Character

Christian Women in Leadership: Connie Denninger

For Connie Denninger, being a Christian leader is all about taking every opportunity to assist others on their journey and approaching new tasks with authenticity and humility. Read on…

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

To find out, we caught up with Connie Denninger, Co-founder of Visual Faith Ministries and long-time friend and supporter of WLI. She holds an AA from Concordia College, Ann Arbor, a BA in Home Economics Education from Valparaiso University, a Master’s in Secondary Education from Indiana University, and a Master’s in Church and Community Leadership from Concordia University, Chicago. She is also speaking at the upcoming WLI National Conference where she will lead a workshop on Living as a Deployed Digital Missionary.

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

What’s the favorite part of your job?                      

Discipling others who disciple others and looking for every opportunity to equip the laity for Gospel sharing experiences.

How would you define Christian leadership?

Christian leadership involves the continual learning process of engaging others in your circle of influence to establish relationships that allow you to relate to the culture but always with Kingdom views.

How do you bring your Christian values into your work?

A challenge is to live the same “real” life in the public realm while managing the values of always being: available, affirming, accountable, and authentic.

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

I think this would be my story just about every day. The goal is to find enough light shed on the path for just the very next right step and then trust. I am thinking especially about the decision to go back to college for a Master’s degree at age 51.

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

We live in a rather sheltered “Christian bubble” sometimes, and my work with Visual Faith Ministries keeps me connected there, but with all sorts of possibilities to intersect with those who do not yet know Jesus.

Who are your biggest role models as a leader?

I have been blessed to have some wonderful spiritual mentors in my life. Two women “ahead of me” a bit, Lola and Rae, have been deeply nurturing supporters of my own spiritual formation journey.

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

Repeatedly in the past few years I keep coming back to Esther 4:14b, “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

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

I believe that not having the needed skill set has always kept me humble and in learning mode. This time of discomfort allows the Lord to lead and having little monetary resources for my vision has caused me to be creative.

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

Form a team of others willing to learn along the way and don’t let the questions stop you from moving forward; then pray hard.

Christian Women in Leadership: Gretchen Jameson

Gretchen Jameson strives to live a life fully immersed in her Christian identity so whether she is leading or taking the lead, she is guided by God’s work in her life. Read on…

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

To find out, we caught up with Gretchen Jameson, Senior Vice President of Strategy and University Affairs at Concordia University Wisconsin. She holds a B.S. in Education from Concordia University Nebraska, a M.A. in Public Relations from Webster University, and is currently working on her doctoral degree at the University of Southern California. Gretchen is also a speaker at the upcoming WLI National Conference where she will lead a workshop on Living a Life of Radical Influence.

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

What’s the favorite part of your job? 

People. People. People. Relationships make the world go ‘round. It’s ALL about the people: those I lead, those I encourage, and those I serve.

How would you define Christian leadership?

In the strictest sense, Christian leadership is that leadership tethered to Kingdom mission, but my hunch is that’s not what this question is asking. Here’s a provocative consideration: I once heard a baptized statesman, who serves our country at the highest levels, say that there’s “no such thing as Christian leadership. There’s just excellent leadership. And there’s no such thing as Christian business. There’s just ethical business.” He was not trying to diminish the faith, but rather he was challenging us to think carefully about applying the Christian label to manmade terms. If we want to define ‘Christian leadership,’ isn’t that just any leadership done by Christian people? As a baptized child of God (a Christian), my leadership is simply defined as the very best I can bring into the contexts to which God leads me, where I use the unique talents and giftedness He has granted me to their fullest extent.

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

That’s tough, because faith is my baptism identity and its core teachings are bedrock, so it’s hard to imagine a specific time when who I am created to be, by God’s grace, all the time took the lead. BUT I could tell you infinite stories where my sinful self has unfortunately come to the forefront. I think as women leaders who are Christ-followers, it’s that daily battle with our “old Eve” that wars for our mind and spirit. The temptation to lead from a position of power, prestige, or entitlement can corrupt so swiftly!

