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Christian Women in Leadership: Gloria Nelund

Gloria Nelund has been blessed with a life characterized by great success is business and constant, faithful service to her Lord with her God-given talents and abilities. 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 Chairman & CEO of TriLinc Global, an impact investing firm that she founded three years after her “retirement” from a 26-year career on Wall Street in the global asset management business. While she doesn’t hold a formal degree, she did study Elementary Education at the University of Dayton and graduated from an Executive Program at the University of Virginia, Darden School. Gloria is also a speaker at the upcoming WLI National Conference where she will lead a workshop on “Letting God Lead.”

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

What’s the favorite part of your job?  

Solving problems and helping people.

How would you define Christian leadership?

Being called by God to a position of influence and then using that influence to do what you were called to do in the best way possible, and through it all, showing God’s love to others through your relationships and interactions with them.

How do you bring your Christian values into your work?

It’s how I live my life. From 2005 – 2007, I was on what I call my “wilderness journey.” During that journey, I had time to dive deep into Bible study and really reflect on my business life. And one of the things I realized is that my Christian values are what actually defined how I worked my whole life.  Literally, all the things that made me successful, all my “lessons learned,” the things I would give talks about, all had their root in the Bible. Every single one of them. So, my Christian values are reflected in everything I do.

The other “aha” I had is that there is a difference between “evangelizing” in the workplace and living out your Christian values at work. Every day, I strive to live a life that honors God. Sometimes that includes sharing my faith with someone God has put on my heart and sometimes it is just working hard, solving problems and helping people.

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

Absolutely. In 2005, at the age of 44, following a very successful 26-year career on Wall Street, I retired because I really felt there must be some other purpose for my life. I was ready to take on the world—I was on a mission to find my purpose and finally live out my “calling.”  And, for the next three years I worked hard to discover that purpose. I joined several women’s Bible studies, participated in Half Time training/discovery, taught a bible study, read everything I could find about finding your purpose and even took the Master’s Program for Women. I call it my “wilderness journey” because I really felt that I was lost in the wilderness. I was frustrated that God wasn’t using me for some great purpose.

And then, one day, as I was quietly listening to the Lord (instead of complaining), He told me to invite a close friend to Bible study, which ultimately led her to accepting Jesus as her Lord and Savior. In the months that followed, I started wondering if that was actually my purpose in life. Finally, I felt like God was asking me, “What if that was your only purpose for being here, to be there at just the moment she needed an invitation to Bible study. Will that be ok with you?” I’ll be honest, I struggled with it for a while, and it wasn’t until I was truly ok with it, where I could honestly say “my life was definitely worth my friend coming to know Jesus,” that God began to show me a bigger purpose for my life.

The Lord began to demonstrate to me that business was my calling. All along my job had been my mission field and over a period of about three months, I randomly began to hear from former colleagues and business associates whose lives I had touched in my career, that I never knew were watching me.  I was never an evangelist but I’ve also never hidden my faith. If someone asked, I was more than delighted to talk about it, but, most of the time, it was just how I lived my life and conducted business.  And even though at the time I didn’t know it mattered, I feel very blessed to learn that it did.

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

It really doesn’t. I live out my faith in my life every day in every setting. Early in my career, I adopted three principles that I would follow all of my life: I would work really hard; I would solve problems; and I would help people. The first meant that when I finished an assignment I would look for another one. I was always asking for more to do. It was much later in my career when I realized that not everybody did that! In the second one, I found that I enjoyed making processes efficient, finding a better way to do something. And in the third area, I found joy in making other people successful.

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

“And whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord and not for men.” Colossians 3:23

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

Daily time with God and in the Word. In the hectic pace of business, it is easy to get caught up in the trappings around you: to lose perspective. I find that I need to take time each day to get centered, to gain a larger perspective, and to reconnect with purpose and goals that are bigger than me. Many people think they are too busy to do this, but I have found it essential.

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

I love answering this question because it is not what anyone would expect me to say, but, my best advice is to find a really great husband. I could never have done all that I’ve done without a really great husband—one who has supported me, encourages my walk with the Lord, who takes care of everything at home, and proves incredible emotional support. I probably didn’t appreciate it as much as I do now, but I have to say it’s what I know allowed me to be stable and just continue doing what I did. 


