Cover Page

Table of Contents

Title Page


Leadership Network Titles

About the Jossey-Bass Leadership Network Series




Introduction: Humble Beginnings and Big Lessons

Sherry's Story

Jenni's Story

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

Chapter 1: Only the Lonely

Feeling Alone

Lead Alone or Lead Well

A Story of Leading Well

Principles to Grow On

Encouragement and Challenge

So What About You?

Questions for Reflection and Discussion


Chapter 2: I'm Not Afraid

Going In

Going Out

Going Up, the Best Direction

Practical Ways of Dealing with Fear

God Is Bigger

Questions for Reflection and Discussion


Chapter 3: The Monster You Are Avoiding

The Bottomless Pit

Do Your Laundry

The Vicious Cycle

Two Pictures of Leadership

Routine and Repetition

Questions for Reflection and Discussion


Chapter 4: You're Not Doing It Right

It's Personal

It Exposes Our Issues

Discerning Criticism: It's Our Choice

The Power of Focus

Questions for Reflection and Discussion


Chapter 5: Growing Pains


With Humility Comes Wisdom

Wisdom and Humility

Questions for Reflection and Discussion


Chapter Chapter 6: Make Up Your Mind Already!

Your Heart Matters

“For Such a Time as This”

Remain in Him

Instincts, Gut, Intuition, Discernment, and Holy Spirit

Faith without Details

Next-Best-Step Decisions

Why You Can't Decide

Solutions for Indecision

Questions for Reflection and Discussion


Chapter 7: Go Big or Go Home

Tiny Heart Syndrome

Thinking a Little Bit Crazy

Lessons from Nehemiah

Lessons from a Napkin

For Every Leader

Questions for Reflection and Discussion


Chapter 8: Leading Men

We Aren't Speaking the Same Language

There's No Crying in Baseball

He's Not Just One of the Girls

The Guy-Girl Thing

Are You Leading or Bossing?

What About the Boys' Club?

What Does He Believe?

Things We Need to Pay Attention To

This Can Work!

Questions for Reflection and Discussion


Chapter 9: Overcoming the Communication Barrier

To Understand and to Be Understood

Be a Good Listener

Be Self-Aware

Be Sensitive

Be Direct and Confident

Pay Attention to Your Timing

Just Be You

Questions for Reflection and Discussion


Chapter 10: Put the Boxing Gloves Down

Could There Be Science Behind This?

What's Behind This Mess?

The Three Leaders You May Have Encountered

Call to Action—Moving Toward Unity

Questions for Reflection and Discussion


Chapter 11: Engaging the Next Generation of Leaders

Why the Disconnect?

Some Important Questions

So Where Can We Start?

