connections: The Challenges and Blessings of Being a Millennial and Working with One” at the Gifted to Influence Conference in Milwaukee, WI September 29 – October 1. There you will gain valuable perspective on generational differences as well as some practical tools that you can use right now within your various vocations to help strengthen your workplace connections.

Conflict – Something Happened, Now What?

by George McAllen

Conflict is a topic that scares many people and as a result of this fear they do their best to avoid it.  Unfortunately, because many avoid conflict, they aren’t very good at it and then spend a significant amount of time thinking about the conflict after it happens.

In my career, I work for Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin Robbins in our International Division. This means I spend my time providing business owners and company employees with the tools necessary to help them improve their business to sell coffee, donuts and ice cream.  This does not seem like a role where there would be much conflict.  After all, Baskin Robbin’s motto is…We Make People Happy!

Early in my career and volunteer experiences I found myself in difficult conversations when discussing differing points of view.  Sometimes I created the issue and other times I found myself at the receiving end of this conversation.  The conversations were stressful and I dreaded talking to some people because I just knew that it wasn’t going to go well.

A number of years ago, I attended a training session based on the book Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott.  During this session, we discussed the topic of confrontation and moving from being in an adversarial position against the person you are communicating with, to working with the person to improve the outcome.  The changing of the mental image does not come without practice and I have made many mistakes as I have worked to become more comfortable with this style of communication.

As I moved into my current role, I was replaced by “Tom” whom everyone described as nice.  Truly a high compliment!  After a couple of months on the job, I got a chance to have a cup of coffee with Tom and asked him how things were going.  Tom said he was having difficulty with many of the customers he was working with which was making his new assignment more difficult than he imagined it would be.  As we evaluated why Tom was having the challenges he was having, we discovered that he was avoiding having real conversations with his customers and his team.

Tom was a nice guy and everyone, including himself, described him as a nice guy. When I asked him if my former customers described me in the same way, he laughed and said, “no”.   As I showed my feigned disappointment, I stated “I was hurt that I wasn’t thought of in the same way as I feel that I am the nicest guy I know.”  The problem was that Tom was having nice conversations with people but not having the conversations that could improve the person or the situation he was working with. Eventually, the nice conversations stopped and conflict occurred as the relationships became strained.

I have discovered a way to reduce aversion to situations with conflict. Instead of thinking about the anticipated conflict, concentrate on how you are going to help the other person improve through honest dialogue.  Sometimes the conversations can become tense and may not even turn out how you intend, however, if you keep focused on improving the other person, you build the confidence needed to have the conversation that is required.

George McAllan is the International Vice President at Dunkin’ Brands and has a BBA and MBA from Northwood University and a background in business management and marketing. At the Pressure Points Conference on September 29, George will explore the topic of conflict in his presentation, “Conflict – Something Happened, Now What?.” If you are planning to attend this session, take some time to think about your everyday interactions to determine how you can improve your conversations and your relationships.   If you have the time, do not hesitate to read Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott. 

 

Business as a Calling

By Gloria Nelund

If you’ve ever had feelings of insecurity or doubt, times of wondering what your life is about, or questions about what to do next, please know that you are not alone. Life can be challenging, and it is only with a solid foundation in the Word of God that we can find all of the answers we need, and the confidence to take those bold steps forward.

Although a career in finance was far from anything I had ever imagined as a young girl growing up in Ohio, I found myself having a very successful Wall Street career in the investment management industry. Looking back, I can honestly say that the solid foundation I had from my family and my faith gave me the guidance I would need to navigate a career in some of the largest institutions in the world, and, as a woman, to be a leader in the very male-dominated investment management industry.

Early in my career, I adopted three principles: I would work really hard; I would solve problems; and I would help people. Working really hard meant that when I finished an assignment I would look for another one. I was always asking for more to do. (It wasn’t until much later in my career that I realized not everyone does that.) In solving problems, I found that one of my greatest strengths is making processes efficient—finding a better way to do things (or finding a way to do them at all). I also discovered that I found true joy in helping other people be more successful; as a leader that turned out to be a tremendous quality.

Those principles served me well. In 1994, I was promoted to run a $35 billion global asset management firm, and by the time I was 40 (in 2001), I was recruited to be the CEO of a $55 billion private wealth management organization.  I had a career I loved and a wonderful family. That being said, while I lived by a personal commitment to honor God in all I do, I always felt guilty about having a career in business—especially one which I enjoyed and that brought me significant personal rewards. So, in 2005, after a momentous career accomplishment, I retired to finally be able to “serve God.”