Gloria Nelund spent 30 years on Wall Street as one of the most successful and visible executives in the international investment management industry.   After retiring from Deutsche Bank as CEO of their $50 billion North America Private Wealth Management division, she co-founded TriLinc Global; an investment firm dedicated to launching and managing innovative impact investment funds that will exponentially increase private capital participation to help solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges. For more from Gloria, check out her article, Business as a Calling.

Pressure Points – 2017 WLI National Conference – Milwaukee, WI

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

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

 

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

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: 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: 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).

Conquering Nervousness to Unleash your Full Speaking Power

by Sarah Holtan, Ph.D.

Do you like to talk? If so, then you possess the potential to become a dynamic public speaker. It’s true! Yet, you might find that your nerves steal your power.

When we feel threatened, our bodies typically react in one of three ways: flight, freeze, or fight. Many of us experience the flight and/or freeze modes when asked to present publicly. We may find excuses not to present (flight). Or, we may become extremely nervous about the presentation and our carefully-prepared words seem to fall right out of our heads (freeze).

Symptoms of Nervousness

Perhaps you’ve experienced some of the following common physiological symptoms of nervousness: dry mouth, shaky knees, trembling voice, red skin blotches, or excessive sweat. The good news is that most people do not detect your nervousness. The other piece of good news: the worst of the symptoms typically subside after thirty seconds of speaking.

You probably know exactly how your body responds when you speak publicly so take measures to counteract the specific symptoms. For example, if you suffer a dry mouth, suck a mint beforehand as well as bring water. If you get shaky knees, wear pants. If you get a blotchy neck and chest, wear high-neck clothes or a scarf. If you sweat too much, wear black, navy, or white colors. Breathing techniques to slow your heart rate are also recommended.

Strategies to Conquer Your Nerves

Being prepared for the presentation and passionate about the topic are two easy ways to help offset the nerves. Pick a topic that you get naturally jazzed up about. If you’re assigned a topic for which you have little knowledge or enthusiasm, ask the coordinator to adjust the topic. If you’re stuck with it, request to co-present. That will take the pressure off you having to become an expert on the topic.

If you are a novice speaker, you will want to try a progression approach to build skills and confidence. First, try some low-stakes public speaking, such as volunteering to read material during a Bible study, church service, or meeting. Next, find opportunities where there is a moderate amount of psychological risk. Examples include facilitating a meeting, co-presenting, praying aloud at a group event, speaking to a group of much-younger people, or speaking to a very small, informal group. Young people and small groups don’t seem to “threaten” us as much. Now you’re ready for the formal, structured public speaking events. Until you are a more advanced speaker, consider reducing the amount of self-disclosure offered in a speech. Sharing private information (e.g., history of abuse or trauma) can make us feel more vulnerable, which results in higher anxiety levels.

Specific Techniques

Assuming you’ve conquered your nerves enough to focus on your delivery, let’s turn to the most common pieces of advice I offer to beginner speakers.

Verbal Techniques:

  • Let your natural enthusiasm for the topic carry your pitch, tone, and inflection.
  • Speak to the back of the room or the person farthest away to project voice.
  • Breathe normally to regulate your pace; what seems like a long moment to catch your breath is not really very long to an audience member.
  • Minimize “um’s” and other fillers by using pauses judiciously. If you use fillers in everyday conversation, you will use them more in speeches.
  • No reading and no memorization. Use your notes to jog your memory only.

Nonverbal Techniques:

  • Maintain eye contact with each person for 2-3 seconds.
  • Use your hands for natural gestures or rest lightly on the table/podium.
  • Ground the four corners of your feet firmly and hip width apart. Stand or sit up straight to project confidence.
  • Use movement with purpose and to burn excessive energy. Avoid swaying, though.
  • Use a PowerPoint or another visual aid to draw staring eyes away from you. (Warning: Technology will fail you when you need it most, such as on Presentation Day, so be sure to have an old-school back-up plan ready.)
  • Match your wardrobe to the formality of the event and the seriousness of your topic.

