A Note from Chris Adams: What a joy when a woman comes to you wanting to start a new ministry. But sometimes balancing enthusiasm for a ministry and wisdom to do it well is a struggle. As a leader, how do help her move forward with her exciting new venture, yet make sure she does it well so it succeeds? Read this article by guest writer Linda Lesniewski, Women’s Minister at Green Acres Baptist Church, to see how she navigates this balancing act.
Are you old enough to remember the old fashioned wooden see-saw? My elementary playground contained one along with a slide, two merry-go-rounds, hard-packed dirt for jump ropes, and an old oak tree for shade. I remember looking for see-saw partners close to my size as we ran out the door to play. I wanted an experience that worked well for both of us as we bobbed up and down on opposite ends of what seemed like a very long wooden plank. Occasionally I’d pick someone who could actually sit perfectly balanced with me without either of our feet touching the ground. My father-in-law’s antique carpenter’s level offers another visual of this concept of “balance.” The tiny air bubble settles between two black lines when the item you place it on is “level.” As a leader, I always seem to be looking for that space-between-those-lines when working with volunteers. I want to discover that sensitive equilibrium between providing leadership and setting boundaries that volunteers need without stifling their enthusiasm and creativity.
I recently completed twelve weeks of seeking that balance as I guided two young women who passionately wanted to work with girls with unplanned pregnancies. These two volunteers had vision, youthful energy, financial resources, and a plan—but very little prior experience in beginning a new work. Along with the joy of launching a new ministry comes church guidelines for scheduling facilities, financial policies for tax exemption reimbursements or financial solicitation, and skills for working with their own volunteers! I wanted to encourage them as young leaders with their dreams but also wanted to provide realistic expectations. As we “see-sawed” through their first outreach, I discovered keeping the balance this time actually required more restraint than encouragement.
I sought to keep that balance between leading and following, encouraging and setting boundaries, taking control and releasing control, and casting a vision and listening to their vision. I’m so glad that these volunteers persevered through this new ministry experience and have scheduled a new group of single women with unplanned pregnancies for this next semester. They learned a lot about doing ministry through the local church. They’ve developed new leaders under them, and they learned different and easier strategies to use with the next group of expectant moms.
I’ve haven’t found a foolproof formula for finding this equilibrium in working with volunteers. What I have discovered, though, is wise counsel from others, trial-and-error experiences, prayer, and the Holy Spirit’s wisdom. It’s a challenging part of the responsibility of leadership—but one with rich rewards! We have the opportunity to watch God raise up women to follow His call and build His kingdom on earth. We’re making disciples! I think I’m going to move our family’s antique carpenter’s level to a more prominent place as a reminder that with God’s guidance, I can find that sensitive equilibrium I need to accomplish His call on my life as a leader!
Linda Lesniewski is the Women’s Minister at Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, Texas and the mother of four young adults and grandmother of six little girls. She is a contributor to the book Transformed Lives: Taking Women’s Ministry to the Next Level published by Lifeway. She has authored A Little Book About Knowing A Big God for children, Women at the Cross, published by Revell, and Connecting Women: A Relational Guide for Leaders in Women’s Ministry, published by Baker Books.