Regina is the kind of leader who you don’t see coming. She’s the leader of my church ladies fellowship group. Get this: I don’t actually attend her church. Nope. Not at all. As a matter of fact, I’ve never been a member of her church. She’s never tried to push me toward joining, but the invitation is always there.
How did I meet Regina? I couldn’t forget how, even if I tried. It was about three days after my 36th birthday…because on my actual birthday my apartment building exploded. Yes, exploded (gas leak). Regina came into my life to bring me clothes at the Holiday Inn where I wound up living until I secured new housing.
That was six years ago. Since then, I’ve joined in her in-house fellowship group and we’ve embarked on a two-pronged friendship. On one hand, she has become my friend and emergency contact and on the other hand, she’s the leader of my church ladies group.
You might ask why I go to Regina’s fellowship group when I am actually a member of a different church. It’s simple: I feel connected. Actually, I feel seen and connected. I get to be my full self there, even when I disagree with traditional church doctrine. I know I’m not the only person in the group who feels this way. There people in our group show up despite terrible weather, bring food consistently (I just eat consistently), disclose the intricacies of their hearts and life stories, and contribute to the group in all sorts of ways.
In groups like these, it is common for people to come and go and ours is no different; however, our group has a solid and consistent core. Our core group is consistently about 13 people strong and has remained so. There’s something enduring about our group, and it starts with Regina.
Regina has invested time with each of us, one at a time. She cares about the details of our lives; if something, whether big or small, happens with you, she acknowledges it. While the purpose of the group is church-centric, she invites us to be honest about how our personal experiences and opinions differ. Her objective is to get us to engage whole-heartedly and to trust one another not to break each other’s confidences or judge. She wants us to show up as we are, and she knows us well enough to make space for us to support the group in ways that feel natural…she even protects us from one another (yes, she has to be something of a referee, but she does it like a diplomat). Finally, her personal tempo, so to speak, is consistent.
Here’s what I also know: there are times when she’s exhausted from her own life and career, but we are never rebuffed. Don’t get me wrong; she doesn’t try to make us believe that she doesn’t struggle with living life in the way that she believes God wants. Instead, she embraces her ups and downs and shares what’s going on with her.
As I evaluate her leadership, I believe there are three things that enable her to stick with us. First and foremost, she is immensely committed to the purpose of our group. Second, she has a vision of our group that she wants to see come true – she wants us to be more than church group buddies; she wants us to “do life together”. Third, she has a genuine interest in and love for us, the group members. She wants us to succeed in the practice of our faith and to be part of a robust and loving community.
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