I truly believe women are the greatest community builders on earth! God has wired them with the ability to lead and nurture relationships laterally, helping to build vibrant communities throughout the world. I love this gift as a woman because this was very much Jesus' approach throughout the scriptures and I find joy in community-building and following Jesus' model. He built lateral relationships with his disciples and friendships with others, including women in his culture at a time when no man did that. He was a magnificent, loving, lateral community-builder, an example for all of us. He did lead top-down, in historical traditional leadership style, but only with God's love. He was powered out of love, then laterally built relationships with his followers, his community... an incredible example for all of us. Today, I do think all earthly organizations work far better when there is a combination of men and women leading, balancing these leadership styles. Men tend to focus and work top-down and women tend to lead laterally with their multi-tasking abilities and emotional understanding(in very broad generalities). With this gender-gifting leadership blend, organizations and corporations are a great example of vibrant community-building in corporate America, non-profit organizations and especially the church.
I have seen great examples of lateral community building within both large organizations and small groups of friends. The large organizations and corporations tend to be the ones that most people gravitate to because they are vibrant, healthy and growing. Everyone works within their "giftedness" and no one needs to be powered down upon to be motivated. That said, I also have a group of women friends that have a very keen lateral leadership gift and they use it to it's fullest with both their peers and organizations. They are some of the greatest examples of community building that I know. They embrace and empower others in loving style and I would like to honor them today:
1) My long-time friend, Nancy Wingert. She uses her small town, family-modeled, community-building skills and wisdom gift to honor most everyone she meets. Nancy gets honor, service and connecting others and is great at team-building at work, church and in her friendships.
2) Sandals Church mama - Mrs.Tammy Brown. This woman is an incredible listener and event organizer, fostering community in this amazing, fast-growing church. Her skills laid the ground work for growth and harmony by building so many one-on-one relationships with parishioners focused on "being real with God, self & others".
3) Breakthrough Urban Ministries founder, Arloa Sutter. I have never met a woman who so genuinely receives everyone just where they are at. Arloa is as comfortable embracing the most down-trodden homeless on the streets as she is approaching the wealthiest folks in the world. She has a gift to receive others and listen better than anyone I know. Her listening empowers others in the outreaching Breakthrough community on Chicago's west side.
4) My homeschooling mama friend, Sherry Kennedy. Sherry is one of the most loving mamas I have ever met. She started the groundwork for Park Church's Mom's Ministry a decade ago, selflessly pouring herself into ministering to other women and setting up a framework for the group, which has blossomed into a most vibrant, community-building arm of this urban church.
These are just a few women I know who foster incredible, life-giving community. Who do you know that is a great lateral-leading community-builder? It could also be a man! Some guys are brilliant at this, especially when they listen well and organize people based on their giftings. Though, I still believe women can be better at this simply because of their God-given emotional wiring. So, I would like to encourage all my gal pals this Friday to get out there and lead with your female lateral-loving gifts and build community! We live in a culture that is starved for community. Most people still just want to be known and loved... and many are weary from having to travel to get to their numerous "destination communities" where they do life. Pray, seek God and see where He might take you in building some lateral loving community with your gifts, helping to empower others to a joyful life!