Influence

An Attitude of Gratitude – In Leadership and in Life

by Deb Burma

Today is a new day, and we have all kinds of expectations for it, don’t we? We’d like to think that our tasks will be completed with ease, our relationships will thrive, our health will be optimum, and all will be well. We’d like to envision the day’s contents packaged neatly and tied with a beautiful bow. (Then reality sets in!) As the day unfolds, we may be faced with struggles at work or conflict in relationships, trouble with health, or stress from an overloaded schedule. Our day may end up looking more like a package that’s been dropped in the mud or torn open haphazardly. The contents are spilled and our neat-and-tidy expectations have given way to a mess!

As Christian women seeking to lead and serve well in our homes, our workplaces, our communities, and beyond, we’re called to live a life of gratitude in our daily walk with Christ and with one another, and as we bear witness to the One we serve. How is this even possible in the midst of certain circumstances and especially on those days we might liken to a muddy mess?

By God’s grace, we can instill habits that cultivate an attitude of gratitude—in leadership and in life – on those neat-and-tidy packaged days AND in the midst of every muddy mess:

  1. Look for the Bless(ing) in the Mess

With God’s help, we can choose to see blessings in the midst of the messes in life. He enables us to shift our gaze from difficult or frustrating situations to the One who holds us and guides us through them. Not dismissing them or making light of them, but resting in His promises and receiving His strength to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for [us]” I Thessalonians 5:18.

We cling to the Truth of God’s Word in spite of feelings, fears, and the difficulty of the moment. For example: when we feel that a situation is out of control, we hold fast to the Truth that Jesus has everything under control (Hebrews 2:8).

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” Philippians 4:8.

We can ask ourselves: “In today’s situation, what can I give thanks for? What can I think about that is true, pure, lovely…?”

  1. Make a Choice to Rejoice! 

Let’s take a deep breath, then slowly exhale. (Go ahead…) See, God just gave you and me another breath on this new day of life – a simple reason to rejoice! “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” Psalm 118:24. What will we witness today if we’re watchful? Can we recall the refreshing time spent with a friend, the delicious foods we savor, the kind gesture from a stranger? May we take a closer look at God’s creation and marvel in one detail of it? We would be wise to consider His continual provision of our needs. Above all, we can rejoice in His free gifts of forgiveness and faith: Jesus is Lord and He is risen! We celebrate life in His name!

As Christian women seeking to lead and serve well in every area of life, we’re called to live a life of gratitude. How is this even possible in the midst of certain circumstances and especially on those days we might liken to a muddy mess?

We rejoice, too, as we remember God’s promise to work all things together for good (Romans 8:28). Whether we stare at a pretty package or a muddy mess today, let’s consider how the Lord may be working in and through it:

  • He may lead us to look to our Savior alone for life and peace – to the One who has overcome this messed-up world. (See John 16:33)
  • He may teach us to rest in His strength and not pretend that we can go it alone in times of trouble. (See Psalm 46:1)
  • He may use this to grow and mature our faith in Him. (See James 1:2-4)
  • He may work through us to leave a powerful, lasting influence upon someone, as she witnesses our trust and gratitude, even in the midst of a mess. (See 1 Corinthians 11:1)

Actively express thanks to God through creative expression: start a gratitude journal. Look for blessings, big and little, as a daily exercise in thankfulness, then list them in your journal, adding Scripture, images, and artwork, too. Record God’s provision and all the blessings in your life that come to mind.

  1. Gaze Upward and Outward: Inspire and Influence

In a world filled with naval-gazers, we’re called to look not inward, but upward…then outward. We live in grateful response to the Giver of every good gift (James 1:17), with our gaze upon Him as we follow His lead. Then – by His grace – we get to impact the world for Christ right in the midst of our circumstances, even the muddy, messy ones. Through our influence, we can “…make the most of every opportunity.” Colossians 4:5

In all we say and do, we have the opportunity to inspire others with a message that reveals a life of gratitude in Christ: (1) For who we are, chosen and redeemed in Him. (2) For all we have, received from His hand. (3) For all we are becoming, as we continue to be molded in His image and grow in our life of leadership and service.  We inspire gratitude in others as we live it and express it freely (even in the midst of a haphazardly-opened, muddy-messy package-of-a-day).

