On the Side: September 2020

22 Million Ways to Lead
by Carol Shrader

The meeting with my co-leader was held two weeks before the start of the new Side By Side session. I had my planner, my Bible and the study book. She had the same. But Deb also had a box of organized, color-coded, individually-bagged Scripture reminders for each student, for every week of the semester. On top of all of this, she also had already written meticulous notes on each lesson in her beautiful penmanship.

I knew the ladies in our small group were going to be blessed. I knew I was going to be blessed.

And as I admired her notes, looked through her box of amazing reminders, I was motivated to be more like Deb. I vowed to get more organized when I got home. I vowed to work ahead several weeks, rather than prepare a week in advance—or you know, prepare the week of the lesson.

Somewhere on the drive home from our planning date, one of my preschool-age triplets apparently tossed all my good intentions out the window. In all my years of leading—and the triplets are 23 now—I have never managed to be as prepared as my beautiful, gifted friend, Deb. And yet, being like Deb remains my goal.

I did a quick internet search of qualities that make a good leader. The search engine gave me more than 22 million results. I found list after list describing the world’s ideal leaders. One list had integrity as the top quality. One resilience. One listed strategic thinking.

I need you to know that one site listed “leadership ability” as their top quality in a leader and, frankly, the lack of creativity annoyed me and made me doubt anything else they said. Good thing there were 21,999,999 other sites to read.

In my years with Side By Side, I have had the privilege of meeting leaders with skill sets that vary. I have seen women with the spiritual gift of teaching, like my friend Deb, whose gifting makes them an excellent leader. I have seen women whose gifts are drawing people to them with their vivacious personality. I have seen women whose quiet listening spirit allows a restful place to learn and grow.

In recent months, I have witnessed women around the country flex their creativity and employ technology to lead small groups via Zoom, often while simultaneously juggling children doing at-home learning in the same room! I have seen encouragement flow across the internet in the absence of the ability to gather, to hug, to sit side by side. I have seen women push each other out of their comfort zones to learn and to grow all via a computer screen where we are having to physically work to connect, relate and learn from each other.

And so, it is because of all of this that my list of necessary leadership qualities looks rather different than the 22 million on the internet. My list looks like this:

1. Willing spirit.
I have lived in several places around the country and am always amazed that when we need leaders, God raises them up. He brings women who want to serve Him through giving of themselves. Often there is a but involved in the initial discussion: “I want to lead, but I am not like the former leader.” “I want to lead, but I am not very organized.” “…but I am not a good speaker.” “…but I am not a good xyz.”

Listen, dear ones, it is the willingness—the desire to come alongside your sisters—that makes you a great leader.

“Moses said to the Lord, ‘Oh Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.’ The Lord said to him, ‘Who gave man his mouth?…Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say’” (Exodus 4:10-12, NIV 1984).

2. See number 1
That’s it. That is my complete list of qualities for making a good leader. I firmly believe God can take our willingness to serve and make us servants. I remember being in college and doubting my abilities to serve. As I lamented my woeful lack of skills to my mentor, she looked me in the eyes and said something I have never forgotten: “Carol, God doesn’t call the able. He enables the called.”

My prayer for you this month is that you will throw away any list of skills you find lacking to serve. I pray you trust that God can use us all. And for all who have said, “Yes, Lord, use me.” I am giving gratitude for your willing heart, for your flexibility, for your stamina in this, a season unlike any other. May God pour out His grace on you and prepare you for the sisters He is bringing your way!

And may He bless each of you with a Deb in your life!

Carol Mason Shrader

Carol Mason Shrader is thrilled to have met new sisters via a Zoom small group this summer. She is grateful that in the midst of uncertainty, God is always the same. 

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