Category Archives: Leadership

Saluting Richard Twiss

Twiss _dates

It’s amazing how death makes you think about life. It’s also amazing that when someone amazing passes away you wish that everyone would have been blessed with the opportunity to know them. As I posted updates on Richard Twiss – health status, progress and eventually the taking of his last breath on February 9, 2013, I discovered that only a handful of my friends knew or had been privileged to experience the wisdom, knowledge and spiritual insight of my Native American brother in Christ. And yet so many in other facets of my life and around the world were privileged with the opportunities to learn from Richard.

 

As I sit here with weeping heart, I am reminded of how kind, genuine and humorous he was each time I heard him speak. His commitment to being fully who he was as a Native American Christian gave me more freedom and peace about being fully who I am as an African American who is Christian without pressure to conform to the dominant White cultural norms. I am grateful. When you have some time check our some of his messages/videos.

 

I am also hopeful that more will take time to listen to videos of him speaking, contribute to the organization he founded with his wife, and read his work though he is currently no longer with us. His impact was huge, many tributes have been written in his honor by those impacted – you can read a few of those here, and here. You can also visit the LEGACY PAGE that has been created.

 

Rest in Peace Taoyate Obnajin, thank you for standing with your people, and for considering all of us your relatives – you taught us all well.

Twiss

A Tribute…

On this day, not because of any special holiday set aside for the commemoration of modern African American women, but because of sheer gratitude, I pause to celebrate the lives of a few African American women whose voices and contributions to society and to me, are worthy of acknowledgment. These are those who are not quoted on Facebook/Twitter, are not found in history books just yet, but I consider them worthy of applause, admiration and appreciation. These women provide the necessary encouragement for me to be fully me. They teach me the meaning of bringing my whole self to the party.

As a mature, and continually maturing woman, their wisdom and courage to live authentically into who they are, has shaped who I am and who I am becoming. In short, they inspire me to “be…!”  Half of them are individuals whom I know personally, others I have learned from at a distance, but each of them through written and/or spoken word – whether via books, video, blogs, or invaluable one-to-one conversations, are in part responsible for the courageous woman I am becoming. This post is my way of saying “Thank you.”

For those who wonder why I have chosen to highlight African American women, please know that it is not due to prejudice. Rather it is due to an awareness of my history and the challenges that women of color have faced in regard to the silencing of our voices. So, here they are.

ZinaDr. Zina Jacque – During a time in my life and ministry when I lost all hope and confidence that there were woman in ministry who had achieved high accomplishments without wearing a cloak of arrogance, God placed Zina in my path. Her mentoring, advice, strategic ability to pose the right questions to me, and most of all her friendship has transformed my life. She seldom tells me what to do/what she thinks I should do, but through the skillful use of questions she helps me think more deeply. I’m grateful. She knows my flaws and STILL sees me as good – never once has she been a voice of condemnation. Everybody needs a “Zina” in their lives – what a gift, and what a true friend!

jossie oDr. Jossie Owens – My former pastor who demonstrated what it meant to be secure in her role as a leader. My plethora of questions were not a threat or source of intimidation for her. Her door was always open to me, and her love was without condition. During a time in my spiritual journey when I was wounded by the actions of other church leaders, her compassion, patience, wisdom and humor brought healing to my soul and gave me courage to give ministry another chance.

Wil GafneyDr. Wil Gafney – Her bold Kingdom voice often leaves me wondering how she gained the courage to write the way she does, serve in the setting which she has chosen as an African American woman – I have never encountered anyone like her. She is one whose life gives me “permission” to be different and know that it’s ok to be my authentic self. Dr. Gafney is fierce, a skillful communicator (written and verbal), and one of the boldest scholars I have ever beheld – she tends to leave me asking “did she just say that?!” When I “grow up” I want to be as bold, daring, knowledgeable, and wise as she is. Classy, to say the least!