After what I call my three-year “wilderness” journey, where I was desperately seeking my purpose, God demonstrated that business was my calling. My job had been my very own mission field. That “freed” me to begin exploring ways to get back in to finance, but, this time, in a way that would also make a positive difference in the world. So, at the end of 2008, I failed retirement. I started an impact investing firm that would create funds that would both deliver market-rate returns, and have positive impact in the world. The years that followed were challenging, although probably not unusual for an entrepreneur, but I had the benefit of knowing, without any doubt, that if I allowed God to lead, He would use my company for His purposes. My job is to stay close enough to Him that I hear and follow His lead. I’m happy to say that here, in 2017, my firm has been an 8-year overnight success, having invested more than $700 million to impact investments that deliver market-rate returns and proof of positive impact in communities around the world.

Gloria Nelund spent 30 years on Wall Street as one of the most successful and visible executives in the international investment management industry. After retiring from Deutsche Bank as CEO of their $50 billion North America Private Wealth Management division, she co-founded TriLinc Global; an investment firm dedicated to launching and managing innovative impact investment funds that will exponentially increase private capital participation to help solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges. Gloria will be presenting at the Pressure Points conference on “Letting God Lead.” She is also the Plenary Speaker for the Gifted to Influence Conference. Both are happening September 29 – October 1 in Milwaukee, WI.

Christian Women in Leadership: Sarah Guldalian

Sarah Guldalian is a champion of integrity and interpersonal relationships in her journey as a Christian leader. Read on…

What does it look like to be a woman in a leadership role? How does Christian faith impact leadership? And what happens when you put the two together?

To find out, we caught up with founder and CEO of Rhino Hyde Productions. She holds a BA in Broadcast Journalism and Mass Communications—Political Science from Drake University and participated in an Advanced Social Media program with Columbia University – New York. Sarah is also a speaker at the upcoming WLI national Conference where she will lead a workshop on Confidence to Share Christ in the Workplace.

We asked her a few questions about her job and her views on Christian leadership:

What’s the favorite part of your job? 

My favorite part of my job is working with people to find solutions for their problems and/or obstacles then, by the grace of God, helping them overcome these to see meaningful results for their ministries and companies because this equates to positively impacting their employees and constituents. I also love my team and seeing them exercising the beautiful gifts God has uniquely given them.

How would you define Christian leadership?

I believe that kindness goes an incredibly long way. When there is kindness, I believe true joy and success can flow from that. Yet, even in kindness, there needs to be an ability to speak the truth in love – not letting things go too far or get out of hand for happiness’ sake. Happiness is incredibly awesome but it is not the same as kindness.

If you keep the end in mind – to please God and to see people ultimately succeed – you will realize that kindness is both a joy that you bring to work but also sometimes a loving firmness that leads to someone’s (and the team’s) success in the end.

The above is an overarching viewpoint of mine as it pertains to Christian leadership because it incorporates integrity, truth, passion and love.

How do you bring your Christian values into your work?

I try to operate by focusing in on the fruits of the Spirit as well as our company’s Core Values, which are also rooted in the Word.
Fruits of the Spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.
Our Core Values: Integrity, Humility, Love, Fun, Courage and Passion.

Can you remember a specific experience where you relied on your Christian faith or values to lead you through a tough decision or important task?

Absolutely! We had 60 commercials associated with a huge media buy to produce in a very short window of time – only two weeks. Meanwhile, we had a family crisis which was devastating and, in a business founded by a family, we cried out to God and rallied the troops to help each other in every way. God came through in the family crisis and the business transaction in miraculous ways! It was so clear that only HE could have accomplished it all – and He did – so He gets ALL the glory!

Looking back, is there a time on your leadership journey where you perhaps felt uncertain about the future, but God had a bigger plan?

I love people so deeply. Meanwhile we are in an industry that is very fast-paced, high-demand, and constant; and starting a business can be very difficult too. This can really lead people to become tired and anxious along the way as the demands are high even as the excitement is high; and exhaustion heightens emotions. When you work with friends and family, this can be difficult because you can become afraid that crucial relationships will become marred.

I have often looked to the Lord and said, “God, I know you have a plan. You had a plan in us starting this. How do we do this well and keep relationships intact for the future?”

