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Calling Is Not as Mysterious as You Think

A letter to young women in leadership

Dear Young Leader:

Have you found your calling?

If you’re like me, you’ve spent some time thinking about this question. And if you’re like I was a while back, you aren’t sure how to answer. You may find yourself in circumstances you’ve largely fallen into, not sure exactly how you came to be there, how you’ve been there for as long as you have, and whether you really belong. And if you’re like a lot of my coaching clients, you haven’t found a satisfactory answer to the question of what you are meant to do. You’d like to live with purpose, but you’re not sure what your specific and unique purpose is.

As someone who has worked through these questions, and as a professional who helps others discover their purpose and pursue it, let me encourage you with a little demystification. Purpose and calling are not as mysterious as we sometimes believe they are. They are with us from the beginning of our lives, and they unfold as we grow and change. The most important thing to understand about your calling is that who you are is always far more important than what you do. And what you do will never fulfill your calling by itself.

Your purpose is not specific to your professional work or any of the other roles you play. You were created with intentionality that transcends your circumstances. You were not put here simply to do anything—you were put here to be you. And you are a specialist at doing just that. In fact, you’re the only one with the necessary qualifications.

While you may be called to different roles or relationships at various points in your life, ultimately your calling is not something to do. It is someone to be. It is rooted in the person you are at your ...

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Thu, 21 July 2016 08:00:00 CST
Religious Freedom Lessons from the Quakers

What a 17th-century woman leader taught me about fighting for freedom—for all

I’m not a Quaker, but the Quakers are a big part of my family history. My mother’s family came to America with William Penn, the Quaker who founded Pennsylvania. As a result, the Quakers loomed large in my imagination when I was growing up. As a young teenager I became interested in the abolitionist movement of the 1800s, and I was delighted to find that the Quakers played a significant role in abolishing slavery. So, when I came across Margaret Fell, a woman who is known as “the mother of Quakerism,” I wanted to know more.

Margaret Fell was born in 1614 and lived almost a century, dying in 1702. In her late teens, she married Thomas Fell and became the lady of Swarthmoor Hall in Cumbria, England. When she was in her late 30s, she heard George Fox, founder of the Religious Society of Friends (also known as the Quakers), and was completely convinced of the Quaker beliefs.

The Fells’s impressive estate became a center of Quaker activity as Margaret took charge of communicating, personally and officially, to missionaries of the movement. She also became a fundraiser for these missionaries, which was invaluable because she had contacts among the wealthy in England. Unfortunately, Thomas died just a few years later, but that didn’t stop Margaret’s ministry. Their home become a haven for those who were being persecuted for their faith by the government.

Because she was part of the gentry and therefore had standing in society, she lobbied for George Fox and others who were often at odds with King Charles II’s rule concerning freedom of religion. But her bold stance was not without cost. When she was 40, Margaret was arrested for allowing Quaker meetings to be held in her home and for ...

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Mon, 18 July 2016 08:00:00 CST
Five Ways to Respond to Mansplaining

Youve been invited to the table for a reason, and your team needs to hear what you have to say.

You got invited to an important ministry team. You come prepared to your first meeting eager to engage and share your ideas. You’re thankful for a seat at the table and excited for the opportunity to serve. Despite your excitement and hope leading up to the meeting, however, you leave the meeting completely second-guessing yourself, wondering why you were even there. You knew it would be a challenge to be the only woman at the table, but you didn’t expect that you wouldn’t have a chance to share your thoughts. It seemed like every time you started to speak up someone cut you off, talked over you, or dismissed your idea.

Have you ever had that experience?

Recently there has been a plethora of conversation in mainstream business media about the idea of “mansplaining” or “manologues.” Mansplaining is used to describe when a man explains something to a woman in a patronizing or condescending manner, or when a man unnecessarily over-explains an issue, assuming that the woman doesn’t understand. A manologue refers to when a man overshares, veers off topic, or continues to talk after his point has been made.

An article in The New York Times shares:

The prevalence of the manologue is deeply rooted in the fact that men take, and are allocated, more time to talk in almost every professional setting. Women self-censor, edit, apologize for speaking. Men expound.Of course, some women can be equally long-winded, but it is far less common. The fact that this tendency is masculine has been well established in social science. The larger the group, the more likely men are to speak (unless it is in a social setting like a lunch break). One study, conducted by researchers at Brigham Young University ...

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Thu, 14 July 2016 08:00:00 CST
The Vulnerable Act of Public Speaking

Find your voice—and keep it.

Voice is more than simply speaking; it engages the whole self—mind, body, spirit, your true self. Using another category, such as this one, helps us access elements of identity and authenticity in a different way and can become another set of practical strategies for going about living into your own sense of truth. How we understand voice can be lodged in four categories: theological, personal, practical, and communal.