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

Certainly! Many times. I don’t know that I would consider God’s plans “bigger,”—my life and leadership are hardly center stage events—and I also don’t subscribe to a view of God’s work in my life as sort of steering me along a set path (which defeats our Lutheran theology of the free will), BUT what I have come to see throughout my ministry and my career is that God’s purpose is worked out in every and all circumstances. Have I taken the pass on a big opportunity and seen it work to His purpose? Yes. Have I made a major leap totally uncertain of the outcome and watched Him make something incredible out of the experience? Absolutely. BUT, and this is the critical thing, in every instance, I could have opted for the other path, chosen door ‘B’ instead of door ‘A’, and I am certain He would have worked beauty in that, too. God graces our lives with a bounty of options. When we are fervent in our walk, and close to Him through Word and sacrament, He blesses us with discernment. What a freeing truth!

Who are your biggest role models as a leader?

Women, of both large influence and minor opportunities alike, who overcome adversity to solve problems, shape communities, and make their world a better place for their children and their neighbors.

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

I am a Christian, who happens to be in a position of leadership. My career journey has certainly forged me to lead well. My identity in Baptism is as close to me as my own DNA. I wouldn’t know how to lead apart from that core.

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

Begin with humility. Assume that every encounter into which you are led, every individual you are blessed to impact, every assignment you complete, and every project you launch is an opportunity to serve, to learn, and to grace that moment. When we begin with humility, we recognize the myriad of teachers and experts around us, and we are led to lead with greater and greater depth and purpose.

Gretchen Jameson currently serves as Sr. Vice President for Strategy and University Affairs at Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor, Mich. Gretchen, her husband, Leon and their two young daughters reside in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Christian Women in Leadership: Wendysue Fluegge

Wendysue Fluegge is a Christian musician who in all things strives for confidence, humility, and a connection to God’s Word.  Read on…

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

To find out, we caught up with Wendysue Fluegge a musician who heads her own ministry as speaker and traveling worship leader.  A graduate of Concordia University Wisconsin, Wendysue has been the worship leader for the past two WLI National Conferences.

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

What’s the favorite part of your job?

Here are a few of my favorite things: enhancing spiritual relationships with God and His people through songs, connecting with churches all over the country, enjoying the freedom of my own scheduling, and the blessing of travel.

Who are your biggest role models as a leader?

The women in my life growing up were strong leaders. My sister, mom, aunt, both grandmas, and my mother-in-law are all women of faith with good decision-making skills and concern for others. They all display great confidence yet are humble. And they all have a love for God’s word.   I realize now what a beautiful and rare gift that was – and still is!

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

“Do not think of yourselves more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment in accordance with the faith God has distributed… “Romans 12:3

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

Since I am in ministry, some of the challenges I face personally and that I see in others are 1) pride, 2) apathy, 3)  false expectations of shared faith values, 4) saying the wrong thing or being too zealous and appearing judgmental or self-righteous, and 5) temptation to go through the motions of worship without really engaging the heart.

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

Stay connected to the word of God!  Be consistent and obedient in nurturing your own spirit.  Get connected to others who have the same goal of faith growth.   Practice your bold words and actions.  Stay thankful and fully aware of God’s presence at all times.

Gifted to Influence – 2017 WLI National Conference – Milwaukee, WI

When you invest in leadership skills, so many others benefit! 

The Women’s Leadership Institute has created a conference packed full of faith and leadership training workshops and we hope you join us!  The church needs more than just servants; it needs Christ-centered servant leaders

This weekend Christian leadership conference is interactive, practical, and the skills are transferable into your church and work life and includes five workshops, world-class main speaker Gloria Nelund and top-notch Bible study leader, Gretchen Jameson. 

Don't wait to register!                                         

Need more of an incentive?  For every five women who register in a group, the sixth is free.  Just email Darcy Paape at wli@cuw.edu for details.

FIVE REASONS TO ATTEND #WLIGIFTED

1: You are a leader and an influencer.  Let WLI equip you to make a difference.

Whether you are in corporate management or a stay-at-home parent, God has called you to have influence on the people around you, right where you are.  With twenty workshops on faith and leadership development, we are certain you will leave encouraged and equipped for the work ahead.

