Earlier this month, we focused on how our Wesleyan universities at Indiana Wesleyan, Kingswood University, Oklahoma Wesleyan and Wesley Seminary are living into the traditions, of employing women leaders hosting in a variety of spaces.  

Part two of this article highlights the ways women leaders are doing Kingdom Force work at Houghton University and Southern Wesleyan University.


Rev. Michaela Wickham, coordinator of Worship and Spiritual Formation at Southern Wesleyan University (SWU), reflects on how she is seeing students under her leadership leaning into the ways God is transforming them. “It’s beautiful to see students being passionate about God in their small spaces. For example, creating a desire to wake up early and pray with one another; looking for God and how he is moving in their lives,” says Rev. Wickham.

Since she has been in this role, Rev. Wickham has helped coordinate the campus chapel services, shepherded students and trained the summer teams to minister at varieties of camps. In this role, she has “deeply enjoyed seeing students discover themselves, their progress of becoming more like Christ and reflecting on their calling,” said Rev. Wickman.

Dr. Sandra McLendon, SWU interim provost and chair of the School of Education and Music, also sits on the President’s Cabinet, and acknowledges her role has been “learning more techniques of being organized because of the demands, but also having support from her co-workers and the president.” Dr. McLendon is privileged to shepherd 23 individuals monthly. She intentionally carves out time to meet with faculty and students. “I feel as though they are shepherding me more than I am shepherding them. In these conversations there are many who really need the support … to listen to them and to be embraced,” says Dr. McLendon.

Deanna Hand, associate director of Athletics for Sports Medicine and Administration at Houghton College, said: “We are all God’s children, and we are called to love one another. I am working with the students to help break down their barriers so they can become even closer to God.”

Deanna has been able to reach out to students in hard moments to create opportunities for them to see God and slow down (even for a second) to see how God is moving. She cultivates creative opportunities to meet students where they are. One student she was shepherding struggled to stay centered during basketball. Before every basketball game, Deanna would meet with this student, and they would walk through a devotional — this kept the student focused on deeper values beyond the game. “My impact has been creating space with the students; they know that my office door is always open to them,” shares Deanna.

Relationships carry over as an important theme — not only in Houghton’s athletics but also in admissions. “I have learned to see people as people — when I am faced with a difficult situation, I am reminded that everyone is made in the image of God, and how I treat people is important because everything in life is relational,” said Rebecca Arnold, director of Admission. She is able to come alongside students and families to help answer questions and discern next steps for them to follow.

In these conversations, Rebecca is focused on where God is calling students and how she can walk with them in the formative season of young adulthood. She notices that “people are always watching you — in the way we manage our offices, how we interact with people — we have discovered students are seeing this and seeing the value of observing those interactions.

Rebecca also recognizes prayer is vital in these relationships. “The more that we pray for our students and the people we work with, the more we become invested and one with the Spirit.”

Prayer is important and is especially useful when paired with the practice of listening to others. “People need someone that they can trust — you can’t know everything, but you can listen and help them find their answers,” states Phyllis Gaerte,  senior director of Alumni and Community Engagement at Houghton University. Phyllis in her leadership is involved with the community inside and outside of Houghton University. She has noticed that “people just want someone that they can really trust that will walk alongside them doing the day-to-day tasks.”

When asked what words of insight they might give women who are or will be in ministry, these leaders give this advice to consider:

  • “You are uniquely gifted by God and that is powerful” (Rev. Wickham).
  • “Have a good mentor — they are important because they can give you advice and listen; you need a good listener some days. Start each day with prayer … asking God to give them what they need” (Dr. McLendon).
  • “Be an empowered leader, not an entitled leader” (Deanna Hand).
  • “I’ve learned that it takes a lot of humility to be a good leader. You’re not always going to be the best or know the most about everything. Rely on the team of people that God has put around you to help you. Let other people use their gifts and your whole team will be stronger and more effective” (Rebecca Arnold).
  • “Step out and seek opportunities. Look for mentors and supervisors that will recognize your skill sets and your passion” (Phyllis Gaerte).

To learn more about Wesleyan women leaders, read “Kingdom-style leadership” and visit Wesleyan.org for more information.

Sarah Linder is a lay minister for congregational care at College Wesleyan Church in Marion, Indiana, and a stay-at-home mom of 3 boys: Ezra (5) Isaiah (4), and Jack (2).