Forgiveness

Christian Women in Leadership: Rachel Morton

For Rachel Morton, an important part of being a Christian leader is recognizing our own fallibility and need for God’s grace as we lead others in Christian love. 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 Rachel Morton, Assistant Worship Director at St. John’s Lutheran Church in West Bend, WI. Since July 2012, she has spent her time directing choirs, writing worship services & school chapel services, overseeing traditional worship services and the groups that serve in them, and overseeing the women’s retreat committee. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Parish Music (double emphasis in piano and organ) with a Theology Minor and a Master of Church Music (emphasis in choral conducting) from Concordia University Wisconsin.

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

What’s the favorite part of your job?

I love the relational aspect of my job (and that my job allows me the time and opportunity to be relational). Working with people isn’t always the easiest thing in the world, but it’s so rewarding! I love walking with people through the joys and struggles of their lives, even if it means walking them through conflicts. I love watching them have these “light bulb moments” when they can personally connect with what it means to be a loved and forgiven child of God and the impact that has not only on their service within worship ministry and the church, but also the impact it has on their relationships with family and friends and co-workers and the impact it has on how they live their lives. There’s nothing better than watching someone know and feel God’s love and getting to be a part of that journey with them!

How would you define Christian leadership?

Christian leadership is both leading AND following. It means humbling ourselves to follow God’s will (to love Him and serve Him with all that we are and to love our neighbors as ourselves) and then leading people to follow it as well (and to come back to it when they stray). It means leading with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control, and realizing that when (not if, but when) we fall short, there is a time and place to practice repentance and forgiveness. Christian leadership is leadership with integrity that leans hard into God’s grace and love at all times and in all circumstances.

How do you bring your Christian values into your work?

You would think that working in a church would make it much easier to live out Christian values, but that isn’t always the case. The church is full of sinful, imperfect people just like anywhere else, and I am definitely one of them! I bring my Christian values into the workplace when I acknowledge that I personally need to practice daily repentance and forgiveness, to speak the truth in love (even when it’s hard or met with opposition), to respect the authority of those I work under even when I don’t agree with them (and to refrain from criticizing them when I don’t agree), and to be a godly team member and not a “glory hog.” The Lord knows I don’t do any of this perfectly, but I try to be a person of integrity and to be consistent in living out my values; they should be the same whether I’m at home or at work.

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 remember struggling part of the way through college with what I actually wanted to do with my life, which was strange because I’ve known since I was 12 that I wanted to pursue music as a career and since I was 15 that I wanted to pursue a calling to serve as a church musician. I struggled through a lot of personal issues and life circumstances that made me wonder if music was where God was calling me. I thought I might be better served to change my major and go into counseling or even social work because I felt this strong pull toward a profession that would allow me to help people. I sought advice from people who I knew cared deeply for me and who would support me in whatever decision I made, I spent time in prayer and in God’s Word, and in the end I had to just trust that God would guide me to where He wanted me.

I finished my degree in church music, and then the time came for some big decisions: 1) to continue on in school to get my masters in church music, 2) to go to St. Louis to get a degree in deaconess studies with a counseling emphasis, 3) to pray for a call to take me home to Texas, or 4) to accept the call that was coming in from St. John’s in West Bend (WI) to be their Assistant Worship Director. After a lot of prayer, I felt a pull to follow God’s call to St. John’s, and I have been so blessed in that decision. It has not always been my ideal and every now and then I do wonder if this what I’m supposed to do for the rest of my life, but I do know that right now I am blessed. I have learned and grown so much as a leader through my job, it gave me the opportunity through proximity to complete my masters in church music at CUW, and allowed me to see that I don’t need a counseling degree to be able to help people through the trials in their life (and it’s put me in a position to do that). It wasn’t easy to trust God each step of the way, but I am glad that He led me down the path that He did.

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

I don’t think that working in a religious setting changes HOW I lead as a Christian, but it definitely heightens my awareness that people watch to see how Christians lead (both inside and outside of religious settings). If nothing else, working in a religious setting helps to keep me accountable to my Christian values.

Who are your biggest role models as a leader?

I look up to people that I can see making a difference in the world or an impact for the Gospel of Christ (coincidentally, some of them are women that are speaking at the Gifted to Influence Conference or were highly involved in putting it together!). That is something that I hope and pray that I am doing or am able to do one day.

On a more personal front, my mentor from age 14 to now, Martha Garmon, has been the biggest role model in my life. When I was younger she modeled a strong work-ethic that helped drive me through high school and college. She modeled respect for my parents and those in authority, she modeled integrity in her job (as a worship director for our church) and in her personal life, and now as an adult/peer she continues to model all of those things as well as what it means to be a godly wife, mother, sister, friend, and what it means to be a woman of Christian influence. I owe so much of my character and value development to her!

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

Two scripture passages come to mind when I think about my values as a Christian leader, and I cannot really choose between the two.

