Influence

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.

Intentional Influence through Writing

by Peggy Kuethe

Words are transformative.

Recall Genesis 1 when God spoke the universe into existence, and Genesis 3:15 when He spoke the promise of a Redeemer. Recall John 2:1-11, when Jesus spoke the water into wine and 1 Peter 1:3 where He gives us new life in Him. God’s words have immeasurable transformative power.

Language is an intentional gift from God. He also intends for us to use words to communicate with Him and with others.  It is the foundation of our relationships.

You are fashioned in the image of a creative God. He gives you words and language, a mind and a heart and a voice. Along with that comes the desire to connect with others, to establish community, to form social bonds. Perhaps, as you do, you feel compelled to share a message, to communicate from your Spirit-inspired point of view. Sometimes a few words via Twitter or Facebook just aren’t enough. You want more space to express your thoughts, to tell your story. You want … to write a blog or a book or a Bible study!

Our words cannot do such miraculous things as transforming one thing into another thing or to give life where there is none. But they have transformative, intentional power. One of the most exciting ways you can influence others is through the written word made public. Thanks to technological advances and the Internet, publishing has never been easier. If you want to publish, you can.

Perhaps you’ve heard that eight out of ten people say they want to (or “should”) write a book. It sounds so simple. Write it. Publish it. Check that off your bucket list.

On the surface, it really is that simple. Scratch that surface though, and things begin to get a little complicated. Writing can be tedious. Publishing can be difficult. And selling—that’s a real challenge.

Eight out of ten say they want to publish, but how many do it? If just one person gets it done, why not let it be you? After all, the Holy Spirit may be nudging you. Your best friend is encouraging you. The members of your Bible study group are asking you. But where do you begin?

First, you write.

  • Every writer discovers a process and a work style that, well, “works.” An hour first thing every morning. One day a month sequestered with the computer. Midnight the day before a deadline. Something in the middle is more likely. Find what suits you and stick with it.
  • Decide what to write and who you are writing to.
  • Edit. Revise. Repeat. (A few writers get it perfect the first time. Most don’t.) (Don’t even ask me how many false starts I made while writing this short article!)

Second, you publish.

  • Make an informed decision between traditional publishing and self-publishing.
  • Market, promote, and sell. The work you do after you write, regardless which publishing route you choose, is key to getting your message out there, to making it public. (See the second bullet point above.)

I’m writing this on a Monday. Yesterday, one of our communion hymns was “Take My Life, and Let It Be.” The third stanza brought to mind all of you: “Take my voice, and let me sing / Always, only, for my King; / Take my lips, and let them be / Filled with messages from Thee.”

As Christian writers, we have the responsibility—and the joy—of filling our messages with the hope, peace, mercy, comfort, and truth that are Christ’s own Gospel. Let us serve Him with our talents and our words!

Peggy Kuethe is the Senior Editor of Women’s Resources and Children’s Books at Concordia Publishing House. Peggy has worked in the publishing industry since high school (if you count the yearbook and student newspaper, that is). In the years since, she has worked as a newspaper reporter, periodicals editor and writer, marketing copywriter, and book editor.

Christian Women in Leadership: Janelle Fuhrmann

Janelle Fuhrmann’s leadership style stems from this idea: Don’t be afraid to live out your Christian faith in the workplace. 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 Janelle Fuhrmann, Managing Partner Northeast Wisconsin and Upper Peninsula of Michigan Region for Thrivent Financial.  Janelle has worked her way up into her current leadership position during her 30 years with Thrivent. She holds a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, her CFP from the College for Financial Planning in Denver, CO, and her CHFC from the American College of Financial Services in Bryn Mawr, PA. Janelle is also speaking at the upcoming WLI National Conference where she will lead a workshop on Finding Spiritual Peace in Christian Leadership.

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

What’s the favorite part of your job? 

Encouraging and training our financial advisors to approach planning with their clients with a different point of view that links faith and finances together and leads people to be more generous in their lives.

How would you define Christian leadership?

Modeling Christian values in both your personal and work life to help and motivate others on their faith journey.

How do you bring your Christian values into your work?

