Author: WLI

An Attitude of Gratitude – In Leadership and in Life

by Deb Burma

Today is a new day, and we have all kinds of expectations for it, don’t we? We’d like to think that our tasks will be completed with ease, our relationships will thrive, our health will be optimum, and all will be well. We’d like to envision the day’s contents packaged neatly and tied with a beautiful bow. (Then reality sets in!) As the day unfolds, we may be faced with struggles at work or conflict in relationships, trouble with health, or stress from an overloaded schedule. Our day may end up looking more like a package that’s been dropped in the mud or torn open haphazardly. The contents are spilled and our neat-and-tidy expectations have given way to a mess!

As Christian women seeking to lead and serve well in our homes, our workplaces, our communities, and beyond, we’re called to live a life of gratitude in our daily walk with Christ and with one another, and as we bear witness to the One we serve. How is this even possible in the midst of certain circumstances and especially on those days we might liken to a muddy mess?

By God’s grace, we can instill habits that cultivate an attitude of gratitude—in leadership and in life – on those neat-and-tidy packaged days AND in the midst of every muddy mess:

  1. Look for the Bless(ing) in the Mess

With God’s help, we can choose to see blessings in the midst of the messes in life. He enables us to shift our gaze from difficult or frustrating situations to the One who holds us and guides us through them. Not dismissing them or making light of them, but resting in His promises and receiving His strength to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for [us]” I Thessalonians 5:18.

We cling to the Truth of God’s Word in spite of feelings, fears, and the difficulty of the moment. For example: when we feel that a situation is out of control, we hold fast to the Truth that Jesus has everything under control (Hebrews 2:8).

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” Philippians 4:8.

We can ask ourselves: “In today’s situation, what can I give thanks for? What can I think about that is true, pure, lovely…?”

  1. Make a Choice to Rejoice! 

Let’s take a deep breath, then slowly exhale. (Go ahead…) See, God just gave you and me another breath on this new day of life – a simple reason to rejoice! “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” Psalm 118:24. What will we witness today if we’re watchful? Can we recall the refreshing time spent with a friend, the delicious foods we savor, the kind gesture from a stranger? May we take a closer look at God’s creation and marvel in one detail of it? We would be wise to consider His continual provision of our needs. Above all, we can rejoice in His free gifts of forgiveness and faith: Jesus is Lord and He is risen! We celebrate life in His name!

As Christian women seeking to lead and serve well in every area of life, we’re called to live a life of gratitude. How is this even possible in the midst of certain circumstances and especially on those days we might liken to a muddy mess?

We rejoice, too, as we remember God’s promise to work all things together for good (Romans 8:28). Whether we stare at a pretty package or a muddy mess today, let’s consider how the Lord may be working in and through it:

  • He may lead us to look to our Savior alone for life and peace – to the One who has overcome this messed-up world. (See John 16:33)
  • He may teach us to rest in His strength and not pretend that we can go it alone in times of trouble. (See Psalm 46:1)
  • He may use this to grow and mature our faith in Him. (See James 1:2-4)
  • He may work through us to leave a powerful, lasting influence upon someone, as she witnesses our trust and gratitude, even in the midst of a mess. (See 1 Corinthians 11:1)

Actively express thanks to God through creative expression: start a gratitude journal. Look for blessings, big and little, as a daily exercise in thankfulness, then list them in your journal, adding Scripture, images, and artwork, too. Record God’s provision and all the blessings in your life that come to mind.

  1. Gaze Upward and Outward: Inspire and Influence

In a world filled with naval-gazers, we’re called to look not inward, but upward…then outward. We live in grateful response to the Giver of every good gift (James 1:17), with our gaze upon Him as we follow His lead. Then – by His grace – we get to impact the world for Christ right in the midst of our circumstances, even the muddy, messy ones. Through our influence, we can “…make the most of every opportunity.” Colossians 4:5

In all we say and do, we have the opportunity to inspire others with a message that reveals a life of gratitude in Christ: (1) For who we are, chosen and redeemed in Him. (2) For all we have, received from His hand. (3) For all we are becoming, as we continue to be molded in His image and grow in our life of leadership and service.  We inspire gratitude in others as we live it and express it freely (even in the midst of a haphazardly-opened, muddy-messy package-of-a-day).

We can ask ourselves: “How can I lead with a spirit of gratitude in this situation? What kind of influence may my growing gratitude have on the people God is placing in my life?”

As the Founder and Perfecter of your faith (Hebrews 12:2) continues His good work in you (Philippians 1:6), ask Him to help you see the blessing in the midst of every messy circumstance. Seek His strength, that you can make a choice to rejoice. Fix your eyes on Him, making the most of the next opportunity (and the next…and the next…) to inspire and influence others through your attitude…of gratitude!


 

Deb Burma is a member of Speakers Bureau and a sought-after speaker for women’s conferences, retreats, and leadership workshops. She is the author of Christian-living books, Bible studies, and devotionals, published by CPH. Deb is grateful for Jesus’ redeeming love, for her husband and children, and for the opportunities each new day presents, guided by God’s grace!

Four Prayers that Jesus Loves to Answer “Yes!”

By Dr. Linda Borecki

When circumstances are difficult my usual prayer is for rescue out of the problem!   Whether for myself or for others, I often pray that God would lessen the burden or give help to escape the crisis. Sometimes the answer is “yes.”

But sometimes God allows the difficulty to continue.  What then do I pray?

In the book of Acts, when the disciples were under threat from the authorities, they gathered to confer.  What did their prayer sound like? What did they pray in very difficult circumstances? Luke tells us that together they prayed,

Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.  Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus. (Acts 4:29-30).

Now that is a prayer that God loves to answer, “Yes!”  What are some other prayers that God loves to answer, “Yes”? Prayers and petitions that deepen our trust and relationship with God. For example:

Strength  

When praying for strength, Paul shows us that our strength lies in our weakness. Christ said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power, is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:8) In response Paul stated, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10b) Christ enables his servants to receive His power in all circumstances.

The Lord’s Prayer also reminds me:  we are not feeble souls who whimper “Thy will be done” with a sigh of futile resignation, but as saints confident of God working out his purposes, “Thy will be done!”  I pray with greater confidence when I remember it is “our Father” we are praying to.  We are praying through Christ, who Himself experienced hardship and perils, knows our weakness, and pours strength into us.

Courage

In praying for courage, we get far more than what we ask for – we get God. We get an infusion of en-courage-ment from the Lord of the universe.  Immeasurable energy in contact with measurable need.  “On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased.” (Psalm 138:3).

Hope

“I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in His word I hope” (Psalm 130:5).  Biblical hope is anchoring one’s soul in the gift of assurance that God is and that God overflows with love toward each of us. And God is “stretching out His hand” now, working out His purposes even in the midst of chaos or heartache.  We are learning to stay alert to the God who works in unexpected ways.  As P.T. Forsyth says,

In prayer we become more and more sure that He is sure, and knows all things, and hesitates or falters never, and commands all things to His end.  All along Christ is being formed within us as we pray.

Peace – shalom

The Hebrew word shalom is much richer than an absence of anxiety or conflict.  There is a sense of wellness, a mending or healing of something broken now knit together into wholeness.  When you get peace, you get healing – spiritual, emotional, physical, relational.  Prayer lifts us to be more sure of the Gift-giver than the gift, more alert to God’s grace than our need.

Strength, courage, hope, peace – prayers that Jesus loves to answer “Yes!”  Through the name of your holy servant Jesus, Amen; it will be so!


 

Dr. Linda Borecki is part-time faculty at Concordia University, Portland, and music minister at Christ the Vine Lutheran Church, Damascus, Oregon.  Among her favorite prayer mentors are Carla Waterman, Robert Warren, P.T. Forsyth, all the psalmists, and the bold, prayer-loving Martin Luther.

Leadership and Limitations

By Heather Choate Davis

As women we often fall into the trap of viewing the world from the outside in. We see jobs we’re prohibited from, positions we are never seriously considered for, and levels of authority to which we don’t seem to be allowed to rise. We see men of lesser skills or aptitude or work ethic handed opportunities it’s clear we’re far more qualified for.  We see, in other words, limitations. As a result, we feel discouraged—resentful, even—and sometimes that resentment leads us to double down in our determination to break the glass ceilings we still see at the highest levels of leadership in the world and in the church.

But what if we tried viewing the world from the inside out instead? Allowing the Holy Spirit to train us through the Word, prayer, discernment, and wise counsel to see our lives the way God has uniquely molded and made us to live them. Then the question is no longer, “can a woman break those glass ceilings” (of course she can), but rather, should you—you Rachel or Katie or Amanda or Heather—break that glass ceiling? Is this what God is calling you to do in your specific situation? Or are we merely trying to prove a point, or seek what feels very much to us like justice?

If it’s the latter we can’t help but fail, even if we manage to secure the coveted raise or promotion. “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” (Psalm 127:1) If it’s the former—if this is how Jesus is calling us to live out our vocations in the world—then no human obstacle (and there will be obstacles), or wiles of the enemy (and there will be plenty of those too), will be able to stop us.

St Paul tells us that we are “to lead the life that the Lord assigned, to which God has called you” (1 Cor. 7:17). Think about that. We are not just to live a life but to lead it. To stand clear-eyed at the helm following the lead of the Living God. Some years that may be in the workplace, others through raising our children or serving the church, or through some seemingly insignificant volunteer job or hobby or passion project that suddenly bursts forth into new fruit that could not come from anyone but us.

So when we think about 21st-century women in leadership, let’s look past the easy snares of gender and limitation, and set our eyes on the path of calling. When we lead the life that the Lord assigned, we only have one boss. And we can rest assured that He always has our best interest—and the world’s—at heart.

Stretched vs. Stressed: What’s the Difference and why does it Matter for Leaders?

by Sarah Holtan, Ph.D.

“How do you do it all?” I’m asked regularly by friends and colleagues. My answer: “I don’t.” I watch their eyes get round and their eyebrows shoot up. They know I’m the solo parent of two young children, a full-time employee, and hold numerous other roles. I explain that I used to try to do it all… yes, I tried to be a SuperMom. I even took multivitamins by that name! But the SuperMom Phenom was a dangerous trap for me. The pressure to maintain control over all the moving parts in my life– or the illusion of control – was utterly exhausting and stressful.

Leaders are prone to high levels of stress. The Bible refers to stress as anxiety, worry, and troubles (Matt. 6:25; Ps. 142:2-3). God wants us to come to Him in prayer with our troubles (2 Sam. 22:7). Prayer is the antidote to anxiety: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phil. 4:6-7). He wants us to learn to love and trust in Him fully to provide for us (Prov. 3:5-6). Furthermore, our general well-being is at stake. We serve no one well when we are highly stressed because we make poor decisions and/or withdraw from situations and people.

I was in a position of leadership at work and in a low place in my personal life when I realized I couldn’t function well anymore. I was no longer challenged in a positive way; I was just overwhelmed. My adrenaline was pumping almost constantly. After prayerful consideration, and to the shock of many, I requested a demotion at work. It was the hardest and best decision of my professional life.

How did I know I was stressed out and not just stretched? At first, I didn’t. Like most of us, I just tried to “power through” the daily grind of managing work, family, and Everything Else. I told myself it would get better after I adjusted. It didn’t. Looking back, I can see I exhibited some of the signs that are commonly associated with stress:

  • Negative emotions being close to the surface, such as irritability and frustration
  • Resentful attitude
  • Forgetfulness
  • Feelings of being overwhelmed, especially at night and upon waking
  • Sleep disturbances (too much or too little)
  • Over-reliance on over-the-counter medications for headaches and other ailments
  • Lack of self-care, such as exercise
  • Increased escapism activities, such as television

But I’m an overachiever, classic Type A, so I had trouble discerning the difference between the challenges that stretch us – those that are positive, healthy, productive, and growth opportunities – and challenges that stress us, which are those that might debilitate us.

Here are some signs of being stretched:

  • Feeling energized by the new role, task, event, life change, etc., even if scared about it
  • Brain automatically begins visualizing possibilities
  • Able to manage negative emotions reasonably
  • Sense of accomplishment surrounding it

If you are exhibiting signs of stress, what can you do about it? I’d recommend the following:

A.     Pray. Read Scripture, such as Psalm 118:5-9, John 14:27, and Matthew 6:25-34. Trust in the Lord to provide the necessities of life.

B.     Identify the top 1-3 stressor(s) in your life (macro level) or regarding one particular aspect of life (micro level).

1.     Decide if the stressor(s) can be fixed with a technical solution.  For example, I don’t mind cleaning the house. But I do mind the time that it takes to vacuum snack crumbs out of the carpets, scrape silly putty off the fireplace hearth, and pick up two dozen toy trucks and half-finished art projects. My technical solution was to add a household budget line item for a housekeeper.

2.     If a technical solution is not readily apparent, you might need to consider if you have a deeper, philosophical issue.  Maybe it is fear of changing or delegating work to someone else, and thus, losing control.

