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A Dream Becomes Reality

Cathy Loerzel founded The Allender Center to help people find healing from abuse and trauma.

In the battle for restoration and redemption, you want Cathy Loerzel on your side. She is a woman of fierce compassion, an incredibly sharp creative mind, and the will and strength to get things done. She has the sparkle of conviction and ambition in her eyes. She is a force.

Loerzel is the Vice President of Advancement at The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology and the Co-Founder and Executive Director of The Allender Center, a non-profit organization that offers training and resources around the issues of trauma and abuse. Inhabiting the worlds of ministry, academics, and business—where there are very few Christian women in high level leadership positions—Loerzel “knows how to handle being in a man’s world without needing to be less of a woman.” In her roles, she is an entrepreneur, creating new programs, systems and opportunities. She asks questions, pushes boundaries, and dreams big. She believes “there is nothing more powerful than women who understand the cost of being a woman who are not bitter or cynical, but are moving forward and creating what they think is needed.”

Loerzel grew up in northern Virginia outside of Washington, D.C., where she discovered her love of governance. She hated the partisanship, but found great potential in effective process, innovative systems, and good leadership. After graduating college with degrees in political science and history, Loerzel went to work for IBM as a consultant in the federal government sector. There was no cap on her level of talent or success because of gender in the field. But her ministry work with teenagers called and captivated her in unique ways. She recounts how kids would confide in her. “There were more things ...

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Thu, 23 March 2017 08:00:00 CST
When Others Question Your Leadership

Parents in my childrens ministry questioned my authority because I wasnt a mom.

Fresh out of graduate school and looking like I had just graduated from high school, I jumped into a church staff role as director of children’s ministry. I had the education, the prior internship, and the experience working with kids. I was ready to make an impact. But I forgot to consider one thing: the assumption that because I didn’t have kids, I couldn’t possibly relate to parents. Women leaders are already more likely to have their authority and expertise questioned in ministry settings. On top of that, people perceived me as not having experience with kids because I wasn’t a mom. How could I minister effectively when others questioned me?

It’s often true that those who have experienced something firsthand have the best knowledge of it. But that premise is problematic when we assume that those who don’t have firsthand experience can’t possibly understand. For me, this translated into the idea that only parents understand children. While this may be true in some respects (after all, only a parent knows what it’s like to go into work after staying up all night with a teething child), it’s not always true. For instance, I didn’t need to be a parent to understand the emotional and spiritual needs of children.

Maybe you’ve experienced this as a young person who’s leading older adults, or as a married woman leading a single moms group. Regardless of your circumstances, it’s frustrating when your authority or expertise is challenged simply because you haven’t had the same life experiences as the people in your ministry. When that happens, I’ve found the following tips to be helpful.

1. Name the source of your inner struggle.

My deepest desire ...

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Tue, 21 March 2017 13:47:00 CST
How to Prepare for Speaking at a Conference

What Ive learned from 15 years of speaking at various events.

All I remember is saying an emphatic yes—over and over again.

I couldn’t believe my luck: 23-year old me had been asked to be the keynote speaker at a weekend conference. But as months went by and the event got closer, my usual last-minute way of operating in life didn’t pan out. I spent the weekend stressed out, working long hours, and sleeping little, leaving little time to connect with the women at the conference. I vowed that if I was ever given the opportunity again, I would never approach another speaking engagement in that way again.

Now, almost 15 years later, I speak at churches, retreats, and conferences on a regular basis. Along the way, I’ve learned that preparation is key when it comes to speaking at an event. As a woman in ministry, there’s a good chance you, too, will get asked to speak at a gathering. My hope is these preparation tips could help you have a better start than I did.

The Invitation

Perhaps a local church has asked you to speak to their Thursday morning mom’s group. Or your denomination has invited you to be their keynote speaker for a weekend retreat. Maybe a large Christian conference has extended you an offer to give a seminar at their three-day event. It’s normal to feel over-the-moon. You’ve been chosen! But is this a good fit?

Before you say “yes,” request a phone date, and interview the organizers of the event:

  • What are their expectations of you?
  • Do you align with their core theological beliefs, and, if not, is this something you can work around?
  • Are they willing to provide fair compensation for your services?
  • If appropriate, do the travel and lodging arrangements meet your needs?

They must be as good a fit for you as you are for them. ...

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Thu, 16 March 2017 08:00:00 CST
Should You Take on More?

5 questions to decide if projects outside your role are right for you

How often do you hear requests like this:

  • Can you help us?
  • You would be perfect to lead this.
  • It won’t take long.
  • We need you!

As leaders, these tempt us to say “yes” to projects beyond our regular responsibilities. Since many extracurricular opportunities in ministry (and beyond—like volunteering at school, being a team mom, leading a food drive, etc.) are worthwhile, we sometimes cram them onto our already full plates without much thought. We mistakenly believe we can do more—or we should do more. Sometimes we sacrifice our personal wellbeing at the altar of achievement, which leads to stress, exhaustion, and resentment. As leadership expert John Maxwell encourages, we need to “learn to say ‘no’ to the good so that you can say ‘yes’ to the best.”

