Testimonial

Business as a Calling

By Gloria Nelund

If you’ve ever had feelings of insecurity or doubt, times of wondering what your life is about, or questions about what to do next, please know that you are not alone. Life can be challenging, and it is only with a solid foundation in the Word of God that we can find all of the answers we need, and the confidence to take those bold steps forward.

Although a career in finance was far from anything I had ever imagined as a young girl growing up in Ohio, I found myself having a very successful Wall Street career in the investment management industry. Looking back, I can honestly say that the solid foundation I had from my family and my faith gave me the guidance I would need to navigate a career in some of the largest institutions in the world, and, as a woman, to be a leader in the very male-dominated investment management industry.

Early in my career, I adopted three principles: I would work really hard; I would solve problems; and I would help people. Working really hard meant that when I finished an assignment I would look for another one. I was always asking for more to do. (It wasn’t until much later in my career that I realized not everyone does that.) In solving problems, I found that one of my greatest strengths is making processes efficient—finding a better way to do things (or finding a way to do them at all). I also discovered that I found true joy in helping other people be more successful; as a leader that turned out to be a tremendous quality.

Those principles served me well. In 1994, I was promoted to run a $35 billion global asset management firm, and by the time I was 40 (in 2001), I was recruited to be the CEO of a $55 billion private wealth management organization.  I had a career I loved and a wonderful family. That being said, while I lived by a personal commitment to honor God in all I do, I always felt guilty about having a career in business—especially one which I enjoyed and that brought me significant personal rewards. So, in 2005, after a momentous career accomplishment, I retired to finally be able to “serve God.”

After what I call my three-year “wilderness” journey, where I was desperately seeking my purpose, God demonstrated that business was my calling. My job had been my very own mission field. That “freed” me to begin exploring ways to get back in to finance, but, this time, in a way that would also make a positive difference in the world. So, at the end of 2008, I failed retirement. I started an impact investing firm that would create funds that would both deliver market-rate returns, and have positive impact in the world. The years that followed were challenging, although probably not unusual for an entrepreneur, but I had the benefit of knowing, without any doubt, that if I allowed God to lead, He would use my company for His purposes. My job is to stay close enough to Him that I hear and follow His lead. I’m happy to say that here, in 2017, my firm has been an 8-year overnight success, having invested more than $700 million to impact investments that deliver market-rate returns and proof of positive impact in communities around the world.

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. Gloria will be presenting at the Pressure Points conference on “Letting God Lead.” She is also the Plenary Speaker for the Gifted to Influence Conference. Both are happening September 29 – October 1 in Milwaukee, WI.

Christian Women in Leadership: Sarah Guldalian

Sarah Guldalian is a champion of integrity and interpersonal relationships in her journey as a Christian leader. 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 founder and CEO of Rhino Hyde Productions. She holds a BA in Broadcast Journalism and Mass Communications—Political Science from Drake University and participated in an Advanced Social Media program with Columbia University – New York. Sarah is also a speaker at the upcoming WLI national Conference where she will lead a workshop on Confidence to Share Christ in the Workplace.

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

What’s the favorite part of your job? 

My favorite part of my job is working with people to find solutions for their problems and/or obstacles then, by the grace of God, helping them overcome these to see meaningful results for their ministries and companies because this equates to positively impacting their employees and constituents. I also love my team and seeing them exercising the beautiful gifts God has uniquely given them.

How would you define Christian leadership?

I believe that kindness goes an incredibly long way. When there is kindness, I believe true joy and success can flow from that. Yet, even in kindness, there needs to be an ability to speak the truth in love – not letting things go too far or get out of hand for happiness’ sake. Happiness is incredibly awesome but it is not the same as kindness.

If you keep the end in mind – to please God and to see people ultimately succeed – you will realize that kindness is both a joy that you bring to work but also sometimes a loving firmness that leads to someone’s (and the team’s) success in the end.

The above is an overarching viewpoint of mine as it pertains to Christian leadership because it incorporates integrity, truth, passion and love.

How do you bring your Christian values into your work?

I try to operate by focusing in on the fruits of the Spirit as well as our company’s Core Values, which are also rooted in the Word.
Fruits of the Spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.
Our Core Values: Integrity, Humility, Love, Fun, Courage and Passion.