You don’t get to see into everyone’s minds or hearts – only God does. So, I am always looking to Him to help and to lead and to heal and to guide. Leaders, after all, are only human so we must rely on the Lord daily for success, not only in business, but more importantly in relationships.

How does working in a religious or secular setting change the way you lead as a Christian?

Honestly, it shouldn’t change how you lead as a Christian. Whether you are in a secular or a Christian setting, you will need to guard your heart and be sure that you look to Lord for your affirmation and for your answers. Obviously, though, working in a secular setting can pose different challenges.

For us, we work in a Christian-owned business but we are operating in the secular business world when we go out where, admittedly, people can be more cutting and painfully direct. So, it is so important that you go to the Lord with your wounds so that you do not get jaded; but you also need to stand up for yourself in an honest and respectful way so you respect yourself and show others where your boundaries are.

And, on the flipside, inside of a Christian organization, sometimes you must make the conversations more open and honest – versus concealing issues – for the health and success of the organization long-term.

So, there are different circumstances in either setting; but, ultimately, circumstances should not dictate your leadership style. When they do, I realize I get off path. It’s so crucial that I just keep my eyes focused on the Lord in either and work to operate according to His Word.

Who are your biggest role models as a leader?

I have been blessed to have had two awesome bosses who love the Lord and love people deeply: Dave Dawson, during my time at Lutheran Hour Ministries; and my boss, Terry Knoploh, the CEO of our corporation. They both are wise in business even as they love their people, yet they stand their ground in a respectful way. This shows me that being a people-pleaser can be dangerous ground. It’s important to love people but you need to serve God and think of the greater good of the organization.

On a personal level, my grandpa, Jim Jordan, who helped raise us, was perhaps the biggest role model in my life. Everyone looked up to him as, in the world’s standards, he had the education and experience that would cause them to do so; but more important was that he just served people consistently and treated everyone equally. He was not too important to change his neighbor’s lightbulb or take their trash out, or drive us back and forth to private school. What really stood out to me also was that he didn’t see race or economic status. He treated everyone with the same love and respect.

Is there a passage in scripture that resonates with you as a Christian woman in leadership? 

Matthew 10:16: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” This reminds me to be aware – not sticking my head in the sand – but to remain innocent and honest even yet.
What most prepared you to be a Christian leader in the workplace? 

I first worked in secular media where, frankly, I was appalled by some of the underground practices and how people were treated unethically just so goals were hit. It was when I went to Lutheran Hour Ministries where I really saw people love one another, which brought a healing and joy to me; but then this was coupled with the incredible opportunity to work for a very experienced businessman who also loved people, Dave Dawson. By working for Dave for almost eight years, I learned how to couple loving people with shrewd and honest business practices. That was an incredible opportunity and education. It was also a lot of fun too.

What challenges do you face as a Christian leader in your workplace?

It can be hard to balance loving people so deeply and of course wanting that from them in return with towing the line, meaning holding people accountable – both clients and employees – so that your teams hit your goals and your business turns a profit.

What is the most important piece of advice you would want to pass along to other Christian women in leadership?

Remember your identity. We live in a day and age where it can easily feel like you are as valuable as your last deal or last project. It can feel like we are only as valuable as what we can do for others. But I challenge other Christian women – and myself! – to remember who God has created you to be from birth and not lose yourself in trying to achieve and please others. Instead of working for approval, start by knowing that your identity is in the Lord; and, when you lean into Him, He will cause you to have favor and have others approve of you. And, when they do not approve of you, get closer to God so that you don’t change to please man, but continue to please God.


Meet Sarah and other passionate Christian leaders at the Gifted to Influence conference September 29 – October 1 in Milwaukee, WI. Click here for more information.

Christian Women in Leadership: Susan Marshall

Susan Marshall has one piece of advice for Christian leaders in a secular world: stay true to God’s Word. Read on…

What does it look like to be a woman in a leadership role? How does Christian faith impact leadership? And what happens when you put the two together?

To find out, we caught up with Susan Marshall, Founder of the Backbone Institute. Their tagline is “Never grow a wishbone where a backbone ought to be,” and their mission is to create a stronger, more confident future one person or team at a time.  She holds a B.S. in Management and an MBA from Stritch University. Susan is also a speaker at the upcoming WLI National Conference where she will lead a workshop on Developing Confidence in MY Ability to Influence.

We asked her a few questions about her job and her views on Christian leadership:

What’s the favorite part of your job? 