Theological, Personal, Meaningful

Voice is a theological concept because utterance is directly connected to how God expresses God’s own self. God spoke, and in doing so God revealed God’s self. Speech is revelation. Voice is intimately tied to theological revelation. In ministry, our speaking is not just our own but for the sake of God’s own expression. We speak, in part, for God speaks through us. God counts on us to emit the words of God and the Word of God so that others might hear the promises of God in their own lives. Moreover, your voice and God’s voice intersect in your expression, God’s Word and words are interpreted in your utterance.

For example, when you read Scripture aloud, that act alone is an act of interpretation. The words you emphasize—your tone, timbre, pitch, vocal variety, volume, and expressions—all communicate meaning. In that reading, you are communicating what is important to you about that Scripture passage. You are communicating what matters to you, at least for this time, place, and purpose. You are communicating, in part, who you are theologically because of what you have chosen to emphasize and what you have decided to give less import.

As a result, voice is very personal. What you have to say, how you say it, your vocabulary, your ...

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Mon, 11 July 2016 08:00:00 CST
How to Be a Spiritual Mother

We all have a responsibility to guide younger leaders.

When I was in my twenties, I thought life was effectively over at 30. Incidentally, I also thought time would move much more slowly than it does. When I was in my thirties I knew better, but I still dreaded 40. I looked ahead and saw a future with obvious signs of aging, aches and pains, cultural alienation, and my precious children leaving home—it all felt negative and a big overwhelming.

But now that I am unequivocally in my forties, I realize there are some great things about being roughly at the halfway point of my presumptive lifespan. For starters, a solid majority of marketing and pop culture messages are not aimed at me—it’s very relaxing. For another, I’m actually looking forward to seeing my kids ready to leave home. Yet another, I am legitimately an elder to about half the population, and I find I’ve picked up a nice little collection of wisdom to share—and people actually want me to share it.

I find myself equipped not only for mentoring, but for spiritual mothering, a role I believe all women are called to play during our lives, regardless of whether we mother children in our own families.

Titus 2:3–5 gives a brief glimpse of the importance of this role in the church, with Paul instructing Timothy to ask older women to act in the lives of their younger counterparts. Both men and women need spiritual mothers. In the early days of the church—with few models to follow—people needed spiritual mothers and fathers to teach them how to be Christians. In modern times, this role seems just as important: Many young people live far away from their parents, and naturally occurring intergenerational community is rare.

So what does it mean to be a spiritual mother? It means ...

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Thu, 7 July 2016 08:00:00 CST
My Husband Isnt Called to Ministry

My dreams of ministering together were dashed, but I got something better in return.

I always thought I’d marry a man in ministry. Together, we’d be a kingdom powerhouse. We’d make people laugh, think, feel, and smile, all for the glory of God. Our unique pairing would be used to bring people closer to Christ.

Dreaming about who we’d be was a bit pompous on my part, but I had my reasons. From the time I was a young girl, I knew I’d been called to ministry, so I started to look for a man who fit that plan wherever I went. Would I meet him at camp, or would it be at leadership training? Would we end up sitting next to each other in a seminary class, or would he just happen to be the friend of a friend pastoring the local Sunday night church?

My expectations didn’t lessen when I met the man who would eventually become my husband, but I learned pretty quickly that my dream of ministering together wouldn’t be reality. Although my husband loves Jesus with a fiery passion, he’s found his vocational niche in the financial industry. He serves in the church, both when there’s a need and also when he feels his heart drawn toward a particular ministry, but his heart doesn’t thump for adolescents like mine. And he certainly doesn’t feel called to full-time ministry in the church.

Of course, I didn’t want to let go of my dream right away. It wasn’t until a year or two into marriage that I finally understood: he wasn’t going to be part of the ministry I’d known for almost 20 years. He had no desire to hang out with middle school students on Friday night, even if it meant more time with his wife, and he wasn’t about to lend his financial expertise to the non-profit board I oversaw.

I started to wonder whether our relationship was ...

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Tue, 5 July 2016 08:00:00 CST
Encourage More Women to Lead

Regardless of theology, we need to empower more women to use their gifts in the local church.

I’m not here to convince people to change their theological stance on the role of women in pastoral ministry. What I would like to ask everyone to consider, however, is:

How can I maximize the gifts and talents of women given the particular theological context of my church?

To encourage more women to lead (whether in the hospitality ministry, the women’s ministry, or the pastoral ministry), we must learn to look first at the gifts, talents, and experiences that they bring to the table. Then, and only then, should we consider how she could best utilize her gifts, talents, and experiences in the theological context and culture of our church. When we look first at gender, we risk pigeonholing people based on gender stereotypes and missing the incredible potential God has given them.