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?

Absolutely! We had 60 commercials associated with a huge media buy to produce in a very short window of time – only two weeks. Meanwhile, we had a family crisis which was devastating and, in a business founded by a family, we cried out to God and rallied the troops to help each other in every way. God came through in the family crisis and the business transaction in miraculous ways! It was so clear that only HE could have accomplished it all – and He did – so He gets 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?

I love people so deeply. Meanwhile we are in an industry that is very fast-paced, high-demand, and constant; and starting a business can be very difficult too. This can really lead people to become tired and anxious along the way as the demands are high even as the excitement is high; and exhaustion heightens emotions. When you work with friends and family, this can be difficult because you can become afraid that crucial relationships will become marred.

I have often looked to the Lord and said, “God, I know you have a plan. You had a plan in us starting this. How do we do this well and keep relationships intact for the future?”

You don’t get to see into everyone’s minds or hearts – only God does. So, I am always looking to Him to help and to lead and to heal and to guide. Leaders, after all, are only human so we must rely on the Lord daily for success, not only in business, but more importantly in relationships.

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

Honestly, it shouldn’t change how you lead as a Christian. Whether you are in a secular or a Christian setting, you will need to guard your heart and be sure that you look to Lord for your affirmation and for your answers. Obviously, though, working in a secular setting can pose different challenges.

For us, we work in a Christian-owned business but we are operating in the secular business world when we go out where, admittedly, people can be more cutting and painfully direct. So, it is so important that you go to the Lord with your wounds so that you do not get jaded; but you also need to stand up for yourself in an honest and respectful way so you respect yourself and show others where your boundaries are.

And, on the flipside, inside of a Christian organization, sometimes you must make the conversations more open and honest – versus concealing issues – for the health and success of the organization long-term.

So, there are different circumstances in either setting; but, ultimately, circumstances should not dictate your leadership style. When they do, I realize I get off path. It’s so crucial that I just keep my eyes focused on the Lord in either and work to operate according to His Word.

Who are your biggest role models as a leader?

I have been blessed to have had two awesome bosses who love the Lord and love people deeply: Dave Dawson, during my time at Lutheran Hour Ministries; and my boss, Terry Knoploh, the CEO of our corporation. They both are wise in business even as they love their people, yet they stand their ground in a respectful way. This shows me that being a people-pleaser can be dangerous ground. It’s important to love people but you need to serve God and think of the greater good of the organization.

On a personal level, my grandpa, Jim Jordan, who helped raise us, was perhaps the biggest role model in my life. Everyone looked up to him as, in the world’s standards, he had the education and experience that would cause them to do so; but more important was that he just served people consistently and treated everyone equally. He was not too important to change his neighbor’s lightbulb or take their trash out, or drive us back and forth to private school. What really stood out to me also was that he didn’t see race or economic status. He treated everyone with the same love and respect.

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

Matthew 10:16: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” This reminds me to be aware – not sticking my head in the sand – but to remain innocent and honest even yet.
What most prepared you to be a Christian leader in the workplace? 

I first worked in secular media where, frankly, I was appalled by some of the underground practices and how people were treated unethically just so goals were hit. It was when I went to Lutheran Hour Ministries where I really saw people love one another, which brought a healing and joy to me; but then this was coupled with the incredible opportunity to work for a very experienced businessman who also loved people, Dave Dawson. By working for Dave for almost eight years, I learned how to couple loving people with shrewd and honest business practices. That was an incredible opportunity and education. It was also a lot of fun too.

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

It can be hard to balance loving people so deeply and of course wanting that from them in return with towing the line, meaning holding people accountable – both clients and employees – so that your teams hit your goals and your business turns a profit.

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

Remember your identity. We live in a day and age where it can easily feel like you are as valuable as your last deal or last project. It can feel like we are only as valuable as what we can do for others. But I challenge other Christian women – and myself! – to remember who God has created you to be from birth and not lose yourself in trying to achieve and please others. Instead of working for approval, start by knowing that your identity is in the Lord; and, when you lean into Him, He will cause you to have favor and have others approve of you. And, when they do not approve of you, get closer to God so that you don’t change to please man, but continue to please God.


Meet Sarah and other passionate Christian leaders at the Gifted to Influence conference September 29 – October 1 in Milwaukee, WI. Click here for more information.

