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5 Tips for Staying in Leadership in Trying Times

Lessons on leading through suffering from the life of Amanda Berry Smith

Amanda Berry Smith was a wife, mother, preacher, singer, and missionary in Liberia, Sierre Leone, and other parts of Africa. She was strong, gifted, and admired by many. She was considered a mighty warrior for God's kingdom and one clergyman, Marshall W. Taylor, even proclaimed she was, "a Christian of the highest type." Amanda preached in England, Ireland, Scotland, India, and Africa. She even founded an orphanage in Harvey, Illinois, for abandoned and destitute African American children.

I'm amazed at the many works she accomplished for the kingdom of God. I'm even more amazed that she accomplished these tasks in the face of suffering. Smith became a widow twice. She gave birth to five children and four of them died young. After her second husband died, she became a single mother. She was alone, grieving, disappointed, and suffering. Yet, she was a powerhouse in the body of Christ. She did not lose heart. She continued to serve the Lord no matter what she faced. She organized gatherings for testimonies, discipleship, and prayer. She traveled the world singing songs of Zion at camp meetings and urban revivals. After years of serving as a missionary, her health suffering, she returned to the United States.

In those times of great difficulty, the way she ministered changed. Sometimes she didn't take speaking roles, she just witnessed to the people in her daily life. Amanda witnessed to neighbors and even evangelized random people she met. Amanda Berry Smith's story serves as a model to us that we can continue to serve the Lord in the midst of suffering. It may not be in a way that we are accustomed to, but, like Smith, we can pray for opportunities to be used in significant ways—no matter ...

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Thu, 25 May 2017 08:00:00 CST
Make Criticism Your Friend

Change your perspective, and criticism can actually propel you forward in Gods mission.

The higher we rise in leadership, the more we can expect there will be someone with a contrary opinion to criticize us. These opinions may come from a place of genuine concern, jealousy, or, most often, simply a different perspective. Sometimes it’s hard to know the motivation from which a criticism originates, but the end result looks the same: “I wouldn’t have done it that way!” Are you frustrated by someone who has applied a subjective or questionable standard to label you as out of line? What if this someone has authority over you and their subjective opinion becomes the standard when your advancement is concerned?

I remember walking into the executive office of a major corporation during one of my first assignments as a management consultant, bubbling over with new ideas. After my presentation, the head of the corporation looked me straight in the eyes and said, “If you wish to be taken seriously, you need to learn to breathe and not act like a bulldozer in a china shop.” Needless to say, I was taken aback. Not only had he declined to give any feedback on the substance of my ideas or the value of my presentation, he had directed a personal criticism toward me suggesting that I couldn’t be taken seriously. I was angry, hurt, and confused all at the same time. Surely, I thought to myself, he must have a problem with women in leadership. How unprofessional to make it personal and not even comment on the substance of the ideas that I presented!

As is often the case when we receive criticism, I didn’t know the true intention behind his words. Was he trying to help me? Deliberately hurt me? Maybe he was just expressing his frustration with my actual presentation, or maybe he was ...

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Thu, 18 May 2017 08:00:00 CST
When Volunteers Disappoint

Work through disappointment and create realistic expectations for your team.

Leadership is an unpredictable ship to navigate. We can’t sail the boat without a crew and we can’t always control the crew—let alone the wind and the waves! Maybe the real problems arise when we try to.

My husband and I have been leading long-term healing and discipleship groups for more than 20 years. Our structure includes a teaching time followed by discussion groups. As each new season starts, we set aside one day for training new leaders. We always include our expectations, including: show up when you say you will, communicate if you have a moral failure, be prepared when you speak, and more. The first time someone who is new to the team is scheduled to share or teach, we have them run the talk by us and give them constructive feedback. So when MaryAnne*, who was a new teacher, stepped to the microphone, I thought we were on the same page.

When she reached her 30- minute limit, however, it was clear that we were not. At the 45-minute mark, I tried to make eye contact and subtly communicate that she needed to wrap up. I failed. The next 15 minutes were agonizing for me. I went into catastrophizing mode, thinking the entire night was ruined. By the time she finally finished, I was beside myself. As I struggled to reorganize the evening, I noticed something: no one else seemed the least bit annoyed or even aware that MaryAnne had exceeded her time limit.

When I debriefed this later with my husband, he challenged me to explore why this was so bothersome. Yes, she had gone over, and yes, we had clearly communicated the time parameters, but her teaching was solid and accessible. He brought up the possibility that the problem wasn’t so much MaryAnne’s time management as my unrealistic expectations. ...

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Mon, 15 May 2017 11:13:00 CST
9 Reasons to Be Thankful for Moms in Ministry

The awkward, embarrassing, and hilarious truth about balancing motherhood and ministry.

When I think about mothers in ministry, I’m impressed by their gumption. One young mom I know leads worship at her church while her newborn daughter sleeps on her chest in a baby wrap. Another mom I know has her elementary-aged son tag along to her community service events, teaching him how to love his neighbors through practical works. Even I’ve learned the art of carrying on an important conversation with a potential small-group leader while balancing my daughter on my hip. (Frankly, I never knew what multi-tasking meant until I had to carry a baby around with me at all times!)

I love watching moms live out their calling in church ministry while they mother. It’s inspiring! But all ministering moms know that it can also be downright hilarious. So this Mother’s Day, we’re celebrating all the moms in ministry and all the embarrassing (and funny!) moments they face. As you read through these stories, we hope you’ll be encouraged to thank a mom in ministry.

During the week of VBS, we arrived at a new church where I would be the associate pastor. At the finale program, our second Sunday at church, my 4-year-old daughter gave a show no one expected. She had wanted to dress herself that day, and overcome with moving boxes and her well-established independence, I let her. She chose her favorite—a button-up dress. That morning she sang, danced, and swung her arms to the music, but she had forgotten to button the dress below the waist. Which might have been okay, except she had also forgotten undergarments. Did I mention zealous dancing? Everyone saw her everything. My second week. I seriously considered resigning then and there. But then I realized things could only go up from there. They ...

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Thu, 11 May 2017 08:00:00 CST
8 Signs You Need to Say No More Often

From humorous to too-close-to-home

Life comes at us fast. We want to be effective in our ministries, but sometimes helping and leading morphs into a mania of doing that piles so much on us that we forget who we are, and how we are called to live differently. As women, we put pressure on ourselves to succeed, to live faster and faster until the rat race swallows us up. And as we get sucked into doing more, the word “no” becomes almost a curse word. To be known as someone who says “no” could limit our chances for advancement or for greater responsibilities, or so we’re told; but learning to say “no” is important if we are truly to shine in the areas God has gifted and equipped us to lead. We know we need to say “no” more, and we know the reasons, but in our daily scramble, we forget.

Not sure if you need to learn to say “no” more? Here are eight signs:

1. You aren’t quite sure how you ended up with four email accounts that you monitor daily, but somehow you’ve landed here and now you have to switch back and forth. The strain it gives your eyes has definitely been the reason you have to get a new eyeglass prescription yearly.

2. You’ve heard the latest on how multi-tasking was a myth perpetuated by some [insert devious agenda by foes real and imagined] to keep us spinning in our hamster wheels. Now you have to come to terms with the fact that in your season of life, each “yes” means a “no” to something else.

Actually, that was true all along, but you are just now really contending with it. In your 20s, there was always the prospect of sleep later. Back then, there was a friend to hang out with and that paper to procrastinate on. But now you have a five-year-old ...

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Thu, 4 May 2017 08:00:00 CST
Working with a Team Means Better Care

Pooling expertise, wisdom, resources, and networks leads to better ministry.

"It's weird." These were not the words I wanted to hear from my son's pediatrician.

For weeks the good doctor had been trying to diagnose what was going on with my son. Lab tests, examinations, ultrasounds; my five-year-old had been given the full work-up. Now, as I sat on the phone in the corner of the gym I took notes on scrap paper, the doctor relayed his surprise—what we thought was improving had suddenly gotten worse.

I was not comforted by his confusion, but took solace when he stated without shame, "I am sending this over to the kidney specialist." After meeting him years before in the hospital, four kids, and countless visits, I have learned to trust his skill and capability in caring for my children. So my confidence in him was bolstered, not diminished when he confessed his need for help beyond his expertise.

My doctor did not hide behind a façade when he didn't have the answer. My child's welfare was his priority, not his ego. When he could no longer help, he did what was needed to find someone who could; he knew the limits of his knowledge, and invited greater knowledge to weigh in.

As we minister to the hurting and deal with the heavy issues weighing on the hearts of those God loves, we must develop the humility to know when we are in over our heads. Their welfare must be a priority over our own pride. A leader who thinks she can answer every question, meet every need, and care for everyone that requires counsel or intervention is no long a leader.

You Are Not a Failure

As women, we often believe that when we can’t help someone by ourselves, we’ve failed. But a call for help doesn't mean you failed in helping the hurting; it means you were willing to ...

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Tue, 2 May 2017 07:00:00 CST
Band of Sisters

How I moved from a lone ranger to intentionally amplifying the work of other women leaders

My first foray into ministry as vocation wasn’t with a church, but rather as a guest preacher and worship leader, filling the pulpit or leading worship for pastors who were away for a week. I referred to myself as the lone ranger. I’m not really a fan of the masked man; it just felt like most days I was going it alone, and it was lonely. Regardless of gender, this sort of work can be isolating. As a woman offering pulpit supply, however, it was even more so. I didn’t know any other women doing what I was doing. I would travel and preach a sermon or lead worship, or sometimes do both. Afterward, I would engage people in mostly surface conversations before returning home. Although the people I met felt connected to me, they didn’t really know me, and I certainly didn’t know them.

For a while, the lone ranger title felt like a badge of honor: I’m the only woman out here doing this. And then, one day, those words weighed heavy on my soul: What ifI’m really the only woman out here doing this? All of a sudden, it didn’t feel like an honorable thing to be alone. I needed to know others who followed the same path—and not just other men. I needed to find some women. That’s when I entered seminary.