Encouraging Young Women


Questions for Reflection and Discussion



About the Authors


Title Page

Leadership Network Titles

The Blogging Church: Sharing the Story of Your Church Through Blogs, Brian Bailey and Terry Storch
Church Turned Inside Out: A Guide for Designers, Refiners, and Re-Aligners, Linda Bergquist and Allan Karr
Leading from the Second Chair: Serving Your Church, Fulfilling Your Role, and Realizing Your Dreams, Mike Bonem and Roger Patterson
In Pursuit of Great AND Godly Leadership: Tapping the Wisdom of the World for the Kingdom of God, Mike Bonem
Hybrid Church: The Fusion of Intimacy and Impact, Dave Browning
The Way of Jesus: A Journey of Freedom for Pilgrims and Wanderers, Jonathan S. Campbell with Jennifer Campbell
Cracking Your Church's Culture Code: Seven Keys to Unleashing Vision and Inspiration, Samuel R. Chand
Leading the Team-Based Church: How Pastors and Church Staffs Can Grow Together into a Powerful Fellowship of Leaders, George Cladis
Organic Church: Growing Faith Where Life Happens, Neil Cole
Church 3.0: Upgrades for the Future of the Church, Neil Cole
Journeys to Significance: Charting a Leadership Course from the Life of Paul, Neil Cole
Church Transfusion: Changing Your Church Organically—from the Inside Out, Neil Cole and Phil Helfer
Off-Road Disciplines: Spiritual Adventures of Missional Leaders, Earl Creps
Reverse Mentoring: How Young Leaders Can Transform the Church and Why We Should Let Them, Earl Creps
Building a Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church: Mandate, Commitments, and Practices of a Diverse Congregation, Mark DeYmaz
Prodigal Christianity: Ten Signposts into the Missional Frontier, David E. Fitch and Geoffrey Holsclaw
Leading Congregational Change Workbook, James H. Furr, Mike Bonem, and Jim Herrington
The Tangible Kingdom: Creating Incarnational Community, Hugh Halter and Matt Smay
Baby Boomers and Beyond: Tapping the Ministry Talents and Passions of Adults over Fifty, Amy Hanson
Leading Congregational Change: A Practical Guide for the Transformational Journey, Jim Herrington, Mike Bonem, and James H. Furr
The Leader's Journey: Accepting the Call to Personal and Congregational Transformation, Jim Herrington, Robert Creech, and Trisha Taylor
The Permanent Revolution: Apostolic Imagination and Practice for the 21st Century, Alan Hirsch and Tim Catchim
Whole Church: Leading from Fragmentation to Engagement, Mel Lawrenz
Culture Shift: Transforming Your Church from the Inside Out, Robert Lewis and Wayne Cordeiro, with Warren Bird
Church Unique: How Missional Leaders Cast Vision, Capture Culture, and Create Movement, Will Mancini
A New Kind of Christian: A Tale of Two Friends on a Spiritual Journey, Brian D. McLaren
The Story We Find Ourselves In: Further Adventures of a New Kind of Christian, Brian D. McLaren
Missional Communities: The Rise of the Post-Congregational Church, Reggie McNeal
Missional Renaissance: Changing the Scorecard for the Church, Reggie McNeal
Practicing Greatness: 7 Disciplines of Extraordinary Spiritual Leaders, Reggie McNeal
The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church, Reggie McNeal
A Work of Heart: Understanding How God Shapes Spiritual Leaders, Reggie McNeal
The Millennium Matrix: Reclaiming the Past, Reframing the Future of the Church, M. Rex Miller
Your Church in Rhythm: The Forgotten Dimensions of Seasons and Cycles, Bruce B. Miller
Shaped by God's Heart: The Passion and Practices of Missional Churches, Milfred Minatrea
The Missional Leader: Equipping Your Church to Reach a Changing World, Alan J. Roxburgh and Fred Romanuk
Missional Map-Making: Skills for Leading in Times of Transition, Alan J. Roxburgh
Relational Intelligence: How Leaders Can Expand Their Influence Through a New Way of Being Smart, Steve Saccone
The Post-Black and Post-White Church: Becoming the Beloved Community in a Multi-Ethnic World, Efrem Smith
Viral Churches: Helping Church Planters Become Movement Makers, Ed Stetzer and Warren Bird
Just Lead! A No-Whining, No-Complaining, No-Nonsense Practical Guide for Women Leaders in the Church, Sherry Surratt and Jenni Catron
The Externally Focused Quest: Becoming the Best Church for the Community, Eric Swanson and Rick Rusaw
The Ascent of a Leader: How Ordinary Relationships Develop Extraordinary Character and Influence, Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol, and Ken McElrath
Beyond Megachurch Myths: What We Can Learn from America's Largest Churches, Scott Thumma and Dave Travis
The Other 80 Percent: Turning Your Church's Spectators into Active Participants, Scott Thumma and Warren Bird
Better Together: Making Church Mergers Work, Jim Tomberlin and Warren Bird
The Elephant in the Boardroom: Speaking the Unspoken About Pastoral Transitions, Carolyn Weese and J. Russell Crabtree

About the Jossey-Bass Leadership Network Series

Leadership Network's mission is to accelerate the impact of 100X leaders. These high-capacity leaders are like the hundredfold crop that comes from seed planted in good soil as Jesus described in Matthew 13:8.