pamela lightsey_newdimensions2012Dr. Pamela Lightsey – Her commitment to scholarship, social justice, diversity and inclusion in the face of opposition not only amazes me, but instructs me in what it means to believe so deeply in equality for all people that I am willing to bear the cost of my convictions. She consistently holds nothing back, and refuses to mince words to appease the majority. In her absence I refer to her as my “hardcore” older sister in Christ. She inspires me, perhaps more than she realizes, and her approach to life and ministry has gradually caused me to resist the temptation to “punk out” when others desperately need me to stand up and speak up about subject matters that many within the Church would rather keep a hush about.

princessPrincess Kasune Zulu – A women of tremendous courage, faith, and hope; and my friend. When she prays with and for me, I never doubt that God is listening; when we talk I walk away much wiser. She has overcome the loss of both parents at a young age, she is a surviver of HIV/AIDS, world-wide speaker and advocate for those living with disease, and an entrepreneur –  leader of Fountain of Life in Zambia. Her Beauty is both external and internal. Though she has sat with US Presidents, she maintains a common touch with whomever she encounters. We’ve talked with each other, prayed through challenges, and I am honored to call her friend. This is my sister, a confidant, a spiritual leader in my life and one of the most humble sisters I have ever met.

Monica ColemanDr. Monica Coleman – There are societal issues that most spiritual leaders shy away from or only whisper about behind doors of privacy. However, Monica Coleman holds nothing back when it comes to public dialog regarding depression, sexuality, abuse, and the female body. She opens her life to us, unashamed to own her struggles, and as a result, the stigma of these issues is being erased.

 

 Carol Louis-Maire – One of my biological sisters. Her triumphant spirit, sisterly love, and courage to endure sickness and pain has inspired compassion in me for individuals who battle illnesses with stigma attached to it. She is why I am in ministry today. She is why I have way too many books on my shelves. She is why I believe prayer works. I started ministry because of her mentoring and gentle nudging to study, learn and live into the call and plan of God for my life. I couldn’t ask for a better older sister – and in all of this serious stuff, her sense of humor is slightly outrageous, and she is the only one who can get away with referring to me as “youngest.”

momWillie Mae Kelley (1931 – 2000) – Yes, this is my mother! Not only did her love for family stand out to me, but her love and intentional care for other families in the neighborhood was equally outstanding; she loved me with spontaneous, thoughtful gift giving – no holiday needed, but with each small/great thing given came the phrase “I saw this and thought about you….” Whether it was flowers, a card, miscellaneous item that she knew would make me smile, it was all her way of telling me how special I was to her. And through this as well as the things that she hoped to achieve in life, but never did, she inspires me to keep pushing forward with love for others an determination not to waste my time or rob the world of my good contribution.

 

Flunder_furman eduYvette Flunder – Songstress, preacher, advocate, organizer, trailblazer for justice and equality. I could write more than a few pages about this woman of God. The opportunity to sit in a seminary class with her on the topic of “sexuality and spirituality” changed my life and reminded me of the significance of making space for all of God’s children. There are points where we absolutely agree, and other points on which we differ. Nevertheless, her life shows me a different way, and a fresh approach to what it means to love all people.

emilie townes_bc eduDr. Emilie TownesScholar extraordinaire! The embodiment of wisdom, and by her example of following God and using the uniqueness of her voice and story she empowers those younger than she to go further, deeper and grow stronger. I admire her so deeply that when I saw her recently on the campus of a local seminary I was too awestruck to say anything. Sometimes being in the presence of greatness leaves me a little speechless, but luckily for me I later had the opportunity to join in on a conference call with her and just listen! Now if only I can sit in on a class, seminar or workshop with her – surely this will add to my respect and admiration.

TerrieWilliams_black radio network

Terrie Williams – We’ve never met, but her journey through the darkness of clinical depression which she has chosen to publicly share in Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We Are Not Hurting in order to give voice to the challenges of mental illness within the Black community, is noteworthy. She speaks up when it is no doubt safer to be silent. This deserves recognition.


renita j_twitRenita Weems – Her skilled use of words captivates me even when I don’t want to be. Works such as What Matters Most, Battered Love, and “Just a Sister Away” make me rethink what I thought I might have known about the Old Testament. She’s my elder sister in the Lord! The lens through which she sees and understands biblical texts never ceases to challenge me and provoke deeper thinking. Her style awakens adventure within me.

