Written by Anna Aiken
Thirteen years ago, our family visited Allison Park Church for the very first time. We had moved from my hometown of Virginia Beach, Va. to Pittsburgh to be closer to my husband’s family. If you were to meet me for the very first time, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you I was once an extreme introvert who hid behind her responsibilities as a wife and mom. I had never once led a small group nor ever dreamed of leading one. No, my small group then consisted of my three kids ages 5, 3, and an infant. To be honest, it was difficult to lead this group of 3!!
God places people in our path who can see our giftings and speak life into our calling. From the moment we stepped into APC, we saw people living APC’s vision of “Love the One who is hurting, lost, and disconnected.”
Being a young mother, guarded and shy, God strategically placed Melodie Leake, our lead pastor’s wife, in my life. In 2006, I felt a nudge in my spirit to start a Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) group at APC. I knew there had to be other moms in the surrounding communities that desperately needed spiritual encouragement and a support system in order to fulfill the wonderful calling of motherhood. With Melodie’s blessing, I began the process of forming the MOPS group. Before I started, fear gripped my heart, and I began to second guess myself. Disbeliefs, doubts, and uncertainty paralyzed me. However, the fear and doubt that overwhelmed me quickly dissipated when Melodie placed her hands on my shoulders and prayed declarations over me. Twelve years later, MOPS (now known as Moms to Moms) is still alive and thriving at APC.
Forming and leading a life group for the very first time required me to step out of my comfort zone and take a huge leap of faith. The trajectory of my purpose and calling began with that first step, and it created a ripple effect. Soon after, I began leading in the Early Childhood Ministry, Couples, and Women’s group. Additionally, I began overseeing leadership events like Ignite, women’s conferences, and Spiritual Breakthrough Weekend with attendance that sometimes reached 400+.
So how did God transform a timid, introverted young mom to an extroverted woman, currently serving as APC’s Life Group Director? Reflecting on my journey, I believe the following 7 virtues have helped me become a better leader and fulfill God’s calling on my life:
1) Be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
You must be willing to stretch yourself and not stay stagnant. Trust the process that God has placed before you. A diamond has to undergo heat of 2,200 degrees Farenheit, pressure of 725,000 pounds, then it is shot out from deep within the Earth to the surface by volcanic pressure via volcanic pipes! I am sure that if diamonds could speak, they would definitely plead with God not to make them go through this intense process. Life’s challenges make us feel similar to a diamond’s fiery process. But in order to become who God has destined us to be, we sometimes need to go through an intense process of being uncomfortable before we are launched into our calling.
2) Be coachable and teachable. Allow people to speak into your life.
Sometimes pride can be our own roadblock. Often times, we feel like we can do life alone and refuse to receive guidance and feedback from others. But God has placed godly men and women in our lives to speak words of wisdom. However, I do believe it’s important to align these messages with what God has spoken over you.
3) Stay humble.
The ministry that we serve isn’t about us but the people we are reaching. I love this quote from Rick Warren “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” Paul Klaassen, founder of Sunrise Senior Living, stated “One trait of humble servant leaders is that they are “all in” and that is one thing that demonstrates that the leader is sincere, and passionate. Humble leaders also don’t spend time worrying about being lauded for their achievements. Indeed, this is not a motivator for them. In today’s cynical, self-promoting world, a leader that seeks recognition is rarely going to be effective. This is something a humble leader already knows and thankfully doesn’t crave anyway.”
4) Have a servant leadership attitude.
The perfect example of this is when Jesus washed the disciples feet. We should never have the attitude that our leadership titles prevent us from serving or working alongside others when a task needs completed or help is needed. A few months ago, I witnessed one of our pastors emptying a trash can during one of our services. I can only imagine the positive impact this had on others who also witnessed this act of servant leadership.
5) Expect to make mistakes.
This was a hard one for me to learn in the beginning because I felt everything needed to be perfect. But making mistakes is how we learn and grow as a person, especially as a leader. We need to give ourselves permission to make mistakes and be willing to learn from them, maintaining a growth mindset.
6) Never stop learning.
I try to maintain the mindset that I am a both a student and a leader constantly in training. Because I desire to become an expert in my area of ministry, I try to watch webinars, listen to podcasts, read articles, reach out to other leaders for advice & input, and find books that will help me grow.
7) Most importantly, always spend time with the Lord to hear how He is directing your path and TRUST what He deposits into your heart.
“A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” Proverbs 16:9 NKJV
Anna Aiken is married to her best friend of 23 years. They enjoy bike rides, vacations at the beach, raising their 5 amazing children, and their golden retriever puppy, Teddy. Anna loves serving as the Life Group Director at Allison Park Church and is blessed to be part of a team that “Reaches the One.”