Missional Leaders

Where, Oh Where Did It Go?

“I know I put those keys right here! Where did they go?”

“I’ve got to go to the bank today and sign some papers—if I can ever find the papers!”

All of us know the frustration of trying to find misplaced items, whether it’s keys, important papers, or the assignment that is due today!

How is it that those things go missing? How can we not remember to store those things in a more secure location, one that we will not quickly forget?

That same frustration can be found as we try to locate valuable information online. We know we saw a video or an important extra activity for the month, or even more information about a missionary being studied this month. But, for the life of us, we can’t find it now. Sound familiar?

Reflections on Leadership

In 2001 at the end of my first year as executive director for national WMU, I wrote an article for our magazines about my experience after one year in office. It had been a year of great change for me personally—job changes for my husband and me, a move that required selling and buying a house, helping both our children graduate from higher education experiences, and a wedding for our daughter. What a first year on the job! And that list doesn’t include all the changes at national WMU as it embraced me as its new leader.
 
As I reflect upon 16 years of service in this role, it is interesting to note each “lesson learned” I identified in the 2001 article I still believe to be true today. So what were my reflections on leadership at the end of year one?
 
1. You can never overcommunicate your message.
2. Relationships are paramount for success.
3. Leadership means serving others by enabling them to serve.
4. Listen, listen, listen, and then you have the right to speak.
5. Most of all, in our weakness, God is most clearly seen and His will accomplished.

Our Proactive Response Matters

The first week in December is a special time with the International Mission Study, prayer experiences during the Week of Prayer for International Missions, and giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering as highlights of the Christmas season for many of us.

This year, however, comes with a note of sadness. For the first time in many years, missionaries over the age of 50 with five years’ experience are being asked to consider voluntary retirement due to a financial shortage at the International Mission Board. This situation did not happen overnight. I’ve read many explanations and possible solutions such as a special offering or increased Cooperative Program giving so we can avoid bringing missionaries home. While both suggestions are good, it’s too late; retirement offers have been made and missionaries are making their decisions. The problem has existed for too long to find a quick solution. Ironically, the conclusion of the missionaries’ service will happen during December, the time we are all praying in earnest for them and the people they serve. It certainly adds a new dimension to our praying this year.

Rethink Influence

If you were invited to be the leader of a small group at church or a task force at work, how would you respond? For some, the immediate response would be, “Oh no, I can’t do that; I’m not a leader!” Others might say, “Let me think [or pray] about it” and then come back with a similar response. Only on a rare occasion might someone respond immediately with “Wow! Really? I’d love to do that! Thanks for asking.”

Taylor Field reminds us in his book Upside Down Leadership: Rethinking Influence and Success that leadership is the ability to influence others. Regardless of how we respond to leadership opportunities, the truth is we all have the power to influence others. Think about the places we influence everyday: the decisions made in our families, our influence over policies when we go to the polls and vote, and the impact of our words each time we praise or tear down a friend or family member. All of these actions influence others and often reveal our ability—or lack of ability—to lead as we influence the world around us.

Missional Engagement for All Ages

Becoming lifelong learners is an important quality among today’s missional leaders. Mindful of the various ways people learn, we strive to create an environment at WMU where staff members are encouraged to read and explore new ways to catch the attention of each new generation to raise the priority of missions in our churches.

Recent business journals have been carrying information about the growing reality of four generations now working side by side in the workplace. In addition, the possibility of a fifth generation is coming soon if the retirement age continues to be extended. At WMU, we recognize the advantage we have of reaching all ages since this describes the breakdown of our employees—four generations presently employed at WMU. We are positioned well for collaboration as we seek to create relevant approaches that fit the makeup of today’s church.

Recently we had a presentation for staff on the various characteristics of generations; it reminded us not only of generational preferences and learning styles but also of the need to create entry points appropriate to each generation.

Waiting for an Invitation

This month, both state and national WMU staff are gathering in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for a time of leadership development and missions training. The Western Regional Leadership Summit is the result of months of praying and thinking together about ways to increase missions awareness and involvement in churches in our western states. We are grateful for the support of Del Norte Baptist Church, New Mexico WMU, and convention staff and volunteers who so willingly agreed to host this first unique gathering of western missions leaders. I hope you are planning to join us!

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