Christian Women in Leadership: Pat Maier

Pat Maier’s leadership style is characterized by humility and servanthood—with a dose of fun! 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?

Patricia Maier has worked as a leader in Lutheran education, as a pastor’s wife, and as a retreat leader. Her husband is the current president of the Michigan District, LCMS, so one of her current leadership roles is as encourager to other pastors’ wives. She facilitates women’s retreat weekends at Camp Arcadia in Arcadia, Michigan and acts as a Visual Faith Coach, Speaker, and Manager of online communication sites. Pat has a BA in Education from Concordia University Ann Arbor and Chicago. She has been a presenter at a regional gathering for WLI at CUAA in 2015 and helped organize the WLI Leaning and Leading conference at CUAA in 2016. She will be presenting a workshop on Visual Faith at the Gifted to Influence Conference September 30.

We asked Pat a few questions about her roles and her views on Christian Leadership:

What’s the favorite part of your job?

I enjoy meeting people, listening to their faith stories, and encouraging them with God’s Word and promises.

How would you define Christian leadership? 

A Christian leader needs to be connected in God’s Word, available and willing to listen and encourage, and be honest in sharing both faith and faults in their own life.

How do you bring your Christian values into your work?

Conversation, example, support, and teaching – in a humble, no fuss, down-to-earth, I’m-a-regular-person-just-like-you sort of manner.

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?

There was a ten-year period when my family was impacted with cancer, involving my father, husband, and son. It is only by God’s grace that I could walk that path, have those conversations, deal with my emotions and those of my family, and come through not too worse for wear and with a stronger faith than before. My husband’s election as a district president, leaving our church home, supporting him in a stressful job, and finding new purpose for my life continues to be a journey, and I continue to seek God’s guidance and wisdom through prayer and time in His Word.

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

That would have to be when my husband’s job changed and I was no longer “the pastor’s wife” or “the 3rd grade teacher” at my own church and school, roles that I knew and loved. Not only did I feel uncertain about the qualifications for my new leadership role, but also was unsure as to what areas God might want me to lead.

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

I am still who I am – the only difference is that in a secular setting I am mindful to choose my words to be understandable and clear so that I don’t make anyone feel left out; I strive to be humble, approachable, and give the best witness that I can through conversation and relationships.

Who are your biggest role models as a leader?

I admire my husband and many of the humble, mission-focused, joy-filled pastors that I’ve met;  dedicated lay leaders who serve “behind-the-scenes” with no thought for recognition; and the many treasured girlfriends that inspire me with their ability to encourage and communicate God’s Word in an excellent and fun way.

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

“He has told you, O man [or woman], what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”   (Micah 6:8)

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

Certainly, my work as a Lutheran educator, pastor’s wife, and church ministry volunteer all prepared me to be a Christian leader in my workplace today, which is wherever each day takes me.

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

My biggest challenge is feeling confident in where God is leading me – what invitations or opportunities need my “yes” and what need my “no.”

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

Be humble, be real, be fun – and be completely devoted to Jesus and those He loves (the world!)

Attending WLI Workshops gave Katelyn Schneider Confidence to Lead Nursing Home Ministry Program

Katelyn Schneider

As I reflect on the last three years of my college experience and growing leadership skills, I feel the culmination of many small teaching moments have been molding my character little by little to form a steadfast servant for Christ. Servant leadership is a concept I’ve immensely matured in since freshman year and I can honestly say intentionally living my life for others continues to transform my heart every day. Even though I have a busy schedule, the various roles I am able to participate in rarely feel like work and it has been refreshing to watch God shine through the acts of service my peers and myself complete. I never imagined heading into my senior year I would be given such unique opportunities to serve God and live out my vocation!

Leading nursing home ministry taught me how to communicate better with others, plan events to meet multiple requests or suggestions, and exercise a new level of leadership autonomy that was unfamiliar to me.  Even on evenings when I would have rather done homework instead of going to the nursing home, God never failed to prove me wrong that it was worth my time to visit the residents. The residents’ sweet smiles, witty comments, and wisdom of enduring the highs and lows of life taught me something new each week. I frequently left feeling as if they had served me more than I had served them. The residents and the nursing staff often remarked how much they looked forward to our weekly visits and that we visibly brightened their day.

