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.
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