C.     Ask yourself what could or will happen if you do nothing? What are the short- and long-term consequences? What will you regret?

D.     Consider what you could do for others to help ease their troubles and anxieties (Luke 11:46). Are you creating obstacles for your co-workers or family members? Could you help them overcome their obstacles? Could you serve them in a meaningful way, and thus, experience their tranquility and joy by proxy?

I’m proud to say I’ve shifted away from the SuperMom trappings. But since I’m Type A, I’ll rebrand myself as a TopMom.

Jesus Said So – Trusting When it Doesn’t Make Sense To

By Karen Lippert

Learn how to make sense of nonsensical situations by taking Peter’s lead when he obediently trusted Jesus despite it defying human logic …

One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, he saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. (Luke 5:1-11)

Jesus knew the physics of sound traveling over the water, so He used Peter’s boat to teach the large crowd that day.  We know that Peter was about done working for the day.  He was washing his nets and probably thinking about going home to get some much needed rest.  After Jesus had finished teaching, He asked Peter to go to deeper water and get his nets dirty.  REALLY?  I think that the equivalent for us would be:  You’ve just finished cooking, eating, and cleaning up your dinner.  You have washed the pots and pans and have loaded the dishwasher.  Then Jesus says to you,  “Make me supper.”  How would you react?

Look at Peter’s answer in v.5.  First of all, Peter calls Jesus, “Master.”  He knew that Jesus was an important person; One Who taught with authority.  (By the way, have you acknowledged Jesus as “Master” of your life today?)  Then he was honest.  They had worked all night and had struck out.  NO FISH.  There isn’t anything much worse than working for hours with no tangible result!  My guess that is Peter only made money when he had fish to sell!

I absolutely LOVE the next part: “but, because YOU say so, I will let down the nets.”  Have you used that line with your kids, “Do it because I said so!”  Well, Peter was acting with childlike obedience in this situation.  HE let down the nets and the result was incredible:  so many fish that two boats began to sink!  Peter then saw Who Jesus really was and starting following Jesus as a full-time disciple. (walking away from a fortune, by the way!)

Is Jesus asking you to do something that doesn’t make sense?  This definitely didn’t make sense to Peter:  a good fisherman didn’t fish in the middle of the day, in deep water.

What is your nonsensical situation?  Do you have to trust Him with a health scare?  Do you have to trust Him in a marriage that isn’t what you dreamt of?  Do you have to trust Him in a job that is stressful and demanding?  Do you have to trust Him with finances that don’t add up?

No matter what situation you might be in, Jesus wants you to respond with trusting obedience.  Keep praying.  Keep reading His Word.  Keep coming to worship.  Keep serving.    He will prove Himself faithful!  He has a good plan for your life!


Karen Lippert is the Director of Women’s Ministry at Divine Redeemer in Hartland, WI.

God is the Writer – You Are His Book

Overcoming Writer’s Anxiety through a study of 2 Corinthians 3:3
by Elise Arndt

Verba volant, scripta manent is a Latin proverb. Literally translated, it means “spoken words fly away, written words remain”.  If that is true, what a motivation for us to write the amazing things God has done.  We are his “letters” written with the pen of His redeeming love in Christ.  We are His “letter”—pages and chapters filled with God’s love and grace.

But, how does one begin writing those marvelous acts of God? What happens when the words in your mind aren’t easily translated onto paper or a computer screen?

My desire to write began in the late 1960’s. At that time our family was living in Papua New Guinea.  As I wrote letters home, words flowed in a free and uninhibited, unprofessional fashion that expressed my heart. They were simple stories of God’s amazing love and provision.  I didn’t think of them as being profound, but friends and family members responded and wanted to hear more. The more they responded the more I wrote.  The more I wrote the more my confidence grew.

When we returned to the United States, I began sharing my stories with anyone who would listen. Eventually groups of women asked me to speak at Bible studies and conferences. Out of necessity outlines developed which later became the framework for future publications.

When asked to write my first publication, I experienced what most writers feel -inadequacy and the fear of rejection. I will never forget my husband’s words to me when the pain of not writing exceeded the pain of writing.

“Take the risk!”

“Don’t live in regret.”

“Your purpose in writing is to leave a legacy. That alone will be your success!”

 

To start writing was difficult.  Nothing I wrote seemed to fit together.  Then I found my style. Although unconventional, it worked.

Since I am not a linear thinker, concepts, and creative ideas would be placed on a page randomly. There was no concern for order, no outline, no sentence structure, punctuation or capitalization – just pure creativity.  Miraculously, a common thread began to emerge with an outline following.

Finally the first draft was written.  It was perfect!  Until I read it the next day.  Not as good as I thought.  Then began the agonizing and seemingly unending process of re-writing

I found that words effectively communicated take time to flow.  This process cannot be hurried. Re-writing causes paragraphs to transition better. Fewer words are used to express adequately the sacred thoughts of the soul.  Those re-writes clarified more effectively what my heart wanted to convey.

As you begin the adventure of writing (be it e-books, blogs, publications,  an actual book through a publishing house, or traditional journaling) keep in mind that the time you spend is never wasted. Although it is a world of emotional highs and lows where discouragement and confidence walk side by side, keep in mind your focus. You are God’s “Living Letter” – a testimony of his love and faithfulness to be shared with future generations.

Takeaways From the CUW #WLIidentity Fall 2016 Panel Discussion

On Friday, November 18th, CUW students heard from five exceptional Christian women on how they gain confidence in who God made them to be. Our panelists, Tammy Ferry, Sonja Wall Kosberg, Kim Bueltmann, Anne Spahr, and Dana Outhouse; shared personal stories about the struggles and hardships they went through in college and throughout their lives and how much easier those times were with God helping them through them. It was a time for us to join together as women in Christ and celebrate our identities; who we are, in Him. We discussed how each of us have a fixed identity in Jesus Christ, and no matter what else is going on in our lives, who we are in Him remains constant.

 

Halfway through the evening, each panelist reached out to a table of girls and posed this question, “The devil can be described as our ‘identity thief’; what things does he tempt your identity with?” Some of the responses the ladies came up with included anxiety, toxic friends, controlling relationships, and peer pressure. These topics were challenging to discuss, but each panelist gave her words of wisdom on how she personally got through these struggles. By hearing that someone else went through the same problems, it makes it easier to tackle them because one knows that it does get easier and she will survive.

 

We also learned that identities do shift and change as our life goes on. Your identity can go from a daughter and sister to mother, wife, friend, etc. God knows exactly what we can handle and gives us everything we need. By leaning on Him, Christian women come to know who we are meant to be.

Be Energized by GEMS

God + Exercise + Meals + Sleep = An energized YOU! Read on for tips from Karen Sue Hinz Murdy on how to apply this recipe to equip yourself with energy for leadership:

As I pondered the words of advice I wanted to write for my eldest son heading off to college twelve hours away from home, I considered the stresses he would encounter at college. What words would truly help him?

As I pondered the words to share with my exhausted friend who was mothering a newborn, I considered the words that would encourage her through this exhilarating, yet exhausting, time.

As I pondered the words to express to women leaders who want to build energy in order to serve in their churches and in their homes, I considered the priorities for their valuable time.

The words I’ve found for all three of these scenarios, and for many others, are real gems!

Everyday include these G.E.M.S.:

G: God time.  Make God-time first and foremost.  Read your Bible.  Be encouraged. Pray. Find strength in God’s promises:

“They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

and

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

At a very beneficial WLI conference in Milwaukee a few years ago, I heard Ida Mall speak. Although I can’t quote her exact words, the essence of them was, “If it doesn’t have to do with eternity, let it go.”  By having God-time daily, the perspective of eternity helps guide your priorities.

E: Exercise Make exercise a part of every day.  Ideally exercise 30 minutes a day, but something is always better than nothing.  At least, go for a 10 minute walk, preferably outside in the sunshine. Exercise has a plethora of benefits and will help you physically, mentally, cognitively, and spiritually! You can even combine your exercise time with your God-time by listening to your Bible on a phone app and praying while you walk.

M: Meals…good nutrition.  The food you feed your body fuels your body.  To work well, feed your body well.  Make sure to include protein and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables each day.

S: Sleep God designed our bodies to have rest time.  Without it, most people cannot function well. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours of sleep per night for adults.

God so amazingly created our awesome minds and bodies. When these GEMS are included each day, you will have more physical energy to serve in your home and at church. When we plug into the Power Source, we received grace from our loving God and find strength for our days.


Karen Sue Hinz Murdy, Speaker and Certified Exercise Physiologist, loves to encourage and equip people both in their spiritual and physical walk with the Lord. For more information, please check out karensuemurdy.blogspot.com or call 608-346-9866.

 

God Brought Cacia Speckhard to WLI through a Chance Meeting

CACIA SPECKHARD

At Concordia University Wisconsin I was a busy student juggling a double major in Nursing and Missions, involved with many student organizations and a student leader in campus ministry. I loved every crazy minute learning and being surrounded by a group of people who were excited and passionate about living out the faith. And then after four years it was time for graduation and a real job in the healthcare world. I truly enjoy my career as a nurse, but suddenly I felt lost without my routine of classes, daily chapel and ever-evolving to do list of ministry tasks. Most of all, I missed the people. 

Looking back, I can definitely see God’s hand at work, but at the time it seemed random to run into Darcy (who I knew well from CUW’s campus ministry team and who is WLI’s Director) at a craft store. We caught up, talked about the joys and weirdness of transitions and Darcy mentioned getting involved in WLI. I had attended a WLI event while in school and recently attended another a few months ago. It was like a breath of fresh air! A group of wonderful women of faith from all walks of life who are life-long learners excited about leadership. I left that afternoon workshop feeling recharged and encouraged. Currently, I am on the planning committee helping to bring WLI’s National Conference to Milwaukee in the fall of 2017 and I am so incredibly excited to see what God has in-store for that weekend! WLI has been a blessing in my life and I hope it can be a blessing in yours as well.

How to Deal with Challenging Volunteers

By Karen Kogler

Most volunteers are wonderful, self-giving people. But when one is a challenge, you not only can do something about it, you should!

“Alice is wonderful with the kids in the church Nursery, but she’s late half the time and I have to cover until she shows up. But I’m afraid if I say something she’ll quit and we’re already short-handed.”

“Elton complains no one helps him on the committee, but it’s because he has such a negative personality. We’re all just waiting and hoping he’ll retire.”

“Sherry has run the annual fund-raiser every year for 10 years now. She never considers new ideas and she controls every detail, so her only helper is her long-suffering friend Emily. We raise fewer and fewer dollars each year, and that hurts our program. But what can we do? She’s a volunteer.”

Here are three effective steps you can take to deal with challenging volunteers:

1. Prepare

First, don’t put off dealing with it. Delay only makes it harder to solve. Start by praying for wisdom and Christ-like love for the challenging volunteer. Then carefully examine your own role. Are there things you have done, or not done, that contributed to the problem?

2. “Speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15)

Meet in private, at a time and place comfortable for them. Explain the specific behavior that’s a problem and explain the consequences of the behavior. Admit and ask forgiveness for any role you had in the issue. Look for common ground. Ask the volunteer to suggest a solution. Listen to their concerns. When you agree on a solution, write it down, along with a plan for following up later.

3. Follow up

Do follow up as planned. If the first solution didn’t work, is there another possible solution? If you and the volunteer honestly cannot find a solution that works, you may need to ask the person to accept another position. Throughout the process, and no matter the outcome, assure them of your concern and love for them, and demonstrate that concern in your actions.

By the way, prevention is easier than problem-solving!

• Give clear expectations, in writing, at the start
• Have an initial trial period, so both sides can see how it works
• Plan regular “how’s it going?” meetings, where all can be open and honest about concerns
• Invest in your leadership skills. WLI is a great resource for that!

In the church, there are no “wrong” people, just people in the wrong position. Every person has a place that suits their gifts. “Now you are the body of Christ, and each of you is a part of it” (1 Cor. 12:27). “From [Christ] the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Eph. 4:16). It can be a challenge – but it’s also a great joy and privilege! – to help each person in Christ’s body find their place to serve!


Karen is Director of Equipping and champions the “Equipping Each to Serve” value at St. Peter Lutheran, Arlington Heights, IL. She also maintains www.TheEquipper.org and can be reached at Karen@TheEquipper.org.

Rachel Ferry Left WLI Event Feeling Equipped and Supported

RACHEL FERRY

WLI hosted “Leaning in & Leaning On: A Christian Perspective” on CUAA’s campus in October 2016. It was my honor to attend this event, surrounded by Christian women of various generations and backgrounds.

Not only were the presenters inspiring, relevant, and uplifting; the women who attended were beyond willing to share openly and encourage one another enthusiastically. The event was most certainly God-breathed, and I left feeling equipped by His Word and supported by my sisters in Christ!