As time goes on, I am hopeful that this list will expand, but for now I salute the women whom I have named and described above along with a few others such as Kentina Washington, who embodies compassion; Kim Thomas, who is more amazing than she realizes; Alise Barrymore, who models a different way to pastor, Olive Knight, who believes in others and helps them find their voice, Keyonda McQuarters, who is the best example of parenting I have ever met, and Alisha Lola Jones, a young woman who encourages me to be about all that I need to be about. There are countless others who keep going even when they could easily quit – thank you for hanging in there! For the multitude of African American scholars whom others tried to convince me didn’t exist, and the women whose faith is large, passion for their work intense, and skills unmatched, I am grateful. Through their lives and witness they have taught me to be bold, vocal, compassionate, and reach toward all that I have the potential to become.

Who are the African American women who have shaped who you are/are becoming? Leave a shout -out to them in the comments.

Do You Have a Process?

Image“What’s Your Leadership Development Process?”
I believe that every church needs a process for developing leaders. Without it, we miss the opportunity to cultivate the gifts of potentially great leaders. Many local congregations adopt the haphazard approach and I am fully aware of that. I realize that leadership formation is not a linear, cut and dry process such as take these five steps and presto, you are a leader, yet still there are practices and processes that can be put in place to help people move further along the path of service and live into their purpose as part of the body of Christ.
Here are some questions I believe that current leaders should ask themselves for starters.
  1. What are 3 to 5 qualities/character traits that you desire to see/expect of leaders?
  2. What is your ministry’s vision/mission/goals? What tasks need to be done to move you forward?
  3. Who do you need to accomplish those goals and fulfill your mission? What skills are needed?
  4. What needs to get done? Why does it need to get done? Who can do it besides you and the normal faithful few?
  5. What type of mentoring, and training is necessary?
  6. What types of administrative systems would help?
  7. What leaders are already in place? How are they developing leaders?
  8. What types of evaluative tools will you implement to keep people developing?
  9. What are some tools you can use to provide off-site training for leaders (blog, twitter, facebook)
Asking these and other questions will prepare you to start moving in the direction of developing a quality leadership culture.
Once you begin the process of creating a leadership culture, remember:
  • Assume that prospective leaders are in your church (even if you haven’t spotted them)
  • Recruit specifically rather than generally
  • Provide training/development and ongoing support
  • Delegate authority along with delegating tasks – be willing to give up control
  • Shepherd/care well for those leaders who commit to investing their time and energy
  • Invest in leaders by encouraging and supporting growth – fund a training, buy a book
  • Let leaders “catch” good qualities and practices from you – let them experience you leading them well so that they too can lead others well
  • Use technology to your advantage – training/development does not always have to happen on-site, in a meeting. Make the best use of a leader’s time
Creating a leadership culture is not a linear, regimented process, it is sometimes organic. However, haphazardness usually impedes progress forward if it is not balanced out with a plan, steps and structure of some kind. Church leadership is not about one or even a few “stars,” it is about a collective group of individuals serving and accomplishing what God has uniquely positioned a ministry to do
Remember, people are not shaped or developed overnight and character development is just as essential as skill development, and it is all a process.

How Leaders Squash Innovation

Some of the most creative and helpful ministry ideas flow from environments where experimentation and implementation of ideas that differ from what an organization or church has never done. Though not a Christian organization, Apple, lead by Steve Jobs, by far is one of the greatest leaders in innovation. Whether its deciding after an extended period of specializing in computers deciding to create a phone, ipods, and more recently the iPad, their innovation is unmatched and they demonstrate that sometimes a deviation from the “norm” may be just what is needed to launch an organization or ministry forward into greater effectiveness and impact.

