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

Set Apart for Such a Time As This

Written by: on February 21, 2024

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Courageous leadership requires grit, humility, and perseverance. It isn’t for the faint of heart and is one of my favorite leadership qualities to study, perhaps because my own courage ebbs and flows sometimes. In his book, Failure of Nerve, author Edwin Friedman utilizes the tried-and-true Bowen Family Systems Model and applies it to organizations. Doing so revealed many similarities between family and organizational structures and systems.

To borrow a term from my former career in public health, Friedman is analyzing the ecological framework of how people function in a professional environment. He takes into account their job titles and relationships with one another, business rules and processes, dynamics such as imaginative gridlock that stifles progress, personal identity, and more. This framework also considers the external or hostile forces that shape the process flows and can be applied to any major institution that fosters change.[1]

Set Apart for Such a Time as This

A few years ago, during my tenure as the development director at a local food bank, I was tasked with having a very difficult conversation with a headstrong donor who gave a very large sum of money every year. In exchange for their contribution, the food bank agreed to host a special evening food distribution in a rural town where the donor’s employees could volunteer to help distribute the food. It was a quid pro quo situation that didn’t sit right in my gut. I was nervous about the discussion; certain the results would reveal their motives. I also understood the risk of losing them altogether could jeopardize my job.

With plenty of data in hand, I diplomatically conveyed that while we were thankful for the partnership, the money they gave us did not cover the expenses of the event, which also created numerous unintended consequences. People receiving food through this distribution were not required to be in a vulnerable predicament, as the usual system stated. What this meant was the food was given away to anyone and everyone, and unfortunately,  provisions ran out quickly leaving those who needed it most with no benefit.

Upon sharing the facts of the situation with the donor, I was shocked that she handed me a very emotional unregulated, and threatening response. She wanted her company’s brand out in the community through this food distribution even if the food did not go to people who are food insecure. Her motives were completely unreasonable and selfish. Following that exchange, I tried for weeks to negotiate different solutions, but ultimately, the donor refused. This was not about feeding hungry people; this was about entitlement, manipulation, and power.

Friedman’s description of self-differentiation means, at the heart, having the courage to be different with a risk of sabotage from others.[2] In the story above, this donor had bullied the food bank for eight years to host something that ultimately cost the non-profit $11,000 annually because the donor’s contribution didn’t fully cover the expenses. But none of the relationship managers before me dared to address the disparity. For me, I never thought about courage. It was simply about doing the right thing for the food bank and stewarding the limited resources appropriately.

Another aspect of self-differentiation is having the ability to regulate emotions and to be decisive, but not arrogant. Scripture tells us “You have been set apart as holy to the LORD your God, and he has chosen you from all the nations of the earth to be his own special treasure”.[3] Imagine that. We are handpicked by the Almighty God to serve in such a time as this. Given the societal regression and behaviors mimicking tribalism happening in the world around us, I do not doubt that the students in this program are called to bring peace, connection, and healing through the Gospels.


Friedman encourages readers to focus less on followers, and more on themselves to find God’s purpose for their lives. Doing so will reveal their identity. It is much like carving a sculpture. One may start with a large marble slab and slowly chisel away tiny fragments piece by piece, ultimately revealing the spirit of God’s creation through the artist. As leaders, we are to chisel away pride, ego, fear, and other unfavorable character traits to be revealed as the individuals God intended us to be. Having the courage to maintain a strong presence during critical incidents strengthens our resolve and refines us for greater adventures ahead.


[1],[2] Friedman, Edwin H., Margaret M. Treadwell, and Edward W. Beal. A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix. 10th anniversary revised edition. New York: Church Publishing, 2017.

[3] Bible Study Tools. “Deuteronomy 14:2 – NLT – You Have Been Set Apart as Holy to the LORD Your G…” Accessed February 21, 2024. https://www.biblestudytools.com/nlt/deuteronomy/14-2.html

About the Author


Jennifer Eckert

Fundraising director, people connector, believer in second chances, fights poverty, supports justice reform, lives a life integrated with Matthew 25.

11 responses to “Set Apart for Such a Time As This”

  1. mm Shela Sullivan says:

    Hi Jennifer,
    Thank you for your post – WOW!!! The story of your difficult conversation with the donor highlights the importance of self-differentiation and the courage to do what is right, even in the face of opposition. Your commitment to stewarding resources appropriately and prioritizing the needs of the food bank’s beneficiaries is a testament to your integrity and leadership.
    How did you exemplified leadership characteristics when you had to prioritize the needs of your organization or team over other pressures?

    • mm Jennifer Eckert says:

      Thank you, Shela. Honestly, I had to check and double-check the accuracy of my findings, and I had to ensure that my feelings remained neutral. Just stick to the facts. The other challenge in doing the assessment was that it revealed what others should have found years ago, but they never checked. Losing $11K annually to this project was a big deal. Those colleagues still worked at the food bank at that time, so I had to exercise caution to not place blame and instead assume they didn’t know how to assess the project costs or they were afraid to due to the harsh nature of the donor.