The first is my confirmation verse (that has become my life verse): “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses all knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17b-19). This verse reminds me of what my foundation is: the love of Christ that makes me a part of the kingdom of God. God’s love is something that fills my heart and life to overflowing and influences everything that I do. It’s a reminder of what I am working for: to spread the love of Christ that I have been privileged and blessed to know!

The second verse is one I find myself turning to when I wonder what God’s will for my life is or when I’m faced with difficult decisions (both as a Christian and as a Christian leader). “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it,” (Isaiah 30:21). No matter what I may be facing in life, I need to trust that God is leading and guiding and working things out for the good, even when I can’t see what that is yet.

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

I think having Christian mentors, leaders, pastors, and teachers to look up to during my “formative years” prepared me the most to be a Christian leader once I entered the workplace. Really, those people (men and women) prepared me to be not only a Christian leader but also a “decent human being,” if you want to think of it that way. They modeled Christian living as something that affects all aspects of my life, not just my leadership.

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

I think fatigue (physical and emotional/mental) is one of my biggest challenges to face in Christian leadership. I don’t think any of us should ever underestimate the impact that our words and actions—our leadership—can have on the lives of those we interact with every day. At the same time, being so aware of the people around us and then trying to figure out how to meet their needs can be tiring (or even exhausting) after a while. So it’s been an important part of my leadership to have “safe places” where I can go to talk through my thoughts or my feelings as they relate to leadership. Those conversations are usually reserved for my mentors or for colleagues who are experiencing a lot of the same issues. It’s just important to have a place of support (where I can both receive and give it) to help combat the fatigue that could lead to burnout.

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

Don’t ever try to go through life alone. Leaders especially need people in their lives to give them moral and physical support, to hold them accountable, to pray for and with them, and to remind them that they don’t have to be “perfect” all the time. If we’re being transparent, I don’t know what I would do without those ladies in my life with whom I can laugh and cry and talk about anything. Sometimes we just need someone to “be real” with so we can continue to be encouraged for the tasks that God has given us to do.

Conflict – Something Happened, Now What?

by George McAllen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Christian Women in Leadership: Susan Marshall

Susan Marshall has one piece of advice for Christian leaders in a secular world: stay true to God’s Word. Read on…

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

To find out, we caught up with Susan Marshall, Founder of the Backbone Institute. Their tagline is “Never grow a wishbone where a backbone ought to be,” and their mission is to create a stronger, more confident future one person or team at a time.  She holds a B.S. in Management and an MBA from Stritch University. Susan is also a speaker at the upcoming WLI National Conference where she will lead a workshop on Developing Confidence in MY Ability to Influence.

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

What’s the favorite part of your job? 

Seeing people grow—their energy and excitement is contagious!

How would you define Christian leadership?

Having the courage to live as God commands in a world that shuns Him and His message. Having the strength to encourage and comfort others who struggle with worldly demands and feel woefully inadequate.

How do you bring your Christian values into your work?

Patiently. Consistently. Joyfully. There is greater power in invitation and acceptance than in judgment and condemnation. We are all human. We all struggle and fail. Since we have been forgiven for EVERYTHING we have messed up, we can offer forgiveness and acceptance to those who have hurt us.  Our open arms are a radical invitation to change.

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?

The past two years have been full of family challenge. Dad passed in August 2016. Mom passed this June. I was assigned Power of Attorney in the Estate Trust they created in 1997. My decisions for their treatment and living arrangements were soundly criticized and challenged by siblings, who had little involvement and who have abandoned “religion.” God’s promise to be with me always was enormously comforting. The seven months we had with Mom here provided time to convince her that God wasn’t waiting for her to do “one more good thing” that would assure her safe arrival in heaven. We were blessed.

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

The past two years! My professional work was almost entirely set aside to care for Mom and Dad. As a single, independent professional, I had no idea how I was going to keep up with mortgage and monthlies. God provided and has now opened new doors for work.

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

Being a Christian leader in a secular setting demands quiet and consistent courage. Reading God’s word, reflecting on secular values and why they do not matter to me, and letting go the things of this world are all daily disciplines. It is difficult to stay true to God’s plan without coming across as holier-than-thou or painfully naive. Resisting the judgment/assessment of others is a constant challenge.

Who are your biggest role models as a leader?

Paul, David, and Abraham. There are few today, which points to an enormous opportunity for us!

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

Jeremiah 29:11. I can come up with plans and strategies, but I’ve learned to relinquish them to God’s will. I can become upset with the world’s judgment of my work and the work of other Christian women, but God’s thoughts are not our thoughts; His ways are not our ways. He HAS plans for each of us. Our job is to trust Him.

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

Conflict. Struggle. Failure. I have had to fall hard in order to appreciate God’s power. Sad, but true!

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

Scorn and ridicule by the intellectual elite. They tell me believing in God is superstition; trusting His will is irresponsible and lazy.

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

Be strong. Stay true to God’s Word. Find people to support you. Ignore social pressure. LEAD.  he world needs you more than ever!