Sometimes innovation can be perceived as a threat and result in resistance in the heart, mind and actions of leaders. Here are some of the ways that squashing innovation gets played out.

Require Unchallenged Submission to your Authority – “why?” questions are deemed disrespectful/viewed as unreasonable to you; and no one should dare voice disagreement. If you tend to surround yourself with “yes” women/men watch out, your insecurities may be showing.

Dictate after you Delegate – Share position and responsibilities without handing over proper authority.

Say words like “we don’t do things that way here” (thanks to Seth Godin for this one) – By saying this you get obedience and submission but kill innovation.

Inadequately Resource a Staff Member or Ministry Area you Profess to Support – A church or organization’s budget speaks volumes regarding where their heart is. Enough said!

Does your organization or ministry encourage and inspire creativity and innovation or squelch it? In order to encourage innovation try doing the opposite of at least one of the above observations.

The Flipsides of Seminary

SeminarySpeaking as a person who has some seminary education both behind me and ahead of me (Certificate in Urban Ministries, Master of Arts in Educational Ministries, and currently working on a Master of Divinity), I’ve observed some positives as well as some negatives regarding seminary education (not necessarily in this order)

Myths

1. Every Christian leader or aspiring leader should attend

2. It prepares individuals for ministry in a church context or otherwise

3. It qualifies one for pastoral positions within local congregations

4. All who attend have a general knowledge of the Bible and a deep enough level of maturity

Upside

1. You can meet and connect with some great ministry leaders

2. You can also meet some examples of leaders who behave in ways that you learn not to emulate

3. It can help you think more deeply and even dismantle some theological practices that you once held so dear but need to let go of

4. It can humble you as you become aware of how little you actually know/still have to learn

5. You can move from a place of being shallow to a place of greater depth as you preach, teach, care for people, etc rather than just repeat tired cliques and ‘churchy’ language and responses that you used to.

6. It provides the opportunity to consider and reconsider your “call” to ministry and define it more clearly

Downside

1. It can lead you to a place where God is no longer central in your life and ministry practice and beginning to rely on oneself rather than Holy Spirit power

2. It can lead to arrogance – believing that you are smarter and even more spiritual than those who have not been

3. You can study and learn church history and ignore current culture and eventually become irrelevant in your effort to do ministry

4. There exist contexts where your voice will be disregarded as that which is not credible or worthy of paying attention to without a seminary degree/theological training.

5. Moving to a place where you are reading so many books about the Bible and about God that you treat the Bible and God (by your actions) as though neither are essential for the life you live or the ministry you hope to do.

6. You can loose sight of the practical ministry practices that you possessed prior to going to seminary and begin clinging to theories that would never work/be effective in practice.

7. Concepts and teaching methodologies are not usually relevant to a diversity of cultures/ethnicities – can be very euro-centric at times (depending upon where you attend)

That’s just to name a few, are there others that I have missed?

It Matters…

OK, I’m getting ready to ramble a little – this may not be deep, but here it goes anyway.

Sometimes the smallest things we do as leaders is what makes the biggest difference. Recently, I was given a gently push in a different direction by another leader as I was serving as a leader on a college campus.

At first, my insecurities and defenses came to the surface (as usual), until I realized that we were on the same team and that we both possessed the desire for what is best and most effective in our attempts to be good pastors to those entrusted to our care.

As a pastoral leader, I not only have the gifts of teaching and preaching, but I also have the gift of administration. The combination of these gifts are a huge help to me and to others as I serve. However, sometimes I get consumed with administration and neglect other important elements of whom God is calling me to be. Sometimes in my concern for program design and efficiency in taking care of the details that get overlooked, I forget one of our core values as a ministry team – that we value people over programs.

After a difficult week of self doubt, discouragement, questioning my call, and even at times feeling like a failure, God waited until the end of this week to encourage me. As I spent time doing the “people part” of my job, not just the administrative parts, God opened my eyes and enabled me to see what ministry was really all about. His love for people, and desire to love through me is the central element of ministry. He also reminded me of how much of a joy it is to talk to people and be a listening ear – I LOVE doing that! But again, administration is a beast sometime.