We pray before meetings and I let people know I’m praying for them during difficult times. We highlight activities within the workplace that foster sharing and generosity with others.

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 had some circumstances the last couple of years that made me question whether I wanted to continue in my leadership role, but God’s plan seemed to be steering me to stay. What I thought might be a time to do something different turned out to be a reawakening in spirit and a sign to continue the leadership journey where I’m working currently.

Who are your biggest role models as a leader?

I would say my entire family, from my parents to my brothers to my husband of 24 years.

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

For God has not given a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.  2 Timothy 1:7

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

My upbringing and being raised by parents who led with Christian values.  My dad was the mayor of our town and had a passion to help the community.  In addition, my parents sent my brothers and myself to a parochial school that helped instill Christian values.

I also have the benefit of working for an organization (Thrivent Financial) that helps people live out their values by linking faith and finances together.

My husband and I try to live out our faith in our community.  We have tried to instill the importance of these values to our children.

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

Don’t let fear stop you from carrying out your purpose in God’s plan. Remember that fear doesn’t come from Jesus; Jesus came to make us brave!

Living as a Deployed Digital Missioner

by Connie Denninger—Visual Faith Ministries

Social media tools have become a part of our everyday life. How do we create the time and space for engagement that makes sense with all the things that juggle for our time? Part of the plan is to understand the niche for the story that we have as bearers of the Gospel message. This world is hungry for the hope that we have and social media tools bring us the means to share that Good News. We can use tools that are cost-effective—basically free, reach the world from our living room, and offer places of encouragement and even discipleship.

There is a spot for everyone. There are content creators and curators. Then the cheerleaders like, pin, and share. All three positions are necessary and everyone can hold multiple roles. Perhaps your niche is as educator: women’s ministry or Christian leadership in the workplace. In the amazing versatile role of women, we also serve as wives, sisters, mothers, and grandmothers and that brings more areas of passion and experience. What could we do to leverage the social media choices to bring framework to Christian parenting and impact the Lutheran school parent? What if a staff shared the task to bring the best insights, information, and encouragement to the church and school community that they serve?

So what is a missioner?  A missioner is a person sent by a church into an area to carry on evangelism or educational activities. It is a person strongly in favor of a set of principles and they live on mission. Perhaps it is time to sort that out and write a mission statement. For YOU have been called for “such a time as this” to use the technology of this age, to the end of this age. We don’t necessarily need to be sent by a church, as we have all been given the Great Commission to go and make disciples. What if we chose to use Facebook as a place to bring LIGHT to Social media and tell the story of what faith-life living looks like? There are the event invitations and glimpses of our everyday life. Perhaps we need to tell the story of who came, what happened when we gathered, and what we learned from each other when we were together. What is the AFTER STORY? Perhaps we could use a tool like the VRSLY app that creates a Word and world intersection in a shareable format.

An area of concern is the total amassed time spent on our virtual devices. The upcoming generation would probably state that their phones are their reality. That is also the perspective of a growing segment of adults. Managing the choices becomes the leverage that make sense in both the diversity of the options and the sinkhole possibilities of never ending “rabbit holes.” There also happens to be an app, Moment, that tracks the amount of time spent on our Smartphones. When we know our purpose for engagement, this gives parameters and clues for the best use of our time and energy. Learning about Visual Faith tools and the communities that support these practices has brought a framework for Christian engagement. We can share Good News promise in winsome ways to reach countries and people that we can only imagine impacting. When we couple social media presence with the work of the Holy Spirit and give free rein to His movement in the Kingdom, we are believers living as missionaries. What a blessing to be serving in this place in time, with Kingdom View eyes, in collaborative learning communities that delight in sharing the hope of the Gospel. Time to learn about deployment.

Connie Denninger is a family life educator, blogger, gardener, Kingdom Impact Pinner and Visual Faith Coach.  Connie loves beauty in the sacred space of home and is learning to live life as prayer. She is also an encourager, a mom, mate and Gigi to 4 little boys. Come hear her presentation, “Living As A Deployed Digital Missionary,” at the Gifted to Influence Conference in Milwaukee, WI September 29 – October 1.

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. 

 

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: 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).

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.