GIFTED TO LEAD: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church
Another book on leadership? Haven't we had our fill of books outlining strategies for developing the leadership qualities we need to steer our organizations through the challenges of the 21st century?
Well, yes, many of us have had our fill of those books. But this is not one of them, and for that we have author and pastor Nancy Beach to thank. Instead of offering a five-point plan for creating team spirit or a 10-point strategy for growing your ministry, Beach gives us so much more --- fresh insights into how we can find our way as leaders as well as practical advice on dealing with leadership challenges that remain largely invisible to the untrained eye.
And while her message is geared primarily toward women, there's no question that men in leadership could benefit greatly from paying attention to what she has to say.
Beach says what she has to say with an extraordinary measure of grace and an equal measure of humor. She tackles head-on such issues as women in ministry, the double standards female leaders often face and the fine line women have to walk between being perceived as strong, assertive leaders and…well, you know. It rhymes with "witchy." She maintains that women leaders need to stop apologizing for their leadership gifts and begin to fulfill their "God-ordained calling --- a calling that just might require us to get over ourselves, take a deep breath, and simply start leading."
Beach excels at addressing the fears and concerns that arise when a woman assumes a role that gives her authority over men. For the woman, her fears often center on wondering how she can ever break in to the "boys' club," figuring out when she should speak up and when she should hold back without jeopardizing her place at the table and finding her voice as a leader without losing her identity as a woman, among many other concerns. Beach so clearly identifies these fears, and so openly describes her own experiences in the male-dominated world of the church, that many female readers, like me, will be able to see themselves in the stories she tells.
Several sections place this book well above others of its kind because of the tremendous value they offer. One is a priceless four-page section on "Stuff Male Leaders Never Deal With." If you're a woman and a public speaker, you know that microphones that attach to clothing were designed with men in mind, and you also know that your hair, makeup and attire will often undergo greater scrutiny than the inspiring message you just gave. And then there are all those other female issues --- you know the ones I mean --- that can surprise us at the worst possible moment, like when we've just started a 45-minute talk and can't simply leave the pulpit.
Best of all, though, is an open letter to male pastors and church leaders explaining why women in leadership is such a vital, front-burner issue and how female leaders can benefit their ministries and their churches. "Women in the circle," she writes, "will add a dimension to your team that more fully represents your congregation, your community, and the full image of God."
Unusually helpful appendices offer not only the expected list of resources but also an excellent article on finding your voice by author Jane Stephens and a statement on women in leadership from Willow Creek Community Church, where Beach serves as teaching pastor.
So…do you need to read yet another book on leadership? Yes, as long as it's this one.
--- Reviewed by Marcia Ford (email@example.com)
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