Rachel Ferry works at Concordia University Ann Arbor and attended her first WLI event in September 2015.

Three Creative Ways to Outline a Life-Changing Presentation

Outline. When you hear that word, you probably groan and think of English 101 in high school. Just how were you supposed to place those capital letters and Roman numerals? Don’t worry—outlining a life-changing presentation isn’t about perfecting the mechanics of outlining. It’s about organizing your information in a way that helps audience members listen to and remember your words.

Most of us have had the experience of listening to a speaker roam through a topic without seeming to have any particular destination in mind. His words strolled through the subject without purpose. And he wandered on so many side paths that at the end of the speech you were left wondering what he was trying to say.

Well-organized speeches are:

  • Easier to understand. With a clear and logical order, listeners can follow your thoughts.
  • Easier to remember. Clear organization helps audience members identify and recall your key points.
  • More credible. Speakers who offer well-planned speeches are perceived as more authoritative on their subject.

To begin to formulate a creative outline for Bible-based presentation, look at your chosen Scripture and identify the main ideas. Divide the Scripture into sections and title each section. Make sure the title of each section relates to the key point you want to convey.

Next, play around with the titles. Use your creativity to come up with titles your audience will remember.

For instance, imagine you were going to give a presentation on Colossians 3:5-14, where the apostle Paul talks about putting off the old self and putting on the old self. Here are three creative ways you could structure the talk:

  1. Use an analogy. Help your audience envision this passage as an exercise in cleaning out their spiritual closets. Employ the terms closet organizers use:
  • Toss (vv. 5-11) Toss out anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk.
  • Keep (vv. 12-13) Keep compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.
  • Donate (v. 14) Give away love.
  1. Use the same word. Start each section title with the same word. This gives a clear and memorable structure to your speech. For instance:
  • Put to death (vv. 5-11) Put to death anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk.
  • Put on the new (vv. 12-13) Put on compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.
  • Put love over all (v. 14) Put on love—above all–which binds everything together.
  1. Use an acronym. Create titles that begin with a letter of a word that relates to your topic. When I speak on this passage, I use the concept of spiritual STYLE and spell out that word:
  • See the Need for Change
  • Toss Out the Old
  • Yearn for Something More
  • Learn God’s Style
  • Embrace the New

Remember, outlining your speech is not about getting every Roman numeral in the right place—it’s about helping your audience internalize your message. Use your imagination and pray that God will give you a practical and fun way to present your topic.


 

Sharla Fritz is the author of three Bible studies: Soul Spa, Divine Design, Bless These Lips, and a study for teens: Divine Makeover: God Makes You Beautiful. Check out her online course on Christian speaking at Women’s Leadership Institute Academy. Watch for more information about her speaking workshops at the WLI 2017 National Conference.

WLI Helps Tori Homann Grow In Life and Leadership Skills

TORI HOMANN

I was initially introduced to WLI in 2011 when I came up for the last day of the national conference to participate in worship via liturgical dance with my mom, sister and some other ladies from my church. I don’t remember very much from that experience, other than that I thought it was an amazing opportunity to get to share the Lord through dance – an art form that I love.

My second experience was at the national conference in 2014. The theme for the event was Christ-Connected Women with the theme verse being Hebrews 10:24 which says, “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” A friend of mine and I were blessed to be asked to speak about how the women attending the conference could relate to and foster relationships with younger women of our generation. I was so honored that women who were so much wiser and learned than me would want to sit down and listen to what I had to say. This was a humbling experience, but more than anything it was a learning experience. I was surrounded by SO MANY amazing women leaders. This is my favorite part of WLI: it brings the best female leaders in the Lutheran Church together in one place so that all can learn and grow from their experiences there at the conference and from the experiences of other women and speakers.

My most recent experience with WLI was receiving the call to be a member of the WLI marketing committee to assist with the Twitter and Facebook accounts (the username for both accounts is @wlicuw so check out our pages for upcoming events and other wonderful, encouraging content!). I have already learned a lot, just from listening to the other women discuss how the marketing committee plays into WLI’s bigger picture of educating, encouraging, and equipping women leaders for Christ. I know that in my time on the board I will gain valuable life skills and continue to grow in leadership.

I think Paul sums it up best in his letter to Philippi. He says “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:3-6). This is what WLI has been for me. The work that this group is doing is truly Kingdom work. God is working in amazing ways through this organization: touching lives and bringing gifts to fruition that many women never even knew they possessed.

Tori Homann

Hope College 2020

Marketing Committee Board Member

Three Takeaways from #WLIconfident: The Road to Becoming a Confident Leader

On a still Saturday morning in September, on the campus of Concordia University Wisconsin, fifty women of all ages and educational backgrounds journeyed together on a Road to Becoming a Confident Leader led by founder, speaker and author of the Backbone Institute, Susan Marshall.

Susan described a three-ring diagram, in which our comfort zone lies in the center, surrounded by our learning zone and outwardly a panic zone. As human beings, we tend to operate in “safe mode,” engaging in conversations and interactions with others where we feel most comfortable. Periodically, we have an opportunity to venture out and discover more, perhaps even welcome a period of information gathering and learn more about a situation or opportunity. When conflicts, contradicting values and the otherwise unknown alter our critical thinking, decision making and ultimately shake our confidence in our leadership ability, we’ve entered the panic zone.

After sharing her personal leadership journey, Susan invited the women to share with one another their own journeys, and then set out to dispel the myth of total confidence, all couched within the spiritual perspective that God has a plan for our lives (Jer. 29:11) and that sufferings produce endurance, character and hope (Romans 5:3.)

  1. Confidence is having a positive expectation for a favorable outcome.

There is no such thing as total confidence. When worried, fearful or unsure of our leadership abilities, critical thinking is not making assumptions, wishful thinking or based on memories.

  1. Critical thinking is the willingness and ability to see reality as it is, and make decisions accordingly.

When faced with a challenge or dilemma, critical thinking involves:

  • Recognizing other people involved in the situation and their thoughts on the matter
  • Addressing any assumptions you may have made about the situation itself, those involved and your leadership
  • Considering who might be impacted by your decision, and what kind of impact
  • Identifying compromises, and whether you can live with any of them
  • Naming your desired outcome
  • Taking action; even just by doing one thing to begin resolving your challenge

Things to remember:

  • Consider those around you. Perhaps ask them which zone they fall into regarding the conflict – comfort zone, learning zone or panic zone.
  • Consider the impact your decision may have on those around you.
  • Not acting is not a strategy.
  • Compromise is a potential strategy.

Susan’s workshop allowed ample time for the women to identify their own challenges and immediately apply the above critical thinking process.  She called on us to both prepare our minds for action (1 Peter 1:13) call on the Holy Spirit for power, love and self-control (2 Tim 1:7).

  1. Feedback is another person’s response to something you do, which results in an emotional response by you. You then have an opportunity to accept it and act on it, or leave it be.

Whenever you receive feedback, “Sarah” is there:

  • Shock
  • Anger
  • Rejection
  • Acceptance
  • Hope

Upon receiving feedback, whether good or bad, it is common to experience some or all of the above emotions. Consider asking yourself, or, if you’re feeling courageous, the person giving you the feedback, three questions:

  1. What can you do more?
  2. What can you do less?
  3. What should you continue to do?

Alternately, if you are the person giving feedback, prayerfully and thoughtfully do so with compassion, but be direct. Be certain the person knows exactly what they should do more, do less, and continue to do well.

After spending time together, the attendees were given the opportunity to give feedback about one another, which certainly produced some emotional responses (Sarah). However, this ultimately led to an awareness of the effectiveness of feedback in a leadership setting. Susan reminded us that God is on our side (Romans 8:31; Isaiah 41:10.)

The women leaders left the workshop with renewed feelings of encouragement, hope and confidence, as well as tools to equip them for exemplary Christian leadership in the home, church, workplace and the world.

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A Note from Darcy Paape WLI Director

 

"This photo is from the workshop is of all undergraduate and graduate students from CUW who attended.  Twenty-one of our registrants were students! We are so excited to see the involvement of CUW and other university students with WLI! This group is truly for everyone."

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Trish Kagerbauer Enjoys WLI National Conferences

Trish Kagerbauer

I’ve been to all of the National Conferences and have really enjoyed them. This group of ladies…as much as we enjoy chocolate and flowers and the occasional cocktail…likes our “meaty” Christian leadership and training as well!


Learn more about WLI and all we have to offer by exploring the EQUIP page of our website. Get inspired to lead by reading through the ENCOURAGE page, then visit one of our campus EVENTS near you. Stay connected by following us on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.

Attending a WLI Conference Created a Networking Opportunity for Emily Marciniak

Emily Marciniak

I attended my first WLI conference in September 2015 at Concordia University Ann Arbor. I wasn’t too familiar with WLI at that time so I did not know what to expect. The conference ended up being more than I could have ever wanted, I had the opportunity to hear from speakers of all ages dealing with issues that I face everyday, I met some incredible mentors, and shared fellowship with other conference goers.

Then, I was asked to serve WLI as a website developer for the new WLI website. It has has been a tremendous learning experience and networking opportunity. I am thankful to have served in this capacity and to have helped such a worthy organization.


Learn more about WLI and all we have to offer by exploring the EQUIP page of our website. Get inspired to lead by reading through the ENCOURAGE page, then visit one of our campus EVENTS near you. Stay connected by following us on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.

WLI Has Greatly Influenced the Life and Faith of Martha Fritz

MARTHA FRITZ

I have attended two WLI conferences, one at Concordia University Wisconsin, and another at Concordia University Ann Arbor. Initially I was asked to take photos at the conference at CUW, but I ended up attending sessions as well. When I heard that a group of women from CUW was going to the conference at CUAA, I jumped on board right away.

The sessions that I have attended at WLI conferences have greatly influenced my life and faith. I have taken away so much from each session and leave hungry for more. I have been inspired by the women who have led sessions and I feel that their words are coming straight from the Lord for my heart. Being surrounded by women of all ages from all over the country has been uplifting. I have been engaged in long, deep conversations with women I did not even know before the conference. WLI has given me hope and encouragement as I continue to live as a Christian woman. I am grateful for the community and fellowship that WLI has provided for me.


Learn more about WLI and all we have to offer by exploring the EQUIP page of our website. Get inspired to lead by reading through the ENCOURAGE page, then visit one of our campus EVENTS near you. Stay connected by following us on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.

Meet Brianna Neumeyer, 2016 Streufert Award Recipient

The Board of Directors of WLI proudly introduce the 2016 recipient of the Dr. Donna J. Streufert Leadership Award, Brianna Neumeyer. The Streufert Award recognizes one or more female students at Concordia University Wisconsin (CUW) and Concordia University Ann Arbor (CUAA) whom have demonstrated exceptional and/or unusual servant leadership as demonstrated by Jesus Christ. Miss Neumeyer was selected to receive the award for her exemplary leadership at CUW, which includes a $500 scholarship and plaque of recognition on the CUW campus.

For the past two years, Brianna has served as co-leader of CUW’s children’s ministry, Children of God in Action (CIA), as well as a Campus Ministry Leadership Team (CMLT) member. She has also led small group Bible studies on campus and during four women’s retreats hosted by Ladies in God’s Hands Together (LIGHT).  Further leadership roles have included small group leader for the 2015 spring break mission trip to Gary, West Virginia;  coordinator of the 2014 30 Hour Famine on campus;  and Resident Assistant of the freshman ladies’ dorm at CUW. In these capacities, Brianna has demonstrated skills in servant leadership, organization, communication, and a passion for sharing the love of Jesus Christ with people of all ages. Brianna credits attendance at two WLI regional conferences and a conference of the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (WAICU) for giving her the skills and confidence needed to be a faithful and effective Christian leader.

According to Brianna, “Receiving the Dr. Donna J. Streufert Leadership Award was a truly amazing and humbling experience. I am blessed by the other nominees that were recognized, as well as the selection committee. “

Originally from Lake Orion, Michigan, Brianna lives at CUW during the school year and works as a meal server at Camp Arcadia in northern Michigan in the summer.  In the 2016-2017 school year she will serve as the Congregational Ministries Coordinator for CMLT and oversee Youth Ministry, Drama Ministry and CIA on campus. Brianna will graduate from CUW in December 2017 with a Dual B.A. degree in Early Childhood and Special Education.  She enjoys singing in church choirs, volunteering in her mother’s preschool classroom, reading, “hammocking” and exploring by car or on foot to fully experience the world around her.

Congratulations Brianna and God’s blessings on your final year of education and leadership development at CUW!


Learn more about WLI and all we have to offer by exploring the EQUIP page of our website. Get inspired to lead by reading through the ENCOURAGE page, then visit one of our campus EVENTS near you. Stay connected by following us on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.

How to Ripen Your Fruits of the Spirit for Effective Leadership

By Marge Franzen

Have you ever savored a home-grown tomato? Watched it grow in your backyard? That small, hard green tomato grows into an appetizing, ripe fruit because it stays connected to the plant. If the green tomato ever falls off the vine, it never develops.

