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Following the Leader

Those are the most accurate words I could use to describe my predecessor in Women’s Ministry. From almost anyone’s account, she could (and did) do it all. She was a gifted teacher, a loving friend, and could cast a vision for dreams bigger than anyone would reasonably consider taking on. She had a heart for missions, adoption and the hurting. She was basically the package deal (and by “package”, I’m referring to the Premium Package). I feel rather confident suggesting the president of the United States would be intimidated to follow in her footsteps.

Yet, that is precisely what God asked of me-to follow a dearly loved, strong leader in ministry. I would be amiss if I led you to believe it was all sunshine and rainbows. Every day wasn’t easy. My flesh would get in the way and I’d get defensive or scared.
However, there are some foundational principles I utilized as I stepped into the role as Women’s Ministry leader. These principles allowed me to navigate the choppy waters of transition while honoring the leadership of the past and setting the course for the future.
Before I share these principles with you, please understand stepping into a leadership role under any circumstance comes with its own unique set of challenges. You may not have followed a strong leader. Instead, you may have followed a leader who stirred up strife or burned bridges and left the rubble for you clean up. These principles are designed to serve as a guide to help you better assess your situation and hear from God as you faithfully carry out the assignment He has put in front of you.
As you walk into a leadership position, consider these principles:
Respect the past: Many times new leaders enter an existing ministry with excitement and new ideas. It is often for this reason they were offered the position in the first place. Unfortunately, just because we have great ideas doesn’t mean their implementation is automatic or even welcomed.
There was someone who came before you. Someone with her own style, her own stories and her own history. Ignoring or disregarding what has occurred in the past is both irresponsible and insulting.   What happened before matters! Ask questions. Listen and find out the reasoning and heart behind past decisions. Understanding what has happened in the past is vital as you move forward. Most importantly, NEVER badmouth the previous leader. No matter what mistakes she made, she was God’s chosen girl for that season. Honor her position.
Label Your Feelings: When I first took over the women’s ministry leadership position at our church, I was insecure primarily about my age and lack of experience. I was young and though I had ministry experience, it wasn’t with women (and women can be scary!). I also experienced feelings of doubt, inadequacy and fear.
Let’s be honest-you feel something about your new role and your predecessor. Often, our negative behavior as leaders comes from a lack of dealing with our emotions. If you’re afraid, call it what it is-fear. If you are frustrated with what you walked into-name it. Then, take it to God. If you don’t label your feelings, it is hard to surrender them to God.
Examine Your Strengths: You come into your role with a unique set of strengths. Those strengths are designed to enhance and complement what the ministry is already doing. I mentioned that my predecessor was passionate about missions. Because of her passion, the missions side of the ministry was strong. My passion, however, is discipleship. Our strengths were complementary. Because I had a different passion, I was able to enhance a different part of the ministry. Had I tried only to fit into the passions of the previous leader, I would have neglected the part God created me lead.
What is the unique way you were created to lead and fit in your place of ministry? One way to consider your strengths is to examine what Rick Warren calls your SHAPE.
Spiritual Gifts: What are the gifts God has given you? Do you find you are giving, merciful, a great teacher or encourager? Make sure you know exactly what your spiritual gifts are. Then consider how they can strengthen and enhance the ministry.
Heart/Passions: What do you get really excited about? Hopefully, it involves women! What is it specifically about women that gets you excited? Is it the bond, the creativity, the variety?
Abilities/Skills: What are the things you are naturally good at? Are you creative? Are you analytical? Are you good at math? Are you good at writing, singing, cooking? Consider your skill set, how can it be used to lead women?
Personality: Are you extroverted, introverted, laid-back, the life of the party? Not every leader has an outgoing personality. God gave you the personality you have. It is as much a gift as your spiritual gift. What are the strengths of your personality? How can your personality type influence women?
Experience: We all have a story. Some stories are dramatic and messy while others are less colorful. Every story matters. Your experiences belong to God and if you allow Him, He will use them to lead and influence women in their own journey of faith.
Slow Down and Let God Move: Finding your place in an existing position takes time. Building trust and credibility takes time. Don’t get in a hurry. Let God guide your steps. One of the most meaningful prayers someone prayed over me as I began this journey was this: “God, let her walk right in step with you.   Don‘t let her get ahead of you or lag behind. Let her stay right up next to you.” That would be my prayer for you. Nestle up next to God and let Him guide your steps.
This is not an easy journey. This isn’t about easy, this is about obedience. Press on, my sister. See what God can do through your obedience.

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Bobi Ann Allen is a pastor’s wife in Round Rock, Texas where she serves alongside her husband, Jared and wrangle their two silly kids, Kati Ann and Kie.  Bobi Ann is a speaker, writer and blogger at  bobiann.com.  Her favorite things involve comfy clothes, mexican food and the occasional Netflix binge!

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