In some theological frameworks, there are roles that only men can fill. In this case, it’s important to be consistent and live out your theological convictions. It is just as important, however, not to exclude women from serving in particular roles simply because it breaks a stereotype. If, for example, a church believes the role of elder is specifically for men, but there’s no theological prohibition to women serving on the finance committee, it’s appropriate to look for a female member of the church with financial expertise to bring onto the team. Another church might believe the role of preaching on Sunday morning should be reserved for men, but could still invite a woman gifted at public speaking to give announcements or read Scripture. Be consistent with your theological convictions and flexible with cultural stereotypes.

Ephesians 4:11–12 calls the pastors, prophets, teachers, apostles, and evangelists of the ...

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Thu, 30 June 2016 08:00:00 CST
Ministry Misfit

Can a pastor be an introvert?

I grew up in a church that didn’t support women in ministry. So when God started tugging my heart toward vocational ministry, it took me a long to time to understand what was going on. With no visible examples of women leading in the church, I had a difficult time picturing what church leadership could look like for me. Thankfully, in college and graduate school I was exposed to many different kinds of leaders, women and men who helped change my paradigm and encouraged me to boldly step into my calling.

Shortly before graduating from seminary, I was invited to serve at a church that was supportive of women in ministry. I was so excited to be in an environment where I wouldn’t have to question whether I would fit in as a woman leader.

Am I Fit for Pastoral Ministry?

I loved my new position and poured my heart and soul into serving. God blessed my efforts, and I quickly knew without a doubt that I was exactly where he wanted me to be. Despite this, I soon found myself struggling with my calling again. Rather than worry about my gender, I worried about my personality, strengths, and interests. Looking around at the other leaders in my church, I saw bubbly, energetic, and fun people. They were outgoing and emotionally engaging. Everyone seemed to be drawn to their lively personalities. I, however, am an introvert who’s driven and goal-oriented. As I compared my leadership with theirs, I felt like I didn’t fit, and I thought that if I were more like them, I would feel accepted. No matter how hard I tried to be like the bubbly, outgoing leaders around me, though, I came across as inauthentic and trying too hard. There really isn’t anything worse than people trying too hard to be something they’re ...

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Mon, 27 June 2016 08:00:00 CST
Ladies Who Lunch—with Men

Do your coworkers follow the Billy Graham Rule?

Four months into a new ministry position (not in the church I currently serve), I reached out to my colleague. “Let’s grab lunch someday,” I suggested. Other staff seemed to come and go freely from meals and meetings, swapping ideas, covering ground together. I worked closely with this particular man, and we needed to forge a solid, professional relationship. I wanted to understand what motivated him, how he came at the ministry issues we were facing, and what his wife and kids were like. Spending the noon hour over a burger seemed a good plan. My invitation, however, was not accepted: “I won’t go to lunch with you. It will send the wrong message.”

He donned a pejorative tone and went on to explain that in Christian organizations men and women do not eat lunch together, nor do they ride in cars together, meet in an office with a closed door, or sit together at meetings. “Sorry. It’s how things are done.”

Having served in ministry for over a decade at that point, I was offended. I had never actually been served what is often called the “Billy Graham Rule.” I, of course, knew it existed, but it had never directly impacted me before. The “rule” goes something like this: to avoid temptation, or the appearance thereof, it has been said that Billy Graham never meets with a woman alone. Graham has done his best to avoid solo encounters with females—whether over lunch, prayer, dinner, a meeting, or any other occasion. He recognized that even a whiff of scandal could have unraveled the celebrated work of his crusades. I do not envy the tremendous scrutiny he has faced, a strain of skeptics and critics wondering if this famed evangelist is legit. For ...

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Thu, 23 June 2016 08:00:00 CST
The Truth About Sexism in the Church

And how to keep it from breaking you down.

The truth about sexism in the church needs to be heard, it needs to be told, and it needs to be called out. It should be devastating that you will experience sexism when it comes to your call to ministry. It should be devastating that the one institution on which you depend to be the most vocal about fighting sexism is the most resoundingly silent. It should be devastating that the one place where you might be able to escape the sexism of our culture will only make it worse. These facts could very well lead to discouragement. Why enter into ministry if you know that this is what you will face? Ministry is hard enough without having to prepare yourself for the many ways that sexism will succeed in demoralizing your position and sense of call.

Yet, these truths are not meant to be discouraging but to give rise to justified anger. Your anger will be justified and not only on the grounds of any one specific incident alone. It will be justified because the church should be so much better about dealing with sexism. The church, of all places, should not explain sexism away, sweep it under the rug, or insist it is really “not that bad.” Your anger will be justified because you will experience little to no support from those who you thought “had your back.” You will look around and say to yourself, because you can’t bring yourself to say it aloud to the bystanders, “Did you just hear that? Say something!”

Your anger will be justified because sexism is something your male colleagues will not have to deal with, and yet you have to expend energy and emotion on something that should have been addressed long ago. Your anger will be justified because you will just want the comments to stop, you will ...

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Mon, 20 June 2016 08:00:00 CST
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