We can ask ourselves: “How can I lead with a spirit of gratitude in this situation? What kind of influence may my growing gratitude have on the people God is placing in my life?”

As the Founder and Perfecter of your faith (Hebrews 12:2) continues His good work in you (Philippians 1:6), ask Him to help you see the blessing in the midst of every messy circumstance. Seek His strength, that you can make a choice to rejoice. Fix your eyes on Him, making the most of the next opportunity (and the next…and the next…) to inspire and influence others through your attitude…of gratitude!


 

Deb Burma is a member of Speakers Bureau and a sought-after speaker for women’s conferences, retreats, and leadership workshops. She is the author of Christian-living books, Bible studies, and devotionals, published by CPH. Deb is grateful for Jesus’ redeeming love, for her husband and children, and for the opportunities each new day presents, guided by God’s grace!

Attending a WLI Conference Created a Networking Opportunity for Emily Marciniak

Emily Marciniak

I attended my first WLI conference in September 2015 at Concordia University Ann Arbor. I wasn’t too familiar with WLI at that time so I did not know what to expect. The conference ended up being more than I could have ever wanted, I had the opportunity to hear from speakers of all ages dealing with issues that I face everyday, I met some incredible mentors, and shared fellowship with other conference goers.

Then, I was asked to serve WLI as a website developer for the new WLI website. It has has been a tremendous learning experience and networking opportunity. I am thankful to have served in this capacity and to have helped such a worthy organization.


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.

How to Share Jesus with People of Other Cultures

By Marilyn McClure

Imagine wandering around in a foreign country on a rainy night, not knowing where you are going, not even knowing how to speak the local language.

This is exactly what happened in 1970 when my husband Garry and I were sent to learn Spanish in Cuernavaca, Mexico, so that we could serve as missionaries in Guatemala. Our plane landed in Mexico City, and a pastor was to pick us up and take us to Cuernavaca, which is about 50 miles away. There was a mix-up in schedules, so we were told to take a taxi. We had no Spanish language skills, and our cab driver had very limited English. By the time we arrived in Cuernavaca, it was dark and raining. Our cab driver, who was unfamiliar with the town, asked directions to the pensión where we were to stay. People consistently provided directions, but none of them were correct. After about two hours of searching, we ended up at the edge of a field where cows were grazing. Finally, my husband spotted a car with a Michigan license plate in front of a house. He asked the taxi driver to stop. Garry went to the door, and explained our dilemma in English to the visiting U.S. family. They communicated to their family members who got in their car, asked us to follow them, and guided us to the street and house for which we had been searching. What a relief!

Our initial reaction to this experience was one of anger and frustration. However, later in analyzing why people had given us directions if they didn’t know where the place was, we were told that it would have been impolite for them to say that they didn’t know. In their culture, that would have been interpreted as not caring, especially on a rainy night when someone was asking them for help. So they gave us directions to the best of their abilities, even though they themselves were not quite sure of the location. They wanted to show us that they cared.

People who are from different cultures, but are now living in the United States, have similar experiences every day. In the past, multicultural populations were primarily found in border towns, coastal cities, or in pockets of large cities in our country. However, over the past few years we find people of different cultures scattered throughout the nation. Some are refugees; others may be from families that have immigrated to the U.S. to find a better life. Some may have been here over a generation, but they still identify with people from their own country or those who follow their cultural practices and speak their language.

The question is: How do we relate to people of other ethnicities and cultures and share the love of Jesus with them, especially if they don’t speak our language?

