A little over a month ago, I had the privilege of getting to know a woman in ministry that I’ve grown to admire and respect. You may be familiar with Nancy Beach through the Global Leadership Summit, a massive, two-day leadership conference put on by Willow Creek Community Church in the suburbs of Chicago that exists to equip leaders around the world. Perhaps you’ve heard of her because of her coaching circles that she leads to train and equip men and women in ministry as they lead in their own circles of influence. Maybe you’ve read one of her two books. If you haven’t heard of her before, allow me to introduce you all to a woman who is changing the face of leadership in ministry as we know it.
Nancy was gracious enough to give me about an hour of her time over the phone as I picked her brain and sought to glean some wisdom from her, someone who has walked the road of ministry for over twice as long as I have, and I want to share with you today her responses to my questions.
Me: “How long have you been leading and serving in ministry?”
Nancy: “I was actually a part of the youth group that started Willow Creek back in the mid 1970s. I went on to lead the worship arts team at Willow Creek for twenty years starting in 1984, and then transitioned onto the leadership team for an additional five years. For the past several years, I’ve been involved in leadership coaching for both worship arts and women through an organization called Slingshot.”
Me: “What are some of the challenges or unique experiences you’ve faced as a woman in leadership?”
Nancy: “Well, I learned rather quickly that senior leadership arenas consist mostly of men, and women tend to be the minority. Finding my voice among male leadership was difficult at first, and there were times when I felt alone in this. So, I sought to build bridges to other women in leadership. Still, I wrestled with the fear of failure, or better put, the expectation of failure which I assumed others had of me. I thought that if I messed up morally or if my theology was ever off, others would just assume, “That’s what happens when you put a woman in leadership.” I carried the weight of knowing that people were watching my every move. That’s a lot of pressure! I didn’t have a lot of mentors at first, other than from a distance, so I was just figuring it out as I went. It was difficult to feel very confident in the beginning. When I first stepped into a more formal teaching role, I was tentative at first, but I learned with time to not hold back and that it’s OK to challenge people. As I began to teach more, not only did I become more confident in my calling, but I realized that I love to read, but I am a reluctant writer. Although I have published two books, I prefer to write for speaking.”
Me: “Can you tell me more about your coaching circles for women in leadership that are starting up soon? How would someone like myself get involved?”
Nancy: “Absolutely! There’s nothing quite like sitting in a circle with a small group of leaders who “get you”. My ministry over the years has been focused on bringing together the right people in a room to experience how our common stories foster fresh thinking, invigorated vision, and common understanding. I have built loose networks of leaders in the worship arts area, as well as women in church leadership – and know for certain that God does some incredible work when we choose to connect. For this reason I am forming some new coaching circles in 2015 for the purpose of leadership growth and peer connection. You can learn more about how to get involved at coaching-circles.com. You can also learn more about my ministry at nancylbeach.com.”
In addition to all of this, Nancy and I are both native to Chicago, and what’s not to love about that? Seriously, though, Nancy has an incredible heart for developing others so that they can make the most impact in the arena that God has called them to, and she uses her over 30 years of practical experience to accomplish this. I would encourage you to check out her ministry, read one of her books, and sign up for one of her coaching circles. She is truly a gift to the church in our generation.