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7 Questions with Venita Blakely
helps you in your leadership.
7 Questions with Venita Blakely
Name: Venita Blakely
Current title: Consultant (Formerly Senior Executive Assistant)
Current organisation: VE Enterprise (Formerly, World Changers Church International)
Venita serves with others in mind, with the purpose and intent of bringing God front and center. She is the consummate learner, always looking for ways and opportunities to improve. She is a 2013 graduate of the inaugural class of World Changers Bible School and a 2015 graduate of The Joseph Business School. Venita knows that God has raised her up for “such a time as this”. Standing upon these foundational scriptures: Philippians 1:6, “And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you.” and Colossians 3:23, “Whatever may be your task, work at it heartily (from the soul), as [something done] for the Lord and not for men,” Managing Up: Doing It God’s Way, her first book, was born.
Professionally, Venita exhibits the traits and attributes that set her apart from her colleagues. Her ultimate purpose is to add her strength to whomever she is working with. While working as a Senior Executive Assistant, Venita’s roles expanded, becoming an instructor at World Changers Bible School teaching Customer Service and Leadership & Teamwork classes. She also facilitates workshops using the content from the classes, in addition to providing mentoring for other administrative assistants. Venita approaches each position as an assignment and the outcome shows just that. Her demeanor is consistent in that she conveys warmth, authenticity, and still remains professional, making it a pleasure to work with her.
When Venita is not working with a client or content, you can find her researching travel options, trying new recipes, or spending time with her family and friends. Venita is the proud mother of two children, Nicole and Nathan, and MiMi to granddaughter, Mercy.
1. What have you found most challenging as a church leader?
I have functioned in the administrative support space for over 20 years and when I published my book, "Managing Up: Doing It God's Way" in 2015, I realized then that I was a leader. Working in a support role presented a number of opportunities to resolve problems with staff, members, and clients. What I found most challenging was reminding those I reported to, which was the overall responsibility that was given to us by God in stewarding the souls that were entrusted to us. Recognizing the larger scope of what we were doing in ministry shaped my perspective and influenced my actions and decisions. Whether the need was spiritual or physical, the solution was to make sure that they would end up in a better place and experience the love of Jesus in the process.
2. How did you become a church leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I always chuckle when I reflect on my track to leadership while in ministry.
When my daughter was small I used to say that I would only take care of my children...because I felt so inept as a new parent. At the same time I was fighting the sense of ministering to infants and the little ones. One day during service my pastor at the time, publicly announced that he was led to start an infant and toddler ministry and I looked up to heaven and chuckled. I yielded to the Holy Spirit's leading and approached my pastor to let him know what I had been sensing and from there I became the minister over that area. Over the years, I was a co-director of the children's choir, children's ministry director, minister-in-training. These were all volunteer positions. I've been serving as a ministry leader in various capacities since 1984.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I always start my day in prayer and in the Word and set it from there. My atmosphere is established so I can continue to communicate with the Holy Spirit throughout the day. I try to stay in tune with him so that as I work on different projects, meet with clients, staff, or members, or write content for my upcoming books and workshops, I can always follow his lead. I have made it a practice to wait on him to give me the what and how of what he wants to be conveyed to whomever I'm communicating with. This is on top of what is already scheduled for the day.
The times when an impromptu meeting comes about through a conversation and results in a mentoring or coaching session with a staff member, I am mindful of my response, making sure that it is gracious and benefits the listener.
As my day comes to an end and it's time to unwind, I'll work out with some free weights after eating or go walking to get some cardio in. Once I get done, depending on what day it is, I may watch some TV. Before heading to bed, I'll have worship music playing and do a little reading (scriptures or book) before turning in for the night.
4. What's one book apart from the Bible that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
I'll answer this question from another aspect because I've worked in a supportive capacity. When I was looking for new ways to improve my performance and continue to be a blessing to my boss, I came across a book called "Managing Up" by Rosanne Badowski. As I read the book, the Holy Spirit spoke and told me that I was already using a lot of the techniques and practices that she wrote about. He began to show me the ways I was using those principles. The difference was that he showed me that those practices I used were scripturally based. This book exposed the leadership practices I unknowingly developed over the years and still use.
5. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
I had a conversation with an older gentleman recently and one of the things he shared with me about leadership was our convictions in relation to fulfilling God's purpose and destiny for our lives. He stated that we can follow our purpose and be passionate and committed to it but if we don't have strong convictions about our purpose, we may have difficulty fulfilling it.
He went further and asked me the question, "How strong are my convictions as it relates to the assignment God has given me? How far am I willing to go for my convictions?" Of course, my thoughts went to Jesus, the 3 Hebrew boys, Paul, Abraham, and the other heroes of the faith as I pondered the questions. Since then, I've applied those questions to my leadership capacity...and I'm still processing...
6. How do you develop a healthy leadership pipeline in a church?
The bible tells us that God gave gifts to the body of Christ - apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers - put in place to prepare the saints for the work of the ministry. (Ephesians 4). It also states in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 that he also gave each one of us specific gifts that show who God is through us. Each one is key to the development of the Body of Christ and when each person is able to function in their gifting, unity, and harmony will take place. This, I believe, is where the church becomes healthy and can create a healthy leadership pipeline in the church.
It's important that readers recognize the gifts of their members and staff and develop them just as they would develop their children. This may mean having to restructure training with the goal of placing potential leaders in roles and positions that will maximize their gifting instead of where we think and want them to be. I believe that it's important to note that during times of impartation, allow teaching moments for when potential leaders "miss it". This will help develop them further because a safe space (without judgment) has been created for them to develop into the person and leader God wants them to be while at the same time, bringing accountability, acknowledging the issues, and addressing them.
The crux of this is having the foundation of God's love and each leader living in and out of His love for themselves and others. Jesus did everything from this place and as we continue to follow his lead, I believe this will ensure the success of healthy leaders.
There's so much more I can say about this but will leave it for another time.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a church leader so far?
I remember when my boss was out of the office and I received a call about an emotional and unruly guest who came to advice services. No one was available at the time and the standard protocol was if the guest refused the options presented and became more irritated vs accepting the options, inform Security and have the person escorted from the premises. Most of the time, guests accepted the options and compiled.
Once I was informed of this situation, I continued working and started receiving an internal 'check' that I needed to follow up on this particular situation. When I went to the department, the guest was at the Security checkpoint and was trying to explain what she wanted. I approached them and told the Security personnel that I would speak with her and asked if she would follow me to a conference room where we could have some privacy but also within earshot of the checkpoint.
I spoke with the young lady for almost an hour and learned that she came to the ministry to seek help with getting her young child back. She shared her legal documents showing that her child had been removed from her home due to 'perceived' mental stress. She went on to share her childhood of rape and molestation from family members/friends, ongoing therapy, trying to get beyond the trauma so she could live a productive life with her young child. At the same time, she was seeking meaningful employment so that she could get her child back and had become frustrated with her caseworker and the system.
During the conversation, I'm praying for understanding and the right words to say, and at the same time, discerning the situation before me. Because she was trying to get her child back and could not understand why the social service representative "just would not give him to her", I began to explain to her that she had steps to go through and that each step brought her closer to getting her son back. I was able to show her through the paperwork she had what she had to do and encouraged her to communicate with her caseworker to let him/her know what she was doing. In her emotional state, she couldn't reason properly but it was the love of Jesus responding to her, that she began to hear and understand.
Before she left, I prayed with her and spoke words of life into her being. I asked her to keep me posted on her progress. She left encouraged, hopeful, and willing to go through the process of doing what she needed to do to be reunited with her son. She understood what was required of her.
We spoke a few times after that and she became employed, regained custody of her son, and rejoined the church.
After my initial meeting, I met with the staff who initially met with her and shared with them what transpired and used it as a teaching moment for them. In the daily interactions with guests, make sure that one doesn't get so caught up in the protocols that one misses opportunities to minister. It's important to be open to the Holy Spirit's leading as we interact with the community because you never know who Jesus wants to meet on any given day.