Leadership Network

Believing that meaningful conversations and strategic connections can change the world, we seek to help leaders navigate the future by exploring new ideas and finding application for each unique context. Through collaborative meetings and processes, leaders map future possibilities and challenge one another to action that accelerates fruitfulness and effectiveness. Leadership Network shares the learnings and inspiration with others through our books, concept papers, research reports, e-newsletters, podcasts, videos, and online experiences. This in turn generates a ripple effect of new conversations and further influence.

In 1996, Leadership Network established a partnership with Jossey-Bass, a Wiley Imprint, to develop a series of creative books that would provide thought leadership to innovators in church ministry. Leadership Network Publications present thoroughly researched and innovative concepts from leading thinkers, practitioners, and pioneering churches.

To learn more about Leadership Network go to


Whenever pastors get together, leadership development is one of the main topics of discussion. We want to know how to develop more and better leaders. The irony is that most churches have a mostly untapped resource of highly capable leaders already sitting in their sanctuary every Sunday morning: women. Regardless of your theology or culture, women can play a major role in leading your church in fulfilling its God-given mission. Many churches struggle in successfully integrating women with strong leadership gifts into an often male-dominated culture. The key question is how men and women can lead together in the context of the local church.

Although we see women in key leadership roles throughout the Bible, the challenges of men and women working together in the context of the local church are real and often complex. That's why I'm excited about this book. I am passionate about seeing leaders, regardless of their gender, grow to their full potential in Christ. I see the difference strong women leaders make every day at National Community Church (NCC), the church I pastor in Washington D.C. We have as many women on staff as we do men. And women have played key leadership roles in all of our small groups and ministries. We wouldn't be who we are or where we are without their leadership. We'd literally be half the church we are today without their leadership!

I also know firsthand how challenging it can be for men and women to work alongside each other in the local church. We need a leadership field guide to help reach our maximum effectiveness for the Kingdom. Sherry Surratt and Jenni Catron are the ideal leaders to write that field guide. Together they have over forty years of experience leading in a variety of roles in the local church, and they connect with women leaders across the country and around the world. NCC has benefited directly from their wisdom and experience. But more than their experience, their attitude set Sherry and Jenni apart. The bottom line for them isn't to win a theological argument over the role of women but to further the Gospel mission of the local church. They are all about seeing people come to faith and grow into mature disciples, and they want to see women equipped to do their part.

My hope is that churches will use this book as a practical guide in engaging men and women leaders to fulfill their God-given Kingdom mission. I have seen the difference effective women leaders make at both NCC and churches across the country. Regardless of your theological or cultural lens, this is a challenge worth taking on.

Mark Batterson
Senior Pastor
National Community Church
Washington D.C.


This book began a few years ago while both of us were attending a multisite conference at Seacoast Church in Charleston, South Carolina. As is usually the case, I (Jenni) was the only woman among the group from my church. When I was told that I really needed to meet Sherry Surratt, I jumped at the chance. I tracked her down after one of the sessions she was teaching. I was eager to meet this incredibly kind and dynamic female leader whom everyone was raving about. She seemed equally as excited to meet me, and we instantly became friends.

Although we live in different parts of the country, we found ways to connect with one another as often as possible. Our conversations inevitably led us to discussing the burden that we shared in helping to encourage and support other women leaders. We each had countless stories of conversations over coffee (Sherry) or tea (Jenni) with hundreds of other women leaders who were trying to find their way in ministry leadership.

Our hearts ached over the loneliness, isolation, and insecurity that seemed to be holding so many women back from truly leading from their gifts and calling. We longed for the comfort and camaraderie of a safe place—a circle of other women leaders who share the same struggles and joys of leadership.

Just Lead! is the conversation we would have with you if we could sit down together over a cup of tea or coffee. There is much we could share: the joys and pains that we have felt as women leaders, the struggles and successes that we've experienced, and the lessons we wished we could have learned through others rather than learning the hard way.