 

2:  You'll learn skills you can immediately apply.

In the workplace. In your marriage. In your friend and family relationships.   Our workshops will be practical and interactive.  Be ready to learn from each other as well as those sharing up front.

 

3: It's an incredible value at only $174!

You have the ability to choose five workshops from over twenty dynamic, hands-on, and in the field speakers from all over the country.  The fact that you can use our super-secret discount code* to save $25.00 means it will cost you only $174. The price jumps up July 9, so register today for the best pricing.

 

4: Your friends said you should.

Sometimes the best part of an event are the connections you make.  You will be learning alongside women who also want to develop their skills in a Christ-centered environment.  Make some new friends, find or be a mentor, and leave inspired.

 

5: There is nothing more powerful than getting a room full of women who love Jesus together and discovering ways to better influence to world for Christ together!

Join us at the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee September 29-October 1st. We have a seat saved for you, so be sure to register soon!

gifted-to-influenceGifted to Influence
2017 WLI National Conference

September 29 @ 4:30pm - October 1 @ 12:00pm
Hyatt Regency in Milwaukee, WI
$199 general public/$75 undergrads

Featuring Gloria Nelund, Gretchen Jameson and 20 engaging workshop sessions! Be encouraged, educated and equipped to use your gifts to serve Christ in a complex world.

  • Plenary Speaker Gloria Nelund
  • Bible Study Leader Gretchen Jameson
  • Up to 5 Workshops of your choice
  • Access to the WLI National Conference Exhibitor Hall
  • Friday night Program & Dessert
  • Saturday Lunch
  • Saturday Dinner and Entertainment by Comedienne Leslie Norris Townsend
  • Sunday Worship with Musician Wendysue Fluegge

HOTEL INFORMATION

The WLI 2017 National Conference is located inside the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee.  For your convenience, we have secured a block rate for king and double queen rooms at the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee.  Book your room(s) early to ensure you are included in this block rate.  Rooms are $119.00 a night,  $20.00 for each additional person per room.  Included with reservation is one breakfast voucher for each paid guest to be used in the Bistro 333 in the lobby.  Hotel guests will be responsible for parking fees. The cutoff date for reserving a block rate room is September 12, 2017.

Hyatt Regency Milwaukee
333 West Kilbourn Avenue
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA, 53203
Website: https://aws.passkey.com/go/Concordia2017
Phone: 1-888-421-1442

Additionally, WLI and Concordia University Wisconsin are proud to present Pressure Points, a forum to discuss the challenges of Christian leadership in the secular workplace.

pressure-points-logo

Pressure Points
September 29 9:00am - 3:00pm
Hyatt Regency Milwaukee
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
$99 general public / $35 undergrads

Designed for both men and women Christian professionals and college students, the Pressure Points event will tackle four topics where workplace expectations and responsibilities can create pressure points.   Four experienced speakers will share their personal journeys of being a Christian professional in corporate and public life and share tips for navigating the grey areas when Christian values and workplace expectations don’t always reconcile.   Each topic will be followed by reflection time, interactive table discussions with like-minded professionals, and online discussion boards for further connection and engagement.

The topics include: Letting God Lead, We Are More than Our Job Titles, Conflict Management in the Workplace, and Bring your Whole Self to Work.

Participants will also receive lunch and refreshments and have to walk through our exhibitor tables and connect with other organizations that support Christian professionals in the workplace.  This will be an event you do not want to miss!  Click through to see the schedule, speaker bios and topic descriptions.

Women, you can also register for our Women’s Leadership Institute Conference Gifted to Influence beginning Friday evening and receive a discount for participating in both events!

  • Christian business leaders share how to lead and influence in the secular workplace
  • 4 Ted Talk-style presentations with small and large group discussion
  • Admission to the WLI National Conference Exhibitor Hall
  • Buffet lunch and refreshments

Best Deal
Pressure Points & Gifted to Influence

Friday, Sept. 29, 9am - Sunday, Oct. 1, 12 noon
$224 general public / $85 undergrads

Combine Pressure Points with the Gifted to Influence 2017 National Conference for a full weekend of connections, encouragement, and practical tools and resources for Christ-centered service and leadership.

