Response: January 2016 Issue

Responsively Yours: Building Leaders

Responsively Yours: Building Leaders
Harriett Jane Olson, r., chats with United Methodist Women President Yvette Richards, at the 2015 United Methodist Women National Seminar.

We all can name women who have shaped our lives, who have helped us grow and change, who have modeled how to live and lead. United Methodist Women is a leader-filled organization. Across the country and around the world we are capable women making a difference in our churches, communities and in the lives of women, children and youth. This is no accident. We are an organization with so many leaders because we value women's leadership, because we mentor and encourage one another, because we offer intentional opportunities for leadership, and because we give one another space to develop.

Committees on nominations and leadership teams have a big responsibility for discerning and clarifying leadership roles and defining the work the group has chosen to take up. Then they must place skilled people in those roles. But we all have a role in nurturing leadership. The more we help more and more of our sisters stretch and grow, the more we build a base of experience and allow more people to bring their gifts to the leadership of our organization.

In doing this work of leadership development we are following in the footsteps of our foremothers and build toward the future. When we engage women of every generation, every race/ethnicity and every first language, we are building the United Methodist Women of the future. The women missionaries, deaconesses and leaders of our predecessor organizations regularly and consistently enlisted and prepared women of all ages (including those who were served by the work) in training and experiences that prepared them for new responsibilities. These women became leaders within the institutions we founded as well as within United Methodist Women, and they became leaders in their homes, churches and communities.

National Seminar is one way United Methodist Women supports leadership development today, equipping women from every U.S. conference with in-depth spiritual grounding and information and experiences related to social justice. In 2015, National Seminar focused on four priority issues: climate justice, wealth inequality, criminalization of people of color and maternal and child health. For at least the next four years we will be working to express God's love for the world and God's commitment to the well-being of creation in these areas. National Seminar attendees will be an integral part of this work.

The participants in National Seminar have grown through this experience, and they will grow even more through working with conference, district and local planners to share their learning and to participate in planning and implementing local action. Some of the women who participated are seasoned members and some are newer to the organization. Some will be eager to deliver a program or a workshop, and some will be looking to engage the organization in local, national or global action. I hope that many will do both.

Many National Seminar attendees stepped outside their comfort zone, and they'll call on their mission teams to do the same, to stretch to consider ideas about how we can effectively engage in work on these key issues. We owe it to ourselves (and to them) to draw National Seminar participants into deeply into the work of the organization. My image of how we will do this involves nurturing, mentoring and engaging one another — not just assigning one of them to a role with set responsibilities or merely treating what they have learned as interesting information that doesn't lead to action.

Throughout the organization of United Methodist Women we are providing and developing leadership. Leadership is vitally important to our ability to engage in God's mission in the world.

May the new year offer you many chances both to cultivate and to share these gifts of leadership.

Harriett Jane Olson
General Secretary
United Methodist Women 

Posted or updated: 1/5/2016 11:00:00 PM

January 2016 cover of response

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