Am I a Life-Giving or Life-Taking Leader?

If I could have one crazy wish granted, it would be the chance to sit around my kitchen table with women’s leaders (that’s you!) to talk about Jesus, the joys and challenges of leading women, and to pray together. As a leader, I am tested, stretched, and puzzled practically every day. Raise your hand if you can relate! I’m betting there’s a banquet of wisdom and experience we could spin around the Lazy Susan over sips of coffee.

Since that scenario isn’t likely to happen, I’m sharing with you my absolute favorite book on leadership instead. It just so happens this resource is authored by two women that I deeply admire and am honored to call friends. It’s called Life-Giving Leadership by Karen Hodge and Susan Hunt.

Friends, this is the book we’ve been waiting for! Every woman will benefit from reading it—no matter what title she carries (or the lack of any official one) as she serves Jesus in her circles of influence in the home, church, or the workplace.

Why do I give it the highest rating? Because it gets God’s Truth into a woman’s heart. It exposes her sin. It calls her to live in covenantal community. Life-Giving Leadership has the potential to radically change your leadership style and your ministry team. But don’t pick it up unless you’re prepared to be changed by the power of the gospel! You can expect to wake up to the reality that we all have some life-taking qualities Jesus wants to redeem. (You can read about my leadership transformation on page 139.)

I chatted with Karen and Susan recently to find out the heart behind their book. Listen in to our conversation . . .

Who Is This Book Written For?

Karen explains this book is written for “weary and worn-out women who somehow find themselves in charge of a ministry. They know they need to continue to mature and grow as a leader, but they wonder where to turn to be equipped. Some feel lonely in leadership and sense the need to cultivate new leadership but wonder what they will pass on to others and where the time or energy will come from to accomplish this vital task. We know these women; we are these women.”

Susan adds, “This book was written for all women. If you look over your shoulder, someone is following you. It may be a three-year-old child, a corporate boardroom, a classroom of teenagers, or a women’s ministry team. A women’s ministry should serve all the women in the church, not just those who are active in the women’s ministry studies and activities. It should be a sending ministry—discipling women to be life-givers throughout the life and ministry of the church, which will equip them to apply life-giving leadership principles to all areas of life—as employers, employees, friends, volunteers, daughters, wives, and mothers, and so extend God’s kingdom.”

Leadership Misconceptions

Karen goes on to debunk misconceptions about leadership:

Leadership is not synonymous with authority. It has little to do with a title, role, or decision making. Biblical leadership looks radically different; it is upside down. It is not about having a seat at the table but rather serving the table. It is not positional leadership but rather servant leadership. Leadership can be life-taking or life-giving. Life-giving leadership is a calling to follow and a promise to become like the One we follow (1 Cor. 11:1). Life-giving leadership leads others to Jesus.

How to Use Life-Giving Leadership

Karen and Susan designed the book as a complement to Women’s Ministry in the Local Church, which explains the why of women’s ministry. It gives foundational biblical principles to develop and implement a Word-based, relationally-driven, women’s ministry. Life-Giving Leadership gives the how of servant leadership in a complementarian context.

Even though any book can be profitable for individual study, it is richer to study content in the context of community. We developed a corresponding Leader’s Guide to help women facilitate meaningful group discussion. The guide also contains a reproducible leadership journal designed for the participants to apply what they are learning by interacting with over twenty leadership tools, including topics such as a personal leadership inventory, making Christ-centered decisions, avoiding conflict, building community on a team. The resource can be used as a weekly women’s study, a monthly Titus 2 discipleship or leadership team study, or as a weekend retreat.

Life-Guiding Truths

I asked these spiritual mentors to share what one truth that guides them as a leader.

Susan leads off: “The best I can do is select three not just one! These passages reflect my conviction that leadership is ultimately discipleship.

“First, I am compelled by the gospel imperative in Titus 2:3–5 for older women to teach and train younger women. Second, Paul’s explanation of his discipleship methodology reinforces his words to Titus:

We were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us (1 Thess. 2:7–8).

“Discipleship/leadership is sharing the gospel and our lives with others because God has transformed our lives so those we lead have become very dear to us. As women we can relate to the self-sacrificing imagery of a nursing mother feeding her child.

“Third, I am fascinated and inspired by Paul’s repeated use of mother-imagery when writing to those he leads.

My little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! (Gal. 4:19).

“These are believers, so Paul is not referring to them being born again but to Christ forming, or growing, in them. He is talking about their growth in the grace and knowledge of Jesus. Whenever I am preparing a Bible study, working with others to plan an event, or planning a gathering for family or friends in our home, this verse calls me to labor in prayer for Christ to be formed in those I serve. And when I do this, Christ is formed in me. What an amazing, life-giving process.”

Karen points to John 12:24–26:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also.”

“Death is sacrificial and costly and as Jesus reminds us, daily, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me’ (Luke 9:23). He shared this garden portrait just days before He goes to the cross. Life-giving leadership is not just an invitation to serve but at the most fundamental level, it is an invitation to die. We have to die to live, and we have to die to lead. Death is painful and scary, but it is also necessary and glorious for His life to be formed in us. When we yield to this calling, we can say like Paul, ‘I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me’ (Gal. 2:20).”

To hear more on the topic of women’s ministry leadership, tune in to Leslie’s conversation with Karen Hodge on the enCourage podcast, episode 52.

About the Author

Leslie Bennett

Leslie Bennett has led Women’s Ministry in two local churches, and serves on the Revive Our Hearts ministry team. She connects with women’s leaders around the world in the Revive Our Hearts Leader Facebook Group and as host of online training events. A teacher at heart, she is devoted to training and discipling the next generation to treasure Christ above all. Leslie and her husband Mac live in S.C. where she loves spending time with family, and admiring Lowcountry sunsets.