  • Pressure Points Christian leadership forum all day Friday
  • Gifted to Influence National Conference Friday afternoon through Sunday morning
  • Meals, workshops, networking, social opportunities, and exhibits
  • Attend both for a full weekend of connections, encouragement, and practical tools and resources for Christ-centered service and leadership!

Visit our DONATE page if you would like to support this conference planning through our Crowdrise fundraising campaign.  The first $10,000 donated has been matched by the Siebert Lutheran Foundation.

Use #WLIgifted to share your excitement on social media!


 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.

Intentional Influence through Writing

by Peggy Kuethe

Words are transformative.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First, you write.

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

Second, you publish.

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

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

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

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

Christian Women in Leadership: Dr. Tamara Ferry

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

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

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

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

What’s the favorite part of your job?

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

How would you define Christian leadership?

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

How do you bring your Christian values into your work?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who are your biggest role models as a leader?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christian Women in Leadership: Janelle Fuhrmann

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

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

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

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

What’s the favorite part of your job? 

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

How would you define Christian leadership?

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

How do you bring your Christian values into your work?

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

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

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

Who are your biggest role models as a leader?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Being an Assertive Christian Woman

By Ruth Koch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conflict – Something Happened, Now What?

by George McAllen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Christian Women in Leadership: Sarah Guldalian

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

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

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

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

What’s the favorite part of your job? 

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

How would you define Christian leadership?

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

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

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

How do you bring your Christian values into your work?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who are your biggest role models as a leader?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Living a Life of Radical Influence

by Gretchen Jameson

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

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

That’s not such a bad goal.

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

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

But:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christian Women in Leadership: Pat Maier

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

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

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

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

What’s the favorite part of your job?

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

How would you define Christian leadership? 

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

How do you bring your Christian values into your work?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who are your biggest role models as a leader?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christian Women in Leadership: Linda Arnold

How do you incorporate Christian values in a secular setting?

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

How do you bring your Christian values into your work?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christian Women in Leadership: Deb Burma

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

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

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

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

What’s the favorite part of your job? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Four Ways to Beat Burnout

by Gretchen Huesmann

Tired. Weary. Exhausted.  Sometimes we’re just having a busy day. At other times, we experience seasons of hard work and long hours. Unfortunately, not all labor produces obvious fruit and we can feel like we’re spinning our wheels, a common feeling in ministry. Obviously, if our path is leading to burnout, something has to give.  It’s time to take a step, even if we’re dead on our feet.

1.  Step Back

Sometimes we just need to take a STEP BACK –  a break, a hiatus, or a vacation. How many people really take a day off or a true Sabbath rest? I know I’m guilty of dragging work home with me on a regular basis. Jesus Himself set a better example when He said, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place to get some rest.” (Mark 6:31)

Or perhaps a longer respite is required, such as a sabbatical. This is trickier, but may be necessary for clarity, health, and rejuvenation.  My husband and I have friends who recently embarked on a 6-month sabbatical. This step was not an easy one for them or their workplaces. However, the alternative, to continue the downward spiral toward burnout, was not a welcome option.

2.  Step Aside

At other times, the Lord may be calling us to STEP ASIDE. Could it be that God has something else in mind for us or less in mind for us?  Maybe it’s time for someone else to run the Sunday School or plan VBS. I know a woman who has led the same Bible study group for 30 years! She’s very proud of that. Yet I can’t help but wonder how many potential leaders have missed out from her unwillingness to step aside.

3.  Step Away

Perhaps a bigger step is needed, a STEP AWAY. Any kind of change is daunting, especially a career change. It requires prayerful consideration, conversations with family, and searching God’s Word for direction. It takes courage and clarity and a whole lot of trust. Recently, a friend left his job to start his own construction business, a bold move to be sure, but a God-directed and God-inspired one. He has a new bounce in his step.

4.  Step Up

One last option is to STEP UP.  Is God calling you to press on? To lean into the work, not with your own strength, but with His power?

