Planning

Christian Women in Leadership: Linda Maris

According to Linda Maris, we need two things to make us good Christian leaders: to understand ourselves as unique creations of God and to rely on Him guide us through the right path. 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 Linda Maris who has been the President of the National Christian Foundation, Wisconsin (NCF WI) for the past 8 years. The purpose of NCF is to spread the joy of living a generous life. They work to simplyify charitable giving, multiply the impact of charitable gifts, and to build the Kingdom of God. She holds a B.S. from UW-LaCrosse and a J.D. from Marquette University Law School. Linda is also a speaker at the upcoming WLI National Conference where she will lead a workshop on A Confident L.I.F.E of Generosity – What’s in it for you?

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

What’s the favorite part of your job? 

Generosity! Everything that we do at NCF is tied to encouraging individuals to live generous lives. And that makes me strive to be more generous through NCF and in my life!

How would you define Christian leadership?

Christian leadership is the understanding and application of two important truths—that each of us is individually created and that there are people and possessions that are placed in our care.  Much has been written about Steward Leadership.  First, Christian leaders embrace and use their unique God-given gifts and don’t focus on who or what they are not. Second, Christian leaders wisely steward what has been entrusted to them. The organizations and positions where we have been placed are not ours but God’s. God is the one who opens doors, provides opportunities, grows the organizations, and ensures the success. This realization took tremendous personal pressure off of me. My role is to simply nurture and care for the many assets of NCF WI—donors, relationships, Board, staff, budget, facilities, time, etc.…

How do you bring your Christian values into your work?

It is no longer an issue! NCF is a Christian organization and fortunately my life and work are totally integrated. I pray a lot and try to serve with the love of Christ.

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

I have learned that if I am feeling uneasy or stressed about a decision I need to make, I need to take a pause because God is not in it and I need to wait on Him. Conversely, there have also been times when I should have been anxious about certain circumstances, but was not, and rested in the fact that God must be in it and was already working it out!

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

Definitely, in the years leading up to NCF WI. I felt that God was preparing me for something much different than the practice of law. I prayed a lot about God’s purpose for my life and the consistent answer was to just be patient. It payed off because had I initiated my own plan it would have been a much different story!

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

I have always been encouraged by Romans 8:28 which reassures me that God works for the good in my life regardless of how bad things may seem. After moving from the legal profession to NCF WI, I realized how applicable this passage was to my work. As leaders, we can personally carry the weight of success for our organization, but when things don’t go as we have planned we can rest knowing that we don’t always see God’s bigger picture.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

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

Relying on God in all I do. God is the secret sauce for all Christian leaders! I now realize that all I have are gifts from God—my calling to NCF WI, life experiences and opportunities, education, personality, intellect, strengths, and leadership ability. I cannot take any credit for these gifts but can strive to use them to the best of my ability.

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

Research shows that becoming an exceptional leader is half nature (your DNA) and half nurture (what you learn). This is good news because we can control a lot on how we lead. Start by understanding how you are wired. I have learned much about myself, how I make decisions, what drives me, and how I lead from self-assessment tools. You can take advantage of these self-assessment tools and embrace who you are and the strengths that God has uniquely given to you. Then commit to becoming a better leader. The resources are vast: books, conferences, websites, organizations. Enjoy the journey!

Linda Maris is the President at National Christian Foundation Wisconsin. She serves families & women, businesses, financial service advisors, ministries and churches with their charitable giving needs. Her vision is to continue to spread the message of generosity so that all can “excel in the grace of giving”.

Christian Women in Leadership: Connie Denninger

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

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

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

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

What’s the favorite part of your job?                      

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

How would you define Christian leadership?

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

How do you bring your Christian values into your work?

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

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

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

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

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

Who are your biggest role models as a leader?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Conquering Nervousness to Unleash your Full Speaking Power

by Sarah Holtan, Ph.D.

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

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

Symptoms of Nervousness

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

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

Strategies to Conquer Your Nerves

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

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

Specific Techniques

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

Verbal Techniques:

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

Nonverbal Techniques:

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

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

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

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

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


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


Effectively Leading Volunteers

Organizing a project can be exciting. Blazing a new trail of ministry can be exhilarating. But that energy may dissipate when struggling to manage teams of volunteers. Frustration mounts when those who have committed their time drift away to other priorities or fail to follow through on their commitments. What if there were practices and skills to be learned that would avoid some of the tough barriers to effectively leading volunteers? If that sounds appealing, then read on!

In his book 8 Habits of Effective Small Group Leaders, author Dr. Dave Earley describes several habits for a vibrant ministry. These practices transfer easily to the role of an effective leader of volunteers. Developing habits for effective leadership is important and God provides us with many examples in the Bible.

Cast the vision

In Matthew 5:3-10, Jesus casts his vision for the Kingdom of Heaven. The effective leader dreams about and sets goals for the health of the ministry, the number of people who will be impacted, the number of volunteers, and the multiplication of volunteers. Then the leader casts that vision – again and again – to maintain the momentum towards achieving the dream.

Pray for them

Effective leaders spend time each day praying for the spiritual health of their volunteers. They pray for the new volunteers that their current volunteers are recruiting; they pray for the multiplication of volunteers. In John 17:6-23, Jesus’ prayer shows us the world is a battleground when you are attempting to carry out God’s plan and purposes.

Invite others

In Mark 1:14-20, we observe Jesus inviting others to join him in ministry. Effective leaders don’t just focus on their current volunteers. They have a heart for those who are not yet volunteering. Effective leaders must set the pace by inviting new people into the ministry. They help the leaders under their authority discover potential volunteers and recruit them into the ministry. They help the leaders under them develop their apprentices into effective volunteers and leaders who apply the leadership habits to their lives.

Love them

No leader can be effective without loving the volunteers that God has placed under their care. In I Corinthians 13:1-8, God shows us what real, relational love looks like. Effective leaders make sure that their volunteers are contacted frequently, consistently, and effectively. They put in the time necessary to build strong relationships. The key to any effective ministry is the ongoing care of the people in the system. When volunteers do not feel cared for they lose interest. It does not matter how leaders are contacted. What matters is that they are contacted. This can be via phone, email, texting or having touch-base conversations over coffee.

Be prepared

Hebrews 6:7-12 describes diligence and faithfulness to the task that we are given. Effective leaders prepare for their meetings with volunteers. They must invest time preparing to share with those under them. Volunteers’ time is precious and so is yours. Don’t waste it by being unprepared. Make these times as Christ-centered and encouraging as possible. By modeling preparedness and timely completion of commitments, leaders demonstrate expected behaviors to their volunteers.

Mentor future leaders

An effective leader needs to be mentoring future leaders in order to multiply the ministry. Successful leaders are constantly multiplying themselves by developing successors. Mentoring prepares the ministry for greater harvest. If a ministry has a strong mentoring process, trouble will be avoided if God sends a growth boom. It will be able to capture and go with the growth that God sends. Exodus 18:14-23 and Matthew 28:19-20 give a sense of how God uses mentoring to expand His kingdom.

Personal growth

Growing leaders will lead growing volunteers. Personal growth is very important for the leader of leaders. They need to continually learn, grow, and improve. Having intentional growth plans will set the pace and guide their volunteers to do likewise. Effective leaders set the example for those under them by following challenging growth plans and sharing them with those under them. Set a growth climate and a leadership atmosphere. Pass on helpful articles, books, websites and podcasts to the leaders under you. In Hebrews 5:7-6:3, we learn of God’s desire for us to grow and mature.

Enjoy fellowship

Finally, effective leaders use the power of fellowship to build up those they oversee. They especially need times where they don’t have to be the “workers.” They need times when they get cared for. They need time to blow off steam and relax. Effective leaders will create times and opportunities for those under them to enjoy fellowship with one another. The concept of “doing life together” is described by Paul in I Thessalonians 2:7-9. The relationships of Christians go beyond just completing tasks together.

Learning and practicing these habits can help you to become an effective leader of volunteers. But more importantly, you will serve God with excellence and love like He loves.

Linda Arnold, RN, MS, has led teams of volunteers as director of community impact, foreign and domestic missions, and through her work as a volunteer leader with Lutheran Women’s Missionary League and Women’s Leadership Institute. She currently teaches future nurses at Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois.

Resource: Earley, D. (2006). 8 Habits of Effective Small Group Leaders. Houston, Texas: Cell Group Resources.

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.

Christian Leadership: Start and End with Service

By Nancy Stoehr, Pharm.D.

“Come, O living Christ, renew us

As of old in wind and flame;

With the Spirit’s power endue us,

Servants of Your saving name:

Christ the Savior,

Christ the Servant,

Christ whose kingdom we proclaim.”

~ Lutheran Service Book, Christ, Our Human Likeness Sharing Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House

As Christians, we are privileged to be followers of the greatest Leader the world has ever known.  We are blessed with scripture to teach, guide and remind us how to lead like our Teacher.  But what was it that made Christ such an effective leader?  How can we use His model to become better leaders ourselves?

In this article I hope to pass along some of what I’ve learned about Christian leadership through my spiritual journey and walk with Christ.

Mark 10: 42-45 gives us a clear picture into how Jesus viewed leadership.

“Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.  Not so with you.  Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be a slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'”  (NIV)

True leadership stems from service to others.  To become great, to be a leader, you must first take on a life and attitude of service.

GIVING THOSE WE SERVE WHAT THEY NEED

The world has a bad habit of associating service with being meek, mild mannered, a person who can be walked over.  According to worldly views of leadership, these are not characteristics of greatness.  Though, service to others is not simply giving others what they want.  It is giving others what they need.  Sometimes, what people believe they need is really a want.  It is our job as the leader to make these distinctions and convey what is best for those we serve.  I see this exemplified while parenting my five-year-old.  She wants to eat candy with every meal and snack in-between. However, this is clearly not what she needs.  She thinks my withholding of her peanut butter cup is authoritarian, a demonstration of power.  Often I hear, “I can’t wait to be a grown up so I can do whatever I want”.  What she currently lacks is not the age she desires, it’s the perspective I have on nutrition and making good life choices.  We as leaders have perspective on what is needed to move our children, family, group, organization, or church forward.  We have the perspective to help them make good life choices, good Christian choices.  We as Christian leaders have the servant attitude to successfully and sustainably give those we serve what they need to succeed.