Seeing people grow—their energy and excitement is contagious!

How would you define Christian leadership?

Having the courage to live as God commands in a world that shuns Him and His message. Having the strength to encourage and comfort others who struggle with worldly demands and feel woefully inadequate.

How do you bring your Christian values into your work?

Patiently. Consistently. Joyfully. There is greater power in invitation and acceptance than in judgment and condemnation. We are all human. We all struggle and fail. Since we have been forgiven for EVERYTHING we have messed up, we can offer forgiveness and acceptance to those who have hurt us.  Our open arms are a radical invitation to change.

Can you remember a specific experience where you relied on your Christian faith or values to lead you through a tough decision or important task?

The past two years have been full of family challenge. Dad passed in August 2016. Mom passed this June. I was assigned Power of Attorney in the Estate Trust they created in 1997. My decisions for their treatment and living arrangements were soundly criticized and challenged by siblings, who had little involvement and who have abandoned “religion.” God’s promise to be with me always was enormously comforting. The seven months we had with Mom here provided time to convince her that God wasn’t waiting for her to do “one more good thing” that would assure her safe arrival in heaven. We were blessed.

Looking back, is there a time on your leadership journey where you perhaps felt uncertain about the future, but God had a bigger plan?

The past two years! My professional work was almost entirely set aside to care for Mom and Dad. As a single, independent professional, I had no idea how I was going to keep up with mortgage and monthlies. God provided and has now opened new doors for work.

How does working in a secular setting change the way you lead as a Christian?

Being a Christian leader in a secular setting demands quiet and consistent courage. Reading God’s word, reflecting on secular values and why they do not matter to me, and letting go the things of this world are all daily disciplines. It is difficult to stay true to God’s plan without coming across as holier-than-thou or painfully naive. Resisting the judgment/assessment of others is a constant challenge.

Who are your biggest role models as a leader?

Paul, David, and Abraham. There are few today, which points to an enormous opportunity for us!

Is there a passage in scripture that resonates with you as a Christian woman in leadership? 

Jeremiah 29:11. I can come up with plans and strategies, but I’ve learned to relinquish them to God’s will. I can become upset with the world’s judgment of my work and the work of other Christian women, but God’s thoughts are not our thoughts; His ways are not our ways. He HAS plans for each of us. Our job is to trust Him.

What most prepared you to be a Christian leader in the workplace? 

Conflict. Struggle. Failure. I have had to fall hard in order to appreciate God’s power. Sad, but true!

What challenges do you face as a Christian leader in your workplace?

Scorn and ridicule by the intellectual elite. They tell me believing in God is superstition; trusting His will is irresponsible and lazy.

What is the most important piece of advice you would want to pass along to other Christian women in leadership?

Be strong. Stay true to God’s Word. Find people to support you. Ignore social pressure. LEAD.  he world needs you more than ever!

Living a Life of Radical Influence

by Gretchen Jameson

“If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”  ~ Modern Parable

Well that certainly sets up a particular worldview, doesn’t it? As parables go, this pithy, pointed phrase coined sometime around 2000 (or so a quick Wikipedia search says) provokes a certain sense of ferocious urgency. After all, who wants to be eaten? Applied to women in leadership, it urges us (and in many instances, rightly so) to claim our seat at the table, lean in, and get to work.

That’s not such a bad goal.

But, rather than approach leading from a sort of “Hunger Games,” eat-or-be-eaten philosophy, what if we took a more expansive view of how to gain and how to exert influence?

This September, women from across the work-life spectrum convene in Milwaukee for the 2017 WLI national conference, “Gifted to Influence.” It’s an attractive theme.  As a woman executive, I have certainly come to enjoy opportunities to influence on a wide range of levels. I am grateful for the work and long to see men and women of faith exert influence throughout the workforce.

But:

Influence for the Christ-called leader
is never the goal.

For Christ-called leaders, work in our homes, in our neighborhoods and communities, and most assuredly in our places of enterprise must draw deeply from our fidelity to service, above all else. This is a particularly difficult perspective to achieve. Our nature too often prefers the allure of the ‘dark side’ of influence: manipulation, compulsion, control, prestige, reputation.

Influence that results as stewardship of God’s grace, that results from abiding in relationship with our Father, yields significance, character, and unlimited opportunities to guide and shape and sway. In short, it yields fruit. Fruit we might accurately define as Christian leadership.

