Pat Gilbert preceded me as Director of Information Systems at Willow Creek Community Church. I am extremely thankful for the opportunities that she gave me to grow as a leader. I do not believe that I would have had the opportunity to lead and manage the Information Technology ministry at Willow Creek if it were not for her willingness to take risks on my growth. I know that my energy and propensity toward action can be a handful to manage. However, Pat’s experience, wisdom and patience with me over the years that she lead and mentored me has had a profound and positive impact on my character as a leader, as a professional and as a follower of Christ. Furthermore, I don’t think that I have appropriately expressed my gratitude to her for her investment in me…that is…until today. This Post is dedicated to you, Pat Gilbert. Thanks for taking chances on me.
1. Employ-ability – Pat had a great concern for our ability to grow in our skill as professionals. Pat came to Willow Creek with a tremendous amount of skill and experience as a technology leader and manager. She worked for large financial corporations and she new how fragile employment situations could be. An economic downturn could mean that she might be forced to eliminate a position. She would say, “I can’t promise you employment forever, however, I can do my best to promote your ability to be employed.” To this day I think about Pat’s perspective on “Employ-ability” and though I can’t always provide the training opportunities I would like for the people entrusted to me, professional development is always an intentional objective for me to pursue for any of the teams I have of the privilege of serving.
2.Integrity – One of the things I remember most about Pat when I was serving under her was her integrity. I have always known Pat to be true to her character, even when the outcome might be that her perspectives or decisions were not popular. Pat was not in the habit of necessarily telling people what they wanted to hear. However, Pat always provided an unbiased and tactfully honest assessment of any situation. She believed that she was accountable to God first and never played favorites when it came to stewarding resources and setting direction for anything she is accountable for leading at Willow Creek.
3. Grit – I realize that I don’t have any semblance of credibility to talk about the challenges that women have faced and continue to face in our world. However, I think that I have been in the field of technology long enough to safely observe that even today this field is heavily dominated be men. While I am encouraged to see a growing number of women filling positions at all levels in the field of technology, Pat is particularly inspiring to me. She served in both high tech positions as a developer and high leadership positions as a Vice President at a time when I believe such things were even more of an exception than they are today. I believe that it has taken a certain amount of grit for Pat to make as far as she has in her field of expertise. I realize that the term grit can carry a certain negative abrasive connotation. However, others who have served under Pat have described her as “always being tough but fair.” After much thought and consideration I came across the following definition: “firmness of character; indomitable spirit; pluck: She has a reputation for grit and common sense.” This is, of course, a definition for the word grit. After reading this definition, with all that Pat has experienced in her life. Pat is a person of Rock solid character in Christ and she has an unconquerable spirit. She has a reputation for grit and common sense that has inspired me to seek a similar path.
4.Adventurous Spirit – As long as I have known her, Pat has pursued a relationship with God with great passion. She has also pursued serving God wherever He may lead her. Even when this meant leaving high paying jobs to work in full-time vocational ministry, Pat followed God’s call on her life. Wherever and whenever God gives Pat an opportunity to explore and serve she follows His lead. This has lead Pat all over the world. I believe that as long as God gives Pat the strength for follow Him, wherever He may lead her…she will.
5. Undying pursuit of learning – I remember walking into Pat’s office one day to report on some task we were working on in I.T. when I caught her installing a training software to help her learn the Spanish language. Pat had just returned from a trip to the Dominican Republic. She was determined to learn Spanish so she could connect better with our partners in that area. As long as I have known Pat, she has continued to pursue a lifestyle of learning. She does this even if it takes her out of her comfort zone or challenges her to go beyond the boundaries of anything she may have explored before.
I am thankful for the influence that Pat Gilbert has had on my life and I am so very thankful for the growth opportunities that Pat has given me. I pray that God continues to bless her in all her efforts to follow Him wherever He may lead her.