We need to be honest and accept that there are challenges when we try to communicate and work with people cross-culturally. Sometimes the cultural differences impede our ability to understand each other and work together. Because of the differences in our backgrounds, we cannot take for granted that we understand their behavior nor that they understand ours. Most of all, it is important not to judge other people’s words and actions until we understand the motivation behind them.

I could give a whole series of lectures on intercultural learning, awareness, and effectiveness, beginning with the importance of being aware and understanding our own culture first and how others see us. I could also talk about the danger of attributing stereotypes to people who come from a specific country or cultural group. All of that is important, and very helpful if we hope to be effective in interacting with people of another culture. Knowing their language adds to our ability to communicate with them, but sometimes God puts them in our lives before we have had a chance to do any preparatory study about culture and language.

When that happens, here are some simple tips:

BE SINCERE

When you want to befriend someone from another culture, be willing to invest the time and energy it takes to get to know each other. If you invite the person to join you in an activity at church, offer to pick her up and accompany her when you arrive at the event.

Introduce her to your friends, sit by her, so that she knows your intention is to be her friend.

PLAN ACTIVITIES THAT ARE NOT LANGUAGE-BOUND

If you are planning an event to which you will be inviting an ethnic group, it is a good idea to arrange activities that are not dependent on understanding the language. For instance, it will be easier for your ethnic friends to pack health kits for the homeless, which they can do alongside of you, than to expect them to go to a workshop or lecture that would require that they understand English well. If you are planning some time alone with your “friend,” a visit to the zoo where you can take your children along with you would be more desirable than going to a mystery movie.

HAVE CONVERSATION STARTERS IN MIND

If you are going to invite ethnic women to an event at your church, like a Mother’s Day tea, some good conversation starters might be talk about your childhood homes. You might talk about favorite holidays or celebrations in your respective countries. Ask questions like, “What makes you feel most proud when you think about your community or your country?” or “What were some of your favorite foods as a child?” Choose topics that allow everyone to contribute, regardless of where they grew up.

LEARN A LITTLE ABOUT THE CULTURE

Sometimes cultural stereotyping can be useful. For example, if you know that German people generally are punctual, you would want to make sure that you are on time when meeting a German friend. In Latino culture, that may not be the case, so you might need to be prepared to wait while your Latino friend finishes getting ready to go with you. However, whatever the culture, people are individuals, so it is important never to assume that an individual is exactly like the stereotype of her culture.

DON’T FORGET PRAYER

Always remember to pray for your new friend and ask God to bless your time together. If you sense there is confusion about something that is said or an activity taking place, ask the person if there is a problem, and assure her that you care about how she feels.

Each person, regardless of her ethnicity or culture, is a redeemed child of God. May your world be expanded, and may you find blessing in getting to know new friends from around the world!

About the author: Marilyn McClure is an educator by profession and, since 1969, has worked alongside her husband in Hispanic ministry in Guatemala and the US. In recent years, Marilyn worked with the Gospel Outreach Committee of Lutheran Women’s Missionary League (LWML) to help establish the Heart to Heart Sisters program, that intentionally reaches out to women of all cultures to assure their participation in the mission of the LWML and the church-at-large. The McClure’s have three loving adult children and six wonderful grandchildren. Marilyn says that she is truly blessed to serve at this time on the Education Committee of WLI.

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.

Servant Leadership: Recruiting Volunteers

“Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvests, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest fields.” (Matthew 9:37-38)

Have you ever wondered how Jesus was so successful at making disciples who followed Him to the cross? Have you ever longed to be that charismatic leader who attracts others to your vision for ministry in your church? If you’ve found yourself identified with a job description that includes “Director of Volunteers,” you may quickly find it’s a formidable challenge. That’s why it’s important to understand what makes volunteers step up and stay connected to ministry both inside and outside of the church community.

In Matthew 20:28 Jesus said “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…” The heart of a volunteer leader must have the determination to love the Lord and then the willingness to work alongside others for the greater good. Jesus showed others how to make a meaningful difference in the lives of hurting, helpless, and unbelieving people.