Whether you lead from a staff position or as a volunteer, we all have a defined role with responsibilities that are our primary focus. I serve as the pastor of small groups in our church, but like many of you, I am usually involved in a few ministry projects not directly related to my role. How can we decide whether something is “good” or “best?” It’s not as simple as saying “no” to all extra obligations because some projects are indeed for us to do; they are growth-producing, life-giving, or joy-filling.

Instead, we need to have a clear filter to help make intentional choices about what we add to our plate. We need a process to recognize when a prospective project is something God may be calling us into because it taps into our giftedness, passion, skills, or next steps of growth. And, in the converse, we need to be honest with ourselves and recognize when the opportunity is appealing ...

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Mon, 13 March 2017 12:40:00 CST
Five Ways to Invest in the Next Generation of Leaders

Practical tips for raising up more women in ministry

Editor’s Note: In honor of International Women’s Day today, we’re publishing this practical article on developing the next generation of women leaders for ministry. Whatever your role, young women in your church are looking to you as a role model. What a privilege and honor to invest in them and watch God grow and develop them into amazing leaders. —Amy Jackson

Recently, I started helping with a small group for college women. I’m only a few weeks in, but I’m already in love. They’re smart, passionate, kind, creative, and fun to be around. They are crazy about Jesus, and they love the church. They love deeply and care for each other incredibly well. When I look around this small group of 12 young women, I see unlimited potential.

As we were leaving after our second meeting, one of the women asked me, “Are you sure you want to take us on as a small group? I mean, we’re a little crazy.” I smiled, and told her I wouldn’t have it any other way. As I drove home, I started dreaming and praying about how to help them unleash their God-given gifts to make an even greater impact in the world. These girls are the future of the church, and that gives me incredible hope.

An essential ingredient for healthy leadership is the ability to raise up other leaders. This is discipleship at its best: raising up the next generation of leaders in the church who will carry on the mission and vision of Jesus. When we develop leaders, we take the cap off our own leadership capacity and exponentially increase our ability to influence the world around us through discipleship.

In my experience, I’ve found that Millennials eagerly look for people to invest in them and challenge them. ...

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Wed, 8 March 2017 08:00:00 CST
Six Tips for Taking Center Stage

Make a smooth transition from associate to lead pastor.

With the last child in college, I dreamed of spontaneous weekend getaways with my husband. I planned out more hours for writing. I suddenly had a clean house all the time. It was my time. I could have nice things.

Then our lead pastor left for another position, and I (the associate) knew God was calling me to step into that role. I tried to explain to him that this transition would suck up every minute of my life, and I reminded him of all those hovering dreams. He wasn’t having it.

Women in ministry, more than their male counterparts, begin and often stay in support staff positions. Yet when God calls us to a new adventure, the transition can be intense. You didn’t get the training in seminary for the things that seem to matter—like how to drive carpool and lead a board meeting at the same time, or how to handle the exponentially increased sense of responsibility and emotional reactivity.

When I made that transition from support role to lead, the massive weight of responsibility I hadn’t ever felt as an associate fell quickly and heavily on my heart. Things my senior pastor had said and done suddenly made more sense. Things other people said and did suddenly became more hurtful.

I have wrestled with balancing self-care with giving my best to a deserving congregation. I have learned, paradoxically, that often the two rely on one another, and the things that save my sanity in this adventure look a lot like my old dreams for this time in my life—just modified.

Maybe you, like me, had an entirely different agenda planned when God stepped in and knocked. So I share some of the decisions I’ve made that helped me in this transition.

1. Hold Tight to Priorities

Work, and peoples’ demands, will ...

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Mon, 6 March 2017 08:00:00 CST
3 Questions to Ask a Counselor Before You Get Started

How to discern if he or she is the right person to counsel you

Women face unique issues in leadership, and it’s okay to meet with a counselor to work through them. In my role as a ministry leader at a Christian college, I found myself in tears as I described to a colleague the significant toll the ministry I coordinate takes on me. She gently pointed out that we can experience vicarious trauma as we minister to others. Vicarious trauma is “the emotional residue of exposure [that helpers have] from working with people as they are hearing their trauma and become witnesses to the pain, fear, and terror that trauma survivors have endured.” I know you wear many hats as a ministry leader, but “bearing witness to [your congregation’s] pain, fear, and terror” is probably one of your most important responsibilities. Counseling is a wise option for mitigating burnout and cultivating lasting, life-giving practices to help you flourish in your ministry role.

What happens, though, once we have decided to pursue counseling? What is that initial phone call supposed to sound like? How can you assess if a counselor is equipped to help you navigate the unique challenges you’re facing in ministry?

