Nancy Ortberg’s rare combination of tenacity and grace has enabled her to break through many of the barriers to female leadership in evangelicalism today. Though she is wed to bestselling author and pastor John Ortberg, she’s managed never to be reduced only to her role as a “pastor’s wife.” Nancy served eight years as a teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church, one of America’s largest congregations located outside of Chicago. And today, she is a consultant to businesses and non-profits, a sought after speaker, and author of such books as Unleashing the Power of Rubber Bands.
Here, she shares the secrets she’s learned about leading inside and outside of the church as well as what she believes should be tattooed on everyone her age and older.
RNS: Some might say that the success of leadership is based on the ability to convince others of your vision. What’s the most effective way to inspire others to follow what you believe is the right path for the future of the organization or church?
NO: I think it’s absolutely key for that to be a collaborative process. I don’t think it’s as much somebody going off by themselves and getting one vision from God and having to convince or cajole everybody. We will often talk about Moses doing that. Moses went up for the Ten Commandments. It wasn’t a vision for the church. I think it’s a very collaborative process.
I think leadership in the New Testament is a plurality of people. We’re a church. We’re not a Chinese restaurant. We’re not the Apple Store. It’s really about helping people encounter Jesus and be changed by him. You have to get people excited about their part in it. So I think storytelling and listening—those two together—and then the question, “What’s your part in this?”
RNS: What do you do in the church world when a member opposes you and stirs up trouble among others? Unlike the corporate world, they can’t just be fired. How do you try to win over these kinds of people?