JESUS SET THE EXAMPLE FOR LEADERS

 “Come follow me, Jesus said, and I will make you fishers of men. At once they left their nets and followed Him.” (Mark 1:16-18)

Jesus built a ministry team made up of gifted individuals who would carry out His earthly mission and vision for the Kingdom of God. He recognized their potential and promised to make them “fishers of men.” They recognized Him as the wholly trustworthy God and followed His example. He demonstrated authenticity and integrity.  Jesus knew the disciples would need education and encouragement before they were ready to serve, but the disciples stepped forward in faith and eventually grew to spiritual maturity. Jesus allowed them to take baby steps and knew they would flourish.

GIFTS AND STRENGTHS ARE KEY

Sometimes “giftedness” is very obvious and there is no doubt that a certain individual is the right fit for a ministry task. Other times gifts may require some assessment before being identified. There are many spiritual gift identifying tools available which are helpful to some extent. However, nothing is more reliable than trying a job “on for size” to see whether it ultimately brings joy and contentment. Potential volunteers might even shadow another volunteer for a first-hand experience to check out a task with “no strings attached,” followed by a self-evaluation to see if the ministry fits. Remind volunteers that their gifts and their progress in developing those gifts is a blessing from God.

For example, Sunday School teaching is a bit out of my comfort zone. It’s hard work that always requires preparation and rehearsal. But the spiritual growth, fun, and happiness brought to children far outweighs the task and ultimately provides me with meaningful satisfaction and valuable life lessons. When you think about volunteering as discipleship, it affords a wonderful opportunity to experience Christ by serving others. 

HELP OTHERS FIND THEIR SWEET SPOT

Writing for Proverbs 31 Ministries, Ruth Soukup speaks about finding your sweet spot, meaning: “embracing the God-given talents you already have, rather than the ones you wish you had.” A sweet spot is that place where your most heartfelt passions and talents intersect. Ultimately “it’s that special place where we feel most called, that thing we love, that thing we’re great at that makes life worth living.”

According to Soukup, each of us has different gifts and they all come from God. Finding your “sweet spot” is sometimes a messy process. Fear of failure can deter volunteers from trying, but your role as leader is to reassure them that mistakes are part of the process and will help them to discover their identify in Christ. Above all, encourage potential volunteers to pray about finding the right place in ministry! Mobilize a prayer team to pray for the right people with the right gifts to join you in ministry.

RECRUITMENT IS FUNDAMENTAL

Recruitment is the most time-consuming aspect of volunteer leadership. It’s not uncommon for churches to have 20% of the membership doing 80% of the work at hand. Announcements in the bulletin or from the pulpit are rarely productive in terms of getting volunteers to emerge. A face-to-face invitation is usually more effective and requires a genuine expression of confidence in another’s ability to serve. It’s also helpful to make an interview appointment to get to know someone better before drafting them for a position.

Recruitment is not a sales job nor a desperate plea for help. It’s simply a way to ask someone to think about serving and finding their place in the church community. No volunteer job is a lifetime commitment. There’s always a chance to move on to something else that’s better suited to a person’s skills and abilities. However, just as volunteers need time to get better at what they do, aspiring leaders know that leadership is a long-term commitment because it takes time and experience to become competent.

Humor is another great way to promote the need for volunteers. Drama and videos announcing the need for VBS workers, greeters, etc. can go a long way to put potential volunteers in a good frame of mind while they think about volunteering to serve. Consider tapping into the careers of professional actors or performers in your congregation to help in this way. (Check out the video by The Skit Guys)

Ministry fairs or UServe events are additional ways to demonstrate and celebrate volunteerism in a community atmosphere. The goal is to let people know that serving can be fun and won’t be work in the sense of drudgery. 

PROVIDE JOB DESCRIPTIONS

One of the obstacles to obtaining volunteers is that people do not understand what is expected of them. A simple job description is a helpful tool to explain the scope of work before they agree to take on a task. Jesus described the role of a disciple and provided instruction throughout the Gospels.

