There once was a time when I could never imagine myself as a leader. I liked to follow, to be told what to do, and to blend in with the group. My insecurities with rejection ran deep and influenced how I interacted with those in positions of authority.
I wanted to be liked more than anything.
You can imagine my surprise when my bible study leader nominated me as a leader for the next session’s study. This was four years ago, after I had gone through one of the darkest periods in my life. I was searching for answers to how God loved me through my suicidal thoughts and hospital stay. I wrestled with low self-esteem while being tangled up in thoughts of how I would never be good enough.
Yet there was another side of me that came alive when I read the Word. This particular bible study walked participants through Ephesians, a book I had never read before. I was familiar with a few verses, but the underlying story was a mystery to me. As I began to unpack the message, Paul’s purpose, and the hope given through God’s love on paper, I started to share more of my thoughts with the group.
A small fire kindled in my soul, something I thought would never ignite again.
By the end of our session I was comfortably sharing my thoughts and feelings, listening intently to my fellow study members’ life experiences, and becoming more entwined with Ephesians’ messages to believers.
As God would have it a few short months later our family moved to Ohio, and I became part of a book launch team. I was given a leadership position during this time, which I accepted with extreme reluctance.
Since then I have led bible studies at church and in my home and online, been active in women’s ministry , and developed a true calling for young mothers and women experiencing major life change. I believe God used the many events in my life to mature my heart and desire to serve others without reservation.
But when our family made another move last May to northwest Ohio I felt the loss of friends and serving in community on a very deep, vulnerable level. These past several months I’ve searched for where I belong and how God can continue to use me.
To be honest, I went through a time when I felt like serving was no longer something I could do. The lies of rejection and lack of acceptance surfaced once more, and I questioned God’s intention for me. But, time and time again, God has directed me to serve so that’s what I am going to do!
I volunteered to serve as a table leader at our church’s mentoring program for moms. As I typed the email expressing my interest I began picturing the first woman to lead me through a bible study. She gave grace, understanding, and the gift of prayer that I had never seen before. As my memories moved through time I began to cultivate the following list of attributes I love in a table leader.
5 Attributes of a Great Table Leader
- Empathy. I truly believe this is the most important aspect of leading women not only in a bible study but through life seasons and changes. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. Without it there is a lack of deep connection. With empathy a woman can be aware of someone else’s feeling and how it impacts their perceptions. “Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.” Galatians 6:2-3
- Patience. When women get together and begin to share raw emotions it’s easy to feel uncomfortable. Patience comes into play when stories need to be told but someone is not articulating properly or taking over the conversation. Once a participant starts talking all of her thoughts and feelings may come tumbling out into the group. Leaders who cultivate patience will be able to guide the conversations and subjects in due time. “Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.” Proverbs 14:29
- Prayer Warrior. I remember the first time I prayed out loud. With my hands sweaty, my heart racing, and a wonder if I would even be able to formulate words, I spoke with shaky hesitance. I used um and uh many times. I look back on that moment almost four years ago and smile. God began a work in me that day that has led to some amazing interactions with others. I’ve asked women if I can pray for them smack dab in the middle of a hallway, I have covered a friend’s shoulders with my hands as I lifted up their pain to the heavens, and I have sat with complete strangers and lifted up tearful requests. Prayer should be our first means of defense, not the last. As a leader we have the unique blessing of hearing others’ needs and lifting them up to Christ. If you fear praying out loud practice at home alone or with your family. God will bless your efforts. “Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.” Matthew 18:19
- Encouraging. We all have times when we need someone to lift our spirits, say a kind word, and offer encouragement. A table leader without this attribute is likely to miss the opportunity to bond with her fellow table members. We are called as believers to build one another up by loving, listening and serving. Make positive comments about a person’s situation, offer your own insight when appropriate, and be a friend. “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works…” Hebrews 10:24
- Facilitator. Women like to talk. Most times, we all talk at once or get going on a subject that we all know and love. It’s easy to get off topic during a bible study! I believe the conversation should flow easily, but sometimes the message gets lost when we over analyze or let other topics take over. An effective leader watches for cues from members at the table to see what conversation is or isn’t working. Sometimes we just need redirection. A leader can also offer great questions to get participants thinking and sharing. You must be able to listen fully and then speak.” This you know, my beloved brethren But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger..” James 1:19
I hope these attributes offer encouragement if you are contemplating becoming a table leader. God will equip you to serve wherever He leads you, so don’t be afraid!
What other attributes do you admire in a leader? Please add to my list!