On being president

This year, I am serving as cohort president. Biblical Seminary has designed the LEAD MDiv program to function in cohorts. When you begin the program, you are assigned to a chohort and spend the entire three-years with the same people (usually between 15 and 25 students). Every Tuesday night and one Saturday a month for three years, we go through every class together, pretty much year-round.  The point is, I think, to encourage the formation of relationships that go beyond the polite discussion of topics, beyond the surface.  The more time you spend with people, the more likely you will be to experience conflict with them, and healthy conflict leads to growth and learning– certainly in the area of theology and praxis, but also in the area of interpersonal skills.  I have certainly found this to be the case.  Rubbing shoulders with my brothers during the last year and a half has proven exciting, uncomfortable, challening, frustrating, and a true blessing in my personal and spiritual formation.

Part of my task as President this year is to help our cohort decide on a location for our final mission/learning trip overseas. We were given three options and asked to pick one… seems simple enough, eh? Well, it has been an interesting process.  I have decided that leading a group of leaders is a tricky balance between showing strength and basically keeping your hands off.  Leaders want a voice. They have an opinion and they need the space to share those opinions. Leaders also want to see your strength in order to respect you. They don’t respect wishy-washy leadership. They want to see action and they want to get things done. In short, they are a tough crowd to please.

I have been trying to walk this tight-rope. I have been trying to allow the space for people to share their opinions, and yet I’ve tried to lay out a clear process for us to follow in order to stay on track and actually get something decided.  To be honest, I have no idea how I’m doing. And there is another factor that plays into this role for me.  In a group of fourteen leaders, I am the only woman… and I am our president… and this is an evangelical seminary…

I wonder sometimes if I’m too opinionated for a woman, in their eyes. Or perhaps I am too soft and they wish I had some balls.  I wonder if I have earned their respect.  Leadership in any setting is a difficult balance, but leadership for a woman in an evangelical seminary among a bunch of male leaders… I feel like my feet are too big for the skinny balance beam.  What a clumsy president.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mike
    May 08, 2008 @ 08:22:16

    I’d have to say that you’re a talented leader, and these men know that, or you wouldn’t be the president (or perhaps the cynic in me would say that they thought they could ride rough-shod over you–more fools they). You seem to do well finding the balance between being a leader, a pastor, in your own right and recognizing that, in their own contexts, these men are leaders, too, and you seem to know that leading leaders is like herding cats.

    Don’t underestimate yourself or your gifts, and remember that consensus-building is a much more daunting task than simply taking a vote, particularly when there are strong personalities involved (which leaders, natural and/or trained, tend to bring to the table)!


  2. Robert Martin
    May 08, 2008 @ 13:55:58

    You know something? What you’ve described, Kris, is what I’ve observed in many Mennonite congregations and leadership teams, from observing my mother at work and participating in such activities myself.

    The Mennonite church has the general theology of “The priesthood of all believers” in which each and every one of us is a minister and we all have the ability and even the duty to exercise our ministry. What that often translates into, though, is “I know what’s right and you don’t.”

    For that matter, women in ministry in the Mennonite church is still a VERY new thing, pioneered by folks like my mother and a few others. So, what you are experiencing at Biblical is probably a hot-house version of what is reality in the Mennonite church.

    So, if you’re end ministry after you graduate is going to be in a Mennonite congregation, perhaps this leadership position you are in now is preparation for the reality to come.

    Just my $0.02… 🙂


  3. Jason
    May 12, 2008 @ 20:15:35

    I think you are doing a fine job. While we disagree on some things theologically (apparently I’m too conservative lol), it has truly been a learning experience. I remember that you wanted the position and (evangelical seminary or not) this is something that you truly showed interest in and for a guy like me, why not? Don’t sweat it. Leading leaders is a HUGE task, but it’s not like you are running the country either! 🙂

    Keep up the good work. Off to Italy we shall go!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: