A note from Kelly King: Each month, we will feature a leader who ministers to women, either through the local church, a non-profit organization, or in the marketplace. In today’s leadership Q & A, we’re featuring Shari Edwards. Shari is a new LifeWay Women trainer, and we’re excited for her to join us in the coming year at You Lead events.
Who has been most influential in your ministry leadership and how did they influence you?
It’s difficult to pinpoint one person who has been most influential. As a young girl, a teenager, and as a college young woman, I always had women pouring into me spiritually. As a young wife and mom, I was fortunate to be involved as a small group leader in Bible Study Fellowship and a ministry to young moms at a local non-denominational church, each of which effectively modeled the Titus 2 ministry example. All of these women modeled biblical leadership qualities, and I am a product of their collective giftings.
In recent years, there have been a few key men and women who have called out my giftings and helped me step into new roles of leadership. I will say that one person who got my attention and spurred me on in my leadership journey was Selma Wilson, who recently retired as Vice President of Organizational Development for LifeWay Christian Resources. Though I did not know Selma personally at that time, I was challenged at the LifeWay Women’s Leadership Forum in 2015, through a couple of sessions on leadership, one of which was taught by Selma, entitled, “Leadership Without the Makeover—Own Your Own Development.” Four things she said capture the essence of the next steps I took as a leader: 1) Write out a plan for personal development; 2) Be proactive; 3) Get perspective; 4) Own my own development. She also challenged us to pray Ephesians 3 for fourteen days. I left that conference, and it was like God had awakened me to what He had for me to do, and it pivoted and launched me into the next season of my ministry leadership as I begin to walk out those steps. I was able to share with Selma at last year’s Forum how God had used her to impact me and as a result, how He is currently bearing much kingdom fruit today!
How do you practically spend time with the Lord each day? What is your normal practice?
My time with the Lord each day has changed over the years, as I have moved from being an at-home mom with three athletically-active sons, to now being a (mostly) empty nester! I used to feel such guilt about not having the “perfect” quiet time each day, and then I realized that was just the enemy’s lie to make me feel defeated. So I let go of trying to have the “get up early, spend an hour in Bible study, and prayer” routine and settled for talking with God throughout the day, and working on the many LifeWay Bible studies I did throughout the years as best I could in that season. I am so grateful for those studies because even though I didn’t always do them perfectly, God met me right where I needed Him to, and I still go back to the foundational truths I learned along the way.
In this season of life, I decided to do the One Year Chronological Bible plan, and it’s my first time to read the Bible through in a year! I typically do my reading and prayer in the morning, but sometimes it’s late afternoon or evening out on my screened-in porch. I have cute spiral notebooks (from Walmart) that I use to write a brief summary of each chapter, and some key verses I want to note. I just started my second notebook and I’m in 2 Kings! It has been absolutely life changing for my personal daily Bible study. I can’t wait to open up the story each day and see what God will reveal through His Word! I continually see that God’s Word is so vast, and seeing the arc of His relationship with His people has given me such a fresh perspective of His pursuit of us, His faithful and steadfast love, and His redemption plan. This has led to richer prayer time as I reflect and proclaim these truths to Him, and seek His face in obedience and surrender.
What is your best piece of leadership advice to another women’s ministry leader?
I teach a college course on “Women’s Ministry in the Local Church” and much of my passion for equipping the younger generation comes from lessons I’ve learned along the way. I share with them a list “Top five things I would tell my younger leadership self”:
- Pray more. Know God’s truth in Scripture and claim it in your life. Go to Him first with struggles, questions, complaints, and praises.
- Be sober and alert. The enemy is always prowling! Don’t give the enemy room to establish a stronghold.
- You have nothing to prove to people. Don’t try to be all things to all people and let go of trying to do “all the things.”
- Always keep your eyes on Jesus, wait on the Lord, and use your gifts where you are. Be aware of and love the people who are in your life right now—both younger and older.
- Always keep learning. None of us has it all figured out, and that’s the beauty of walking with God because we get to see what He is doing in His power!
What is your current leadership struggle?
Most of my struggles in personal and leadership life revolve around what I call my Enneagram “9-ness”—being a people-pleaser and having a hard time staying motivated and on task. I can get distracted because of needs from other people (because I want everyone to be happy and their needs to be met!) and lose focus on what I need to accomplish for that day. At this point, I would call myself a “recovering people-pleaser,” and I am making progress with being consistent in finding my voice and using that voice in the sphere where God has me in order to steward the calling He’s given me.
What “new” thing are you trying this year that is requiring faith?
I serve as co-leader for a moms group called MomConnect at my church, and it came about as a need from the moms themselves. My friend Sarah serves with me; we’ve raised our sons together since they were babies, and they are now college freshmen. It was nothing we sought to start but more of a grassroots beginning that the young moms in our church were asking for. After a fall and spring of weekly sessions, the moms begged to add summer sessions this year! So we’ve added biweekly sessions in June and July. We are currently seeking to add an evening group for working moms and a couple of fellowship events as well. It’s such a great entry point for women to connect with the church and get connected with other moms in the community. It’s energizing and exciting to see how much these moms love this opportunity, and mostly we just encourage them that it will be okay—ha! Following God is like an adventure, because you just keep doing the next thing, stepping out in obedience and trusting that He has provided in all the ways that are needed. Trusting that He is working out the details for all He desires to see happen is a constant prayer. I have learned that when God puts something on the hearts of women, He is faithful to bring it to fruition!
Shari is a wife of 31 years to her college sweetheart, mother of 3 sons and a beautiful daughter-in-law. She is also “Sibby” to 2 precious young granddaughters. She resides in North Little Rock, Arkansas, where she is involved in her community and an active member of Park Hill Baptist for 25 years. She holds a BA in Journalism and Public Relations. Shari currently serves as Adjunct Instructor of Women’s Ministry at Ouachita Baptist University Pruet School of Christian Studies. She has been active in Women’s Ministry leadership for over 20 years and currently serves as Coordinator for the Arkansas Baptist State Convention Inspire Women’s Conference, and in the ABSC Women’s Ministry Leader Network. She served as the Hot Springs 2018 YouLead Coordinator. Shari is currently enrolled in New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Leavell College and pursuing a Women’s Ministry Certificate. She pursues freelance consulting in women’s ministry leadership, speaking, and writing opportunities and loves to encourage women of all ages to grow in everyday life through a closer walk with God and with each other!