What the North American Church can Learn from Churches Overseas

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There is a lot of talk about the convergence of World Missions and Home Missions. As an employee of World Renew, I’m a bit removed from the conversations. But one thing that has struck me after working for more than a decade to connect churches in the U.S. with churches that World Renew works with overseas is the similarity between them. I would assume this holds true for Canadian churches as well, but my experience there is limited.

To illustrate this point, I’ve lightly edited an excerpt of an article from a country newsletter to remove identifying information. As you read it, I invite you to ask yourself if any of the lessons here are applicable to any churches that you know (perhaps even your own!).

A unique problem is developing in our churches. Women who have been elected as officers of their women’s fellowship are having a difficult time understanding their role and limits as leaders. Many of the women’s fellowship meetings turn into arguments and create conflict. The women who are educated often take on all of the responsibilities and become overbearing. As a result of the tension, many women won’t come to the meetings. A lot of women in the church are concerned about this problem. In the face of this situation, we decided that leadership training was in order.

Fifty-two women participated. We worked together to assemble the lessons, which are all based on participatory Bible study, to apply Scripture to practical daily life. Lessons included information on:

• biblical principles for money management

• how to lead a meeting

• how to manage a program

• anger in the church

• how to help others while caring for oneself and avoiding burnout

These topics were covered in three days of training for the women’s fellowship leaders. During the training many women shared their failures in leadership. They were too controlling, they came late to meetings, they spread gossip, and they had not understood teamwork. News of the training and good results spread and other regions asked to have it as well.

Testimonies from a few of the leaders:

“I took many responsibilities; the load was all on me. I tried to make all the decisions and solve all the problems for all the women. The lesson about helping others while caring for oneself and avoiding burnout helped me a lot. Today I have learned to delegate responsibilities to the other members.”

“As a leader, I couldn’t tolerate the women who weren’t committed to God’s work. Since I was in charge, I thought that my ideas were always the best; I didn’t take other people seriously. Actually it was me who was causing a lot of the problems. Thanks to this training, I have changed, because I realized that I was a bad leader and I am now praying to the Lord to guide me.”

“I thank God for the training we just had on leadership. These teachings were a great benefit for me personally because I was having difficult relationships with the other women in my churches. I realized that some of these problems were my fault. So I have decided to change the way that I act towards others.

“I thank God for the teaching that I received. Before, I couldn’t stand women who weren’t committed to God’s work; I thought they were lazy. I used to pray that God would discipline them by giving them diarrhea or making them sick, so that they would come to reason. This training opened my eyes. From now on, I will pray for these women and go visit them, talk with them, ask them about their concerns and try to help them.”

Questions that participants submitted to the facilitators:

• What do you do if one of the officers is not performing the work entrusted to her? How do you approach her and make her understand? Otherwise what should you do?

• What should you do if the head leader is an obstacle to ministry, to the point that a lot of people are leaving the fellowship because the leader is a control freak?

• What should you do if people are discouraged by the state of bad leadership but they are afraid to approach the leader about it? How can you help that group?

I invite you to share your thoughts in the comments below:  

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