Diplomacy

Women in Christian 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.

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.

How to Deal with Challenging Volunteers

By Karen Kogler

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

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

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

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

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

1. Prepare

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

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

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

3. Follow up

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

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

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

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


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

Servant Leadership: Motivating Volunteers

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

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

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

INVEST IN TRAINING

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

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

APPRECIATION IS ESSENTIAL

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

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

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

EXPECT MISTAKES WILL HAPPEN

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

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

ORGANIZATION IS A MUST

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

PARTNER WITH PEOPLE

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

Resources

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

Jim Wildeman, “Recruiting Volunteers Like Jesus Did

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

Related Resources

Click here to learn more about Spiritual Gifts Assessment.

Click here to learn more about Equipping Volunteers.

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

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

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.