As one of many leaders within the vibrant and growing egalitarian movement, I am delighted Mutuality will explore the issue of leadership from the perspective of many. There is wisdom with many counselors.
When I first assumed leadership in CBE, I was surprised by the dearth of material on Christian leadership that addresses the challenges and complexities of egalitarian leadership. Many excellent resources explain the biblical support for women in leadership in churches and ministries. But to learn how women and men can develop egalitarian leadership skills, we often have to turn to secular sources. For this reason, I am thankful that Mutuality will explore this matter more fully.
Secular sources can help, but they only go so far in nurturing Christian leaders. Leadership, it seems to me, is both a natural talent and a spiritual gift. Leaders effect change by serving and empowering others, crafting and articulating vision, and building consensus. Secular resources can help us develop our talents and skills, but what about God’s gifting and calling? What about those people God raises up “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14)? When Esther realized the key position she was in as a leader of her people, she turned to prayer and fasting to help her make the right decisions.
Prayer has been a precious gift in my experience as a leader. My prayer life doubled—and maybe even tripled—when I became president of CBE. Over the years I’ve found that regular intervals of rest and retreat are essential to my growth as a leader. Prayer helps give us the right perspective and clarifies our purpose. It reminds us that God is the source of our success, and we trust God for the results of our work. Even when we are overwhelmed with the tasks we face, prayer helps us rest in faith. Our staff prays together daily at CBE, and it has made such a difference in our ministry.
Another reason prayer is so important is that leaders encounter many challenges and much criticism. When I became president of CBE, I was surprised by this. I’ve come to appreciate passages in the Bible that exhort Christians to support their leaders. This support can certainly include critical feedback, but should also be balanced by encouragement. (I now am more careful of how I offer feedback to other leaders.) Leaders do well to receive criticism without taking it as a personal critique or allowing it to derail us from focusing on the goals to which God has called us. When we stay focused on the goal, we can receive and even welcome criticism as an opportunity to improve our strategy.
In addition to prayer, my experience as a leader has been enriched by many key mentoring relationships. I just met with the CBE Board of Directors in March to discuss our goals for 2005. During our meeting, I was reminded again of how blessed our ministry is to have such an affirming and supportive Board. Their loving and wise guidance continues to be a source of strength for me and to our staff. I’ve also been nurtured by an informal “Presidential Advisory Council”—a group of professional people with varied gifts and experiences with whom I consult regularly. They have helped me see challenges and opportunities from many different perspectives. They have also been a rich source of prayer support. Mentors have helped me appreciate the many styles of leadership and the importance of recognizing others’ strengths and empowering them to use their gifts. I am thankful for the many individuals who have invested in my work at CBE, advising me out of their own wisdom and experience, and I recognize my responsibility to do the same for others. We do stand on the shoulders of so many.
Learning about leadership is not only important for presidents of ministries, pastors of churches, or founders of movements. All Christians benefit from developing leadership skills, because in many ways we are all leaders. Why not develop your leadership skills so that God may place you in new positions of leadership, or ask you to support and advise a current leader, or to mentor a future leader. There is so much joy in serving, in watching others develop and use their gifts, in being part of God’s work. I encourage everyone to join in.