After countless conversations with the university students that God has trusted me to support this week and a few emails from students expressing how helpful it is to them that I reach out to them, I started to get what God was trying to help me see.  As I reached out and just took moments to talk, listen, pray for, and physically walk with individuals this week, it wasn’t hard for me to do, I did it because I cared. But then a light finally came on for me and I realized that the small things that we do in supporting others is not always so small to the recipients.

This week, God taught me one of the most important lessons (yes the lights finally came on for me) that I believe leaders and all others need to grasp – and that is that small acts of kindness and support go a long way and make a bigger difference than it seems.  Stick with it!

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Declining Churches

The stats are in – the American Church in many ways is not booming, it’s declining. According to research done by David Olson the church is not keeping up with the growth of the population. Some churches are closing, others are stagnant, and thankfully others are seeing exponential and continuous growth.

I am no expert, so please don’t read this with that expectation. However, as I have observed certain congregations I have concluded that at least some of the following could be reasons why many (not all)  churches are either declining or failing to grow and then I will offer what I believe to be possible solutions. They are in random order.

#1 Answering Questions that No One is Asking
The world has changed and continues to change. Many of the issues our culture face in the 21st Century are vastly different from those of the previous century. Yet many churches fail to address relevant issues and apply God’s still relevant voice to those issues. Blowing the dust off of yesterday’s sermon illustrations, spouting off old cliches, and insisting on ancient music don’t draw many people to churches who are looking for hope and help. Listen to God and keep an ear toward culture and make the connection.

#2 Attachment to Outdated Methodologies
I have heard countless people criticize things such as contemporary worship songs, use of media, not having Sunday School, etc. No matter how much growth is experienced by those places who stay open to God’s ideas regarding some of the possible  “how tos” of ministry today, still critics remain. Yesterday’s ideas may have been God given and we should celebrate those ideas. However, to insist on doing them forever is to close our hands to the rest of what God desires to give us and do through us. No, every church doesn’t need to have bells and whistles, but God does call us to forward movement – He has more.

#3 Solo Leadership Models and Practice
I’ve been wrestling with whether or not solo leadership is healthy for an individual and for local congregations. One pastor who does it all couldn’t be healthy. Even if the ability to have additional paid pastoral staff is not possible, it is necessary for the health of churches and leaders to give her/himself to the role of equipping others for ministry so that they share in the work God is doing rather than simply watch the solo pastor do it. The same is true for those who lead specific subgroups within churches. It makes sense to me that those individuals are not called to do all the work but to “pastor,” develop/train, and release those whom they lead into service.

#4 Self Reliance Over God Reliance
There’s a statement floating around and I am unaware of where it originated from so please forgive me. Here it goes. ‘If the Holy Spirit walked away from many churches today, things would still carry on as if He never left.’ Reaching a place where we believe that we are smart enough on our own and skilled enough on our own to be effective at the work of God is a bad idea. The Holy Spirit is the One who sustains and empowers us to have a significant impact.

Do the challenges mean that we should pack up our bags and go home? The Church is God’s organization and organism in the world, so that couldn’t be what we are called to. These challenges present us with an opportunity to do one central thing – CHANGE.

LIFE CHANGE – Everyone who ever encountered Jesus experienced change, whether in thought, behavior, direction or position. The change that Jesus brings about in us is not just for us but to cause us to live lives that draw others one step closer to Him. We’ll get stretched and it’s worth it!

STRATEGIC CHANGE – Every organization, the Church included, should have clear vision, goals that walk in the direction of that vision, and a power source to enable the execution of those goals by accessing the resources made available.

PRACTICAL CHANGE – Lofty vision and goals are good, yet they need to be fleshed out in a way that makes practical sense for those we are aiming to reach and do ministry with. Practical change should take place in our practices within congregations as well as in our approach to connecting with the needs of the people in the communities where our churches are located.

