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 ūüôā 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.