Faithfulness for this Moment
By Kelsey McFaul
Tami Heim, CEO of Christian Leadership Alliance, on the power of surrender and self-care
As a child, Tami Heim sat in a church pew and prayed faithfully, fervently, that one day she’d be joined by her family.
“That’s a real serious stewardship assignment, just to know that my responsibility is faithfulness and then I just have to allow God to complete the rest.”
The current president and CEO of Christian Leadership Alliance (CLA) practices that surrendering stewardship daily, as she leads an alliance of over 6,000 mission focused Christian leaders of nonprofits, churches, educational institutions, and businesses.
From a young age, Tami had faithful tenacity and ambitious prayer in her marrow.
“I was the first person from both sides of my family to ever go to college. I was really on a mission. I had ambition, I had dreams, I had things that I wanted to do. I worked hard.”
It was sitting in a different set of pews, this time as a senior in college at Purdue University, that changed all that.
“I was going to Mass every day, but I had no relationship with Christ. Then one day, I went and bought a Bible. And for the last two months of my senior year, I was consumed by God’s word. I knew I didn’t want to live another day of my life without Jesus Christ completely in control of it.”
That was in May.
“By July, God did a massive work in that my mother, father, brother, sister, and the love of my life from high school [now-husband Dale] all came to faith in Christ, and we were all baptized.
I always prayed that my family would fill the pews, and the day after the baptism, we went to church, and my family fills the pews.”
Tami experienced early the fruit of being a faithful steward allowing God to finish the things she’d started. But His plans for her were far from over.
“Everything that I had planned changed. I took a completely different path. I surrendered, I cancelled the job that I accepted, and I just went to wait on God.”
God saved Tami from her own ambition, but He still had big plans for her life.
Following college, Tami entered the management-training program at Federated Department Stores and held leadership positions for 16 years. She served as president of Borders, Inc., executive vice president and chief publishing officer at Thomas Nelson Publishers, and partner at The A Group – Brand Development.
“Over time I found that my dreams were so limiting compared to what God had planned. I gave my life and my career, and I made decisions in the context of, ‘What does He want me to do? How do I be obedient in this day? What’s my faithfulness for this hour, this moment?’”
When steward leaders focus on faithfulness, they relinquish knowledge and control. They know the outcomes aren’t in their hands, and as a result they experience a sense of freedom and peace.
“God gives us what we need to know to obey Him in the moment that we’re in. So it’s really about finding the contentment to say, ‘I really do believe You are ultimately in control. I really believe You are working all things to good and Your purpose. I may not always get it, but it’s not mine to get.”
After 30 years in the world of for-profit companies, Tami took her commitment to faithfulness in a new direction.
“I was responsible for multi-billion dollar businesses, and we’re working to increase shareholder value and earnings per penny. But every outcome was so temporal. When I think about CLA, I feel the weight of eternity that’s woven into it.”
CLA’s mission is to equip and unite Christian leaders for greater kingdom impact by creating platforms and learning experiences that allow people to come together to invest in each other through training, discipleship, and networking. In essence, CLA is stewarding leaders so they can steward their people, their organizations, and the world well.
“We want to strengthen the heart, soul, and mind, and the capabilities and skills of leaders, who make so many decisions every day that impact people’s needs or even their lives. But we also understand that our strength comes in unity, and equipping others the best ways we can.”
For Tami, running a Fortune 500-level corporation can’t compare to the immediacy of the ministries CLA serves, the lives they impact, and the eternal hope they bring.
“When I came here, I felt like God was going to take everything that I had learned and give me the opportunity to steward it in a way that would invest back into the kingdom. And I would have full permission to love and pray over all the ministries that are represented in the alliance.”
That doesn’t mean working in the nonprofit space is any less prone to stress and striving to achieve optimum outcomes. Sometimes the stakes seem even higher because of the eternal implications of her work.
“How do I live this day and leave it all on the field for God? Sometimes you can do more than is required or needed.” Amongst all the relationships Tami is responsible for stewarding, it’s the one with herself that proves the most challenging.
“The stewardship of myself, finding the time to recover yourself, to refresh, and to give yourself the space that you need to give your soul rest, that’s hard for me. I have to remind myself that it’s needed, that it’s of God, that I need to celebrate it, and that there is fullness of joy and delight in that.”
Steward leaders see practicing self-care as just another manifestation of faithfulness. Surrendering the desire to worry and control means stepping back from those things that give a sense of ownership—phones, email, packed schedules, etc.—and step into a space of rest.
In the quietness and peace of this perspective, steward leaders are able to see how God, the true owner, is at work in ways they didn’t even realize.
“When I see Him work, there’s nothing that brings me more joy. When I can say, look, God made this connection happen and then this connection happened and then this happened. Or when I pray and say, ‘Lord, I see this is important and I don’t even know where to begin. Open that next door.’ And then He shows up and opens that door.”
In surrender and self-care, Tami sees God transform her faithfulness into fruitfulness, and experiences joy in the process.
“Some people would say, ‘Of course you should expect God to do that.’ For me, I never want to lose the fullness of joy of being completely awestruck at how God consistently and always shows up.”