That’s what I think. What do you think? Share in the Comments below and let me know. I want to hear from you.

Is Church Diversity Possible?

Is local church diversity possible? Not too long ago I had the experience of joining the staff of a local church as the only African American staff member. During the interview process the church had mentioned a desire to become a diverse congregation where everyone was welcome to come. However as I spent time on staff I would soon discover many challenges that accompanied this plan.

Now that I have recovered from the experience of being there, I can honestly say that the experience helped solidify my convictions even more deeply regarding church diversity. Many lessons were learned and insights gleaned. Here are some that flow, not only from my experiences there, but from internal places within the fibers of my being.

Courageous Leadership
When it comes to diversifying local congregations, cowardice really has no place. (I will refrain from using terms such as being a wuss, punk, chump, etc). The Church needs leaders who love people deeply – all kinds of people and refuse to become satisfied with status quo and always doing what has always been done. Leaders who aim to lead the way in the area of diversity take hits that can be avoided if only we keep the majority culture in our individual settings happy. We could avoid criticism and having people question our motives if only we didn’t launch into difficult conversations about race, cultural injustices, and issues of discrimination. Are you up for the task – pain and all?  Today’s Church needs leaders who aim to please God rather than appease people/be a people pleaser. Are you that kind of leader? There are some noteworthy leaders in the conversation of diversity that model courage for leaders, individuals such as Soong-Chan Rah, Mark Deymaz, Brenda Salter-McNeil, Daniel Hill, and David Ireland, to name a few

Long-Term Commitment to the Process
I suppose I don’t need to say much here. But I include it because I realize that starting out in the pursuit of diversity is one thing, and continuation is another. Some never start. Others start and quit when things get tough and even give “God” the credit for their lack of commitment to continuance, assuming that if they encounter opposition then it must be a signal that they should stop. However, opposition can and usually does serve as at least one indication that we are on the right track. Keep God’s vision for a diverse, yet united humanity in mind and keep going!

Celebrate Rather than Tolerate
A few years back after visiting countless churches during my time in New Jersey and leaving disappointed, I decided to give it one last try by visiting a fairly large church. I went with low expectation, because I was weary with the search and on the verge of giving up finding the place for me. As I entered the area it became clear to me that this was “the” place! As I walked from the parking lot to the church building I noticed that I was surrounded by a variety of cultures – Asian American, African American, Caucasian, Latino, Middle Eastern, etc. I entered into a space where I was greeted at the doors by Greeters of mixed cultures, encountered people from these different cultures interacting with each other. As morning worship began, the diversity was visible and audible again as staff members of different races and styles were present and those who lead musical worship were not only a mixture of races, but the music selections were from genres that appealed to urban gospel, instrumental, contemporary worship, etc.

It became obvious to me that this church did not only invite all people to come and then ask them to conform to cultural norms that were not there own, but each person could come and be celebrated for who they authentically were and were encouraged to celebrate who others were. The presence of people different that you are should not cause us to simply endure their presence among us, but to rejoice in the beauty of our differences! Willingness to let go of things always catering to our particular group, styles, etc we much be willing to join with others and celebrate their styles as well.

Willingness to do What Does NOT Come Natural
I suppose the Caucasian gentleman that once said to me “it’s natural for people to gravitate to those who are similar to themselves” was correct. When I enter a crowded space it’s natural for me to look for other African Americans and move in their direction as a point of connection. But after thinking about this concept of doing what comes natural, I shifted my thinking to biblical text and saw that God’s design is the extend us beyond what simply comes natural to functioning supernaturally. What I mean by that is that we should be willing to let God empower us to reach beyond ourselves and do some of the things we would not naturally have the tendency to do. Even a brief skimming of the book of Acts gives us a glimpse of what it means to reach beyond our specific cultural groups. A look at the life and ministry practice of Jesus also gives us a clue – as He talked to Samaritans and other marginalized groups. The very purpose He came for was to break down walls that divide us from each other and eliminate the barriers (Ephesians 2). So, maybe God doesn’t excuse the Church from diversity as easily as we excuse ourselves from it?