Paul describes this in Philippians 3:13-14, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ.”  And in Colossians 1:29, “To this end I labor, struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me.”

Noah pressed on to build the ark, despite the dry weather. Moses pressed on with the Egyptians behind and the Red Sea ahead. Jesus stepped up when He prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me, yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)

What step do you need to take? Proverbs 4:26a says, “Give careful thought to the paths for your feet.” If exhaustion is leading you on a path toward burnout, carefully, prayerfully consider your next step. Know that our God will lead you.

Gretchen Huesmann loves to connect women with God’s Word through Bible studies, retreats, and blogging.  Since little people are her other joy, she also teaches 4K. Gretchen lives in Jackson, Wisconsin. You can find her blog at www.gretchenhuesmann.com.


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, INSTAGRAM and TWITTER.

Christian Women in Leadership: Sarah Holtan

The secrets to Sarah Holtan’s leadership success: Integrity, citizenship and the Dream Team. Read on…

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

To find out, we caught up with Sarah Holtan who is the Chair of the Department of Communication at Concordia University of Wisconsin. Sarah has been at CUW since 2001 and has held numerous roles there. She holds a B.A. in Mass Communication and Political Science from Augsburg College, and M.S. in Education for CUW, and a Ph.D. in Journalism Education from Marquette University. Sarah is also a speaker at the upcoming WLI National Conference where she will lead a workshop on Speaking 101: Delivery That Delivers.

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

What’s the favorite part of your job? 

I love developing curriculum, energizing class discussions, mentoring, career counseling, and inventing fun “side” projects completely outside my job description.

How do you bring your Christian values into your work?

Integrity: Via role modeling; and holding myself, peers, direct reports, and students accountable to expected standards.

Citizenship: Integrating current events into course curricula.

Service: Offering short-term service learning projects in a few courses; serving on many committees; and nearly always saying yes to special requests, tasks, and duties.

Work Ethic: A disposition of gratitude toward my professional vocation; being willing to roll up my sleeves and do the work.

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

I was the Dean of Students for several years at CUW and the Chief Conduct Officer. I had to make many tough decisions. One of the toughest types of decisions was whether a student had to be removed from a resident hall or the University following a serious violation. I had to weigh the rights of the individual student and the concept of forgiveness against the rights of the community and the concept of consequences. As such, I often relied on my values of integrity and citizenship. I don’t know if I got all the tough decisions right but I’m hopeful that God was able to use any mistakes for something good.

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

I’ve worked in both settings and they do seem different. Perhaps I am more thoughtful about how my decisions affect others now that I work in a religious context. My success seems secondary to others now. However, age and maturity might be the key contributors to becoming more other-centered. It’s important that Concordia prepares students to be Christian leaders wherever they work, regardless of the setting.

Who are your biggest role models as a leader?

I am blessed to have a peer group that has supported and helped me grow professionally. We call ourselves the “Dream Team,” although no one else has adopted that moniker! Our similarities drew us together and aided in our bonding. Our differences challenge us and spur growth.

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

Ironically, it was the creation of an in-house, faith-based leadership program for faculty and staff at Concordia. A colleague, Prof. Tracy Tuffey (Psychology Department) and I developed the program from scratch. We created a proposal, pitched it to the higher ups, secured funding, generated buy-in from participants and administrators, organized the logistics, facilitated the sessions, assessed the program, and turned it into a research project. Prof. Tuffey and I simply wanted to fulfill a perceived need on our campus. No one asked us to do this nor compensated us. It’s actually been an enormous energizer for me at work. It’s also taught me a lot about having an original vision and seeing it through, despite the obstacles. I believe vision and perseverance are two hallmarks of leadership.

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

I’ll answer the same way I’ve heard others answer: the scrutiny of being a Christian. It seems to be held against us at times. It’s quite impossible to be perfect and people watch us very carefully! I have found that when I try to defend my Christian perspective (e.g., consequences along with forgiveness), I just end up sounding defensive. That is something I am working on.

