Flexibility

Christian Women in Leadership: Connie Denninger

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

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

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

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

What’s the favorite part of your job?                      

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

How would you define Christian leadership?

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

How do you bring your Christian values into your work?

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

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

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

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

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

Who are your biggest role models as a leader?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christian Women in Leadership: Gretchen Jameson

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

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

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

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

What’s the favorite part of your job? 

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

How would you define Christian leadership?

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

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

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

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

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

Who are your biggest role models as a leader?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christian Women in Leadership: 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.

Workplace Connections: The Blessings and Challenges of Being a Millennial and Working With One

By Rachel Morton & Rebekah Karolus

Generational studies are all the rage right now. Over the past five years in particular, people have spent a lot of time speculating about the differences between generations and what impact those differences have on social, economic, and religious levels. At the moment, one of the most talked-about generations—in both positive and negative ways—is the millennial generation (our generation). Millennials are defined as anyone born between the year 1980 and 1997 (give or take a year or two depending on the study). Most recently millennials made headline news as they officially surpassed the baby boomers as the largest (by population) living generation in the United States!

You may be asking yourself, “What does this information have to do with the workplace or with ‘workplace connections’?” Well, at some point in your life you will find yourself sitting across the interview table from a millennial. You might be the one hiring or you might be the one hoping to get a job. In either of those situations, it would be helpful to know a little bit about the generation you will be working with in order to create a more positive work environment.

The thought of working with millennials might actually be something that worries you. After all, we’ve all heard the stereotypes about them: they’ve been called the “me, me, me” generation, lazy, entitled, self-obsessed, and even narcissistic. Who would want to work with someone like that? However, they also have been given some positive stereotypes. People have called them open-minded, generous, self-expressive, upbeat, definitely tech-savvy, and passionate about social causes. We promise…they aren’t all as scary as you might think!

So let’s get real. Have you ever wondered if there is any truth behind the stereotypes about millennials? Have these stereotypes positively or negatively affected your desire to ever work with this generation? Do you think these stereotypes affect the millennials’ abilities to work with other generations and vice versa? Have you ever wondered what stereotypes about older generations might be affecting the millennials’ desire to work with them? And at the end of it all, what kind of example are we setting for future generations by letting different stereotypes affect how we all work together?

Regardless of whether or not any of the stereotypes are true, the fact that they exist has already affected the ability of different generations to work together. Each generation already has a pre-conceived idea about the other. In some instances that has helped workplace connections, and in others it has hurt them. Regardless of your generation, we can all benefit from the perspective of different generations in the workplace. Better perspective allows us to more effectively connect with and support one another, creating a healthier work environment. How do we gain this perspective? By talking together.

Rachel Morton is a graduate of Concordia University Wisconsin’s Master of Church Music program, serves as Assistant Worship Director at St. John’s Lutheran Church in West Bend, Wisconsin. She directs all traditional worship services and musical groups, serves as primary organist, collaborates in the writing of school chapel services, and oversees the Women’s Retreat Committee.

Rebekah Karolus is a graduate of Concordia University Wisconsin with a degree in both Theology and Lay Ministry. She currently serves as the Director of the Sr. High Youth Ministry, College Ministry, Young-Adult Ministry, and Women’s Ministry at St. John’s Lutheran Church in West Bend, Wisconsin. 

Come to their presentation, “Workplace Connections: The Challenges and Blessings of Being a Millennial and Working with One” at the Gifted to Influence Conference in Milwaukee, WI September 29 – October 1. There you will gain valuable perspective on generational differences as well as some practical tools that you can use right now within your various vocations to help strengthen your workplace connections.

Conflict – Something Happened, Now What?

by George McAllen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

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.