We believe in you—in your gifts, calling, and purpose as a leader. We believe God has placed you where you lead and wants you to thrive there. We hope this book will be a source of strength, encouragement, some laughs, and perhaps a few tears. We subtitled the book A No-Whining, No-Complaining, No-Nonsense Practical Guide for Women Leaders in the Church because we want to equip you to get the job done that God has called you to. Don't let the enemy convince you that you are alone, or misunderstood, or insignificant. Although there are certainly moments that feel that way (we've had our share!), it's simply not true. Most important, we hope that this book will be a reminder to you that you are not alone. You have dear friends and champions who love you, are cheering for you, and are praying over you.

We hope that Just Lead! will provide you with practical leadership help to develop the skills to lead yourself and others with the character, confidence, and authenticity of a godly woman. Each chapter addresses a different hurdle that we've encountered as women leaders. We'll share personal stories as well as weave in stories from other amazing women leaders. At the end of each chapter are questions for personal reflection and group discussion. Take the time to reflect on and process each challenge and identify situations in your own leadership where you've encountered this issue. Then find another woman leader or gather a small group of women leaders and discuss a chapter each week over lunch. Our prayer is for this book to be a source of encouragement and hope when you find yourself in challenging moments of leadership. We hope that you will be inspired to just lead!


Jenni Catron

Anything important in life cannot be accomplished without great people around you. That has never been truer for me than in writing this, my first book:

To my amazing husband, Merlyn: you have sacrificed greatly while always, always cheering me on and celebrating every step of this journey. Thank you for understanding and embracing these dreams with me. I love you!
To my family, who taught me some of my earliest leadership lessons and pushed me to be my best in everything, thank you.
To my baby sister, Jessica (aka Hilda), thank you for being the first person I tried to lead and still loving me anyway.
To the leaders who have poured into my life—teachers, professors, bosses, and mentors: Thank you for seeing in me what I couldn't see.
To myGolden Girls,” Rachel, Sus, and Shelby, who love me the same whether I lead or not, who have watched me grow and been faithful supporters every step of the way. I love you girls dearly!
To my pastor, Pete Wilson, and the amazing team at Cross Point: thank you for your grace in the good and the bad days of my leadership. You guys are the best staff on earth!
To my greatest champions and cheerleaders—Tami Heim, Shannon Litton, Kat Davis, Ashley Warren, and Stephen Brewster: everyone should have someone like you in their life. Thank you for always believing the best.

Sherry Surratt

It is amazing how God places us in the exact right family and circle of friends to provide exactly what we need:

To my amazing husband, Geoff: you are my forever friend and love of my life. Thanks for believing in me even when I didn't.
To my talented son, Mike: you amaze me every day with your brilliance and your dedication to God. I'm proud of you.
To my brilliant daughter, Brittainy, and daughter-in-love, Hilary: you both will change the world with your leadership. Dream big!
To the most amazing granddaughter, Maggie Claire: I hope someday you'll see in yourself what I do: your brilliance, your talent, your potential.
To the women in my life who have inspired and challenged me: Betsy, Lisa, Sibyl, Julianna, Cynthia, Tammy, and so many more. I am grateful to all of you.

From Both of Us

We are blessed to have had many amazing people speak into this project:

To the Leadership Network team—Mark Sweeney, Greg Ligon, and Stephanie Jackson: thank you for spurring us on to this project and believing in the importance of this book.
To Sheryl Fullerton and the Jossey-Bass team: thank you for your constant guidance and encouragement every step of the way. Thank you for capturing the vision of this project.
To the amazing women who allowed us to interview them and were willing to share their stories: thank you. Your stories will inspire thousands more to just lead.
To the women leaders around the world whom we've connected with via the blog, e-mail, a phone call, hallway conversation, or over a cup of tea: your passion is what made this book possible. You have been a gift to us; this is our gift to you.


Humble Beginnings and Big Lessons

The conversations and requests are too numerous to count: the woman who pulls us aside after we speak at a conference or retreat, the young businesswoman from our congregation who asks to meet over coffee, the e-mail requests for mentoring, the constant pleas for a conference—all asking about the development of women leaders. Why, they ask, hasn't more been written on this subject? We've wondered that too, and this is why we've decided to share our story, along with the wisdom and lessons learned from other great women leaders who've crossed our path. Women pastors, business professionals, directors, leaders in their community and churches, women courageous enough to step up and lead. Women like you.

