Response: March 2014 Issue

Responsively Yours: Passion is Catching!

Responsively Yours: Passion is Catching!
Responsively Yours: Harriett Jane Olson.

How do you explain in a brief way what United Methodist Women is and does to someone who has never heard of us?

I have opportunities to describe the work and mission of United Methodist Women to a wide variety of people. Sometimes, I'll be attending a meeting and want to say something about our work, so that the other participants will understand something about the source of my perspective. Not long ago, a group of young women from my church quizzed me about United Methodist Women, and they listened as I shared some stories.

Recently, at the airport I met someone who lives in my building, and we shared a cab into the city. During the ride we talked about where we had been, and since we had both been traveling for work, we naturally talked about what we do. When we pulled up to the curb, my neighbor wouldn't let me pay my half of the fare because, as she said, "You're busy changing the world, and I'm on an expense account." (Thank you, Neighbor, for that uncounted Gift to Mission!)

When opportunities like these open to you, what do you say?

I've discovered that telling our story allows people to connect with our work as United Methodist Women and provides them with an opportunity to contribute an encouraging word, an expression of hope or a donation. Telling the story of United Methodist Women members becoming whole persons through Jesus Christ and working to put that faith to work in the world can be an invitation to join the mission experience.

Although I know the old story about the person who doesn't "toot her own horn" being consigned to going without fanfare, I find it difficult to assert that I am doing great things or even that our organization is doing great things-even though it's true. This may be gender-related socialization, or it may come out of a sense of uneasiness about church organizations saying how great they are (as opposed to secular nonprofits, which seem to have no such problem). In any event, it is something I have been working to overcome. One method I use is to talk about our great predecessors. Strategic, bold, valiant in faith, open-hearted and effective. So when I tell stories about our history, I can tell about how remarkable it is because I don't point to myself.

Another approach that I use is to talk about you, the members. I talk about how faithful you are in your giving and your prayers. I talk about how focused you are on putting our commitments in to action. Study and consciousness-raising is all very well for United Methodist Women members, but before very long, we want to do something about the issues.

I have also learned to let my enthusiasm and commitment show, and to use examples rather than making a report. I shared some of our story recently with a new United Methodist who has her first leadership level job and she said, "It makes me so proud! I'm headed right out to join the unit in my church so I can be part of it."

Wow. Have you let your passion show recently? Don't be afraid to let your light shine. Someone needs to see it.

Harriett Jane Olson
General Secretary
United Methodist Women

Posted or updated: 3/4/2014 11:00:00 PM
response cover