Coffee Talk: Finding Balance in Christian Leadership with Carla Smith

Today’s Hot Drink of Choice: Bentley’s Pomegranate Green Tea because I already had my daily dose of coffee

Today’s Scripture: In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. – Romans 12:6-8

If you’ve been following my blog as of late, you know I’ve been focusing on leadership. I’m in the personal throes of a crazy re-learning process of what it means to be the right kind of leader, especially within the Christian community. In the past, I’ve been on the receiving end of both amazing and horrible leadership. I don’t want to make the same mistakes I’ve seen happen at the hands of often sincere, but misled, leaders. Likewise, I also want to make sure I build on the strengths of positive experiences I’ve had with some incredible leaders over the years. In my quest to learn what it takes to lead with dedication and integrity, I petitioned the women’s ministry leader of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. In this season of our lives, my family and I call Emmanuel our home church. The woman I’d like to introduce you to, Carla Smith, is one busy individual in her leadership roles within the congregation.

Carla heads up the women’s ministry department at Emmanuel, provides full-time counseling there, and is very committed to her role as one of the church’s interpreters to the deaf. She is a mom, grandma, and lover of the creative. I constantly hear amazing things from women I’ve known who have been counseled or encouraged by her, and I’m looking forward to hearing what this humble, dedicated follower of Christ has to share with us today.

Thank you so much for being willing to share your heart with those who follow my blog, Carla! It means a lot that you would take time out of your busy schedule to give your perspective on a topic I find needs addressed in an effective and relevant manner within Christian circles. Let’s start off by talking about the positive aspects of leadership. What is one of the most rewarding moments you have experienced as a leader?
I have had many rewarding moments as well as difficult ones, but the rewarding moments can be summarized best by saying they are the times when people respond to God’s leading and obey Him. When this happens it results in so many encouraging victories: a family is restored, someone is able to forgive and let go of the bitterness in their heart, people are able to stand against the anxiety or depression battling for their hearts, or a person accepts the beautiful gift of salvation… just to name a few. When God allows me to be a witness to these moments, I’m humbled and reminded that God doesn’t NEED me to do His work. He invites me to be a part of it, which includes experiencing these rewarding moments.

It is truly amazing to witness God’s life-changing nature firsthand in the lives of those you encourage and lead! It’s so important to maintain a healthy balance while working with others so you can be used as effectively as possible in this process. What is your favorite way to unwind in the midst of a leader’s hectic schedule?
A few of the most simple things one can do to unwind in the midst of chaos is to learn to take small moments to breathe deep, to laugh out loud, and to take a moment to enjoy something beautiful. These can all be done in a short time, but can help us re-center our thoughts and release tension. When I have more time at home, I love to be creative. Sewing or baking something allows me to live out my identity as a child of the Creator. I am also an avid reader. I strongly believe that all leaders will be readers. This too can help me unwind as well as help me learn and grow.

I love your practical suggestions and your belief that all leaders are readers! Let’s dig into the idea of finding balance in leadership a little bit more. What advice would you give to someone juggling multiple leadership roles?
I once was blessed to have a conversation with Stuart Briscoe, an author, speaker, and pastor, at a seminar I attended regarding this very question. He enlightened me by saying that balance is the process of trying to make two opposing forces equal. As a believer, all of life is ministry, so the parts of our lives are not opposing. Thus, trying to ‘balance’ all these areas is not what we need to do. What we need to do is find the ‘rhythm’ that helps us step away with the Lord and then engage with other people whether our own family, or people at our work, in the church, and in our neighborhoods. Finding rhythm in your life is like learning to dance with God. When He moves, we must learn to move and keep in step with Him. When He stops, we are to stop and rest too. We also must learn that there are daily, weekly, and yearly rhythms we need to engage in as well as rhythms of abiding, pruning, and bearing fruit. The more we learn how to live in rhythm with the Lord, the more healthy we will be physically, spiritually, and mentally, and our ministries we be able to bear more fruit as well.

Wow! I could stop my questions right there and have enough to chew on for weeks! I love the image of life being a dance where we follow the Lord’s lead and finding balance as a leader by finding our rhythm! On that amazing note, let’s talk about aspects of leadership that may challenge any rhythm or flow we may find in our role. What is, in your opinion, the most difficult aspect of being a leader?
There are two things that come to my mind that have been difficult aspects of being a leader for me. First, I have had to learn that not everyone will like you or agree with you, but my job is not to try to get everyone to like or agree with me. I am to be obedient to the Lord regardless of the outcome. If you have a personality that wants to please people, this will be a tough lesson to learn, but not impossible. We are responsible to do the best we can to live at peace with all people, but we are not responsible for people and their choices. We must recognize the boundaries between what is our responsibility and what is the other person’s. We must make our own choices dependent on God’s leading as opposed to what man may want us to do or say. The other difficult aspect is learning a healthy rhythm of work and rest, just like Jesus did. Throughout the Gospels we can see Jesus retreating by Himself to pray and be with His Father and then re-engaging with people– many people– all day long. He is not pushed around by their needs and desires because He has spent time getting direction from God. It is often difficult for those in leadership to learn the rhythm that is healthy and God honoring.

I love what you have shared with us so far! There has been so much wisdom in it. What advice would you give to anyone desiring to enter any level of leadership? Is there a Scripture you can think of that goes with that advice?
Honestly, leadership is not something I ever desired, but there was a definite moment I sensed God’s call to it. So my first response would be to tell someone not to seek it out, but make sure they are called by the Lord to it. When you look at many of the leaders in Scripture, they were not trying to figure out a way to become a leader. They were just busy doing the work at hand when God approached them and called them to leadership (i.e. David in the fields with his sheep, the disciples working as fishermen). Knowing we are called to leadership will also help us keep going when things get rough because our purpose is in pleasing and obeying the Lord. Romans 12:6-8 and I Peter 4:10-11 says that we all have different gifts according to what the Holy Spirit has given us. Whatever we are called to do, whether serving or teaching or encouraging people or leading people, we are to do it to the best of our ability so that God receives the glory. God will provide the grace we need to accomplish HIS work. This requires humility on our part to accept what we are called to and to do our best whether it’s a large or small job. Mother Teresa is quoted as saying, ‘How do I love God? By doing beautifully the work I have been given to do, by doing simply that which God has entrusted to me in whatever form it takes.’

That’s an amazing point to end on, Carla! Thank you so much for your time and perspective. I look forward to being able to thank you in person with your choice of tea or coffee too!

Which parts of Carla’s answers did you, my blog audience, find helpful?

4 thoughts on “Coffee Talk: Finding Balance in Christian Leadership with Carla Smith

    • Focusing on grace is a good way to live no matter what your platform! I’m glad you were able to connect with Carla’s interview, Jeanie! 🙂

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