Shared Power and Authority
It’s one thing to invite people of various cultures to the table – changing them positionally from being an outsider to an insider, it’s a totally different dynamic to share the authority that comes with the position. I learned this during my time on staff at the Caucasian congregation as I was repeatedly left out of important meetings and decisions, as my authority even in the area where I was invited to lead was even nonexistent. The dynamics of being a women on a male staff, and not only a woman, but the only African American made it nearly impossible for me to lead. I had a position, but I soon discovered that the authority that was to accompany the position was not a reality. Sadly, this eventually lead to feelings of tokenism. If you are a church leader, particularly if you are a member of the dominant group/race/culture, remember not just to embrace the lofty idea of giving positions to people of minority groups/race/cultures, but be prepared to also share the power and authority that is appropriate for such positions.

I believe that church diversity CAN happen! I must admit that it disturbs me to encounter diversity everywhere I go  schools, malls, neighborhoods, restaurants, etc and then attend churches where homogeneity is the norm. When I enter into neighborhoods that are clearly diverse, and then enter a church in that same neighborhood and see a homogenous group of people it creates a sense of unrest. And though this unrest is uncomfortable I am inclined to believe that God is in the discomfort in that the discomfort compels me to action. So maybe dissatisfaction is actually a good starting point? What do you think?

The Challenge of Leadership

The last two years of my life some could categorize me as “AWOL” – absent without leave. However, I would say I was “AWL” – absent with leave. After having served on the staff of local churches as a Children’s Ministry Pastor and some of the many complexities of such a role I found myself in a place where many ministry leaders find themselves at some point in the journey of serving – in a place of utter burnout! After launching a ministry to community kids and families, graduating from seminary with a masters degree, relocating from one geographical area to another, experiencing health challenges, etc, I found out that God had one plan for this high energy, deeply committed individual. That plan was rest! As would be expected, I learned a few things from my journey as a pastor. As I reflected on ministry and life as a single woman in ministry there were many lessons gleaned.

Self Care is essential. Ministry is like a ravenous beast that can devour both men and women, especially the borderline type A personalities like myself. As a single woman I have to guard this area constantly. Take care of yourself or you’ll find yourself unable to take care of anyone else.

Being a “people pleaser” is a self defeating goal! My mother used to say “you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” I found out that she was right and now Aiming to please God alone is a more peaceful place.

Not every place who is willing to hire you is a place where you can thrive. It’s important to make sure that the place where you are invited to serve is a place with matching values and vision.

People are more important than programs. Loving God and loving people should be the foundation of all that we do as leaders.

Clarify and ask the hard questions on the front end. Though there are always questions that can be missed, it’s important to think through some of the things that matter to you about the church, beliefs about children/families, expectations of staff members, and what types of boundaries can be established and tons more.

Being single as a ministry staff person has challenges unknown to married staff members. I learned that many churches place unrealistic expectations on the single person, assuming that boundaries are not as necessary because we don’t have children of our own or a spouse to give our attention to. I also discovered that chances are that a single person will get paid less – enough said. Connect with a place that celebrates and respects boundaries.

Support Systems are Nonnegotiable! No one makes it in ministry alone. It’s not God’s design for us to go solo. Every leader needs at least one or two people whom they can be utterly and totally honest with.

One person cannot do it all! Equip others to be leaders and delegate, delegate, delegate! As a Children’s Pastor I find that some churches hire for this position assuming that this person will be the person who spends time with the kids. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s a pastoral role in the truest sense of the word – equipping others for service, preaching, teaching, training teams, pouring into other leaders, and a ton of administrative duties that go with the job, supporting parents, kids, and team members.

Ministry is not easy, and some challenges can’t be avoided – it comes with the package. But God can provide wisdom for navigating our way through the tough stuff. It feels GREAT to be back in the game!!

What are you learning about life and leadership?