  2. Christy Liner says:

    Hi Jennifer, thanks for sharing! I’m proud of you for having the difficult conversation with the donor.

    I enjoyed your indirect tie in to Esther – as I was just reading it yesterday. Esther was a great leader – well differentiated and able to keep her reactivity low even during the high stakes of her people’s potential annihilation.

    Are there any other things you can observe from Esther’s leadership?

    • mm Jennifer Eckert says:

      Thank you, Christy. I love the story of Esther, especially her resilience. She values identity and perseveres through cultural pressures and hostile environments. Her story is very relevant to today’s modern world. I probably should reread it for a bucket refill.

  3. Debbie Owen says:

    Jennifer, good for you. I’m curious to know the results of this confrontation with the donor. I’m also curious to know how you feel about the donor’s “leadership” vs. your own leadership? Were you both differentiated? It sounds like it. How does one resolve such a situation, with two differentiated leaders who don’t agree?

    • mm Jennifer Eckert says:

      Good questions, Debbie. We both were certainly differentiated leaders. Ya know power is a neutral force that can be used for good or bad. In this case, she used her power for a self-serving matter that was shrouded as an act for the greater good.

      Ultimately, our CEO took over managing the relationship, which continues today. I was given applause internally for handling the situation, but the food bank still performs a “dog and pony show” each year for this donor. I don’t think it is the same model as before, but their philanthropy is certainly not altruistic and probably never will be.

      I learned a lot about courage during the experience and afterward, was tapped to handle other difficult matters within the organization. I became the “go-to” bad guy to deliver hard news, etc., but I only did so if I felt Jesus was calling me there and I could see a clear path of right and wrong. I used to be a coward at having hard conversations but I am no longer afraid of them and I know how to prepare well for them.

  4. Elysse Burns says:

    Jennifer, I cringe at the story of this donor and the unhealthy manipulating behaviors you had to navigate through. You did an excellent job standing up for what you believed was right for the nonprofit and those who experienced food insecurity. Although it saddens me to read of personalities like this donor, I can’t help but think of the ways this experience equipped you for future hostile situations.
    I appreciated the way you tied in thoughts from last week’s reading “Leadersmithing.” Especially, in the conclusion. Throughout your post I kept thinking, “Templating. Templating. Templating.” Did this situation give you new templates for interacting and going to the Lord in hard situations like this? It definitely sounds like you did not allow yourself to be triangled into someone else’s chaos! Bravo!

    • mm Jennifer Eckert says:

      Definitely! My template for going into any difficult situation involves prayer, prayer, and more prayer. If the Lord isn’t calling me, I won’t go there. It must be clear.

      If he is calling me, I will fully assess the pros/cons of the facts and whatever “spin” might someone use to argue for their respective angle. Above all, operate with dignity and respect for the other person and stick with the data. Try to negotiate a win-win for both parties to show a good faith interest in maintaining the relationship. Honor God in all of it, which may mean setting aside crabby feelings if I have them. They aren’t of God and will sabotage any chance for reconciliation. Thanks for asking!

  5. Diane Tuttle says:

    Hi Jennifer, What a great example of helping your organization de-triangle with the manipulating “donor” that had been going on for years. I quoted the word donor because donations are gifts given with nothing in return.
    Your discription of the headstrong donor brought a book by Patrick Lencioni in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, (San Francisco:Jossev-Bass, 2002.) to mind. One way to sabotage something is for the ego of one or more to get in the way. When the team focus is on results ego needs could be diminished. [pp 72-73].
    I admire your courage and integrity to gracefully confront the issues and bring the conversation back to the purpose of the organization and the harm her limits cold cause. Since this time have there been other instances where this encounter has served as a template for you to have confidence to do it again?

    • mm Jennifer Eckert says:

      Hi Diane, actually, yes. Only one other experience, thankfully. But it had to do with a former co-worker, who I let get under my skin with passive-aggressive remarks for over a year before I dared to speak up. When we finally had “the talk,” I was careful to choose words that focused on her actions, which made me feel like…x. I never chastised her character but focused narrowly on her behaviors.

      In truth, the fault was probably mine because I gave my power away to her. I thought so highly of her expertise that when she mistreated me, I believed she must be correct; that something was wrong with me. It was hurtful, but very healing to bring the matter to light. She never acknowledged my hurt or accepted any fault, which also was an important lesson in itself about the expectations of others.

      But having the courage to react in an unemotional, factual way with examples in hand to present to her was freeing and allowed me to move on after having my say.

  6. Chad Warren says:

    Jennifer, I appreciate your analogy of leadership being like chiseling a marble slab, and as leaders, we are to chisel away pride, ego, fear, and other unfavorable character traits to be revealed as the individuals God intended us to be. What do see as the best methods of chiseling?

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