In seminary, I met other women who were pursuing similar goals. Most of the time, we were friendly and supportive of one another. But there were also times where I sensed tension. I overheard whispers and hallway conversations in low tones about women who were discouraged over not finding a place to serve. Graduation was around the corner for a handful of these women, and most still had not been offered a ministry role. These women were competing against one another because only ...

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Thu, 27 April 2017 09:00:00 CST
Feeling Anonymous in Ministry

The power of being seen, recognized, and named.

My name is Dori. But that’s not always the name I wanted. Long before Finding Nemo and Ellen Degeneres made my name popular, there were many names I wanted rather than Dori. For some unknown reason I went through a season in 1st grade where I signed all of my papers “Dor.” That’s right. Just drop the “i” and call me “Dor.” I have no earthly idea why I thought this was cool. Thankfully it didn’t last long. My brother started calling me “Window” and I realized that having “Dor” as a nickname wouldn’t actually make me popular.

After my “Dor” phase, I went through a “Jason” period. I have always been a bit of a tomboy. I preferred playing football, climbing trees and picking scabs over wearing dresses, doing my hair and anything associated with the color pink. That’s why I dreaded the annual intergenerational tea party hosted by my grandmother every December. The ritual was set: the women of our family would cook all morning, decorate the house and get dressed up—all for the purpose of drinking tea and talking with other dressed-up women. Needless to say, I didn’t get it.

Just before the tea started, the women in my family would gather in the living room for a picture. We would then turn and take a picture of the men as well. But their picture was more of a joke. They weren’t dressed fancy or anything. No, the men were comfortable in their blue jeans and t-shirts ready to go to the hardware store, the movies, McDonalds, or other adventurous “man” places.

By third grade I decided enough was enough. After my mom finished helping me get dressed and ready, I went to my suitcase and did what ...

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Mon, 24 April 2017 08:00:00 CST
A Conductor of Community

Gail Song Bantum turned a love of music into a life of ministry.

She is a phoenix, rising up out of the ashes.

Try as I might, I can’t get this picture out of my mind. I close my eyes. I attempt to quiet my thoughts. Eventually, I turn to Google to expand upon the greater idea of life stemming from death, but still the phoenix appears. Still, she rises, over and over again.

I suppose some people are like this. When faced with the seemingly impossible obstacles of life, they carry on, trusting that these are the spaces God enters in. Here, life explodes. Here, the phoenix rises. Here, as Paul writes to the church at Ephesus, we experience more than we could ever ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

Gail Song Bantum, executive pastor of Quest Church in Seattle, Washington, is a phoenix rising from the ashes. The daughter of Korean immigrants, Bantum dreamed as a child of becoming the first Asian American female orchestra conductor. She was a musician, through and through, but when she was eight years old, a couple of older women in the Pentacostal Korean Immigrant Church she attended spoke a prophetic word over her: “You are called to ministry.”

Their words went in one ear and out the other. Ministry was neither an alluring nor appealing option in her mind, so she fought the call until her mother unexpectedly passed the summer after her freshman year of college. This catalytic event rocked her world, as anyone who’s walked through the ebbs and flows of grief and loss can understand.

“It’s amazing to me how our desires and perspectives can change so radically when we find ourselves in the midst of desperate spaces,” Bantum wrote in an email, citing how her mother’s untimely death led her to say a hearty “yes” to God, rising out of the depths ...

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Thu, 20 April 2017 08:00:00 CST
Self-Control for the Sake of Ministry

What does it mean to say no to ourselves on behalf of those we serve and influence?

This past week I was in an ordination workshop. The class was made up of people in the process of being recognized as set apart for the ministry of shepherding God’s flock. What this all means is still being worked out both for me and for my church. For the record, I have no actual agricultural experience. The closest is of the gardening variety and pet-sitting. I feel unqualified and doubtful most of the time. Nonetheless, it’s a journey worth travelling, even if it is rather daunting and lonely.

Daunting because of the weight of responsibility (wandering sheep, wolves, treacherous terrain). Lonely because of the self-sacrifice that’s required (sleepless nights, vigilance, few social benefits). Don’t get me wrong; being a pastor isn’t the only role that’s demanding. Perhaps I’ve wallowed on rusting grass while gazing longingly at green fields a bit too often. Truth is, life can be daunting and lonely for anyone, especially at a time with a great deal of uncertainty and social anxiety.

Changing Times Call for Self-Controlled Leaders

The backdrop to our preparations is the ongoing turmoil we see evident on our social media and news. What’s happening in the United States is impacting Canadian ministries and congregations as well. As a pastor, I find that I have to tread a fine line between engaging in what I believe to be important social issues and not alienating those who may hold different viewpoints, especially those within my congregation. In calmer times, there is already enough diversity within the church to cause division. But with recent events and the unfettered access to un-vetted, unloving opinions, we are seeing the proliferation of fear, disdain, and hostility. It ...

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Mon, 17 April 2017 08:00:00 CST
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