Influence, for the Christ-called leader, is an outgrowth of deep abiding. Achieving it calls us to know fully the Giver of our leadership gifts; to study carefully to unique gifts each one of us have uniquely been given; and submission to our Heavenly Father to apply the gifts He gives as they are intended to be used.

And then, only then, will we experience radical influence; influence that stems “from the roots,” from the very core of our connection to our God, who has taken hold of our very lives for His good use.

Gretchen Jameson currently serves as Sr. Vice President for Strategy and University Affairs at Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor, Mich. Gretchen, her husband, Leon and their two young daughters reside in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She is the Bible study leader at the Gifted to Influence Conference in Milwaukee September 29 – October 1, 2017.

Christian Women in Leadership: Pat Maier

Pat Maier’s leadership style is characterized by humility and servanthood—with a dose of fun! Read on…

What does it look like to be a woman in a leadership role? How does Christian faith impact leadership? And what happens when you put the two together?

Patricia Maier has worked as a leader in Lutheran education, as a pastor’s wife, and as a retreat leader. Her husband is the current president of the Michigan District, LCMS, so one of her current leadership roles is as encourager to other pastors’ wives. She facilitates women’s retreat weekends at Camp Arcadia in Arcadia, Michigan and acts as a Visual Faith Coach, Speaker, and Manager of online communication sites. Pat has a BA in Education from Concordia University Ann Arbor and Chicago. She has been a presenter at a regional gathering for WLI at CUAA in 2015 and helped organize the WLI Leaning and Leading conference at CUAA in 2016. She will be presenting a workshop on Visual Faith at the Gifted to Influence Conference September 30.

We asked Pat a few questions about her roles and her views on Christian Leadership:

What’s the favorite part of your job?

I enjoy meeting people, listening to their faith stories, and encouraging them with God’s Word and promises.

How would you define Christian leadership? 

A Christian leader needs to be connected in God’s Word, available and willing to listen and encourage, and be honest in sharing both faith and faults in their own life.

How do you bring your Christian values into your work?

Conversation, example, support, and teaching – in a humble, no fuss, down-to-earth, I’m-a-regular-person-just-like-you sort of manner.

Can you remember a specific experience where you relied on your Christian faith or values to lead you through a tough decision or important task?

There was a ten-year period when my family was impacted with cancer, involving my father, husband, and son. It is only by God’s grace that I could walk that path, have those conversations, deal with my emotions and those of my family, and come through not too worse for wear and with a stronger faith than before. My husband’s election as a district president, leaving our church home, supporting him in a stressful job, and finding new purpose for my life continues to be a journey, and I continue to seek God’s guidance and wisdom through prayer and time in His Word.

Looking back, is there a time on your leadership journey where you perhaps felt uncertain about the future, but God had a bigger plan?

That would have to be when my husband’s job changed and I was no longer “the pastor’s wife” or “the 3rd grade teacher” at my own church and school, roles that I knew and loved. Not only did I feel uncertain about the qualifications for my new leadership role, but also was unsure as to what areas God might want me to lead.

How does working in a religious or secular setting change the way you lead as a Christian?

I am still who I am – the only difference is that in a secular setting I am mindful to choose my words to be understandable and clear so that I don’t make anyone feel left out; I strive to be humble, approachable, and give the best witness that I can through conversation and relationships.

Who are your biggest role models as a leader?

I admire my husband and many of the humble, mission-focused, joy-filled pastors that I’ve met;  dedicated lay leaders who serve “behind-the-scenes” with no thought for recognition; and the many treasured girlfriends that inspire me with their ability to encourage and communicate God’s Word in an excellent and fun way.

Is there a passage in scripture that resonates with you as a Christian woman in leadership? 

“He has told you, O man [or woman], what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”   (Micah 6:8)

What most prepared you to be a Christian leader in the workplace?

Certainly, my work as a Lutheran educator, pastor’s wife, and church ministry volunteer all prepared me to be a Christian leader in my workplace today, which is wherever each day takes me.

What challenges do you face as a Christian leader in your workplace? 

My biggest challenge is feeling confident in where God is leading me – what invitations or opportunities need my “yes” and what need my “no.”

What is the most important piece of advice you would want to pass along to other Christian women in leadership? 

Be humble, be real, be fun – and be completely devoted to Jesus and those He loves (the world!)

Christian Women in Leadership: Linda Arnold

How do you incorporate Christian values in a secular setting?