Besides what I began experiencing sophomore year with Nursing Home Ministry, I am blessed to witness the outcomes of my services in my other roles as well. I’ve seen two homes be built with Habitat for Humanity, homeless people fed on the streets of Milwaukee with Street Team, and the glow on audience members faces after performing touching music with the Wind Ensemble. Nursing school has not been an easy feat academically so when I have the chance to encourage some of the younger, struggling students through my SI position I feel honored to be the tool God chooses to work through in small non-formal conversations. Receiving appreciation e-mails from the students and seeing them develop the confidence to in turn help teach their fellow peers who need help has been an extremely rewarding part of the job.

Outside of holding direct leadership positions, I think my character has developed simply from being able to quietly watch, learn, and put into practice the enriching examples of what it is like to be a Godly, professional, and extremely compassionate woman that has been modeled by Concordia’s staff and faculty.  My list of role model women who “I want to be like someday” continues to grow. I am so thankful for the ways God has placed specific people in my life throughout college who have made this campus feel like home and keep me actively pursuing God, even when it is difficult. I owe many of my gained leadership qualities to those women.

Additionally, as God has opened my heart to servant leadership, He has reassured me that my quieter sometimes shy demeanor is not a character flaw but rather the way God designed me to uniquely serve Him alone. My yelling voice may not carry across an entire room, but my heart screams for Jesus and I try my best to convey his love to everyone who crosses my path. I have learned to value the more quiet confidence He granted me and I look forward to meeting the people God continues to write into the story of my everyday life. So, even if I am not at a specific service event, I now appreciate the service of the simple yet significant act of knowing someone’s name, giving them a little smile in the hallway, and conveying to them that they are loved by God.

Looking to the future, I intend to continue developing as a servant leader by first, being aware of what opportunities God calls me to while taking time to seek out those in need of hearing the Gospel message. I did not develop my current leadership skills overnight and know that I still have a lot of growing to do. I am far from perfect. I am attempting to be more diligent about spending time in God’s word and hope He will reveal more to me through scripture. As I begin my CMLT presidency I plan to continue participating in WLI workshops and have loved the speakers I’ve heard this year including the confident leader workshop. I have been blessed on this leadership journey so far and trust God will only continue to work things for good if I remain faithful to Him.


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,  INSTAGRAM, and  TWITTER.

WLI Helps Tori Homann Grow In Life and Leadership Skills

TORI HOMANN

I was initially introduced to WLI in 2011 when I came up for the last day of the national conference to participate in worship via liturgical dance with my mom, sister and some other ladies from my church. I don’t remember very much from that experience, other than that I thought it was an amazing opportunity to get to share the Lord through dance – an art form that I love.

My second experience was at the national conference in 2014. The theme for the event was Christ-Connected Women with the theme verse being Hebrews 10:24 which says, “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” A friend of mine and I were blessed to be asked to speak about how the women attending the conference could relate to and foster relationships with younger women of our generation. I was so honored that women who were so much wiser and learned than me would want to sit down and listen to what I had to say. This was a humbling experience, but more than anything it was a learning experience. I was surrounded by SO MANY amazing women leaders. This is my favorite part of WLI: it brings the best female leaders in the Lutheran Church together in one place so that all can learn and grow from their experiences there at the conference and from the experiences of other women and speakers.

My most recent experience with WLI was receiving the call to be a member of the WLI marketing committee to assist with the Twitter and Facebook accounts (the username for both accounts is @wlicuw so check out our pages for upcoming events and other wonderful, encouraging content!). I have already learned a lot, just from listening to the other women discuss how the marketing committee plays into WLI’s bigger picture of educating, encouraging, and equipping women leaders for Christ. I know that in my time on the board I will gain valuable life skills and continue to grow in leadership.

I think Paul sums it up best in his letter to Philippi. He says “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:3-6). This is what WLI has been for me. The work that this group is doing is truly Kingdom work. God is working in amazing ways through this organization: touching lives and bringing gifts to fruition that many women never even knew they possessed.

Tori Homann

Hope College 2020

Marketing Committee Board Member

Trish Kagerbauer Enjoys WLI National Conferences

Trish Kagerbauer

I’ve been to all of the National Conferences and have really enjoyed them. This group of ladies…as much as we enjoy chocolate and flowers and the occasional cocktail…likes our “meaty” Christian leadership and training as well!