And so we start with a short version of our own stories. Sherry began as a fourth-grade teacher and public school administrator, moved to pastor on staff at a large multisite church, then became a director at Leadership Network, a Christian nonprofit organization that helps church leaders grow and innovate, and connected with hundreds of women leaders across the nation along the way. Jenni began as a young professional in the Nashville recording industry who moved to the executive staff at one of the fastest-growing churches in the Nashville, Tennessee, area, overseeing pastoral and ministry staff and launching their multisite ministry.

We're not fooled by our résumés. We struggle with insecurity and indecision, and we make mistakes just like everyone else. But in the chapters that follow in which we share our stories, we hope that as we laugh at ourselves and candidly share our mistakes and what we've learned, you'll learn with us. We tackle the big stuff in this book: leadership hurdles that threatened to choke us, how we learned to lead ourselves and others (including men), sprinkled with inspiring leadership stories from awesome women leaders who've taught us great lessons. Our hope is that God will somehow use our words to stir your heart and ignite your God-given passion for leading, just as he has done in us. And so we begin.

Sherry's Story

I'll never forget the day my mom came home from a parent conference with my kindergarten teacher. She gently sat me down and said, “We need to talk about your bossiness.” It was the beginning of numerous future conversations that went something like this:

“Sherry, you can't tell the teacher she's telling the story wrong.”
“It's not your job to teach the first-grade class the correct way to say the Pledge of Allegiance.”
“Did you really tell the principal you were going to reorganize the lunchroom and start a revolution for free pizza on Fridays?”

My poor mom. She was having to corral a daughter who desperately wanted to run the world but had the finesse of a ticked-off rhinoceros in a china closet. I was a budding young pot stirrer who couldn't stand to see opportunities go by or miss the chance to try out a new idea. I often inspired others to jump in with me, like the time I talked my best friend into getting up and dancing in the middle of the church Christmas play, in which we were both playing sheep. This role did not call for dancing, but I thought the play needed jazzing up a bit. During the ensuing scolding that came my way after the play was over, I should have learned some lessons about self-control and obedience, but instead I remember thinking, Cool. I can talk people into stuff.

Does this ring any bells? If you're reading this book, you've probably had big ideas yourself and discovered your ability to inspire others to join you. You've probably also noticed other things, such as your ability to seize an opportunity and lead others through indecision and chaos. You may find yourself getting frustrated in situations where the lack of leadership is apparent and get itchy when progress or resolution seems distant. It's okay. You're a leader, and you're in good company.

For me, it started with a small epiphany in seventh-grade world history class. The teacher had just put us in discussion groups, where I think we were supposed to write a one-paragraph solution for world peace (at least that's what I heard him say). He instructed us to arrange our chairs in circles and then choose someone to lead the discussion questions on the worksheet. We arranged. We sat. We fidgeted. I remember thinking, Should I speak up? But the words from so long ago—“we need to talk about your bossiness”—rang in my ears, and I hesitated. Finally, the girl who was getting full enjoyment from her gum (the one I referred to as Miss SnapCracklePop) turned to me and said, “You do it. I don't want to.” The circle of heads agreed with lethargic nods, except for the boy seated next to me who had already melted into a coma of boredom. And then it hit me: I wanted to do it. I loved every opportunity to lead, even if it was corralling a herd of seventh graders in a quest for a ten-sentence solution for a universal peace treaty. I was a leader.

But somewhere along the way, something had sunk into my heart and head. It was this: Be careful. You don't want to be perceived as that bossy girl, the know-it-all, the show-off.

My first leadership lesson came to me when I was nineteen years old from a beautiful, take-charge person of confidence named Jeanette, my youth pastor's wife. She asked me to lead the children's choir and assist in directing the upcoming musical they would perform in the adult service. The kids ranged in age from kindergartners to sixth graders and were noisy, boisterous, and quite vocal in their skepticism that I could lead them in anything, much less a musical production. Jeanette came to my aid after one spectacularly unproductive choir practice when I think I said something like, “Um, would anybody, like to, um, sing?” It was, of course, a question that I never should have asked, and it was met with a resounding NO! She quietly observed the chaos, then gently chided me with some simple words: “You're the leader. So lead.”