Jesus uses the picture of the vine and branches for our spiritual life:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

Just like the tomato automatically grows and ripens if it stays connected to the plant, we will also bear spiritual fruit if we stay connected by faith to the Vine—Jesus.

SPIRITUAL FRUIT

We learn more about the fruit that develops in Galatians 5:16-25. Here the apostle Paul tells us how the Holy Spirit brings transformation. First Paul talks about what develops in our lives when we are disconnected from the Vine, “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” (Galatians 5:19-21)

Then Paul contrasts that with the fruit that forms when we are connected to Jesus:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

Of course, we could never make such a turn around on our own will power or determination to reform. Verses 24-25 tell us that our past selves have died in Christ and the Spirit connects our dead branch to the life-giving Vine Jesus.

“And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:24-25)

We can rejoice that the Spirit is transforming us by grace through faith. And it all starts with God’s love. The truth that we are connected is proof of the love God has for us. As we experience this connection to the Vine Jesus we develop all the varieties of His love; joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

THE FRUIT BASKET

Here’s a quick tour of the fruit basket:

JOY is rejoicing love, joy of the Lord that is independent of the situation. It best presents in joy that celebrates another as the focus of God’s love.

PEACE is reconciling love that values relationship over the details of conflict. Rooted in shalom, it moderates our coming and going. As we are reconciled with God we can bring wholeness to our relationships with others.

PATIENCE is enduring love. The root is literally holding back anger. With patience we combine determination and mercy to moderate our actions, both immediate and long term.

KINDNESS is amiable love. We give value to another by showing interest, listening, remembering details. We see them with God’s loving eyes.

GOODNESS is correcting love, not for the sake of being correct, but to bring about healing change in another’s life. Only by striving for God’s standards can we be sure we’re on the right course.

FAITHFULNESS is reliable love. We find that reliability in large and small things proves our commitment to people. We become trustworthy and true relationship can grow. One way to walk this path is through the faithful use of our Spiritual Gifts.

GENTLENESS is humble love. Rather than insisting on our own ability to be our own god we submit to God’s saving love for us. When His gentleness moves us into the sphere of another person we are more tolerant. We graciously refrain from using force and humbly join another’s journey.

SELF-CONTROL is disciplined love. We turn from the Then of our past habits and enter the Now of Spirit grown restraint and moderation. We are able to serve other people better.

DEVELOPING FRUIT

Reviewing that fruit inventory may leave you disheartened about missing fruit in your life. I encourage you to review it with a friend or two. This gives you each the opportunity to affirm the fruit that is budding, growing, and ripening in each other. You may be surprised at the fruit they see in you.

But don’t ignore the conviction you have about missing fruit. Take time to meet with the Spirit. You may find these steps helpful as He leads you to grow and mature in spiritual fruit.

  • Narrow your focus down to one fruit and go on a long journey with the Holy
  • Spirit and your small circle of friends.
  • Study that fruit in scripture.
  • Make the connection of how it appears and impacts a relationship.
  • Recognize the damage inflicted by the lack of a particular fruit.
  • Don’t try harder in your own strength. But pay attention to what the Holy Spirit is revealing and moving you to be through His connection with you in the means of grace.
  • Follow through and hold each other accountable.
  • Celebrate each sign of growth the Spirit brings.

Click here to download a free booklet to use as a discussion guide and journal.

Now think again of that home-grown tomato and its life cycle. First you notice a little round bud at the base of a fertilized flower. Next you watch that green ball grow larger and larger. Then there’s the gradual ripening from green to mouth-watering red. Finally, that tomato nourishes you with vitamin C and minerals in a delicious taste treat. The Holy Spirit’s work in your life has the same stages as He grows each fruit on Paul’s list. First there’s just a little bud of Spirit-inspired patience or kindness that’s barely noticeable. Growth through contact with God’s Word brings more notice. Ripening can come through our experience as the Holy Spirit walks us through the highs and lows of life and we are encouraged by our faith community. Finally, our fruit fills its purpose – not to nourish us, but to nourish others with a faithful replica of God’s love.

About the Author: Marge Franzen, as Leader for Equipping Ministries at Trinity Lutheran Church in Lisle has lengthy experience in Bible study and adult discipleship. She is excited by a teaching approach that uses history and culture to bring the Word of God alive in people’s lives today. She enjoys finding and developing new teachers and coaching leaders, but the best part of all is watching God directly affect people through His Word. She has found that God delivers on his promise to “equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13:21 Marge has a degree in education from Concordia University Chicago, and in theology from Concordia University Wisconsin and is certified as a Lay Minister with the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, but the credential nearest to her heart is Grandma.

For more great articles like the one you just read, explore the EQUIP page of our website. Get inspired to lead by reading through the ENCOURAGE page, then visit one of our campus EVENTS near you. Stay connected by following us on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.

How to Share Jesus with People of Other Cultures

By Marilyn McClure

Imagine wandering around in a foreign country on a rainy night, not knowing where you are going, not even knowing how to speak the local language.

This is exactly what happened in 1970 when my husband Garry and I were sent to learn Spanish in Cuernavaca, Mexico, so that we could serve as missionaries in Guatemala. Our plane landed in Mexico City, and a pastor was to pick us up and take us to Cuernavaca, which is about 50 miles away. There was a mix-up in schedules, so we were told to take a taxi. We had no Spanish language skills, and our cab driver had very limited English. By the time we arrived in Cuernavaca, it was dark and raining. Our cab driver, who was unfamiliar with the town, asked directions to the pensión where we were to stay. People consistently provided directions, but none of them were correct. After about two hours of searching, we ended up at the edge of a field where cows were grazing. Finally, my husband spotted a car with a Michigan license plate in front of a house. He asked the taxi driver to stop. Garry went to the door, and explained our dilemma in English to the visiting U.S. family. They communicated to their family members who got in their car, asked us to follow them, and guided us to the street and house for which we had been searching. What a relief!

Our initial reaction to this experience was one of anger and frustration. However, later in analyzing why people had given us directions if they didn’t know where the place was, we were told that it would have been impolite for them to say that they didn’t know. In their culture, that would have been interpreted as not caring, especially on a rainy night when someone was asking them for help. So they gave us directions to the best of their abilities, even though they themselves were not quite sure of the location. They wanted to show us that they cared.

People who are from different cultures, but are now living in the United States, have similar experiences every day. In the past, multicultural populations were primarily found in border towns, coastal cities, or in pockets of large cities in our country. However, over the past few years we find people of different cultures scattered throughout the nation. Some are refugees; others may be from families that have immigrated to the U.S. to find a better life. Some may have been here over a generation, but they still identify with people from their own country or those who follow their cultural practices and speak their language.

The question is: How do we relate to people of other ethnicities and cultures and share the love of Jesus with them, especially if they don’t speak our language?

We need to be honest and accept that there are challenges when we try to communicate and work with people cross-culturally. Sometimes the cultural differences impede our ability to understand each other and work together. Because of the differences in our backgrounds, we cannot take for granted that we understand their behavior nor that they understand ours. Most of all, it is important not to judge other people’s words and actions until we understand the motivation behind them.

I could give a whole series of lectures on intercultural learning, awareness, and effectiveness, beginning with the importance of being aware and understanding our own culture first and how others see us. I could also talk about the danger of attributing stereotypes to people who come from a specific country or cultural group. All of that is important, and very helpful if we hope to be effective in interacting with people of another culture. Knowing their language adds to our ability to communicate with them, but sometimes God puts them in our lives before we have had a chance to do any preparatory study about culture and language.

When that happens, here are some simple tips:

BE SINCERE

When you want to befriend someone from another culture, be willing to invest the time and energy it takes to get to know each other. If you invite the person to join you in an activity at church, offer to pick her up and accompany her when you arrive at the event.

Introduce her to your friends, sit by her, so that she knows your intention is to be her friend.

PLAN ACTIVITIES THAT ARE NOT LANGUAGE-BOUND

If you are planning an event to which you will be inviting an ethnic group, it is a good idea to arrange activities that are not dependent on understanding the language. For instance, it will be easier for your ethnic friends to pack health kits for the homeless, which they can do alongside of you, than to expect them to go to a workshop or lecture that would require that they understand English well. If you are planning some time alone with your “friend,” a visit to the zoo where you can take your children along with you would be more desirable than going to a mystery movie.

HAVE CONVERSATION STARTERS IN MIND

If you are going to invite ethnic women to an event at your church, like a Mother’s Day tea, some good conversation starters might be talk about your childhood homes. You might talk about favorite holidays or celebrations in your respective countries. Ask questions like, “What makes you feel most proud when you think about your community or your country?” or “What were some of your favorite foods as a child?” Choose topics that allow everyone to contribute, regardless of where they grew up.

LEARN A LITTLE ABOUT THE CULTURE

Sometimes cultural stereotyping can be useful. For example, if you know that German people generally are punctual, you would want to make sure that you are on time when meeting a German friend. In Latino culture, that may not be the case, so you might need to be prepared to wait while your Latino friend finishes getting ready to go with you. However, whatever the culture, people are individuals, so it is important never to assume that an individual is exactly like the stereotype of her culture.

DON’T FORGET PRAYER

Always remember to pray for your new friend and ask God to bless your time together. If you sense there is confusion about something that is said or an activity taking place, ask the person if there is a problem, and assure her that you care about how she feels.

Each person, regardless of her ethnicity or culture, is a redeemed child of God. May your world be expanded, and may you find blessing in getting to know new friends from around the world!

About the author: Marilyn McClure is an educator by profession and, since 1969, has worked alongside her husband in Hispanic ministry in Guatemala and the US. In recent years, Marilyn worked with the Gospel Outreach Committee of Lutheran Women’s Missionary League (LWML) to help establish the Heart to Heart Sisters program, that intentionally reaches out to women of all cultures to assure their participation in the mission of the LWML and the church-at-large. The McClure’s have three loving adult children and six wonderful grandchildren. Marilyn says that she is truly blessed to serve at this time on the Education Committee of WLI.

For more great articles like the one you just read, explore the EQUIP page of our website. Get inspired to lead by reading through the ENCOURAGE page, then visit one of our campus EVENTS near you. Stay connected by following us on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.

Effectively Leading Volunteers

Organizing a project can be exciting. Blazing a new trail of ministry can be exhilarating. But that energy may dissipate when struggling to manage teams of volunteers. Frustration mounts when those who have committed their time drift away to other priorities or fail to follow through on their commitments. What if there were practices and skills to be learned that would avoid some of the tough barriers to effectively leading volunteers? If that sounds appealing, then read on!

In his book 8 Habits of Effective Small Group Leaders, author Dr. Dave Earley describes several habits for a vibrant ministry. These practices transfer easily to the role of an effective leader of volunteers. Developing habits for effective leadership is important and God provides us with many examples in the Bible.

Cast the vision

In Matthew 5:3-10, Jesus casts his vision for the Kingdom of Heaven. The effective leader dreams about and sets goals for the health of the ministry, the number of people who will be impacted, the number of volunteers, and the multiplication of volunteers. Then the leader casts that vision – again and again – to maintain the momentum towards achieving the dream.

Pray for them

Effective leaders spend time each day praying for the spiritual health of their volunteers. They pray for the new volunteers that their current volunteers are recruiting; they pray for the multiplication of volunteers. In John 17:6-23, Jesus’ prayer shows us the world is a battleground when you are attempting to carry out God’s plan and purposes.

Invite others

In Mark 1:14-20, we observe Jesus inviting others to join him in ministry. Effective leaders don’t just focus on their current volunteers. They have a heart for those who are not yet volunteering. Effective leaders must set the pace by inviting new people into the ministry. They help the leaders under their authority discover potential volunteers and recruit them into the ministry. They help the leaders under them develop their apprentices into effective volunteers and leaders who apply the leadership habits to their lives.

Love them

No leader can be effective without loving the volunteers that God has placed under their care. In I Corinthians 13:1-8, God shows us what real, relational love looks like. Effective leaders make sure that their volunteers are contacted frequently, consistently, and effectively. They put in the time necessary to build strong relationships. The key to any effective ministry is the ongoing care of the people in the system. When volunteers do not feel cared for they lose interest. It does not matter how leaders are contacted. What matters is that they are contacted. This can be via phone, email, texting or having touch-base conversations over coffee.

Be prepared

Hebrews 6:7-12 describes diligence and faithfulness to the task that we are given. Effective leaders prepare for their meetings with volunteers. They must invest time preparing to share with those under them. Volunteers’ time is precious and so is yours. Don’t waste it by being unprepared. Make these times as Christ-centered and encouraging as possible. By modeling preparedness and timely completion of commitments, leaders demonstrate expected behaviors to their volunteers.