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.

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.

WLI Has Greatly Influenced the Life and Faith of Martha Fritz

MARTHA FRITZ

I have attended two WLI conferences, one at Concordia University Wisconsin, and another at Concordia University Ann Arbor. Initially I was asked to take photos at the conference at CUW, but I ended up attending sessions as well. When I heard that a group of women from CUW was going to the conference at CUAA, I jumped on board right away.

The sessions that I have attended at WLI conferences have greatly influenced my life and faith. I have taken away so much from each session and leave hungry for more. I have been inspired by the women who have led sessions and I feel that their words are coming straight from the Lord for my heart. Being surrounded by women of all ages from all over the country has been uplifting. I have been engaged in long, deep conversations with women I did not even know before the conference. WLI has given me hope and encouragement as I continue to live as a Christian woman. I am grateful for the community and fellowship that WLI has provided for me.


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.

Learn From the Experts: Leading a Bible Study: Part 2

This is part 2 of learning from the experts on leading a Bible study. The experts are Donna Streufert, founder of the Women’s Leadership Institute and Deb Burma, author of the Bible study, Living a Chocolate Life (CPH)

To access Part 1 of this series, click here.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO PREPARE FOR LEADING A BIBLE STUDY?

Donna: Here are my steps for preparation:

  • Spend time in fervent prayer.
  • Work through the lesson as I expect group members to do.
  • Be open to new insights God is teaching me through this lesson.
  • Refer to the Leader’s Guide and/or commentaries or other resources to extend my understanding.
  • Review or draw out the Central Truth and the objectives of this lesson. Consider printing these out for participants.
  • Think through how I will use the time allotted for the session.
  • Consider using a story, personal experience or object to catch attention as we begin the lesson.
  • Plan for prayer and/or singing to close the lesson.

Deb: I prepare for each study with a read-through of the session and the Bible passages, often pausing to do a little research on the Scripture text, with the help of my Study Bible notes or other trusted sources. Then I go through the session and Scriptures again, this time more thoroughly, answering the questions myself as a participant would. If a video is included with the study, I view it once or twice, making notes to apply to group discussion while viewing it. Finally, I read over the session’s questions again and consider alternate or additional questions that may be especially relevant to our group and its unique needs. Throughout my preparation, I pray for God’s guidance, for humility and grace in leadership, and for clear direction.

For some studies, I prepare a fun activity as an opener or ice breaker. I may prepare simple props or handouts or provide a take-home idea to encourage the women to apply the lesson to life. (For example, a Scripture card with the theme verse that each participant can post in a prominent place for aid in memorization or a note card and envelope, so each can send a word of encouragement to someone outside the study.)

WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO REMEMBER IN LEADING?

Donna: The Holy Spirit is the teacher/leader. I am a tool. God is the one who changes hearts and lives. I am no more important than each member of this group. I don’t have all the answers. I am a learner, too. God is working in my heart and life just as he is in the other members of the group. We are all members of Christ’s body.

Deb: I think one of the most important things I need to remember is that I’m still learning too and I should humbly communicate that to those whom I’m leading. I need to remember that every woman in the room matters, and so does her input. I also need to remember not to be so hard on myself as a leader. By God’s grace, I’m able to communicate the saving love of Christ to every participant as I share His Word and trust that He works through me, by the power of the Holy Spirit, despite my shortcomings and mistakes.

HOW DO YOU HELP GROUP MEMBERS FEEL COMFORTABLE IN SHARING? 

Donna: The blessings of group Bible study include a closer, more supportive relationship among members of God’s family. As trust grows, participants are free to open their hearts to one another. Some are more comfortable with sharing than others. Early on, I make a point of stating clearly that what we share of our personal lives remains confidential. I ask the group if they can agree to that. I may remind them later, also.

Sometimes I model the openness I want to foster by telling parts of my own story, my own spiritual journey, my personal experiences.

Shy or reserved people may simply need “permission” to talk about themselves. In this case I might say: “Betty, you’ve been through something similar. Would you be comfortable sharing your thoughts with us?” Often, this is all that’s needed.