Linda Arnold, current chair of the Women’s Leadership Institute, answers that question for us. Linda is on the nursing faculty at Lewis University in Romeoville, IL. She has Master of Science and Bachelor of Science degrees in nursing, plus Lay Ministry Training from Concordia University Wisconsin. She has served on the WLI board since 2013.

How do you bring your Christian values into your work?

My students and colleagues are aware of my Christian values. Bringing my distinctively Christian world view into conversations and letting them know that I pray for them is powerful. When I make time to acknowledge them and listen without judgement, my goal is that they would see Jesus in me.

Is there a passage in scripture that resonates with you as a Christian woman in leadership? 

God speaks straight to my heart in Proverbs 4:10 where he directs me to “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

Remembering who God is helps me to rest in Him when evil threatens to prevail. Taking time to be quiet before God does not typically come naturally to leaders. This is a critical discipline for a successful Christian woman in leadership.

What is the most important piece of advice you would want to pass along to other Christian women in leadership?

God provides equipping for leadership in some very unusual forms. Do not discount any of your life experiences. Embrace them and look for the lesson.

Christian Women in Leadership: Deb Burma

How do we as Christian women use our God-given gifts in leadership roles?

Deb Burma, best known as a Christian speaker and author, gives us some helpful information that answers that question. Deb has a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics and Finance from the University of Texas. She has written women’s Bible studies, Christian-living books, retreat kits, and devotionals for CPH. She travels extensively as a leader and guest speaker for women’s retreats, conferences, and other Christian women’s events.

Deb served as a Women’s Leadership Institute board member from 2010 to 2012 and is currently a WLI Ambassador. She has been a speaker at past WLI conferences and will be a featured speaker at the Gifted to Influence conference this fall.

We asked Deb a few questions about her job and her views on Christian leadership.

What’s the favorite part of your job? 

My passion is to share the saving love of Christ, lead women in God’s Word, and encourage them in their walk with the Lord as I speak and as I write; as I engage with groups across the country and as I communicate personally with women at home and during my travels. I love listening to and learning about their concerns and questions, their interests, and their life experiences, all of which have impacted my prayer life, my speaking, and my writing. I get to know so many “sisters” as I travel, and I’m overjoyed when we stay in touch and even have opportunity to reconnect, face-to-face!

I’m humbled and awed by the Holy Spirit’s work; sometimes I receive an inspired response from a retreat participant or read an excerpt of my writing, and I find myself thinking, “I don’t even remember saying/writing that!” I’m moved to praise Him for using me, for giving me inspiration, for breathing life into my humble words and work. To Him be all the glory!

Looking back, is there a time on your leadership journey where you perhaps felt uncertain about the future, but God had a bigger plan?

At the church of my husband’s first pastoral call, I held leadership positions in Women’s, Children’s, and Family Ministries. I was passionate about the roles I had, and enjoyed healthy team leadership with others. Meanwhile, God opened doors that would allow me to begin writing for publication and traveling to speak. I was very uncertain I should walk through those doors, not knowing if I could manage both new and old leadership commitments but feeling called toward both. Only months later, my husband received and accepted a call to a different church. God’s “bigger plan” unfolded for me with more certainty, clearing my full plate to allow time, energy, and commitment for the writing and speaking ministry to which He was calling me. I stand in awe, as always, of His plans for our future – for our journey.

Is there a passage in scripture that resonates with you as a Christian woman in leadership? 

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”  Psalm 19:14

What most prepared you to be a Christian leader in the workplace? 

When I was a young woman, inexperienced in the church/workplace and just beginning to learn more about my gifts and passions, I was given trust and respect (and grace!) by other more-experienced and much-wiser people in my church and in my circles of influence. These impactful leaders walked beside me, modeling healthy team leadership and encouraging me to “go for it” when I wanted to try something different, start a new ministry, or grow an existing one. Additional training through workshops, books, and leadership models were all beneficial, too, but the hands-on, grace-filled leadership of others in my midst did the most to prepare me and mold me into the Christian leader I am today. May I never stop learning from others (and thank you, Lord, for these godly leaders)!

What is the most important piece of advice you would want to pass along to other Christian women in leadership?

