Sue Miller is a pioneer among female leaders. She is a vision-caster, a people-builder, and a woman who knows—from the inside—how to change the church. Sue is revolutionized children's ministry in our generation, beginning with Willow Creek and expanding throughout the country with the publication of the book, Making Your Children's Ministry the Best Hour of Every Kid's Week.
When I ran into Sue at a recent Orange conference, I asked her a few questions about being a woman and a leader. Here are the highlights:
Nicole: Many women in major ministry roles live in a "man's world." You mentioned that the idea of "leading up" during the Orange conference. What does that mean?
Sue: In order to influence senior leadership, you must be building something well to begin with. Do a great job with your current responsibilities in order to build integrity and credibility.
Figure out a way to connect relationally with senior leaders. Communicate positive information, key stories of life change from people in your ministry, tied to the overall mission of your church to show that you are a team player who supports the direction of the church. Don't assume others get your vision or even know what your vision is. You have to be the one to live out your vision in leadership circles over time. Give yourself time for leading up. This is not something that happens overnight. We have to be willing to go the distance on this one so that trust is established.
Get some mentoring or coaching on how to present a proposal to decision makers when needed. I wasn't trained in this area, and I realized that the men on our board processed information differently than I did. I had to learn to communicate statistical information in a better way.
N: If you could speak a few words to young women like me, relatively new to ministry, what would you say?
Read Nancy Beach's book, Gifted to Lead. Ask a lot of good questions before you take the job, so your expectations are realistic from the start. It is not an easy road to be a woman in leadership, so don't make this decision lightly. How do senior leaders view women in leadership? Will you be able to grow and develop here? Seek wise counsel from others before you jump in—and pray like crazy for God to give you clear direction. Get help from another woman who is farther down the leadership road than you are to coach and guide you.
Pray for God's wisdom and discernment as you strive to lead well. Believe that the One who gave you the gift of leadership did not make a mistake—you are not crazy! He definitely has plans for you to use it and make a difference in his kingdom with it.