Mentor future leaders

An effective leader needs to be mentoring future leaders in order to multiply the ministry. Successful leaders are constantly multiplying themselves by developing successors. Mentoring prepares the ministry for greater harvest. If a ministry has a strong mentoring process, trouble will be avoided if God sends a growth boom. It will be able to capture and go with the growth that God sends. Exodus 18:14-23 and Matthew 28:19-20 give a sense of how God uses mentoring to expand His kingdom.

Personal growth

Growing leaders will lead growing volunteers. Personal growth is very important for the leader of leaders. They need to continually learn, grow, and improve. Having intentional growth plans will set the pace and guide their volunteers to do likewise. Effective leaders set the example for those under them by following challenging growth plans and sharing them with those under them. Set a growth climate and a leadership atmosphere. Pass on helpful articles, books, websites and podcasts to the leaders under you. In Hebrews 5:7-6:3, we learn of God’s desire for us to grow and mature.

Enjoy fellowship

Finally, effective leaders use the power of fellowship to build up those they oversee. They especially need times where they don’t have to be the “workers.” They need times when they get cared for. They need time to blow off steam and relax. Effective leaders will create times and opportunities for those under them to enjoy fellowship with one another. The concept of “doing life together” is described by Paul in I Thessalonians 2:7-9. The relationships of Christians go beyond just completing tasks together.

Learning and practicing these habits can help you to become an effective leader of volunteers. But more importantly, you will serve God with excellence and love like He loves.

Linda Arnold, RN, MS, has led teams of volunteers as director of community impact, foreign and domestic missions, and through her work as a volunteer leader with Lutheran Women’s Missionary League and Women’s Leadership Institute. She currently teaches future nurses at Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois.

Resource: Earley, D. (2006). 8 Habits of Effective Small Group Leaders. Houston, Texas: Cell Group Resources.

For more great articles like the one you just read, explore the EQUIP page of our website. Get inspired to lead by reading through the ENCOURAGE page, then visit one of our campus EVENTS near you. Stay connected by following us on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.

Servant Leadership: Motivating Volunteers

“He called the crowd to him along with His disciples and said, “If anyone would follow after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34)

Leading volunteers often comes with a cost. You are asking busy people to add another commitment to their lives and possibly make big sacrifices in the process. You know these people: the Children’s Ministry Leader, the Head Elder, the Worship Design Leader, the Music Team member, etc. As a servant leader, you must not only recruit volunteers, you need to keep them engaged and remind them of their value.

According to Janet Thompson in The Team That Jesus Built, “As Christian leaders, our responsibility is to educate team members in how to prioritize life so there’s always time to serve the Lord. That means we need to know how to do this ourselves.” It’s important to demonstrate a life that is Gospel-led. Volunteers and leaders alike need to set their minds on God’s plan!

INVEST IN TRAINING

A primary responsibility of a volunteer leader is that she provides ongoing training for those who serve on a regular basis. Training helps a natural talent to accelerate. There is always room for improvement. Remind people that when God gives us a task, He also promises to give the ability and strength to complete the task.

Volunteers stay committed when they know you care about their opinions and ideas. Volunteer leaders stay humble by being open to change. Everyone’s goal is to make a positive impression by serving others in the best way possible!

APPRECIATION IS ESSENTIAL

One of my favorite people is Lynn Wrightson, the Director of Volunteers for Mission Opportunities Short-Term (MOST) in Ann Arbor, MI.  MOST is a mission organization that depends on volunteers to collect, sort, and wash eyeglasses for use in the mission field. Specially trained volunteers are also needed to read prescriptions and grind lenses to fit donated frames. According to Lynn, volunteers are “the bread and butter of any organization. The volunteers here at MOST are all so wonderful and unique. They need to be appreciated…told how much the tasks they are doing are making a difference in the lives of people all over the world.”

Lynn stays in touch with her volunteers throughout the week and checks in on those who are sick, sad, or have a prayer request. She truly loves their servant hearts and dedication. As a leader, she expresses that love through acts of affirmation and appreciation. Every year Lynn celebrates volunteers by treating them to lunch and providing special gifts and treats that say “thank you.”

Fellowship is essential to healthy relationships among volunteers and can include a Bible or book study along with food, games, and entertainment. According to Lynn, “People need to know that you care about them for more than just what they can accomplish.”

EXPECT MISTAKES WILL HAPPEN

Volunteers are going to make mistakes and miss opportunities. They’re only human! As leaders we don’t expect 100% perfection, but we can equip volunteers with tools to make their job easier for them. We can help them see value in changing their approach to a task before they get discouraged and give up or quit. Jesus was patient with the disciples and sent them out time and time again. Above all, cover the ministry in prayer, especially if you’re rebuilding or refurbishing. The role of a leader is to encourage and not become discouraged. Resist the temptation to do a task yourself rather than empower someone else to learn from the experience.

Is there a place or time for leaders to express dissatisfaction with volunteers or confront them about a problem that threatens ministry? The answer is “Yes,” particularly if conflict resolution is called for between brothers and sisters in Christ. Whenever possible, begin the process of conflict resolution in private. And to avoid potential problems, include the biblical (Matthew 18:15-17) approach to conflict resolution in your training events. This is a valuable tool that emphasizes the power of forgiveness.

ORGANIZATION IS A MUST

Jesus provided many other excellent examples of leadership among volunteers. He was organized and knew how to delegate. Teams benefit by seeing organizational charts, so individuals know who to ask for help and who holds them accountable. Volunteers want to be held responsible because it places value on their role in the organization. In turn, leaders want to make sure that volunteers are serving for the good of others, not to benefit themselves or draw attention to their own accomplishments.

PARTNER WITH PEOPLE

Volunteers are special people. Leaders are special people too. Each one has a heart for ministry, but views it from a different perspective. Learning to appreciate one another’s position is essential and leads to cooperation and moves the church or organization forward. This positive bond among staff, lay leaders, and lay volunteers is priceless and easily spotted from afar. Guests and visitors can tell when there is harmony among those who provide the worship experience each Sunday and lead ministry throughout the week. 

Resources

Janet Thompson, The Team That Jesus Built; (Birmingham, AL: New Hope Publishers, 2011)

Jim Wildeman, “Recruiting Volunteers Like Jesus Did

Church Volunteers Recruiting: 7 KEYS to Helping Believers Discover their Spiritual Gift of Faith and Rewards of Service 

Related Resources

Click here to learn more about Spiritual Gifts Assessment.

Click here to learn more about Equipping Volunteers.

 About the Author: Linda Murdock is the Ministry Assistant at Living Water Church in Whitmore Lake, MI. Her job description includes Assimilation and Volunteer Recruitment along with responsibilities for administration, hospitality, publicity, and ministry planning. Linda is the Recording Secretary of the Women’s Leadership Institute and also serves on the Board of MOST Ministries (Mission Opportunities Short-Term). She and her husband Frank reside in Ann Arbor, MI where they have raised three children.

For more great articles like the one you just read, explore the EQUIP page of our website. Get inspired to lead by reading through the ENCOURAGE page, then visit one of our campus EVENTS near you. Stay connected by following us on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.

Servant Leadership: Recruiting Volunteers

“Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvests, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest fields.” (Matthew 9:37-38)

Have you ever wondered how Jesus was so successful at making disciples who followed Him to the cross? Have you ever longed to be that charismatic leader who attracts others to your vision for ministry in your church? If you’ve found yourself identified with a job description that includes “Director of Volunteers,” you may quickly find it’s a formidable challenge. That’s why it’s important to understand what makes volunteers step up and stay connected to ministry both inside and outside of the church community.

In Matthew 20:28 Jesus said “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…” The heart of a volunteer leader must have the determination to love the Lord and then the willingness to work alongside others for the greater good. Jesus showed others how to make a meaningful difference in the lives of hurting, helpless, and unbelieving people.

JESUS SET THE EXAMPLE FOR LEADERS

 “Come follow me, Jesus said, and I will make you fishers of men. At once they left their nets and followed Him.” (Mark 1:16-18)

Jesus built a ministry team made up of gifted individuals who would carry out His earthly mission and vision for the Kingdom of God. He recognized their potential and promised to make them “fishers of men.” They recognized Him as the wholly trustworthy God and followed His example. He demonstrated authenticity and integrity.  Jesus knew the disciples would need education and encouragement before they were ready to serve, but the disciples stepped forward in faith and eventually grew to spiritual maturity. Jesus allowed them to take baby steps and knew they would flourish.

GIFTS AND STRENGTHS ARE KEY

Sometimes “giftedness” is very obvious and there is no doubt that a certain individual is the right fit for a ministry task. Other times gifts may require some assessment before being identified. There are many spiritual gift identifying tools available which are helpful to some extent. However, nothing is more reliable than trying a job “on for size” to see whether it ultimately brings joy and contentment. Potential volunteers might even shadow another volunteer for a first-hand experience to check out a task with “no strings attached,” followed by a self-evaluation to see if the ministry fits. Remind volunteers that their gifts and their progress in developing those gifts is a blessing from God.

For example, Sunday School teaching is a bit out of my comfort zone. It’s hard work that always requires preparation and rehearsal. But the spiritual growth, fun, and happiness brought to children far outweighs the task and ultimately provides me with meaningful satisfaction and valuable life lessons. When you think about volunteering as discipleship, it affords a wonderful opportunity to experience Christ by serving others. 

HELP OTHERS FIND THEIR SWEET SPOT

Writing for Proverbs 31 Ministries, Ruth Soukup speaks about finding your sweet spot, meaning: “embracing the God-given talents you already have, rather than the ones you wish you had.” A sweet spot is that place where your most heartfelt passions and talents intersect. Ultimately “it’s that special place where we feel most called, that thing we love, that thing we’re great at that makes life worth living.”

According to Soukup, each of us has different gifts and they all come from God. Finding your “sweet spot” is sometimes a messy process. Fear of failure can deter volunteers from trying, but your role as leader is to reassure them that mistakes are part of the process and will help them to discover their identify in Christ. Above all, encourage potential volunteers to pray about finding the right place in ministry! Mobilize a prayer team to pray for the right people with the right gifts to join you in ministry.

RECRUITMENT IS FUNDAMENTAL

Recruitment is the most time-consuming aspect of volunteer leadership. It’s not uncommon for churches to have 20% of the membership doing 80% of the work at hand. Announcements in the bulletin or from the pulpit are rarely productive in terms of getting volunteers to emerge. A face-to-face invitation is usually more effective and requires a genuine expression of confidence in another’s ability to serve. It’s also helpful to make an interview appointment to get to know someone better before drafting them for a position.

Recruitment is not a sales job nor a desperate plea for help. It’s simply a way to ask someone to think about serving and finding their place in the church community. No volunteer job is a lifetime commitment. There’s always a chance to move on to something else that’s better suited to a person’s skills and abilities. However, just as volunteers need time to get better at what they do, aspiring leaders know that leadership is a long-term commitment because it takes time and experience to become competent.

Humor is another great way to promote the need for volunteers. Drama and videos announcing the need for VBS workers, greeters, etc. can go a long way to put potential volunteers in a good frame of mind while they think about volunteering to serve. Consider tapping into the careers of professional actors or performers in your congregation to help in this way. (Check out the video by The Skit Guys)

Ministry fairs or UServe events are additional ways to demonstrate and celebrate volunteerism in a community atmosphere. The goal is to let people know that serving can be fun and won’t be work in the sense of drudgery. 

PROVIDE JOB DESCRIPTIONS

One of the obstacles to obtaining volunteers is that people do not understand what is expected of them. A simple job description is a helpful tool to explain the scope of work before they agree to take on a task. Jesus described the role of a disciple and provided instruction throughout the Gospels.

Job descriptions are best if they are not generic, but appropriate to the setting and situation. Make sure volunteers know the positive impact they will have on others’ lives. Ideally the job description encourages volunteers to pray before and after their time of service.

TEAMS THAT ARE PURPOSE-DRIVEN

Every ministry needs a mission statement and every team position requires a short purpose statement that supports the ministry. These statements need to be regularly reviewed, because over time the ministry will evolve from when you first started leading. No matter what, each team member is a contributor and works together toward the good of the whole.

Jesus recruited with a purpose because He was gradually building a team. He knew what His purpose was on earth and chose the right individuals with specific gifts to help fulfill His ministry. He knew the importance of blending talent and skills when forming teams and that engagement increases when leaders focus on volunteer strengths. Allow time between the initial “ask” and following up with a prospective volunteer. They will appreciate the opportunity to ask questions and raise concerns.

Follow Jesus’ example in recruiting people for ministry by displaying your trustworthiness. Discover the strengths of your volunteers and help them find their sweet spot. Help others find their place the church community. Remember the needs of the volunteers to know what is expected of them and their part in the greater purpose of ministry.

Volunteer leaders have a formidable job when it comes to recruiting people. However, the work becomes less burdensome when looked at as a partnership and a blessing.

