Leaders: Do This, Don’t Do That

There are powerful leaders and humble leaders, horrible leaders and questionable leaders.

Throughout my adult life of working under various leaders—from churches to places of employment, from neighborhood associations to my children’s school board, from nonprofit organizations where I’ve volunteered to my own family—I’ve had varying experiences of leaders and come to understand that everyone is a teacher. They teach me what to do and sometimes what not to do.

1. Do this: Get your hands dirty

When I was a professor of English, I was impressed with the department chair because he always made a point of sitting with the new adjuncts while we graded papers during midterms. He was right there in the lounge grading his papers at midnight, too, coffee breath and all. He wasn’t above us, and that humility gave me pause. Similarly, the Humble Leader we love washed his disciples’ feet and got his hands dirty in the process, all while conveying a beautiful message with his actions.

2. Don’t do this: Feign interest

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Mennonite Women USA donations double since 2001

This article by Anita Hooley Yoder originally appeared in The Mennonite. Look for a book by Anita Hooley Yoder in summer 2017 about Mennonite Women USA.

Rhoda Keener was a reluctant fundraiser.

“I would tease her that our meetings felt more like therapy sessions,” said Rebekah Basinger, an organizational consultant. “And she’s the trained counselor!”

Basinger started working regularly with Keener in 2003, about two years after Keener became director of Mennonite Women USA (formerly Mennonite Women), the denominational women’s organization of Mennonite Church USA. Basinger shared her understanding of fundraising as a ministry, a spiritual act in itself, not something you just add on to help you do ministry.

“That really resonated with Rhoda,” Basinger said in a January 2015 interview. “She shaped her whole approach to fundraising around that idea. And I really believe that’s been the key to the success.”

The “success” Basinger refers to is the transformation of Mennonite Women USA (MW USA) from a floundering organization—like many of today’s church-related groups—to a now stable and relatively thriving one, financially and otherwise.

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The Marlene Effect

by Rhoda Keener, Sister Care Director

Marlene Bogard began her work as executive director of Mennonite Women USA a month ago on April 13. For the five weeks between the time that Ruth Guengerich retired on March 8 and Marlene began on April 13, I assumed the “Interim Executive Director” role.

One would think a person would not organize nearly every closet in her house during this busy interlude, but that’s exactly what I did; I began calling it the “Marlene effect.”

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Sowing Sisterhood :: The First Volume of Illinois Mennonite Women Quarterly

This is Volume 1 of the Illinois Mennonite Women Quarterly Newsletter ‘Sowing Sisterhood.’ It was created and designed by Kim Litwiller and Shannon Unzicker. Kim is the Associate Conference Minister for Illinois Mennonite Conference and the Co-Coordinator for Illinois Mennonite Women. Shannon is the Great Lakes representative to the board of Mennonite Women USA.

Download the PDF of Sowing Sisterhood.

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Sister Care Goes to College :: Creating Affirmation Through Community by Maggie Weaver

Maggie Weaver is a sophomore at Goshen College. She is double majoring in English-writing and interdisciplinary: journalism, communications and music. She is from Lititz, Pennsylvania.

On March 20 and 21, I participated in Sister Care at Goshen College. Sister Care is a program of Mennonite Women USA (MW USA) that travels locally–as well as globally–presenting women-specific seminars on healing and care for women. The seminar I participated in, piloted by Goshen College, was the first Sister Care specifically focused for college students. Beth Martin Birky, professor of English and Gender Studies and MW USA board member, coordinated the event.

Carolyn Heggen and Rhoda Keener, the creators and organizers of the Sister Care seminars, worked with a focus group in April 2014 to adapt the program to fit the needs of college students. I was fortunate enough to be a part of this group, along with a few other Goshen College students and faculty members.

The main goal for the focus group was to identify the key issues that college-aged women face, so that Keener and Heggen could adjust the Sister Care curriculum appropriately. In small groups we listed the main issues we face as college women; the list that we developed was overwhelmingly large. Later, we narrowed the list down to four topics for the March seminar: self-worth and body image challenges, stress, the cultivation of healthy friendships, and exploring our life mission to shape decision-making.

Walking into the seminar, I found myself becoming anxious for the weekend. I had been so involved in the process, talking about what challenges I, as a college woman, face everyday. I felt as though I had placed a small piece of myself into Sister Care.

I was welcomed into the seminar space with the friendly faces of other Goshen College woman, fresh fruit, and freshly-made chai provided by women from four local churches. I sat down at a table (which had been practically covered with chocolates) and, with growing excitement, waited for Keener and Heggen to begin. Continue reading

Sister Care Seminar at Goshen College :: by Maddie Birky

Maddie Birky is News Editor at “The Record.” “The Record,” is published weekly at Goshen College during the Fall and Spring semesters, and is produced by student journalists on campus. The views expressed are their own. “The Record” is not the official voice of the student body, administration or the faculty of Goshen College. This piece was originally posted in “The Record” here.

