NASHVILLE (BP) – Women serving in various leadership roles throughout the Southern Baptist Convention gathered for the second annual Women’s Leadership Network meeting June 14 at the Music City Center to hear from three leaders with varying degrees of experience in the SBC.
Kathy Litton, director of planter spouse development at the North American Mission Board; Missie Branch, assistant dean of students to women at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; and Susie Hawkins, wife of the president of GuideStone Financial Resources; served on a panel moderated by Jacki King, minister to women at Second Baptist Church in Conway, Ark.
Hawkins reminded the group that “women have been involved in SBC life for many years,” and some of the women involved now can remember older women who “served and served well.”
“They were messengers, they were active in convention work, active in missions, active in their local churches. We do stand on their shoulders,” Hawkins said, “… There have been really strong women leaders that have gone before us and have paved the way for us.”
Hawkins encouraged women to learn SBC polity so they will be ready if called to serve on trustee boards that are increasingly filled with women.
“Just your presence even is a big deal, and it says something that we’re here, we have something to contribute, we’re on the team, we want to play in the game,” Hawkins said. “… It’s a sunny day in the SBC as far as women and women’s involvement.”
When asked to discuss some of the struggles of leading, Litton said she has a tendency to overanalyze.
“Whenever we create some content, an event or anything, I get analysis paralysis,” Litton said. “I’ve learned working at NAMB do it and then make it right. I had to get to that point. Produce something, work it out.”
As they prepare for an event, Litton’s team does its best to make the event as strong as possible but recognizes it won’t be perfect.
“We do it once, and we go back, and we assess it and we get it right,” Litton said. “I think I was stuck with fear wanting it to be 100 percent perfect, and you can’t do that.”
Branch said she dealt with “imposter syndrome,” which she described as “feeling like I have this position, but do they know I can’t really do this?”
“I think a lot of us have to learn that there’s a difference between being a leader and being in charge, and sometimes we’re allowed to be in charge, but that doesn’t mean we’re good at being leaders,” Branch said.
“I’ve had to do a lot of growth in what it means to lead, and of course Jesus is an incredible model, but there are also brilliant women who I have gotten to learn from and books to read. I think that has been the challenge of wanting to own the position I’ve been given and to really feel like I don’t have to shrink back.”
Hawkins said a lesson she had to learn is to know what advice to take. Plenty of people will tell her they know what God wants her to do, she said, and because she loves people she has at times been naïve in taking advice that wasn’t beneficial.
“Learning who knows what they’re talking about, who has your best interests in mind, who’s not kind of wanting to platform themselves or promote themselves,” is important, Hawkins said.
Regarding women of color in leadership and in the SBC in general, Branch said, “The strength in you being here is valuable. You being present is strength.”
“I don’t want you to feel like that requires you to run and do a million things. There is strength in you being present. I think that sometimes we feel like we represent every minority because we’re here, and it’s not true. We’re individuals. … We’re not complete if we’re all not in the room,” Branch said to applause.
Litton shared something she saw on Twitter and agreed with: “I learned about my gifts by serving.”
“Somehow we have this idea we learn about our gifts and then we serve where we’re supposed to,” Litton said. “I say we serve, and we serve in a lot of different ways, and in the course of that, the reality of those gifts starts to come out.”
Litton cited two women at the Mobile-area Redemption Church in Saraland, Ala., where her husband is pastor. The women “work in the administrative area of our church with finances, and those gifts are so valuable. They’re behind the scenes, but I’m telling you churches don’t work without those kind of administrative skills, the organizational and financial thing. So we need to celebrate all the kinds of gifts.”
Women serving in SBC life are encouraged to join the Women’s Leadership Network on social media to connect with others who share similar goals of advancing the Kingdom.