LOVING THOSE WE SERVE

James C. Hunter (1998) wrote the book titled, The Servant: A Simple Story About the True Essence of Leadership New York: Random House, Inc.  In this book he links the qualities of a good leader, or characteristics of a true servant, to love.  Hunter (1998) goes on to discuss that the “love” he is referring to was originally written as the Greek word “agape”.  This isn’t the “feeling” kind of love one might have for a spouse or family member, this is a sacrificial love, a love exemplified by commitment.

Paul tells us in Galatians 5: 13 “You, my brothers, were called be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love” (NIV).

He goes on to give us a definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7:

“Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (NIV)

I personally never liked the verses given to us in Corinthians.  The ideal they were embracing was so far away from my reach I could never read them without feeling completely hopeless in my attempt to walk the faith.  Patience?  Don’t have it.  Self-Seeking?  That, I can do.  Slow to anger?  Forget it.  So, I ignored these verses.  I ignored them to the point of omitting this very traditional wedding verse from my wedding ceremony!

It’s true. We will never achieve the ideal of self-sacrificing love while we are here on earth. We will never master all of Paul’s definitions of love.  But God understands our faults and our sinful nature.  He simply wants us to be committed to practice these actions and attitudes throughout our journey with Him.

In talking to a student group about this verse, one of the students shared that his church suggests substituting the word love with Jesus.  When done, what a great model for leadership!  When we espouse to be like Jesus and follow these characteristics of love in our leadership style, we become true servants to those we lead.  When we put our frame of mind into one of patience, kindness, trust and perseverance we can see that those we touch will be built up.  They become more confident, more willing to take on responsibilities, more willing to follow our strategies.  The organization or group we are leading will prosper because we are leading as Christian leaders; dedicated to service and love for those we serve.

MAINTAINING OUR DEDICATION TO THOSE WE SERVE

1 Peter 4: 11 tells us how we are provided with the strength to serve.

“If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God.  If anyone serves, he should do it with strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.  To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” (NIV)

We must remember that we can’t serve on our own. We need the strength that God provides.  God provides us with this strength through the Holy Spirit.  First and foremost we must ask God to give us strength, discernment and wisdom through the Holy Spirit to allow us to successfully and completely model our Teacher.  This needs to be done not once, not twice, but continually along our journey to be great Christian leaders.

I’m a pharmacist, and in the pharmacy world we talk about the “half-life” of drugs.  The half-life is how long it takes for the drug to divide in half, be half as strong as it should be or be half as effective as it should be.  Drugs that have a short half-life don’t stick around very long.  We need to take these drugs often throughout the day to keep them at the levels they need to be to work in our bodies like they should.  On our own, commitment to serve has a short “half-life.” We continually need to ask the Holy Spirit for His assistance to maintain the strength, the perseverance, the servant attitude we need to succeed in our leadership roles.

As we move forward with our dedication to being servant leaders in whatever area of Christ’s church we serve, I encourage you to pray.  Sit quietly with the Lord and give Him your concerns.  Listen to His responses and follow His calls.  Below is a prayer that may get you started on this journey to become a great servant leader.

Dear Father in heaven,

Thank You for the opportunity to be Your servant and for the guidance You give us through Your Word.  Thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus Christ, to model true servant leadership.  Help us to use Your teachings as we lead those around us.  Please send the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts and minds with Your grace and love so we can glorify Your name through our encounters with those we serve.  Bring discernment to our decisions, humbleness in our approach, and kindness in our words.  Help us to be slow to anger, patient with those around us and practice forgiveness to those who may do us harm.  Help us to maintain our commitment of love for all people.  Forgive us when we fail.  Be with us as we serve and use us to bring all into your Holy Kingdom. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

About the author: Dr. Nancy Stoehr earned her Pharm.D. from the University of Wisconsin Madison School of Pharmacy in 2006 and is currently enrolled in the Master of Education – Teaching and Learning program at Concordia University Wisconsin. Dr. Stoehr is carrying out her vocation as an Assistant Professor at Concordia University Wisconsin School of Pharmacy where she primarily teaches in the pharmacy compounding laboratories. She is the chair of the WLI education committee.

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

Four Keys to Leading a Life-Changing Bible Study

By Sharla Fritz

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

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

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

LOOK TO GOD

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

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

EXAMINE THE STUDY

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

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

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

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

ASK EXCELLENT QUESTIONS

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

Examples of questions that encourage discussion:

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

Examples of questions that discourage discussion:

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

DIRECT THE DISCUSSION

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

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

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

Learn and love as you lead.

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

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