Deb: I encourage women to share by sharing openly myself. I often begin with lighter lead-in discussion questions that break the ice, enabling women to feel comfortable with one another. I think it’s vitally important to affirm, encourage, and thank each woman when she does share, helping her to see that she has something of value to offer that others may gain from, and communicating that I care about what she has to say. I’m amazed at how quickly women begin to feel comfortable in sharing when others, including their leader, are courageously doing so. I’m often amazed at the insight a new participant brings to the table, as we discuss a given passage or topic that others (including myself!) wouldn’t have thought of. Our discussions are richer and deeper when group members become comfortable and begin to share. Relationships develop and trust grows as we grow together in the Word and grow in faith.

WHAT IS THE FUNNIEST THING THAT HAS HAPPENED TO YOU AS A BIBLE STUDY LEADER?

Deb: So many little fun and funny scenarios have happened during Bible study over the years, and I’ve been able to laugh at myself as I’ve admitted my own foibles while making a point in the midst of a study, which often serves to further remind others of God’s amazing grace in Christ! Once I boldly recited an entire passage, only to look up and find forty women staring quizzically at me because I had shared the correct chapter and verses, but was reading from the wrong Book of the Bible. (How could I have not realized my mistake when I’d prepared the lesson?!)

HOW HAS LEADING BIBLE STUDIES CHANGED YOU?

Donna: I am changed as the Holy Spirit works through God’s Word among God’s people. I am a learner first.

I grow through the witness, insights, wisdom and Christian life styles of my friends and fellow believers in group Bible study.

I have discovered my God-given gifts of teaching and leading. And this is a good thing. All thanks and glory to God.

Deb: We often hear people say that the teacher learns even more than the students in the preparation and process of teaching. I believe this to be true in the specific educational area of leading Bible studies! I’ve grown in my desire to seek greater depth and detail from the Word of God as a result of my opportunities to lead others in study. In preparation, I delve in more deeply than I might if I was studying on my own, knowing that I’ll be sharing with others and they’ll likely take away more from the study if I’m a good steward with my preparation time as a leader; God may use my enthusiasm and passion for the study of His Word to ignite a fire in others to do likewise.

Leading Bible studies has also opened my eyes to recognize that while I’m digging in, learning, and leading, I have SO MUCH MORE to learn; there are so many ways in which I desire to grow. I am humbled to learn how often a participant knows more than I do on a given subject and I’m thrilled to learn from her! I am humbled by my own shortcomings and limitations, but trust that the Holy Spirit works through every Word of Scripture and in the hearts of His people as we continue to learn together.

Many thanks to Donna and Deb for sharing their insights gleaned from years of leading Bible studies! Their experience in choosing materials, leading discussions, and handling tricky situations is invaluable.

We pray that you will grow in faith and trust as you develop your ability to lead others in God’s Word. May all the participants be blessed through your leadership.

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

Learn From the Experts: Leading a Bible Study: Part 1

A BIBLE STUDY can be enjoyable and exciting. But it can also be complicated and challenging. To help leaders, both new and experienced, we asked two seasoned experts on how they handle this leadership role.

Donna Streufert is the founder of Women’s Leadership Institute. She is the wife of Pastor Dan Streufert and a champion of women who seek to fulfill their God-given roles in the church. Doing the math, she discovered she has fifty years of experience in leading Bible Studies!

Deb Burma is also a pastor’s wife, serving with her husband Cory, in Columbus, Nebraska. Author of Stepping Out, A Chocolate Life, Treasured, and Beautiful Feet, she blogs at debburma.blogspot.com. Deb is also a ministry leader and frequent speaker to women’s groups.

WHAT CONCERNED YOU MOST AS YOU BEGAN TO LEAD BIBLE STUDIES? 

Donna Streufert: Thinking back to the very first group, mentally scanning all those that followed, I realized that what I wanted most of all was this: that participants would experience personally the excitement, joy, comfort and assurance that comes when connecting with God through His powerful Word.

I had been blessed this way. I wanted this blessing for others.