Continually explore and examine your gifts, your leadership strengths (Take the Gallup StrengthsFinder test!), and your areas of passion and interest. Lead from your strengths, remembering that God is the ultimate Source of those strengths! Recognize others’ unique places of leadership alongside your own, seeking to complement their gifts with yours, always looking to the bigger picture and seeking God’s will, even when doing so may place you in a humbling position. Remember that no matter your vocation, location, or calling, you represent Christ, whose grace (1) covers you when you stumble in your attempts, and (2) enables others to see His work in AND through you.

Want more from Deb? Read her other articles: Learn from the Experts: Leading a Bible Study” (Part I and Part II).

Conquering Nervousness to Unleash your Full Speaking Power

by Sarah Holtan, Ph.D.

Do you like to talk? If so, then you possess the potential to become a dynamic public speaker. It’s true! Yet, you might find that your nerves steal your power.

When we feel threatened, our bodies typically react in one of three ways: flight, freeze, or fight. Many of us experience the flight and/or freeze modes when asked to present publicly. We may find excuses not to present (flight). Or, we may become extremely nervous about the presentation and our carefully-prepared words seem to fall right out of our heads (freeze).

Symptoms of Nervousness

Perhaps you’ve experienced some of the following common physiological symptoms of nervousness: dry mouth, shaky knees, trembling voice, red skin blotches, or excessive sweat. The good news is that most people do not detect your nervousness. The other piece of good news: the worst of the symptoms typically subside after thirty seconds of speaking.

You probably know exactly how your body responds when you speak publicly so take measures to counteract the specific symptoms. For example, if you suffer a dry mouth, suck a mint beforehand as well as bring water. If you get shaky knees, wear pants. If you get a blotchy neck and chest, wear high-neck clothes or a scarf. If you sweat too much, wear black, navy, or white colors. Breathing techniques to slow your heart rate are also recommended.

Strategies to Conquer Your Nerves

Being prepared for the presentation and passionate about the topic are two easy ways to help offset the nerves. Pick a topic that you get naturally jazzed up about. If you’re assigned a topic for which you have little knowledge or enthusiasm, ask the coordinator to adjust the topic. If you’re stuck with it, request to co-present. That will take the pressure off you having to become an expert on the topic.

If you are a novice speaker, you will want to try a progression approach to build skills and confidence. First, try some low-stakes public speaking, such as volunteering to read material during a Bible study, church service, or meeting. Next, find opportunities where there is a moderate amount of psychological risk. Examples include facilitating a meeting, co-presenting, praying aloud at a group event, speaking to a group of much-younger people, or speaking to a very small, informal group. Young people and small groups don’t seem to “threaten” us as much. Now you’re ready for the formal, structured public speaking events. Until you are a more advanced speaker, consider reducing the amount of self-disclosure offered in a speech. Sharing private information (e.g., history of abuse or trauma) can make us feel more vulnerable, which results in higher anxiety levels.

Specific Techniques

Assuming you’ve conquered your nerves enough to focus on your delivery, let’s turn to the most common pieces of advice I offer to beginner speakers.

Verbal Techniques:

  • Let your natural enthusiasm for the topic carry your pitch, tone, and inflection.
  • Speak to the back of the room or the person farthest away to project voice.
  • Breathe normally to regulate your pace; what seems like a long moment to catch your breath is not really very long to an audience member.
  • Minimize “um’s” and other fillers by using pauses judiciously. If you use fillers in everyday conversation, you will use them more in speeches.
  • No reading and no memorization. Use your notes to jog your memory only.

Nonverbal Techniques:

  • Maintain eye contact with each person for 2-3 seconds.
  • Use your hands for natural gestures or rest lightly on the table/podium.
  • Ground the four corners of your feet firmly and hip width apart. Stand or sit up straight to project confidence.
  • Use movement with purpose and to burn excessive energy. Avoid swaying, though.
  • Use a PowerPoint or another visual aid to draw staring eyes away from you. (Warning: Technology will fail you when you need it most, such as on Presentation Day, so be sure to have an old-school back-up plan ready.)
  • Match your wardrobe to the formality of the event and the seriousness of your topic.

Even after you’ve had experience speaking, and mastered the basic verbal and nonverbal delivery techniques, it is natural to feel nervous. You can harness that nervous energy by embracing it. To an audience member, nervous energy just looks like energy.

Think of speech as a gift from God. We have a responsibility to use it for the service of our neighbors.

When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5  NIV)

We may stumble over our words, but the power of God never stumbles.


Come to the WLI National Conference in Milwaukee on September 29 – October 1 to hear Sarah’s presentation—Speaking 101: Delivery that Delivers