Models for Stewardship Leadership By Andrea Leigh Capuyan
Pregnancy and Parenting are Models for Steward Leadership
People are not a means to an end. They are not expendable. I think of an experience my husband had with one employer. He had worked for many years on a contract, assigned to a difficult and important project. And then one day unexpectedly, everyone heard the contractor was losing the project. After a week of rumors, the contractor hosted an all-hands meeting. It did not go well. My husband said their tone was flippant. They did not offer assurance. They did not say – we value you, we’ve got your back, here’s the plan. They confirmed everyone’s worst thoughts – you are expendable.
People deserve more. Steward leadership offers better models that are more expansive and life-affirming. I work in a pregnancy care ministry, and through the years I’ve learned how pregnancy and parenting teach us rich lessons about stewardship which I believe can transform our leadership practices and perhaps even our relationships.
Pregnancy offers complex lessons around stewardship. It is more than caring for the treasures which are placed in my hands. It is caring for a person who is placed in my body. The prospect of this kind of dependency and intimacy can be overwhelming and disarming. And yet, it is the very proximity between mother and child which evokes protection and nurture. In pregnancy a bond begins – it is the soil that cultivates ongoing attachment. This new relationship is welcomed and received.
Stewardship is not simply giving up or giving over. Stewardship begins by receiving. It begins with embracing and cherishing what is most precious in your care. We do not hold others at arms-length or withdraw ourselves. We move toward others. We know them. And we let them know us. Good stewardship requires healthy reliance and attachment to others. Healthy bonding isn’t a luxury – it is a necessity.
Steward leadership recognizes that a piece of you is meant to be reproduced and passed along in the life of another. You are bringing life into this world through someone else. And in stewarding such relationships, others leave their mark on you. I think it is safe to say most women will tell you that after pregnancy your body is not the same again – in good ways and weird ways. Our bodies are stretched. In many ways, our bodies are living reminders of the price required to receive another person into our life. It is life-altering for all.
The strength of such bonds is powerful and purposeful. I imagine it is part of what makes infertility and pregnancy loss such a sucker punch to the gut…unimaginable pain. The longing and the welcoming and the receiving of another life are necessary ingredients for that relationship to flourish. It requires risk. It might cost us everything and it is what makes releasing so hard…sometimes unbearable.
One of the “joys” in parenting is that you quickly confront all illusions of control you once held. Children play a unique role in life by reminding us that we cannot control another person’s will or actions. We can hinder and impede. We can suppress and suffocate. OR we can choose stewardship.
Good parenting is focused on healthy boundaries, affirming character and gifts, and preparing a child for the journey ahead. Parents must assess what their child needs for today and also prepare them for their future. It is cherishing who their child is and nurturing who their child is created to be. It is tempting to cling to our hopes and dreams for our children instead of fostering what they are meant to be. Parenting is always preparing to let go.
The lesson here is not about treating others as children. Instead, it is about helping others grow. It is about fostering healthy independence. Just as parents can crush their children through possessiveness. Without a steward mindset, leaders can destroy others through control, entitlement, and demands. Steward leaders understand part of their role is to develop, empower, and serve. They know through another person’s flourishing they too help create something new. Steward leaders are focused on helping make a way for someone else. Folks aren’t expendable or tossed away. They are prepared for a future for a blessing and benediction.
At the center, we are confronted with all the complexities of parenting. Parenting is never easy. And it challenges us more deeply than we could imagine. It is difficult to walk alongside children on their journey, knowing we cannot take their steps for them or control the path they choose. And I have witnessed a deeper act of sacrifice that asks parents to lay aside their heart and their love. When parents choose to place their child for adoption, it is entrusting and releasing their child to the care of others – releasing their rights – trusting strangers to nurture and love a precious loved one. It is facing the unknown and letting go in full faith. A profoundly unique decision. I understand that choice. And it is hard and heartbreaking. I’m not sure ‘cheerful giver’ is the right word because the loss and the grief are real. Birth parents know the value of who we are relinquishing. I think of Hannah who released her ONLY son, Samuel, to Eli, who seems to be a lousy father. She is a picture of courage. That is a model of good stewardship – faith-filled relinquishment.
Steward leadership is self-giving, life-changing, and courageous. The willingness to receive and release others is an act of courage. I doubt your leadership is marred by a story like my husband’s. I doubt you see your teammates or employees as expendable. I do wonder if there is something more we are called to offer others whether it is in our churches, in our workplace or our ministries. Stewarding relationships ask more of us than proper management or cheerful giving. It asks us to welcome others in and to help them take flight all the while putting our life and love on the line – faith-filled relinquishment.
I invite you to join me and reflect on these questions today. And let our reflection help us become the person that God intends.
- How are you welcoming, protecting, and nurturing folks entrusted to your care?
- What are your “stretch marks”? How have others left their imprint on you? How are you learning from others?
- What are the desires or demands you are placing on others? What hopes and dreams about them do you need to relinquish?
- How might your fears be impeding your ability to fully receive someone and fully release them?
- How are you preparing others for their growth, their success, their path? How are you encouraging and empowering them for their next steps – with or without you?
Andrea Leigh Capuyan is the Executive Director of Laurel Pregnancy Center. Andrea holds a Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership from York College. She is a Credentialed Christian Nonprofit Leader with Christian Leadership Alliance and a Certified Nonprofit Accounting Professional.
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