Job descriptions are best if they are not generic, but appropriate to the setting and situation. Make sure volunteers know the positive impact they will have on others’ lives. Ideally the job description encourages volunteers to pray before and after their time of service.

TEAMS THAT ARE PURPOSE-DRIVEN

Every ministry needs a mission statement and every team position requires a short purpose statement that supports the ministry. These statements need to be regularly reviewed, because over time the ministry will evolve from when you first started leading. No matter what, each team member is a contributor and works together toward the good of the whole.

Jesus recruited with a purpose because He was gradually building a team. He knew what His purpose was on earth and chose the right individuals with specific gifts to help fulfill His ministry. He knew the importance of blending talent and skills when forming teams and that engagement increases when leaders focus on volunteer strengths. Allow time between the initial “ask” and following up with a prospective volunteer. They will appreciate the opportunity to ask questions and raise concerns.

Follow Jesus’ example in recruiting people for ministry by displaying your trustworthiness. Discover the strengths of your volunteers and help them find their sweet spot. Help others find their place the church community. Remember the needs of the volunteers to know what is expected of them and their part in the greater purpose of ministry.

Volunteer leaders have a formidable job when it comes to recruiting people. However, the work becomes less burdensome when looked at as a partnership and a blessing.

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

Resources

Ruth Soukup, “Finding Your Sweet Spot,” http://proverbs31.org/devotions/devo/finding-your-sweet-spot-2/

The Skit Guys, Church Announcement: Greeters, https://skitguys.com/videos/item/greeters

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

How to Influence Others Without Saying A Word: A Skill-Building Drama about Mary of Bethany

MARY OF BETHANY: A WOMAN OF INFLUENCE
By Donna J. Streufert

LEADERSHIP IS INFLUENCE. Exemplary leadership is influence worthy of being imitated. Throughout Scripture we can find stunning examples of exemplary leadership. One example in the New Testament reveals a woman who speaks not one word, yet by the power of the Spirit and God’s gift of faith, displays exemplary leadership.

That woman is Mary of Bethany.

PRESENTING MARY’S STORY IN A NEW WAY
One way to access the message of Mary’s example is simply to read the biblical account. Yet God gifts us with our senses so we might absorb the message in a variety of ways. The arts, music, drama, dance, for example, reach our hearts and minds on several levels. WLI offers a resource using dramatic speech, pantomime, enactment to convey the story of Mary’s exemplary Christian leadership.

This dramatic resource presents two short scenes in the New Testament where Jesus is with Mary of Bethany. Other actors in the scenes are the onlookers. They have something to say, too. And they have much to learn. Think of this
presentation as a readers’ theater where a Greek Chorus tells the story with the help of a couple of other characters. The chorus guides the narrative, explains what’s happening, and adds information.

This resource WLI offers might be used as part of the program at a women’s meeting, retreat, or conference, or as a chancel drama for an entire congregation. It is important that the presentation be followed by thoughtful discussion.

The link below will take you to the narrator’s introduction, the dramatic script, and questions to use for group discussion.

LEAD BY INFLUENCE
We have our Lord’s blessing to learn, grow and step out to influence attitudes about women’s service in the church. The main point of this resource is this: Women lead by influence and Jesus approves. Jesus’ seal of approval links action to text and memory. 

Blessings on your commitment to lead others to Christ through exemplary Christian leadership.

Click here for Skill Building Drama about Mary of Bethany

About the author: Donna Streufert is a teacher and writer. Beginning in 1969, she wrote religion curriculum and adult Bible studies for Concordia Publishing House, including four LifeLight studies. Currently, she writes for Creative Communications for the Parish in Fenton, Missouri. In 2003, Donna and her husband Daniel founded the Women’s Leadership Institute at Concordia University Wisconsin, where she taught as an adjunct instructor in education for five years and served on the Board of Regents for twelve years.

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