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

Fight the Good Fights. Ask yourself a few questions to discern the difference between Good and Bad Fights. Does justice need to be served? Does a person or a cause need advocacy? Is this project/task/duty worthwhile personally or professionally, even if there is no recognition or compensation? Would you still take this project/task/duty on, even if creates a headache or full-blown backlash? Could you defend yourself with evidence? If you took your ego out of the equation, would you still engage in this conflict? If you “lose” the fight, can you turn the “loss” into a valuable lesson? I don’t mind a good loss. It can ease my conscience, serve others, and possibly even build some credibility and trust along the way. Ideally, it paves the way for change in the future. Sounds counter-intuitive, but that’s been my experience.

Attending WLI Workshops gave Katelyn Schneider Confidence to Lead Nursing Home Ministry Program

Katelyn Schneider

As I reflect on the last three years of my college experience and growing leadership skills, I feel the culmination of many small teaching moments have been molding my character little by little to form a steadfast servant for Christ. Servant leadership is a concept I’ve immensely matured in since freshman year and I can honestly say intentionally living my life for others continues to transform my heart every day. Even though I have a busy schedule, the various roles I am able to participate in rarely feel like work and it has been refreshing to watch God shine through the acts of service my peers and myself complete. I never imagined heading into my senior year I would be given such unique opportunities to serve God and live out my vocation!

Leading nursing home ministry taught me how to communicate better with others, plan events to meet multiple requests or suggestions, and exercise a new level of leadership autonomy that was unfamiliar to me.  Even on evenings when I would have rather done homework instead of going to the nursing home, God never failed to prove me wrong that it was worth my time to visit the residents. The residents’ sweet smiles, witty comments, and wisdom of enduring the highs and lows of life taught me something new each week. I frequently left feeling as if they had served me more than I had served them. The residents and the nursing staff often remarked how much they looked forward to our weekly visits and that we visibly brightened their day.

Besides what I began experiencing sophomore year with Nursing Home Ministry, I am blessed to witness the outcomes of my services in my other roles as well. I’ve seen two homes be built with Habitat for Humanity, homeless people fed on the streets of Milwaukee with Street Team, and the glow on audience members faces after performing touching music with the Wind Ensemble. Nursing school has not been an easy feat academically so when I have the chance to encourage some of the younger, struggling students through my SI position I feel honored to be the tool God chooses to work through in small non-formal conversations. Receiving appreciation e-mails from the students and seeing them develop the confidence to in turn help teach their fellow peers who need help has been an extremely rewarding part of the job.

Outside of holding direct leadership positions, I think my character has developed simply from being able to quietly watch, learn, and put into practice the enriching examples of what it is like to be a Godly, professional, and extremely compassionate woman that has been modeled by Concordia’s staff and faculty.  My list of role model women who “I want to be like someday” continues to grow. I am so thankful for the ways God has placed specific people in my life throughout college who have made this campus feel like home and keep me actively pursuing God, even when it is difficult. I owe many of my gained leadership qualities to those women.

Additionally, as God has opened my heart to servant leadership, He has reassured me that my quieter sometimes shy demeanor is not a character flaw but rather the way God designed me to uniquely serve Him alone. My yelling voice may not carry across an entire room, but my heart screams for Jesus and I try my best to convey his love to everyone who crosses my path. I have learned to value the more quiet confidence He granted me and I look forward to meeting the people God continues to write into the story of my everyday life. So, even if I am not at a specific service event, I now appreciate the service of the simple yet significant act of knowing someone’s name, giving them a little smile in the hallway, and conveying to them that they are loved by God.

Looking to the future, I intend to continue developing as a servant leader by first, being aware of what opportunities God calls me to while taking time to seek out those in need of hearing the Gospel message. I did not develop my current leadership skills overnight and know that I still have a lot of growing to do. I am far from perfect. I am attempting to be more diligent about spending time in God’s word and hope He will reveal more to me through scripture. As I begin my CMLT presidency I plan to continue participating in WLI workshops and have loved the speakers I’ve heard this year including the confident leader workshop. I have been blessed on this leadership journey so far and trust God will only continue to work things for good if I remain faithful to Him.


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,  INSTAGRAM, and  TWITTER.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.