About the Author: Linda Murdock is the Ministry Assistant at Living Water Church in Whitmore Lake, MI. Her job description includes Assimilation and Volunteer Recruitment along with responsibilities for administration, hospitality, publicity, and ministry planning. Linda is the Recording Secretary of the Women’s Leadership Institute and also serves on the Board of MOST Ministries (Mission Opportunities Short-Term). She and her husband Frank reside in Ann Arbor, MI where they have raised three children.

Resources

Ruth Soukup, “Finding Your Sweet Spot,” http://proverbs31.org/devotions/devo/finding-your-sweet-spot-2/

The Skit Guys, Church Announcement: Greeters, https://skitguys.com/videos/item/greeters

For more great articles like the one you just read, explore the EQUIP page of our website. Get inspired to lead by reading through the ENCOURAGE page, then visit one of our campus EVENTS near you. Stay connected by following us on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.

Learn From the Experts: Leading a Bible Study: Part 2

This is part 2 of learning from the experts on leading a Bible study. The experts are Donna Streufert, founder of the Women’s Leadership Institute and Deb Burma, author of the Bible study, Living a Chocolate Life (CPH)

To access Part 1 of this series, click here.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO PREPARE FOR LEADING A BIBLE STUDY?

Donna: Here are my steps for preparation:

  • Spend time in fervent prayer.
  • Work through the lesson as I expect group members to do.
  • Be open to new insights God is teaching me through this lesson.
  • Refer to the Leader’s Guide and/or commentaries or other resources to extend my understanding.
  • Review or draw out the Central Truth and the objectives of this lesson. Consider printing these out for participants.
  • Think through how I will use the time allotted for the session.
  • Consider using a story, personal experience or object to catch attention as we begin the lesson.
  • Plan for prayer and/or singing to close the lesson.

Deb: I prepare for each study with a read-through of the session and the Bible passages, often pausing to do a little research on the Scripture text, with the help of my Study Bible notes or other trusted sources. Then I go through the session and Scriptures again, this time more thoroughly, answering the questions myself as a participant would. If a video is included with the study, I view it once or twice, making notes to apply to group discussion while viewing it. Finally, I read over the session’s questions again and consider alternate or additional questions that may be especially relevant to our group and its unique needs. Throughout my preparation, I pray for God’s guidance, for humility and grace in leadership, and for clear direction.

For some studies, I prepare a fun activity as an opener or ice breaker. I may prepare simple props or handouts or provide a take-home idea to encourage the women to apply the lesson to life. (For example, a Scripture card with the theme verse that each participant can post in a prominent place for aid in memorization or a note card and envelope, so each can send a word of encouragement to someone outside the study.)

WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO REMEMBER IN LEADING?

Donna: The Holy Spirit is the teacher/leader. I am a tool. God is the one who changes hearts and lives. I am no more important than each member of this group. I don’t have all the answers. I am a learner, too. God is working in my heart and life just as he is in the other members of the group. We are all members of Christ’s body.

Deb: I think one of the most important things I need to remember is that I’m still learning too and I should humbly communicate that to those whom I’m leading. I need to remember that every woman in the room matters, and so does her input. I also need to remember not to be so hard on myself as a leader. By God’s grace, I’m able to communicate the saving love of Christ to every participant as I share His Word and trust that He works through me, by the power of the Holy Spirit, despite my shortcomings and mistakes.

HOW DO YOU HELP GROUP MEMBERS FEEL COMFORTABLE IN SHARING? 

Donna: The blessings of group Bible study include a closer, more supportive relationship among members of God’s family. As trust grows, participants are free to open their hearts to one another. Some are more comfortable with sharing than others. Early on, I make a point of stating clearly that what we share of our personal lives remains confidential. I ask the group if they can agree to that. I may remind them later, also.

Sometimes I model the openness I want to foster by telling parts of my own story, my own spiritual journey, my personal experiences.

Shy or reserved people may simply need “permission” to talk about themselves. In this case I might say: “Betty, you’ve been through something similar. Would you be comfortable sharing your thoughts with us?” Often, this is all that’s needed.

Deb: I encourage women to share by sharing openly myself. I often begin with lighter lead-in discussion questions that break the ice, enabling women to feel comfortable with one another. I think it’s vitally important to affirm, encourage, and thank each woman when she does share, helping her to see that she has something of value to offer that others may gain from, and communicating that I care about what she has to say. I’m amazed at how quickly women begin to feel comfortable in sharing when others, including their leader, are courageously doing so. I’m often amazed at the insight a new participant brings to the table, as we discuss a given passage or topic that others (including myself!) wouldn’t have thought of. Our discussions are richer and deeper when group members become comfortable and begin to share. Relationships develop and trust grows as we grow together in the Word and grow in faith.

WHAT IS THE FUNNIEST THING THAT HAS HAPPENED TO YOU AS A BIBLE STUDY LEADER?

Deb: So many little fun and funny scenarios have happened during Bible study over the years, and I’ve been able to laugh at myself as I’ve admitted my own foibles while making a point in the midst of a study, which often serves to further remind others of God’s amazing grace in Christ! Once I boldly recited an entire passage, only to look up and find forty women staring quizzically at me because I had shared the correct chapter and verses, but was reading from the wrong Book of the Bible. (How could I have not realized my mistake when I’d prepared the lesson?!)

HOW HAS LEADING BIBLE STUDIES CHANGED YOU?

Donna: I am changed as the Holy Spirit works through God’s Word among God’s people. I am a learner first.

I grow through the witness, insights, wisdom and Christian life styles of my friends and fellow believers in group Bible study.

I have discovered my God-given gifts of teaching and leading. And this is a good thing. All thanks and glory to God.

Deb: We often hear people say that the teacher learns even more than the students in the preparation and process of teaching. I believe this to be true in the specific educational area of leading Bible studies! I’ve grown in my desire to seek greater depth and detail from the Word of God as a result of my opportunities to lead others in study. In preparation, I delve in more deeply than I might if I was studying on my own, knowing that I’ll be sharing with others and they’ll likely take away more from the study if I’m a good steward with my preparation time as a leader; God may use my enthusiasm and passion for the study of His Word to ignite a fire in others to do likewise.

Leading Bible studies has also opened my eyes to recognize that while I’m digging in, learning, and leading, I have SO MUCH MORE to learn; there are so many ways in which I desire to grow. I am humbled to learn how often a participant knows more than I do on a given subject and I’m thrilled to learn from her! I am humbled by my own shortcomings and limitations, but trust that the Holy Spirit works through every Word of Scripture and in the hearts of His people as we continue to learn together.

Many thanks to Donna and Deb for sharing their insights gleaned from years of leading Bible studies! Their experience in choosing materials, leading discussions, and handling tricky situations is invaluable.

We pray that you will grow in faith and trust as you develop your ability to lead others in God’s Word. May all the participants be blessed through your leadership.

For more great articles like the one you just read, explore the EQUIP page of our website. Get inspired to lead by reading through the ENCOURAGE page, then visit one of our campus EVENTS near you. Stay connected by following us on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.

Learn From the Experts: Leading a Bible Study: Part 1

A BIBLE STUDY can be enjoyable and exciting. But it can also be complicated and challenging. To help leaders, both new and experienced, we asked two seasoned experts on how they handle this leadership role.

Donna Streufert is the founder of Women’s Leadership Institute. She is the wife of Pastor Dan Streufert and a champion of women who seek to fulfill their God-given roles in the church. Doing the math, she discovered she has fifty years of experience in leading Bible Studies!

Deb Burma is also a pastor’s wife, serving with her husband Cory, in Columbus, Nebraska. Author of Stepping Out, A Chocolate Life, Treasured, and Beautiful Feet, she blogs at debburma.blogspot.com. Deb is also a ministry leader and frequent speaker to women’s groups.

WHAT CONCERNED YOU MOST AS YOU BEGAN TO LEAD BIBLE STUDIES? 

Donna Streufert: Thinking back to the very first group, mentally scanning all those that followed, I realized that what I wanted most of all was this: that participants would experience personally the excitement, joy, comfort and assurance that comes when connecting with God through His powerful Word.

I had been blessed this way. I wanted this blessing for others.

Deb Burma: Many Bible study leaders say their greatest concern is that they won’t be able to adequately answer difficult questions from the participants. Thankfully, I was blessed with the guidance of mentors who told me that it’s okay when a leader doesn’t have all the answers. It’s more important to listen to the questions with genuine interest and care, acknowledge when you don’t know an answer, and provide reassurance that you will try to find the answer. Then seek answers through research—asking the pastor or another trusted source for assistance in finding them. But on a related note, I DID find myself fearful that my attempts to explain a difficult text or answer questions of a complex or personal nature would be misunderstood and may even cause a woman to leave the session distraught or confused.

I’ve worked through these fears with prayer and preparation, and by beginning each Bible study series addressing the possibility that issues like this may arise, and opening the door for open and honest discussion that may include clarification during the study or one-on-one conversation afterward.

HOW HAS YOUR STYLE OR APPROACH AS A BIBLE STUDY LEADER CHANGED OVER THE YEARS?

Donna: Every group has a personality. It’s important to know your group, understand the individuals and see how they function as one. Love them. Flexibility required.

So, my style or approach flexes to meet the personality of the group. For example, some groups are no nonsense and detail oriented, some are full of questions and challenges, some are at ease with one another and laugh easily. (Yes, laughing in Bible class is allowed.)

Time and place and group size also affect my style and approach. A group of several hundred or more requires a more deductive style (teaching or lecturing.) Small groups, under ten members or so, do well with an inductive approach (participants read, think, search and arrive at their own conclusions.)

Deb: Over the years, I think I’ve become more relaxed in my teaching style in both large- and small-group settings, seeking to find a balance between completing a lesson in one session and allowing more time for discussion. (It all depends on size of group and time constraints.)

I’m learning that it’s okay to challenge women, especially as they’ve become invested in the group over time, and encourage them to complete between-sessions assignments, while also being careful to communicate that it’s okay to arrive without preparation. (I wouldn’t want a woman to stop attending because she struggles to keep up with the reading or homework.)

I’ve also learned more about the variety of people’s learning styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and reading/writing). To engage different kinds of learners, I use video clips, handouts, object lessons, visual aids like maps or props, take-home projects, discussion starters, and so on, depending on the study topic and the group’s dynamics.

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU EXPERIENCED AS A BIBLE STUDY LEADER?

Donna: Two challenges come to mind – numbers and materials. Sometimes these challenges arise. Other times these are not challenges at all.

For example, with numbers: Sometimes it is difficult to attract people to spend time together in God’s Word. Apathy and indifference and lifestyle choices appear to keep numbers low. The times when attendance in Bible classes soar are more encouraging and exciting. But either way, I try to remind myself that I’m not in control. Prayer, personal invitation, careful preparation are my responsibility and my privilege. The rest is God’s Word, God’s people, God’s work.

The second challenge is finding just the right material for the group I’m leading. If I know my group well, I will look for materials

  • with sound biblical content
  • that truly engage learners
  • that meet their needs
  • that are appropriate for the age group and life experiences of the group
  • and have a workable format.

Sometimes I find a perfect match for a group. Sometimes it’s more of a challenge. I may need to shorten or adjust or even replace one study with another. But, that’s OK. I’ve learned something helpful for the future.

Deb: My biggest challenges in leading Bible studies have been situations when a participant has boldly declared a statement that is clearly off-base or not Biblically accurate. How do I respond in such a situation? While I never want to embarrass a woman with a confrontational correction in front of everyone, I also need to very gently bring the group back to Scripture and make sure others are not confused or misled by her declaration. I prayerfully consider how to respond to this woman one-on-one. Similarly, when a participant attempts to dominate the discussion or take the group on an unrelated bunny trail, it’s essential (though a challenge, for sure!) to gently manage the discussion, giving others equal opportunity for input and quickly bringing the group back on track.

An equally big, but very different, challenge is the already-crowded schedules of all potential participants. While seeking to grow women’s ministry by inviting and involving a vast variety of ages of women in every stage of life, it’s increasingly difficult to find times for Bible studies that work. I’ve found that providing two time options for the same large-group study on the same day is very helpful! That way, a woman can choose a noon time study or an evening study, or to alternate. Also, offering varying lengths of series enables women to commit to a timeframe that they’re comfortable with. As an example, instead of agreeing to attend a Bible study every week for a year, a woman may sign up for an 8-week series and then decide if she can commit to the next one. I’ve seen so many women give Bible study a try for the first time when given this opportunity!

Click here to read Part 2 of this article!

For more great articles like the one you just read, explore the EQUIP page of our website. Get inspired to lead by reading through the ENCOURAGE page, then visit one of our campus EVENTS near you. Stay connected by following us on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.

Adult Learning Styles: What Do They Mean For Bible Study Leadership?

How do you learn best? By listening to others speak? By reading and writing? Through a hands-on activity? Each of us has a preferred method of learning (notice that it’s a preferred method and not the correct method) and that can create a paradox for us as Bible study leaders. You see, the way that is most comfortable and most effective for you as a learner is probably the way that you tend to teach. But not everyone learns that way. When you lead a Bible study, you may need to step outside of your comfort zone and deliberately look for ways to engage and reach those who learn differently than you do.

