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.
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.
“Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvests, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest fields.” (Matthew 9:37-38)
Have you ever wondered how Jesus was so successful at making disciples who followed Him to the cross? Have you ever longed to be that charismatic leader who attracts others to your vision for ministry in your church? If you’ve found yourself identified with a job description that includes “Director of Volunteers,” you may quickly find it’s a formidable challenge. That’s why it’s important to understand what makes volunteers step up and stay connected to ministry both inside and outside of the church community.
In Matthew 20:28 Jesus said “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…” The heart of a volunteer leader must have the determination to love the Lord and then the willingness to work alongside others for the greater good. Jesus showed others how to make a meaningful difference in the lives of hurting, helpless, and unbelieving people.
JESUS SET THE EXAMPLE FOR LEADERS
“Come follow me, Jesus said, and I will make you fishers of men. At once they left their nets and followed Him.” (Mark 1:16-18)
Jesus built a ministry team made up of gifted individuals who would carry out His earthly mission and vision for the Kingdom of God. He recognized their potential and promised to make them “fishers of men.” They recognized Him as the wholly trustworthy God and followed His example. He demonstrated authenticity and integrity. Jesus knew the disciples would need education and encouragement before they were ready to serve, but the disciples stepped forward in faith and eventually grew to spiritual maturity. Jesus allowed them to take baby steps and knew they would flourish.
GIFTS AND STRENGTHS ARE KEY
Sometimes “giftedness” is very obvious and there is no doubt that a certain individual is the right fit for a ministry task. Other times gifts may require some assessment before being identified. There are many spiritual gift identifying tools available which are helpful to some extent. However, nothing is more reliable than trying a job “on for size” to see whether it ultimately brings joy and contentment. Potential volunteers might even shadow another volunteer for a first-hand experience to check out a task with “no strings attached,” followed by a self-evaluation to see if the ministry fits. Remind volunteers that their gifts and their progress in developing those gifts is a blessing from God.
For example, Sunday School teaching is a bit out of my comfort zone. It’s hard work that always requires preparation and rehearsal. But the spiritual growth, fun, and happiness brought to children far outweighs the task and ultimately provides me with meaningful satisfaction and valuable life lessons. When you think about volunteering as discipleship, it affords a wonderful opportunity to experience Christ by serving others.
HELP OTHERS FIND THEIR SWEET SPOT
Writing for Proverbs 31 Ministries, Ruth Soukup speaks about finding your sweet spot, meaning: “embracing the God-given talents you already have, rather than the ones you wish you had.” A sweet spot is that place where your most heartfelt passions and talents intersect. Ultimately “it’s that special place where we feel most called, that thing we love, that thing we’re great at that makes life worth living.”
According to Soukup, each of us has different gifts and they all come from God. Finding your “sweet spot” is sometimes a messy process. Fear of failure can deter volunteers from trying, but your role as leader is to reassure them that mistakes are part of the process and will help them to discover their identify in Christ. Above all, encourage potential volunteers to pray about finding the right place in ministry! Mobilize a prayer team to pray for the right people with the right gifts to join you in ministry.
RECRUITMENT IS FUNDAMENTAL
Recruitment is the most time-consuming aspect of volunteer leadership. It’s not uncommon for churches to have 20% of the membership doing 80% of the work at hand. Announcements in the bulletin or from the pulpit are rarely productive in terms of getting volunteers to emerge. A face-to-face invitation is usually more effective and requires a genuine expression of confidence in another’s ability to serve. It’s also helpful to make an interview appointment to get to know someone better before drafting them for a position.
Recruitment is not a sales job nor a desperate plea for help. It’s simply a way to ask someone to think about serving and finding their place in the church community. No volunteer job is a lifetime commitment. There’s always a chance to move on to something else that’s better suited to a person’s skills and abilities. However, just as volunteers need time to get better at what they do, aspiring leaders know that leadership is a long-term commitment because it takes time and experience to become competent.
Humor is another great way to promote the need for volunteers. Drama and videos announcing the need for VBS workers, greeters, etc. can go a long way to put potential volunteers in a good frame of mind while they think about volunteering to serve. Consider tapping into the careers of professional actors or performers in your congregation to help in this way. (Check out the video by The Skit Guys)
Ministry fairs or UServe events are additional ways to demonstrate and celebrate volunteerism in a community atmosphere. The goal is to let people know that serving can be fun and won’t be work in the sense of drudgery.
PROVIDE JOB DESCRIPTIONS
One of the obstacles to obtaining volunteers is that people do not understand what is expected of them. A simple job description is a helpful tool to explain the scope of work before they agree to take on a task. Jesus described the role of a disciple and provided instruction throughout the Gospels.
Job descriptions are best if they are not generic, but appropriate to the setting and situation. Make sure volunteers know the positive impact they will have on others’ lives. Ideally the job description encourages volunteers to pray before and after their time of service.
TEAMS THAT ARE PURPOSE-DRIVEN
Every ministry needs a mission statement and every team position requires a short purpose statement that supports the ministry. These statements need to be regularly reviewed, because over time the ministry will evolve from when you first started leading. No matter what, each team member is a contributor and works together toward the good of the whole.
Jesus recruited with a purpose because He was gradually building a team. He knew what His purpose was on earth and chose the right individuals with specific gifts to help fulfill His ministry. He knew the importance of blending talent and skills when forming teams and that engagement increases when leaders focus on volunteer strengths. Allow time between the initial “ask” and following up with a prospective volunteer. They will appreciate the opportunity to ask questions and raise concerns.
Follow Jesus’ example in recruiting people for ministry by displaying your trustworthiness. Discover the strengths of your volunteers and help them find their sweet spot. Help others find their place the church community. Remember the needs of the volunteers to know what is expected of them and their part in the greater purpose of ministry.
Volunteer leaders have a formidable job when it comes to recruiting people. However, the work becomes less burdensome when looked at as a partnership and a blessing.
About the Author: Linda Murdock is the Ministry Assistant at Living Water Church in Whitmore Lake, MI. Her job description includes Assimilation and Volunteer Recruitment along with responsibilities for administration, hospitality, publicity, and ministry planning. Linda is the Recording Secretary of the Women’s Leadership Institute and also serves on the Board of MOST Ministries (Mission Opportunities Short-Term). She and her husband Frank reside in Ann Arbor, MI where they have raised three children.
Ruth Soukup, “Finding Your Sweet Spot,” http://proverbs31.org/devotions/devo/finding-your-sweet-spot-2/
The Skit Guys, Church Announcement: Greeters, https://skitguys.com/videos/item/greeters
For more great articles like the one you just read, explore the EQUIP page of our website. Get inspired to lead by reading through the ENCOURAGE page, then visit one of our campus EVENTS near you. Stay connected by following us on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.