Sunday, June 3, 2012

What could Beth possibly bring to the table?

By Caryn Rivadeneira

Though her question alarmed me, I knew where she was coming from. After all, “Beth” (I changed her name) had just been named head of an organization filled with seemingly more qualified people-men and women with advanced degrees, with years of experience, working their way up, hand following hand on the long corporate ladder.

Surely, any of those people would’ve been a better choice than Beth, right? After all, Beth had spent years at homequietly running a home-based business while she raised a couple of kids and offered emotional support to her busy husband. On paper, this didn’t seem like much of a match to the other candidates.

But clearly, my friend didn’t see and didn’t know what so many of the rest of us did in and about Beth. Beth was a gifted leader-and she proved that leadership training grounds don’t only exist in business schools, in corporate board rooms or in Jim Collins’ books.

And yet, this is something our culture doesn’t widely recognize. As a result, women especially, can run up against leadership barriers time and again. Others have a hard time valuing our experience or our abilities if we’ve traded corporate life for home-business life or passed over business school so we could be there to drop off at preschool or be fully present from three to five p.m.

Even the most capable women get overlooked as soon as we “opt out” because somehow along the way, we have forgotten that leaders can be-and are-made just about anywhere. Leadership is more that sporting the right degrees, the right experience or knowing the right lingo. Leadership is about knowing what our gifts are and using them-fearlessly-and knowing who God made us to be and living that out-fearlessly. Leadership is a willingness to step out when others huddle back. And if we do it well, if we lead well, we inspire others to follow-or to take their own steps into God’s calling.

Christians need to look no further than the scriptures for confirmation of this. God rarely called the most qualified person. More often than not, it seems he called the least qualified! At least, least qualified according to normal, human standards.

More than one person in history has looked at someone God called to lead and asked “What could she possibly bring to the table?”

I’m going to venture a guess that if you’re in any sort of position of leadership (and really, aren’t we all?), you’ve asked yourself this very same thing. About yourself!

I know that “What do I possibly bring to the table?” has zipped through my brain more times than I can count. But it’s a terrible question-especially when God is calling us forward or when others are affirming our gifts.

I hope that we women, especially, can stop asking this question of one another and of ourselves. Instead of wondering why someone shouldn’t be leading or can’t be leading or isn’t qualified to lead, let’s focus on the reasons someone-no matter how unlikely-is leading. And let’s celebrate every time a less-than-likely person is tapped.

We’re all aware of our own weakness and failings. Let’s help one another celebrate our strengths and potential.

Caryn Rivadeneira is a founding member of the Redbud Writers’ Guild and the author of Grumble Hallelujah. You can connect with her at


  1. thanks for convicting AND encouraging! so true.

  2. This "it's a terrible question-especially when God is calling us forward or when others are affirming our gifts" The question of not only what can I bring to the table but why are my gifts overlooked by the leaders I am willing to serve??? Sometimes I feel they need to be packed up in a box and put away.

    At the same time, I need to learn to strengthen the leadership potential in those I do lead. Thanks for the encouragement.

  3. Thanks, Caryn, I needed that and God's timing is amazing! I have been in leadership in the church for fifteen years, with children's ministry, women's ministry and as a pastor's wife. During that time, I raised two boys into young men with having flexibility and a wonderful work environment. Well, God has led us to a new church, and after two years of selling our house, packing, moving, unpacking, we are finally settled and I'm now looking for a job back in the business world.

    I was feeling like it's been so long since I've been in the "professional" office environment, and others are much more qualified. So, what chance do I have to compete with younger, smarter, more talented women? I need to continually remind myself that God has created me with the gifts and abilities that I will need for even my next job. He has the best in mind for me and I can trust Him and He will use me to be a blessing to others, even in a secular office!

    1. Hang in there friend! You are not alone and God will not waste even a drop of you!

  4. Thank you so much for your post. I have served as a pastor's wife my whole adult life. For the past few years, the Lord is guiding me into the local political arena. It's so true that women that have chosen the "work for free from home" path are many times seen as an anomaly. People don't quite know what box to put us in. :) But Praise God its never been about merit, but obedience. God is opening doors in my life and in others that no certificate could open. And its a beautiful journey.

    I appreciate fullfill each and every week. :)

    1. Sooooo glad to hear Jami! Keep reading? And pass it on to friends!

  5. Thank you for the timely post, Caryn! I'm actually a 23-year exec asst 'careerist' who left FT employment six months ago to become a Christian life coach alongside my husband, a biblical counselor. The question seemingly goes the other way now..."what does she bring to the table?" after so many years as an assistant to leaders. It's a hard nut to crack. For me, God must bring the clients! Thanks for the insightful and encouraging article. I needed your reminder and that as Jami above says "...its never been about merit, but obedience." Rich blessings to you!