Think about how Jesus taught. He lectured in the Sermon on the Mount, first using conceptual ideas in the Beatitudes and then following that with some practical application. He told parables or stories that allowed others to find themselves in the story. He asked questions; He answered questions. He took people aside and explained things to them. He used teachable moments and familiar objects. Jesus definitely used a variety of teaching strategies! Not all good teachers use the same strategies and techniques, but good teachers – and Jesus was the perfect teacher – will always find a way to include a variety of teaching strategies.

There are several ways of categorizing learning styles, one of which recognizes four learning styles: Verbal, Auditory, Visual, and Kinesthetic. Let’s think briefly about each one.

THE VERBAL LEARNER

The verbal learner is one who prefers reading, writing, and speaking. Asking good questions is one way to appeal to these learners. By ‘good’ I mean questions that are not necessarily yes/no questions or fill-in-the-blank questions. Ask questions that allow the learner to interpret or apply or discuss or share. For example, Jonah’s eventual sermon to Nineveh consisted of 5 Hebrew words. If you were asked to give a 5-8 word sermon, what would it be? Discussing a question in a small group can also engage the auditory learner as he listens to the discussion. Another strategy is to review the meaning of words used in the Bible and then look for how those words are used in a passage. There are three terms used to refer to God, for example, and each has a slightly different meaning. The book of Jonah uses all three terms so looking for when a different term is used can say something about the passage.

THE AUDITORY LEARNER

Another learning style is auditory – learning by hearing or by sound. Having something read aloud is good for this type of learner. Also, auditory learners tend to like to have things repeated so find a way to stress important points in a study in different ways. Another strategy is to have people tell the story or a section of Scripture to a partner in their own words. While this gets at auditory learning, it has another effect in helping people feel comfortable sharing the Bible in their own words. Music is another powerful strategy for some auditory learners – use music to set the mood, sing a song related to the study, ask someone to write a song. For a study of the book of Jonah, I found a Jonah song on the web with a seafarer kind of lilt that I played at the beginning of one class and by the end of the song, most of the class was singing along on the chorus and having a good time.

THE VISUAL LEARNER

Clearly the visual learner needs to be able to see something – a map, a picture, a chart, etc. I like to use photos I find on the web, especially when it gives the class an opportunity to point out how the photo is inconsistent with the Bible story itself.  Another way to reach the visual learner is to ask the class to close their eyes and picture the story or setting in their minds. Visual learners also tend to like to draw as they are learning so you could ask them to draw something about the lesson. In teaching Jonah, I asked the class to use a Venn diagram (two circles that partially overlap) to describe how the sailors and Jonah differed (the two non-overlapping parts of the circles) and how they were alike (the overlapping part). In another class, I asked the class to work in small groups and design a banner that depicted Jesus as healer.

THE KINESTHETIC LEARNER

The last type is the kinesthetic learner or physical learner. These are the ones who learn through experience or by doing things. They tend to learn best by role playing or playing games or touching and feeling objects. In fact, statistics tell us that we learn 15% of what we hear, 35% of what we read, 50% of what we see, and 90% of what we do. You can include objects related to the lesson that allow the students to do something – touch, smell, taste. Be aware, though, that objects lessons can be overused so less is more. You might find that some adults might feel a little silly with object lessons, depending on what you ask them to do or if they are new to the group. So you might want to wait until you sense the group is comfortable before you include an object. If there is a word or symbol that will capture the teaching point, you could have the class make something, even if it’s with clay or a pipe cleaner. Another example is if the lesson is about casting stones, like the story of the woman caught in adultery. Ask each person to hold a stone while the story is read.

Remember that not everyone learns the way you do. Follow Jesus’ example–take the risk—and use a variety of teaching strategies to reach the greatest number of students so they can apply the text to their lives. God will bless your efforts!

Karen Soeken is a wife, mother of two, and grandmother of 6. She retired in 2008 after a career teaching research and statistics courses at the University of Maryland School of Nursing and is now Professor Emeritus. In her congregation, she teaches adult Bible study classes. Karen is also involved in LWML, having served as District President and Planner at the national level. Currently she serves on the Lutheran Hour Ministries Foundation Board and the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia Board of Directors. In her spare time, Karen enjoys working on her family history.

For more great articles like the one you just read, explore the EQUIP page of our website. Get inspired to lead by reading through the ENCOURAGE page, then visit one of our campus EVENTS near you. Stay connected by following us on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.

Christian Leadership: Start and End with Service

By Nancy Stoehr, Pharm.D.

“Come, O living Christ, renew us

As of old in wind and flame;

With the Spirit’s power endue us,

Servants of Your saving name:

Christ the Savior,

Christ the Servant,

Christ whose kingdom we proclaim.”

~ Lutheran Service Book, Christ, Our Human Likeness Sharing Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House

As Christians, we are privileged to be followers of the greatest Leader the world has ever known.  We are blessed with scripture to teach, guide and remind us how to lead like our Teacher.  But what was it that made Christ such an effective leader?  How can we use His model to become better leaders ourselves?

In this article I hope to pass along some of what I’ve learned about Christian leadership through my spiritual journey and walk with Christ.

Mark 10: 42-45 gives us a clear picture into how Jesus viewed leadership.

“Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.  Not so with you.  Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be a slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'”  (NIV)

True leadership stems from service to others.  To become great, to be a leader, you must first take on a life and attitude of service.

GIVING THOSE WE SERVE WHAT THEY NEED

The world has a bad habit of associating service with being meek, mild mannered, a person who can be walked over.  According to worldly views of leadership, these are not characteristics of greatness.  Though, service to others is not simply giving others what they want.  It is giving others what they need.  Sometimes, what people believe they need is really a want.  It is our job as the leader to make these distinctions and convey what is best for those we serve.  I see this exemplified while parenting my five-year-old.  She wants to eat candy with every meal and snack in-between. However, this is clearly not what she needs.  She thinks my withholding of her peanut butter cup is authoritarian, a demonstration of power.  Often I hear, “I can’t wait to be a grown up so I can do whatever I want”.  What she currently lacks is not the age she desires, it’s the perspective I have on nutrition and making good life choices.  We as leaders have perspective on what is needed to move our children, family, group, organization, or church forward.  We have the perspective to help them make good life choices, good Christian choices.  We as Christian leaders have the servant attitude to successfully and sustainably give those we serve what they need to succeed.

LOVING THOSE WE SERVE

James C. Hunter (1998) wrote the book titled, The Servant: A Simple Story About the True Essence of Leadership New York: Random House, Inc.  In this book he links the qualities of a good leader, or characteristics of a true servant, to love.  Hunter (1998) goes on to discuss that the “love” he is referring to was originally written as the Greek word “agape”.  This isn’t the “feeling” kind of love one might have for a spouse or family member, this is a sacrificial love, a love exemplified by commitment.

Paul tells us in Galatians 5: 13 “You, my brothers, were called be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love” (NIV).

He goes on to give us a definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7:

“Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (NIV)

I personally never liked the verses given to us in Corinthians.  The ideal they were embracing was so far away from my reach I could never read them without feeling completely hopeless in my attempt to walk the faith.  Patience?  Don’t have it.  Self-Seeking?  That, I can do.  Slow to anger?  Forget it.  So, I ignored these verses.  I ignored them to the point of omitting this very traditional wedding verse from my wedding ceremony!

It’s true. We will never achieve the ideal of self-sacrificing love while we are here on earth. We will never master all of Paul’s definitions of love.  But God understands our faults and our sinful nature.  He simply wants us to be committed to practice these actions and attitudes throughout our journey with Him.

In talking to a student group about this verse, one of the students shared that his church suggests substituting the word love with Jesus.  When done, what a great model for leadership!  When we espouse to be like Jesus and follow these characteristics of love in our leadership style, we become true servants to those we lead.  When we put our frame of mind into one of patience, kindness, trust and perseverance we can see that those we touch will be built up.  They become more confident, more willing to take on responsibilities, more willing to follow our strategies.  The organization or group we are leading will prosper because we are leading as Christian leaders; dedicated to service and love for those we serve.

MAINTAINING OUR DEDICATION TO THOSE WE SERVE

1 Peter 4: 11 tells us how we are provided with the strength to serve.

“If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God.  If anyone serves, he should do it with strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.  To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” (NIV)

We must remember that we can’t serve on our own. We need the strength that God provides.  God provides us with this strength through the Holy Spirit.  First and foremost we must ask God to give us strength, discernment and wisdom through the Holy Spirit to allow us to successfully and completely model our Teacher.  This needs to be done not once, not twice, but continually along our journey to be great Christian leaders.

I’m a pharmacist, and in the pharmacy world we talk about the “half-life” of drugs.  The half-life is how long it takes for the drug to divide in half, be half as strong as it should be or be half as effective as it should be.  Drugs that have a short half-life don’t stick around very long.  We need to take these drugs often throughout the day to keep them at the levels they need to be to work in our bodies like they should.  On our own, commitment to serve has a short “half-life.” We continually need to ask the Holy Spirit for His assistance to maintain the strength, the perseverance, the servant attitude we need to succeed in our leadership roles.

As we move forward with our dedication to being servant leaders in whatever area of Christ’s church we serve, I encourage you to pray.  Sit quietly with the Lord and give Him your concerns.  Listen to His responses and follow His calls.  Below is a prayer that may get you started on this journey to become a great servant leader.

Dear Father in heaven,

Thank You for the opportunity to be Your servant and for the guidance You give us through Your Word.  Thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus Christ, to model true servant leadership.  Help us to use Your teachings as we lead those around us.  Please send the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts and minds with Your grace and love so we can glorify Your name through our encounters with those we serve.  Bring discernment to our decisions, humbleness in our approach, and kindness in our words.  Help us to be slow to anger, patient with those around us and practice forgiveness to those who may do us harm.  Help us to maintain our commitment of love for all people.  Forgive us when we fail.  Be with us as we serve and use us to bring all into your Holy Kingdom. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

About the author: Dr. Nancy Stoehr earned her Pharm.D. from the University of Wisconsin Madison School of Pharmacy in 2006 and is currently enrolled in the Master of Education – Teaching and Learning program at Concordia University Wisconsin. Dr. Stoehr is carrying out her vocation as an Assistant Professor at Concordia University Wisconsin School of Pharmacy where she primarily teaches in the pharmacy compounding laboratories. She is the chair of the WLI education committee.

For more great articles like the one you just read, explore the EQUIP page of our website. Get inspired to lead by reading through the ENCOURAGE page, then visit one of our campus EVENTS near you. Stay connected by following us on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.

Saying “Yes” To Leadership

By Mary Washko Denham

“Will you be on the Parent-Teacher League Board?” “Will you help on the Capital Campaign committee?” “Could you teach a class for Vacation Bible School or Sunday School?” “Would you run for President and/or Secretary-Treasurer of our Lutheran Women’s Missionary League Zone?” “Can you give a tour about Frank Lloyd Wright at the Dana-Thomas House?”

SCARED TO SAY YES?

At some point over the years, I’ve said yes to all of the above. Was I scared to say yes? Better believe it! Because:

  • Whatever I was being asked to do, it was going to take me out of my comfort zone.
  • People might not like the way I do things. I’d be opening myself up to criticism because “we’ve never done it that way before”.
  • People might not like ME.
  • I didn’t think I had the talent to do the job and people would definitely find out I didn’t have the ability. Social scientists term this phenomena “the impostor syndrome”—feeling like a fraud even though others have seen your talents and believe in your skills.
  • I’m not a leader, I’m a follower. I can’t be President or whatever other lofty title you want me to assume because… (come up with any excuse).

SAY YES ANYWAY

But, I said yes anyway! Why?

  • I wanted to get out of my rut, shake things up, and try something new.
  • I wanted to overcome a fear like public speaking.
  • I had FOMO—Fear of Missing Out as social scientists have now termed this social media phenomena.
  • I knew the commitment would end at a certain time whether it was a few months or a couple of years.
  • Sometimes I agreed simply because no one else wanted the job.
  • Ultimately, I said yes because after prayerful consideration, I knew God was asking me to do that task.

HOW COULD I SAY “YES” EVEN IF I WAS SCARED?

First, I realized that although I perceive a leader to be someone who is highly-educated, socially prominent in the community, a risk-taker, wealthy and someone with a fancy-sounding title—no one is born this way! These are all acquired skills achieved through hard work, perseverance, and timing.

I remembered the “ordinary” women in the Bible who took on leadership roles. Lois & Eunice, Elizabeth, and Mary, the mother of Jesus, who raised families. , Priscilla, Lydia and that pesky, perfect Proverbs 31 woman were leaders in the business world. Poker-playing Judge Deborah called Barak’s bluff and went into battle with him. Jael, a nomadic wife, killed Sisera and handed his slain body over to Barak (Judges 4). Beauty pageant contestant Esther, who through her beauty and humble demeanor, became Queen and saved the nation of Israel from extinction (Book of Esther). Different women, different talents, different ways of leading.

