I had the privilege of spending most of the day yesterday at “Gifted to Lead,” a one day event for women at Willow Creek Community Church. I’ve been a member at Willow for 21 years, and a leader in various ministries there. At Willow, there is no such language as “just” a volunteer. It’s a church that values every person’s contribution–including mine as a long-time leader, teacher and writer.
Anyway, Gifted to Lead was terrific. It was led by Nancy Beach, who is a teaching pastor at Willow and Nancy Ortberg, a former teaching pastor for Willow.
I’ve served over the past seven years with a team of women who have taught daytime classes and bible studies, and I got to reconnect with them at the conference. We talked about the future, we talked about our experiences.
But it was also exciting to see a room full of women (perhaps 2000 attended the sold-out event) having the opportunity to learn from women who have been trailblazers.
The day included great teaching from both Nancy’s 🙂 that pushed the women in the room to stop asking whether it is okay to be a leader and start focusing on how to lead well. We talked about about defining moments of discovery of our leadership gift. When did we realize we might have this gift? When did someone use the “L word” about you? Many of the women talked about being labeled as “bossy” when they were children. It’s interesting that our culture tends to label girls as “bossy” but rarely puts that adjective on boys. Boys are assertive, aggressive, even rowdy, but these are generally considered positive traits in them.
This was a chance for women to hear from Nancy Beach, “God did not make a mistake when he gave you your spiritual gift of leadership,” and other gems like that. But it was also a chance to tell our stories to each other, to breathe a sigh of relief that we are not crazy, and that we are indeed, gifted to lead.
The other thing I loved about the day is that the focus was more on the leadership part than the women part. We’re leaders who happen to be women. While that brings unique challenges, most essential leadership principles are not gender-specific.
Much of the material Nancy Ortberg shared came from her marketplace experience (she’s a founding partner in TeamWorx2, a business and leadership consultanting firm) in leading both men and women.
Here are some highlight quotes from Nancy Ortberg:
“The world needs your gift, and you need your gift.”
“An obstacle is exactly what your gift was created for. That’s what leaders do, they problem-solve.”
“Never underestimate the power of naming the gift in others.”
I’m honored to be a part of a church that affirms that spiritual gifts are given without bias toward gender, and that I have a chance to use those gifts.
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Hey Keri . . . this is a very compelling post. I used to find myself in leadership positions years ago and (except for teaching) never quite comfortable. It wasn’t that I sought position, I just wanted to help or facilitate, then wham! Would find myself in a very lonely spot that I couldn’t handle. And I ran and have been running for years. In recent months, I’ve really come to see a different leadership paradigm lived out by people in my life, that of servant. It’s changing my whole perspective in a neat way.
I bet that was a great conference. I am reading Nancy Ortberg’s book (Looking for God) right now and loving it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and insights!
I’d also recommend Nancy Beach’s new book, Gifted to Lead. Her message about being a leader who also happens to be a woman is phenomenal.
I think many of us who are leaders find that we don’t fully develop that gift, for a wide variety of reasons. But the church and the world miss out when we refuse to embrace the gifts God gave us.
Thank you so much for this post. I am a reluctant leader and have struggled with the question of “why I’m in this position” for quite some time now.
I was also one of those girls that was called bossy as a child. It is so liberating to realise that my “bossiness” is also a part of the way God put me together. It is part of the reason I am in a position of leadership and it is part of my character that I need to learn how to use effectively.
So thanks again for your insight.
Thanks for these ongoing helpful insights! I wish I had known about that conference. I find myself over and over feeling forced to ask by some men and women, “is it ok to be a woman and leader in church or parachurch work?”
I am in another one of those situations where I have been asked to take a new position of leadership in the ministry I serve with but a man who would report to me is saying he cannot report to a woman. He cannot accept spiritual leadership from a woman. It is against his theological beliefs. Our ministry does not take this position! So now I am the one having to figure out how to make this work though it’s not “my issue.”
I wish men had been at some part of that meeting! I love hearing from men who do value and think women can be in leadership in the church. It helps me in this struggle I keep finding myself in…