This weekend [March 20-21] starting Friday from 7-9:30 and Saturday from 9-3, Carolyn Heggen and Rhoda Keener will be presenting Sister Care, a project of Mennonite Women USA, in Newcomer 19. A grant given to Keener has allowed this to be a free pilot workshop. Women from Berkey Avenue Mennonite Fellowship, Silverwood Mennonite Church, Waterford Mennonite Church and College Mennonite Church will be providing home-cooked snacks, breakfast and lunch.

“This is not a Mennonite-only event,” said Beth Martin Birky, professor of English and Women’s Gender Studies Mennonite Women USA board member. “Although they have led workshops at Mennonite-affiliated churches nationally and globally (India, Pakistan, Puerto Rico, Trinidad, Guatemala, Brazil and more), they have worked with women from a wide range of theological backgrounds and adapted it to different cultural contexts.”

At this workshop, ideas such as body image, self-worth, managing stress, making life decisions, and other topics related to college-aged women will be explored. Continue reading

We Help Make the Circle Complete :: Hyacinth Stevens on MW USA

This article by MW USA board member Hyacinth Stevens, first appeared in AAMA News: African American Mennonite Association’s spring edition of their newsletter published in March 2015.

Prior to becoming the AAMA representative on the Mennonite Women USA Board, I had very little connection with the work of the organization.

Mennonite Women USA is doing some great things! The organization is diligently working to live out its mission to empower women and women’s groups as we nurture our life in Christ through studying the Bible, using our gifts, hearing each other, and engaging in mission and service. (Adapted from the Mennonite Women USA Mission statement.)

The vision statement of Mennonite Women USA gives an invitation for diverse voices of women to be heard and celebrated. However, I realized that there are some voices missing. Over the last few years, Mennonite Women USA as an organization has been shifting its image to match its vision. This is not an organization that is fashioned for a select group of Mennonite women, rather for all Mennonite women!

The vision of the organization invites women across generations, cultures, and places to share and honor our stories, care for each other, and express our prophetic voice boldly as we seek to follow Christ.

I would like to extend the invitation to our AAMA congregations and networks to explore some of the resources Mennonite Women USA is using to impact women on a global level. This invitation is not just to utilize resources but to contribute our voice, our hands and culture to the circle of global impact Mennonite Women USA desires to have. Continue reading

It’s Not Me…Or Is It? :: by Shannon Unzicker

Women_gatheringShannon Musselman Unzicker (pictured on left), Benson, IL, is an active member of the Mennonite Church of Normal where she presently serves on the Creation Care Committee. She teaches a primary Sunday school class and participates in the local Moms in Touch. A social worker, Shannon is presently a fulltime mother of four children.

About five years ago, the mother of one of my son’s classmates invited me to join a prayer group that was being formed for our elementary school.  She explained that she would be one of the group leaders, and that the group of mothers would be meeting two mornings per month in her home to pray for our children, their teachers and the other students.

I was flattered that she had asked me, and thanked her for the invitation. I told her I would let her know in a week or so, but in my head, I was already thinking, “Nice of her to invite me, but I just don’t know if that’s ‘me.’ I will probably have to pray out loud in front of a group…not something I am very comfortable with.” Continue reading

Picture Gallery of the Franconia Conference / Eastern District Women’s Gathering

written and compiled by Doris Diener

Saturday morning, March 7, approximately fifty women joined together at Nueva Vida Norristown to “set the day apart” for worship, learning, and fellowship. The theme of the day was “Shattering Our Mirrors”–releasing the false image we see and embracing the image God sees when our Creator looks at us.

Sandra Dresher-Lehman shared that God’s creativity in His creation of women may not always fit the mold the community has prepared for us and encouraged each to be authentic followers of Jesus. Christine Waanders challenged each to own her personality and to see positive possibilities in what may be considered our down-sides. Continue reading

Kitchen Table :: March 2015

by Pam Risser

“In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan, Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone.”

These cold, frosty days of winter bring to mind the opening lines of the Christmas carol by Christina Georgina Rossetti, “In the Bleak Mid-winter”.  As the woodstove struggles to heat the air in the room around me while the wind howls outside my window and the temperature drops, I am led to think about those times when it has also felt like winter in my heart.  In the bleakness of my perceived circumstances, my spirit moans within me and my heart is heavy as stone.  Mystics refer to this as “the dark night of the soul”.

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