Typically, a new counseling relationship begins with an email like this: “Dear Rebecca, My pastor gave me your name as a potential counselor. Do you have space to begin counseling?” In those precious moments between receiving that email and setting up a phone call, I pray for wisdom and discernment for both of us as we seek to begin a meaningful helping relationship. After setting up a time to touch base over the phone, I dial the number of a potential new counseling client with great anticipation for the conversation at hand. These conversations are holy grounds ...

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Thu, 2 March 2017 08:00:00 CST
No More Frenemies in Ministry

Rather than see other women leaders as competition, we can serve as advocates and allies for one another.

Daytime TV talk shows remain something of an occasional guilty pleasure for me, but on this particular afternoon it was essential viewing. After all, it was a TV world exclusive, an interview that had needed to happen for over a decade. It was actually more intimate than an interview, in its own daytime TV kind of way, with no studio audience to cheer or clap: this was a conversation, and the cameras rolled. Finally, these two beautiful successful women who had been locked in a feud for over a decade were face to face. It was time for Tyra Banks and Naomi Campbell to talk it through, and kiss and make up.

Now obviously since this was Tyra’s TV show and Naomi was promoting her perfume, I didn’t expect a complete exposé, but as I’d followed their careers for years, I was committed. The interview itself was pretty TV ordinary: tears, hugs, and a runway walk-off where the supermodels imitated one another’s walks. A reconciliation made in TV heaven. Still, aside from the expected celebrity drama, aspects of the interview fascinated me. Both models spoke of how they’d been plagued by their own insecurity. When they started modeling, successful black models were rare, so others constantly compared them to and pitted them against one another. Although they look very different, it was made abundantly clear to them in various ways that there was only room for one black supermodel. Naomi had broken through first, so when Tyra arrived on the scene it was assumed that she was there to replace Naomi. Any hopes of fun, friendship, or sisterhood were quickly buried under the reality that only one of them could dominate high fashion. Well, they both intended to succeed … and so the rivalry began. ...

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Mon, 27 February 2017 08:00:00 CST
Love Thy (Immigrant) Neighbor

Women leaders play a unique role in helping refugees and immigrants settle into the community.

Today’s headlines say a lot about refugees and immigrants. Yet not much of what we read adequately prepares us to effectively facilitate their transition to American life once they settle down in our neighborhoods. What can we as church leaders do when they come to us for help?

Because many immigrants hail from patriarchal or machismo cultures, it’s vital that women leaders reach out to the women and children. First of all, it is the immigrant woman—not the man—who struggles the greatest in setting up a home, finding schooling options for her children, and feeding her family. Second, an immigrant woman will likely not respond, or be permitted to respond, to men trying to help her. Third, it is the woman and her children who are most vulnerable in this type of transition—and it is we as women whose help will likely be accepted and trusted more readily.

To best help immigrants in our communities, we must first set aside political opinions on the matter, and view our immigrant neighbors as fellow human beings, created in the image of God. Each one, regardless of accent, culture, or skin color possesses a God-breathed soul. Any help or service we offer must flow from the springs of compassion and love that are fed by God’s own supply. Along with prayer, there are several practical things we can do for the immigrant next door.

Practical Soul Needs

“People migrate with their cultural beliefs and practices.” —Kenneth Guest

Anyone who has ever moved, especially cross culturally, can to identify with, or have empathy for, a newly displaced immigrant neighbor during the process of adaptation and acculturation. At times, frustration, sadness, confusion, and a deep sense of loss may ...

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Thu, 23 February 2017 08:00:00 CST
My Biggest Ministry Mistake

Ten leaders weigh in to help others avoid their mishaps

As I look back on my 35 years of church leadership, I am struck by a peculiar dynamic. I struggle to recall many of the times when God has shown up and powerfully proven his love, but I remember every detail connected to my mistakes. There was the time when I organized an end-of-the-year celebratory dinner for 80 people and forgot to assign someone to bring plates and utensils. Perhaps a small mistake, but it still stands out in my mind.

Another far more consequential mistake that still makes me weep. One of our team members had been struggling with severe depression. Though we were aware of this, we did not know the depth of her depression or that we should have physically checked her in to a hospital. After a particularly stormy weekend, she committed suicide. We don't blame ourselves, but we do see that if we had known more, we might have been able to help prevent this tragedy.

Such memories bring a mixture of shame, pain, and regret—a feeling that most of us prefer to avoid. But no matter how smart or seasoned we are, we will make mistakes because we are flawed and broken creatures. Any time we can learn from someone else’s mistakes, however, we should! In the hope of helping others avoid blunders, I asked ten seasoned leaders to share their own mistakes.

Fearing My Own Strength

In my previous church, I was the Minister of Pastoral Care and functioned as an assistant pastor. In fact, congregants introduced me as their pastor. At the core of my being, I am a shepherd and theologian who loves to write and teach. I teach seminary classes to pastors and lay leaders. Yet, one of my references told those interviewing me for my current position that my weakness is not owning up to the power and influence I have. ...

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Tue, 14 February 2017 10:07:00 CST
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