“The vast majority of great leaders I learned about in the history books didn’t look anything like me,” says Naomi Bivins, co-pastor of The Foundation Church in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. “So I tried to conform as much as I could, but I had it all wrong. I learned leadership isn’t at all relegated to a particular style, age, race or gender. Leadership means going first, but taking everybody else along with you while serving them along the way—the very same way Jesus went first, but served and took all his disciples with him.”
My perspective changed
When Naomi started attending The Global Leadership Summit in college on a scholarship from her local host site, little did she know how it would transform her perspective on leadership, and become a critical event in the way it shaped her leadership. “The Summit changed the way I lead by showing me there was a different way, a more excellent way, to approach leadership,” says Naomi. “Not only did the Summit supply experts and quality communicators, who inspired my own public speaking skills, but more importantly, the Summit connected how leadership impacts families, communities and nations.”
I removed fear from my leadership equation
The Summit has uniquely equipped and encouraged her in each leadership endeavor. “I was able to say yes,” says Naomi. “The Summit has helped me remove fear from my leadership equation. Decisions I make are no longer based out of fear, but rather approached with confidence and resolve. This has developed over many years of attending the Summit.
“For example, when I was asked to lead InSpire, a women’s ministry event, I pulled heavily from Summit resources to cast vision, organize, initiate conflict resolution and coach those I led. I was also led to write a book, The Perfect Paradox: Finding Rest in the Work of Perfection, which was only possible because I turned to Summit encouragement to take my skills from good to great by joining a writing group.”
I discovered I was capable of leading regardless of my gender
“Most importantly, being a woman from a conservative background, I had few examples of strong female leadership from Christian platforms. Seeing women in leadership speak from the Summit platform where both men and women gleaned instruction, eventually brought me to the conclusion that I too, by God’s grace, was capable of leading well within faith environments, regardless of my gender. I could use my leadership skills in the very place that I adore—God’s Church. Our church began with defining the purpose, vision casting and communicating those ideas to others who caught the vision.”
I became equipped to launch a new church
“Leaders change the world, for better or worse, one decision at a time. Most recently, the Summit changed the way I lead in August 2017. When my husband’s job relocated us, we began thinking of planting a church. After we moved, we launched our church plant on August 6, 2017 in a county in North Carolina with a 25 percent poverty rate and high rate of opioid use.”
With Naomi and her husband’s focus on worshipping together, making and equipping disciples, and caring for the poor all built on the foundation of Christ, the Summit provided timely support and encouragement for their new endeavor four days after they launched the church.
“We began to ask, how do we play offense in our county?” says Naomi. “Since there is so much financial need in the area, we decided neither of us would take a salary. We had put a goal in place of giving away 80% of our church budget, and the Summit inspired where it should go—to play offense by aiding the widow, the poor and the foreigner in our community and abroad. It showed me so many creative ways of impacting difficult situations to bring light in dark places. Though we are a small fellowship, through our sacrificial giving we aid a Christian group home for children, a food pantry for the elderly, tutoring for immigrants, crisis intervention housing for the homeless as well as two international missionaries serving community enhancements in Russia and Argentina.
“Each church member contributes from their resources and gifts to help each other so that no one person is doing everything. We have two sisters who are 87 and 90 who feed everyone every Sunday morning. We have a painter who helps with building maintenance. We have a gardener who brings fresh flowers and beautifies the church. I teach and counsel, while my husband administrates and leads worship. The members get to hear each week how their giving impacted someone in our community or abroad. God has shown us that generosity is mutually beneficial, and we have learned that intentionality and teamwork are required for sacrificial giving. We wouldn’t be able to give in the amount that we do without pooling our resources, and we are able to connect personally with those we support both financially and, more importantly with prayer and community.”
If I hadn’t gone to the Summit…
“Before I attended the Summit, I was so selfishly ambitious as a young woman that I would probably have become a work-a-holic, without children and frustratingly oppressive to my employees,” says Naomi. “Profit margins and bottom lines would have dictated many of my decisions and I’m not sure I would have connected that I could use my leadership skills within my faith.”
“Since college, I have attended many leadership conferences, however, even after a decade of attendance, the Summit remains the only conference I look forward to each year. The Summit’s dedication to excellence, diverse speakers and inspiring dialogue never fail to awaken my desire to be a better leader.”