Deb Burma: Many Bible study leaders say their greatest concern is that they won’t be able to adequately answer difficult questions from the participants. Thankfully, I was blessed with the guidance of mentors who told me that it’s okay when a leader doesn’t have all the answers. It’s more important to listen to the questions with genuine interest and care, acknowledge when you don’t know an answer, and provide reassurance that you will try to find the answer. Then seek answers through research—asking the pastor or another trusted source for assistance in finding them. But on a related note, I DID find myself fearful that my attempts to explain a difficult text or answer questions of a complex or personal nature would be misunderstood and may even cause a woman to leave the session distraught or confused.

I’ve worked through these fears with prayer and preparation, and by beginning each Bible study series addressing the possibility that issues like this may arise, and opening the door for open and honest discussion that may include clarification during the study or one-on-one conversation afterward.

HOW HAS YOUR STYLE OR APPROACH AS A BIBLE STUDY LEADER CHANGED OVER THE YEARS?

Donna: Every group has a personality. It’s important to know your group, understand the individuals and see how they function as one. Love them. Flexibility required.

So, my style or approach flexes to meet the personality of the group. For example, some groups are no nonsense and detail oriented, some are full of questions and challenges, some are at ease with one another and laugh easily. (Yes, laughing in Bible class is allowed.)

Time and place and group size also affect my style and approach. A group of several hundred or more requires a more deductive style (teaching or lecturing.) Small groups, under ten members or so, do well with an inductive approach (participants read, think, search and arrive at their own conclusions.)

Deb: Over the years, I think I’ve become more relaxed in my teaching style in both large- and small-group settings, seeking to find a balance between completing a lesson in one session and allowing more time for discussion. (It all depends on size of group and time constraints.)

I’m learning that it’s okay to challenge women, especially as they’ve become invested in the group over time, and encourage them to complete between-sessions assignments, while also being careful to communicate that it’s okay to arrive without preparation. (I wouldn’t want a woman to stop attending because she struggles to keep up with the reading or homework.)

I’ve also learned more about the variety of people’s learning styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and reading/writing). To engage different kinds of learners, I use video clips, handouts, object lessons, visual aids like maps or props, take-home projects, discussion starters, and so on, depending on the study topic and the group’s dynamics.

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU EXPERIENCED AS A BIBLE STUDY LEADER?

Donna: Two challenges come to mind – numbers and materials. Sometimes these challenges arise. Other times these are not challenges at all.

For example, with numbers: Sometimes it is difficult to attract people to spend time together in God’s Word. Apathy and indifference and lifestyle choices appear to keep numbers low. The times when attendance in Bible classes soar are more encouraging and exciting. But either way, I try to remind myself that I’m not in control. Prayer, personal invitation, careful preparation are my responsibility and my privilege. The rest is God’s Word, God’s people, God’s work.

The second challenge is finding just the right material for the group I’m leading. If I know my group well, I will look for materials

  • with sound biblical content
  • that truly engage learners
  • that meet their needs
  • that are appropriate for the age group and life experiences of the group
  • and have a workable format.

Sometimes I find a perfect match for a group. Sometimes it’s more of a challenge. I may need to shorten or adjust or even replace one study with another. But, that’s OK. I’ve learned something helpful for the future.

Deb: My biggest challenges in leading Bible studies have been situations when a participant has boldly declared a statement that is clearly off-base or not Biblically accurate. How do I respond in such a situation? While I never want to embarrass a woman with a confrontational correction in front of everyone, I also need to very gently bring the group back to Scripture and make sure others are not confused or misled by her declaration. I prayerfully consider how to respond to this woman one-on-one. Similarly, when a participant attempts to dominate the discussion or take the group on an unrelated bunny trail, it’s essential (though a challenge, for sure!) to gently manage the discussion, giving others equal opportunity for input and quickly bringing the group back on track.

An equally big, but very different, challenge is the already-crowded schedules of all potential participants. While seeking to grow women’s ministry by inviting and involving a vast variety of ages of women in every stage of life, it’s increasingly difficult to find times for Bible studies that work. I’ve found that providing two time options for the same large-group study on the same day is very helpful! That way, a woman can choose a noon time study or an evening study, or to alternate. Also, offering varying lengths of series enables women to commit to a timeframe that they’re comfortable with. As an example, instead of agreeing to attend a Bible study every week for a year, a woman may sign up for an 8-week series and then decide if she can commit to the next one. I’ve seen so many women give Bible study a try for the first time when given this opportunity!

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