10 Leadership Lessons from Billy Graham

Stephanie Edge, Director of Women’s Ministry at Poplar Heights Baptist Church, made a memorable trip recently and learned some great leadership lessons from a great leader, Dr. Billy Graham. I am grateful she has shared those lessons with women’s leaders through this blog post. See which ones resonate with where you are in your serving right now.

I recently had the opportunity to visit the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, NC. As a women’s ministry leader, I could not help but think of the leadership lessons that were evident from such a faithful, Godly servant of Christ.

Lesson #1: The gospel message of the cross should be the focus of women’s ministry.

First and foremost – when you enter the property, you see the main building, a barn. Your attention is immediately drawn to its focal point, a large cross that is high and lifted up. (Jn. 3:14-15) This prominent cross is reflective of Billy Graham’s heartbeat – to lead men and women, boys and girls, to the cross of Christ. As I entered the barn, I was struck by the exposed beams in the ceiling. Inscribed upon the beams was John 3:16, “For God so loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will have eternal life,” emphasizing God’s sacrifice on the cross and invitation for all to trust in Him.

Exposed beams with John 3_16

Lesson #2: God uses the ordinary to do extraordinary things to advance His kingdom.

As you begin your walk through the facility, you are introduced to Bessie, a talking cow. Bessie begins to tell of Billy’s early life on the dairy farm. She recalls him practicing his messages as he daily milked the cows. Bessie’s commentary is a reminder of the humble beginning of a dairy farmer’s son who would later change the world by preaching the gospel. (1 Cor. 26-27)


Lesson #3: God’s Word is powerful and his messengers should pursue holiness.

Video clips from Graham’s crusades are seen along the way. As I viewed various clips of his sermons through the years, I realized that I was watching messages that could be older than I am. However, I was awestruck with those presentations of God’s Word. Throughout Graham’s life, he has had one message – the gospel of Christ. And the messages were just as powerful to me in 2013 as they were in those early years. I was overwhelmed by their relevancy and power. (Heb. 4:12) That kind of power only rests on God’s Word and a man who desired and practiced a holy life.

Lesson #4: Family should be a priority for women’s ministry leaders.

Early in the tour, an entire room is dedicated to Ruth Bell Graham. Pictures and memorabilia are on display of Ruth’s childhood and time in China as well as photos of the entire Graham family. As you look at the photos, Billy tells about the significant role of Ruth in his life and ministry. He honors Ruth by giving her most of the credit for raising the Graham kids which are all in ministry. (Gen. 2:18-24)

Lesson #5: Ministry is not intended to be a solo flight.

Billy did not do the work of ministry alone. The members of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association were recognized for their contributions and faithfulness. Our women’s ministry leadership teams who seek to reach and disciple women are much like Graham’s team. Each member is needed to do the work of the ministry. (1 Cor. 12)

Lesson #6: Prayer is an integral and essential part of ministry. (Jam. 5:16)

As I gazed at the lessons and Scriptures posted on the walls, I frantically tried to type some of them on my I-phone as to not forget the leadership principles. I was only able to capture a couple. “The secret to Billy Graham’s success is based upon a spiritual foundation of seeking God’s guidance in serving him in all things through the ministry of prayer. This is the first step in preparation for ministry and it is the last step in follow-up. Our ministry is primed through the prayers of his people. It will always be a priority, and our primary source of power, in making the work possible.”

Lesson #7: The Word of God still changes lives. (Is. 55:11)

And, Graham stated, “I have used from 25 to 100 passages of Scripture with every sermon and learned that modern man will surrender to the impact of the Word of God.”

Lesson #8: Women’s ministry leaders should not neglect their personal relationship with Christ. (Matt. 6:33)

In a room displaying photos of all of the United States presidents and world leaders that Billy Graham has had the opportunity to meet with and minister to, a 2010 interview of Graham with Greta Van Susteren was playing. The interview caught my attention because Graham was 92 years old when it was taped. Greta reminded him of the millions of lives that he had impacted in his ministry. Graham simply humbly nodded. She asked him if he had any regrets. He quickly responded by saying – I wish I would have prayed more, meditated more, studied more, and spent more time telling God how much I love Him. I was once again struck by Graham’s humility and honesty.

Lesson #9: We should present the gospel and provide opportunities for women to respond. (Matt. 28:19-20)

Just before leaving the library, you are given a comment card to record any decision that you have made while there. You are seated and watch a final presentation of the gospel. Upon exiting the room, you are greeted by someone who asks if they can pray with you. A comfortable prayer room has been provided as a place to pray.

Lesson #10: Ministry is not about us, but about God’s glory! (Is. 48:11)

Upon returning to my car, I glanced back at the huge barn and the large cross. It occurred to me that Billy Graham is still preaching the gospel. For you see, this library was not really about him, but rather about sharing the gospel. I had heard the gospel message presented multiple times and was even given literature for further explanation. How clever! A visitor coming to learn about Billy Graham’s life and work would actually hear the gospel message.

Billy Graham Library


Stephanie EdgeStephanie Edge is the Director of Women’s Ministry, Poplar Heights Baptist Church, Jackson, TN and a LifeWay Ministry Multiplier. She graduated from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with a Masters of Divinity. Stephanie also completed a Masters of Theology and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Christian Education from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Stephanie currently is an Associate Professor at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee and an Adjunct Instructor of Women’s Ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. She has a passion for God’s Word and ministering to women.


Helpful Resources:


The Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham by Harold Myra and Marshall Shelley

Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well by Billy Graham

Just As I Am: The Autobiography of Billy Graham by Billy Graham

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