Even after you’ve had experience speaking, and mastered the basic verbal and nonverbal delivery techniques, it is natural to feel nervous. You can harness that nervous energy by embracing it. To an audience member, nervous energy just looks like energy.

Think of speech as a gift from God. We have a responsibility to use it for the service of our neighbors.

When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5  NIV)

We may stumble over our words, but the power of God never stumbles.


Come to the WLI National Conference in Milwaukee on September 29 – October 1 to hear Sarah’s presentation—Speaking 101: Delivery that Delivers


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.

God is the Writer – You Are His Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Take the risk!”

“Don’t live in regret.”

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Be Energized by GEMS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

 

Three Creative Ways to Outline a Life-Changing Presentation

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

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

Well-organized speeches are:

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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

THE ROAD TO BECOMING A CONFIDENT LEADER

THE ROAD TO BECOMING A CONFIDENT LEADER, Saturday, Sept. 17

READ THE EVENT RECAP AND TAKEAWAYS.

Join us for a fascinating discussion with internationally acclaimed author and speaker, Susan A. Marshall, on building confidence as a leader. Learn how to grow in strength and confidence by identifying critical thinking skills that can help you navigate challenges and opportunities.  This event is open to the public, so register online today.

Registration for The Road to Becoming a Confident Leader with Susan A. Marshall is $25 for adults and $15 for students (with valid student ID).  Deadline to register is Monday, September 12th.  Meet us at 8:30am on September 17th in Albrecht 114-Terrace Room at Concordia University Wisconsin.  This event is open to the public.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER ONLINE

Share your enthusiasm for this event on FACEBOOK and TWITTER using the hashtag: #WLIconfident

 

Event Speaker

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Meet our event speaker Susan A. Marshall

Susan A. Marshall is author, speaker and Founder of Backbone Institute, LLC whose mission is to create a stronger more confident future one person or team at a time. She is author of internationally acclaimed, “How to Grow a Backbone; 10 Strategies for Gaining Power and Influence at Work,” as well as “Life. Be in it” and “Of Beauty and Substance: A Backbone Guide for Women.” Susan designs and facilitates leadership development workshops for public, private and non-profit institutions globally.

Key Take-Aways:

-Explore my journey so far and discover important lessons
-Learn a practical definition of Confidence
-Identify what Critical Thinking is—and is not
-Develop my unique development Action Plan
-Learn why Feedback is my best friend, even when it scares me

MORE INFORMATION REGARDING ONLINE REGISTRATION AND PAYMENTS:

ONLINE REGISTRATION for this event is easy and secure.  If you are unable to register online, please EMAIL or CALL US and we will help you successfully register.  For your convenience, through our online registration form, we offer a variety of payment options for this event:  You can pay securely online using a credit card, mail us a check, or pay cash or check at the door.  Checks should be made payable to Concordia University with "WLI workshop" in the memo line.  If mailing the check, the address is:

CUW: Concordia University Wisconsin
ATTN: Darcy Paape
12800 N Lake Shore Drive
Mequon, WI 53097

We ask that all mailed checks arrive at the above address no later than Friday, September 9th.  Thank you!

WLI is proudly joined by the following sponsored to bring you this event:

LCEFSouthWisc


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.

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

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

To access Part 1 of this series, click here.

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

Donna: Here are my steps for preparation:

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

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

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

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

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

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

HOW DO YOU HELP GROUP MEMBERS FEEL COMFORTABLE IN SHARING? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

HOW HAS LEADING BIBLE STUDIES CHANGED YOU?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to read Part 2 of this article!

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

Four Keys to Leading a Life-Changing Bible Study

By Sharla Fritz

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

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

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

LOOK TO GOD

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

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

EXAMINE THE STUDY

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

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

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

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

ASK EXCELLENT QUESTIONS

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

Examples of questions that encourage discussion:

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

Examples of questions that discourage discussion:

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

DIRECT THE DISCUSSION

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

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

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

Learn and love as you lead.

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

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