These words came back to me again and again as I fumbled my way through leadership moments as a classroom teacher and administrator in an inner-city school system. There were those moments of hesitation when I held back because I didn't want to appear too overbearing or bossy. There were also moments of indecision because I lacked experience and was too insecure to ask for help. I knew I was the leader, so why didn't I just lead? I wanted to, but the fact remained that sometimes I just wasn't equipped. While I may have had the ability to lead a wiggly group of unenthusiastic children in a choir song, I was often ill equipped to make a confident decision under pressure or lead a mixed-gender team that didn't know how to work together. Why didn't I ask for help? Because I felt the same way you've probably felt: I should know how to do this!

Really? Just because we have the desire, does it also mean we have the skill? I've learned over the past thirty years of leadership that Jeanette's words were laden with responsibility. “So lead” also meant, “So grow” and “So learn,” and I needed to do both. More than just developing confidence and gaining experience through time, I needed to learn at the feet of master leaders, both men and women, and humbly allow God to break my pride and shape my character so I could be used by him. I also needed to study the practical skills of leading, knowing when to speak up, and understanding when to lean into the wisdom of others.

I wish I could say this has been a swift, easy journey for me. It hasn't. That sassy, strong-willed, bossy girl followed me into adulthood, even though I didn't invite her. Looking back, I see a picture of pride and arrogance mixed with dollops of insecurity and fear. It wasn't a pretty picture. But my God is an awesome God. He placed incredible leaders in my life and allowed me ringside seats to view their talents.

My first teaching position was under a principal who led in the face of incredible financial and socioeconomic roadblocks but was never too stressed to respond with grace and dignity. My area superintendent taught me that people matter more than process. God placed other brave souls in my path to say in various ways, “We need to talk about your bossiness,” as well as a variety of other issues. He has let me walk through mistakes and blunders to see clearly the need for his workmanship in my life. Thank goodness.

God created in me the desire and raw talent to lead, just as he has in you. And just as he provided the small boy with a lunch of bread and fish and the ability to share, he can transform anything inside us into something big enough to meet the need if only we'll offer it. And just as the landowner passed out talents to his servants and expected great returns, God is asking us to do something with what he has given us: not to dig a hole and keep it a secret or pretend with false humility that we aren't able, and not to hide in a corner because we're afraid someone will point a finger and label us bossy. But to use our creativity and ability to learn, grow, and become the leader God designed us to be.

This is not an easy journey. But that's okay. You're up to the challenge, and we're excited you've chosen to join us.

Jenni's Story

My story doesn't start out all that different from Sherry's. I too remember the inner turmoil of a strong-willed leader in a little person's body. But unlike Bossy-Pants Sherry (she knows I love her so I can get away with that), I was outwardly Little Miss Goody Two-Shoes—the compliant, obedient child in public who wrestled privately with a sense of responsibility to lead. And that's what it was for me: a responsibility.

My mom used to say to me all the time, “Others may; you cannot.” I remember trying to understand the logic behind that statement. What sense does that make? It was equal to a phrase I'm sure you might have heard when you were growing up—the all-familiar “because I said so.” I think parents throughout the ages have used that one when they're just flabbergasted enough to try to put an end to a tiresome conversation. If you're a mom, you probably have a phrase like that too. Although in my mind “others may, you cannot” was not a strong argument, I understood that when Mom said it to me, the argument (or lack thereof) was over.

I couldn't shake that annoying little phrase, which communicated a standard to me that I've carried forward into all of life. Perhaps Mom saw the leadership potential in me and was determined to hold me to a high standard. Perhaps it was just her way to get me to move on and drop whatever teenage plea for freedom I was advocating that day, but either way, it became a measuring stick for how I approached life. It was the first indication to me that I was made to be a leader. The Goody Two-Shoes in me couldn't ignore the sense of responsibility I felt to use my influence wisely.

I didn't even know the word leader