I went to the Bible for understanding and strength. Going to God’s Word helped me see His plan. The following verses have been a tremendous source of wisdom and comfort to me when deciding whether to say “Yes”.

  • Jeremiah 29:11: For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
  • Psalm 37:3: Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.
  • Proverbs 3:5: Trust in the Lord with all your heart.
  • Philippians 4:13: I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.

WHEN NOT TO SAY YES

We don’t have to be afraid to say yes, but we also don’t have to say yes to every leadership position. 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 talks about the body of Christ. This one body has many parts and each part has a specific and necessary function. Some are called to be apostles, some teachers, some healers, some administrators (v. 28). Remembering these verses helps me say NO to all artsy-craftsy, mechanical, and high-tech jobs or anything else where I know someone else has the better ability. Being a part of the body also helps me to remember that sometimes I simply need to give someone else the chance to serve who isn’t already serving.

YES it is okay to say NO! But here’s the kicker—when I say NO, I can’t feel guilty about it. Why? Because it’s not about me. Ultimately, it’s about how best to serve God to spread the Gospel message. If I take on a job I don’t have the talent for, my heart and soul isn’t in it and God’s not getting my best work. Imagine a foot doing a mouth’s work (although my foot ends up in my mouth more often than I like) or an elbow solving a math problem.

I need to let those who have the talent for a particular job LEAD. And while I’m at it, if I’m not leading, I better be following—maybe not blindly, but certainly respectfully (this is where my “foot-in-mouth” comes in sometimes). I can offer constructive criticism, but also remember that sometimes there isn’t a right or wrong—just a different style of leadership. When we work together we can all accomplish great things individually and collectively.

So, the next time you’re asked to “lead” with or without that fancy title, remember to pray, pray, and pray some more (Phil. 4:6). Recall how God put the biblical women listed above exactly where and when He needed them. Remember that God puts us where He needs us for the “good works which He has prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:9). When God’s time is right for us to step up, how can any of us say to God anything but YES?

About the author: Mary Washko Denham is a lifelong resident of Springfield, Illinois and attends Trinity Ev. Lutheran Church. Prior to becoming a “stay-at-home mom” in 1991, Mary worked in special events management and as a college development / fundraising director. Mary has served LWML in various capacities with Trinity’s Women With Mission society, the Springfield Zone and the Central Illinois District. She and husband William (III) have one son, William (IV). She and Bill met when they were both volunteer interpreters at the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Dana-Thomas House in Springfield, where they both continue to give tours once a month. Mary is also active with Trinity Lutheran Church and School, where she is a volunteer librarian and whatever else God needs her to do.

For more great articles like the one you just read, explore the EQUIP page of our website. Get inspired to lead by reading through the ENCOURAGE page, then visit one of our campus EVENTS near you. Stay connected by following us on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.

How to Influence Others Without Saying A Word: A Skill-Building Drama about Mary of Bethany

MARY OF BETHANY: A WOMAN OF INFLUENCE
By Donna J. Streufert

LEADERSHIP IS INFLUENCE. Exemplary leadership is influence worthy of being imitated. Throughout Scripture we can find stunning examples of exemplary leadership. One example in the New Testament reveals a woman who speaks not one word, yet by the power of the Spirit and God’s gift of faith, displays exemplary leadership.

That woman is Mary of Bethany.

PRESENTING MARY’S STORY IN A NEW WAY
One way to access the message of Mary’s example is simply to read the biblical account. Yet God gifts us with our senses so we might absorb the message in a variety of ways. The arts, music, drama, dance, for example, reach our hearts and minds on several levels. WLI offers a resource using dramatic speech, pantomime, enactment to convey the story of Mary’s exemplary Christian leadership.

This dramatic resource presents two short scenes in the New Testament where Jesus is with Mary of Bethany. Other actors in the scenes are the onlookers. They have something to say, too. And they have much to learn. Think of this
presentation as a readers’ theater where a Greek Chorus tells the story with the help of a couple of other characters. The chorus guides the narrative, explains what’s happening, and adds information.

This resource WLI offers might be used as part of the program at a women’s meeting, retreat, or conference, or as a chancel drama for an entire congregation. It is important that the presentation be followed by thoughtful discussion.

The link below will take you to the narrator’s introduction, the dramatic script, and questions to use for group discussion.

LEAD BY INFLUENCE
We have our Lord’s blessing to learn, grow and step out to influence attitudes about women’s service in the church. The main point of this resource is this: Women lead by influence and Jesus approves. Jesus’ seal of approval links action to text and memory. 

Blessings on your commitment to lead others to Christ through exemplary Christian leadership.

Click here for Skill Building Drama about Mary of Bethany

About the author: Donna Streufert is a teacher and writer. Beginning in 1969, she wrote religion curriculum and adult Bible studies for Concordia Publishing House, including four LifeLight studies. Currently, she writes for Creative Communications for the Parish in Fenton, Missouri. In 2003, Donna and her husband Daniel founded the Women’s Leadership Institute at Concordia University Wisconsin, where she taught as an adjunct instructor in education for five years and served on the Board of Regents for twelve years.

For more great articles like the one you just read, explore the EQUIP page of our website. Get inspired to lead by reading through the ENCOURAGE page, then visit one of our campus EVENTS near you. Stay connected by following us on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.

Four Keys to Leading a Life-Changing Bible Study

By Sharla Fritz

“I know you’ll do a great job! I have every confidence in you!” the pastor says with a smile as he turns toward his office. As you watch him walk away, you wonder how he was able to talk you into this. Me? Lead a Bible study? I’ve never done anything like that before!

Before you panic, I’d like to share some simple principles that will help you fulfill your role as Bible study leader without stressing out. Guiding a Bible study group can be a very rewarding experience as you delve into God’s Word and develop relationships with your brothers and sisters in Christ. You will be helping others discover life-changing truths in God’s Word.

To enable you to serve God and fellow Christians, let’s look at four basic principles spelled out by the word LEAD: Look to God, Examine the Study, Ask Excellent Study Questions, and Direct the Discussion.

LOOK TO GOD

The most important thing you can do as a Bible study leader is to begin with prayer. Ask God for guidance and wisdom as you prepare. Pray over every detail of the study experience: Pray for:

  • wisdom in choosing the right study
  • the participants who will be in the group
  • guidance for your role as leader
  • time to adequately prepare for leading the study
  • God’s peace and love to be evident

EXAMINE THE STUDY

When you accepted the role of leader, the Bible study materials may have already been chosen. Of course, we can study the Bible with no other book but the Bible, but you might want to choose some published material to guide you. If you are responsible for choosing the study, consider the following elements:

  • Topical study or book of the Bible study.  What would best meet the needs of your group—a study that tackles a subject or issue of particular interest to the members? Or a detailed study of a book of the Bible? You might want to alternate between these two types of studies so that members can gain a deeper knowledge of Scripture and understand particular challenges to the Christian life.
  • Book only or video driven. Does your group enjoy the added element of a video lesson? Or would they rather have more time for discussion?
  • Doctrinal agreement. Examine the study for issues that might not agree with your church’s teaching. Minor disagreements might not disallow a study if it brings an opportunity for discussion on the subject. But you probably would not want to choose a study that contained basic doctrinal differences from your beliefs.
  • Length of study. If your study is to be completed in a prescribed amount of time, pay attention to the number of lessons.
  • Amount of homework. Some groups love to delve into the Bible between sessions and enjoy having extra questions and readings. Other groups are made up of members who don’t have time for extra homework.

After you have chosen the study, remember that as the leader you need to come to each session prepared. Do each lesson thoroughly and prayerfully. Most of all, study to see what God wants to teach you for your life. God’s Word is most importantly a tool for heart-change. Plus, when the others in the group see the leader applying Scripture to her life, they will be inspired to follow.

Next, study to present the material to your group. Find key lessons. Underline important points. Highlight probing questions.

ASK EXCELLENT QUESTIONS

Studying Scripture with a group of people allows you to gain their insights and life experience. We do this through discussion.

Examples of questions that encourage discussion:

  • Questions that ask How? or Why?
  • Questions that ask for personal reaction: What do you think about…” What stuck out to you in this passage? Why do you feel that way?
  • Questions that ask members to apply Scripture to their lives: What challenges you most in this passage?
  • Questions that link the reader’s experiences with the Bible story: When have you experienced this Scriptural principle?

Examples of questions that discourage discussion:

  • Questions with a yes or no answer: Is Genesis the first book of the Bible?
  • Questions that have only one right answer: What was the name of Adam’s wife?
  • Questions with an obvious answer: What was the name of the place where Adam and Eve lived?

DIRECT THE DISCUSSION

Even if you have a supply of excellent questions, you may run into some discussion potholes. One member of the group talks too much, someone else barely says one word. The discussion swings way off topic or you feel unqualified to answer a member’s honest question. Here are some tips for leading a lively discussion:

  • Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know” if someone asks a question you are unsure about. Promise to research the answer for the next meeting. Ask your pastor or consult some reference books in the meantime.
  • Try to get everyone involved in the discussion. Encourage quieter members by sometimes calling on them personally, “Amy, what do you think about question 3?” If someone, seems to be dominating a conversation, gently cut them off by saying something like, “Thanks for sharing Patty. Does anyone else have something to add?”
  • Allow time for personal sharing. A Bible study group is not just about improving our knowledge of Scripture. We also want to build relationships. You might include time for small talk and relationship building at the beginning of each meeting.
  • On the other hand, if the conversation veers totally away from Scripture gently bring the discussion back on topic. After all, the participants signed up for a Bible study.
  • Make allowances for life emergencies. If a member has suffered a tragedy or devastating experience do not feel you have to ignore their needs just to finish a lesson.

Enjoy the privilege of being a Bible study leader. The experience will help you grow in your knowledge of God’s Word as you prepare for each lesson. You will expand your people skills as you lead discussions and help members connect with each other. You will grow in faith as you pray for guidance. You will increase your capacity for love and compassion as you and your groups members share life’s ups and downs.

Learn and love as you lead.

Sharla Fritz is the author of three Bible studies: Soul Spa: 40 Days of Spiritual Renewal, Divine Design: 40 Days of Spiritual Makeover, Bless These Lips: 40 Days of Spiritual Transformation, and a study for teens: Divine Makeover: God Makes You Beautiful.

For more great articles like the one you just read, explore the EQUIP page of our website. Get inspired to lead by reading through the ENCOURAGE page, then visit one of our campus EVENTS near you. Stay connected by following us on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.

Meet Kristen Struyk, 2015 Streufert Award Recipient

Strength of character, compassion and determination. These qualities impressed WLI’s selection committee and led them to select Concordia University Wisconsin student, Kristen Struyk, as the 2015 recipient of the Donna J. Streufert Women’s Leadership Award. The award and a cash scholarship benefit young women in recognition of dedicated and innovative leadership.

Kristen struggles with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). She explained it this way: “RSD is characterized by constant, severe, burning pain, swelling, and hypersensitivity. Simple things like putting on socks or running water from the shower can cause tremendous pain. There is no cure but monthly nerve block injection procedures help keep the pain manageable.” However, Kristen’s struggle alone doesn’t set her apart; rather how Jesus Christ has shaped her character and put her to work. Kristen received three distinct nominations for the Women’s Leadership award. This speaks volumes about how others view her leadership.

According to Kristen, “Believe it or not, a smile and positive attitude are not my natural reactions to pain—they are hard-fought-for. Somewhere along the way, I’ve learned not to use my pain as an excuse for a sour attitude or bad behavior. Instead, God has managed to use it to help me develop sweetness, resilience, strength of character, and a heart to en-courage others.” Kristen has served as president of the CUW Psychology club, Nursing Home minis-try leader, peer leader for Psych 101, youth leader at Christ Church for third through fifth graders, and as a Direct Care resource for those with developmental disabilities and mental illness. In the midst of this, she has also found time to be an advocate on cam-pus for those who struggle. Kristen just completed her junior year in the CUW School of Nursing.

WLI Executive Director, Darcy Paape, had the privilege of presenting the award and scholar-ship to Kristen. “I feel honored to know Kris-ten,” says Darcy. “Spend an hour with her and you can-not help but leave feeling encouraged, inspired and humbled. It was my honor to present the Donna J. Streufert Women’s Leadership Award to such a candidate.”

We also wish to acknowledge applicants, Emily Marciniak, Morgan Brandt and Victoria Hildebrandt and our other nominees, Ellicia Wilder, Lindsey Weber, Sarah Harms and Stephanie Bonguard, and offer our thanks for their exemplary Christian leadership.


To learn more about WLI and what we have to offer, explore the EQUIP page of our website. Get inspired to lead by reading through the ENCOURAGE page, then visit one of our campus EVENTS near you. Stay connected by following us on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.