Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Life Is Happening, or, The Greatest Showwoman on Earth

Written by: on February 10, 2022

My head is spinning by the speed of life happening.  Which seems ironic considering how the pandemic seems to have stalled the forward motion in the church in general, and the church I serve specific.  The church I currently serve called me to lead them to radical change.  And we were on the precipice to start raising money when the pandemic hit.  The vision came to a grinding halt as the people in the nation scurried to their homes and hunkered down in isolation. Safety and health are important. But the pandemic has left financial insecurity and more than a couple of piles of broken dreams in its wake as it drives in circles around our community.

Even as I continue to work to help the church find a new way forward, I realized that I must start searching for a new call.  Amid this I am also trying to work on my Doctorate. I have discovered the overwhelming challenge of balancing all these twirling, swirling plates I have in the air. So, what does Jason suggest I do? Write what I am learning regarding my leadership in this wacky season.

I began interviewing with this church in North Carolina on January 3rd.  Since then, I have had a total of three Zoom interviews.  It has been an interesting process to answer interview questions, especially in light of the journey I have been on since I was fired in 2010 from the church in Pennsylvania.  It has afforded me the time to self-reflect on my leadership identity and how this last year and a half of Doctorate work has been invaluable in understanding, as Friedman may suggest, my self. I am learning to lean into the work of self-differentiation and self-regulation.  This has manifested in my intentional awareness to not react out of my emotions. I am gaining strength in not allowing the anxiety of the system overtake my ability to keep healthy boundaries.

One of the most remarkable shifts for me is to own my nerve.  After being broken so spectacularly in Pennsylvania, I had no resolve to endeavor to be a pioneer in the church. My nerve was lost; I had no heart enduring sabotage and pain.  Stepping back into parish ministry after a 7-year hiatus felt like risking for my soul. I am embarrassed to admit that I stepped back in, weak in my leadership identity. My tolerance to face emotional pushback was low.  Friedman’s book A Failure of Nerve convicted me deeply. I can now see all the ways I had been leading via the wishy and the washy. And yet, through that conviction God gave me back my nerve. I once again feel courageous to take risks in casting a pioneering vision and challenging God’s people to step closer to crossing equators.

During the Advance, Shawn Holtzclaw encouraged us to find the Scriptural DNA of our leadership identity. On the morning following my third interview God clobbered me over the head with my DNA scripture: Jeremiah 1:4-10.  Jeremiah has always been my DNA. But sabotage and blame displacement knocked my immature hands loose of my call. The confluence of interview questions about my leadership with this doctorate created the space for me to assertively grasp Jeremiah’s truth again.

My husband and I returned yesterday from a 2 ½ day visit to the church.  During which the church offered me the call.  The pay in the proposal was significantly less than what they “advertised”.  The me without nerve would have just accepted it as offered.  The new me with nerve and a stronger sense of self-differentiation made a “counteroffer”.  It’s looking like I will be adding the “packing up and moving” plate to my circus act. It feels good to be invigorated and unnerved all at the same time. I may end up being the greatest showwoman on earth!

About the Author


Nicole Richardson

PC(USA) pastor serving a church in Kansas City. In my spare time I teach yoga and scuba diving

One response to “Life Is Happening, or, The Greatest Showwoman on Earth”

  1. Elmarie Parker says:

    Hey Nicole. Thank you so very much for sharing your leadership journey as you discern this new call and reflect on your current call as well as previous calls (and pain). And, bravo for stepping into your nerve and making a counter-offer! What will your leadership learnings mean for how you say good-bye to your current congregation? What is your sense of the leadership challenge you will be walking into in your new congregational setting?

Leave a Reply