Picture of Melissa Harrison and Diane Paddison

How a Shared Call to Minister to Women in the Workplace Led to 4word’s Next Chapter

Since 2011, God has used Diane Paddison and the team at 4word to create community and resources for Christian women in the workplace. Now, God has opened a new chapter in 4word’s story by bringing Melissa Tamplin Harrison into the role of Executive Director at 4word. Learn how Diane and Melissa met years ago, and how God has used their shared call to minister to women just like them to bring them both to this pivotal moment in 4word’s history.

You can listen to this conversation with Diane and Melissa on our podcast, Work, Love, Pray! Listen below or click here to find your preferred listening platform.

Melissa: Well, it was a pretty unconventional meeting, but I’ve heard from Diane that she has had a few divine appointments on an airplane! I was flying from Portland, Oregon, back to New York City, where I lived at the time, and there was a woman sitting next to me on the flight. As we were waiting to take off, she was on the phone with someone about a book about Christian women leaders in the workplace. When she hung up the phone, I said, ‘I’m not trying to eavesdrop on your conversation, but you just said some things that really piqued my interest and I wanna know more.’ So we chatted the whole flight and talked about our love and passion for serving women leaders. At the time, I was leading a group in New York City called Pure and serving women leaders, and Diane shared with me about how she had a book coming out soon and she was starting a ministry called 4word. We were kindred spirits, that’s the way I describe our meeting. It was so fun to just talk with her and to be able to share with each other about this passion that we had for serving women leaders. 

Diane: There were really three key reasons why I felt called to start 4word. The reason I’ll start with is what you referred to: I was on the global executive team of three companies and I was the only woman. I just knew there had to be other women experiencing the same thing, so to help me through that time, I started a group with five women who were like-minded from a faith and family perspective. They had all been married or were married and had children, had professional jobs, and were grounded in their faith. They were my lifeline. When CBRE was going to buy Trammell Crow Company, I couldn’t even tell my children about it. But I could share it and trust it with these five women. We shared great times and we shared tough things we were dealing with, and through that I thought, ‘You know, I don’t think I’m the only woman that needs this lifeline with like women.’

Melissa: When I moved to New York City, I had the privilege of plugging into a ministry there called Priority Associates, which was part of Campus Crusade for Christ at the time. It was their workplace ministry and it was thriving. The leader of that ministry was male and he had a really great relationship with the male attendees of those events, but there was really a need for female community. I was meeting all of these incredible women who were at the top of their game, whether it was a partner at Goldman Sachs or Principal Ballerina at the New York City Ballet, or a Fox News anchor—women at all different levels.

What I found was that they were really at the top of their game professionally but were very hungry for authentic community. In New York City, you have to have your game face on all the time. Even just stepping out onto the street and catching a cab or getting a seat on the subway, you’re always having to kind of compete to survive in that environment. I saw how that was creating this dynamic among women: an inability to really have and show vulnerability. As I connected with women in New York City, we began to really open up to one another and share our stories, and our group really grew. We planned a retreat and thought we may have like 30 or 40 women come—and over 300 registered in just a couple of weeks. That really showed me that there was a need, and that’s when I think I first really fell in love with ministering to these women leaders, the type As who have it all together. It’s just very hard for women of that caliber, who run at the pace that they do, to find a community of people who just get life and what they’re going through and the challenges they face.

When we launched in 2011, I thought, ‘Okay, we’ve got this book and website, and we’ll be in Portland, Oregon and Dallas, Texas. ’cause that’s where we have homes in those two cities. But here was such a need out there, and God really blessed the work of 4word. With God’s work, you need a large team of people that use their hands and feet on the ground to make things happen. We have an amazing group of Board members, Advisory Board members, staff, mentors, Community Group leaders, and volunteers who have all been a big part of our growth.

The thing that’s so fulfilling for me is to hear is how 4word has impacted the lives of the women we serve. I’ll just share a couple of comments we’ve received. One is from an attendee of our Executive Women 4Christ forum that meets every summer. This attendee said, ‘This community builds courage, confidence, and deep relationships with fellow leaders through the power of this community.’ Another attendee said, ‘Christian women leaders who share a common purpose together, and the outcome is unbelievable.’

It’s just amazing to see how God has used 4word and has provided this platform and technology so that we can build community with women across the globe.

Melissa: When I returned to Dallas (which is where I grew up!), I didn’t know that there would be a need for me to continue serving women in the workplace, since there’s a church on every corner and so many ministries. I really kind of grieved when I thought that season of ministering was over for me. Then there was a gentleman who I had met through my work in New York. He was working with a ministry in Dallas that worked with senior level executives, leaders with responsibilities within their companies of a hundred million dollar or more. This ministry needed somebody to come help nurture and minister to their senior female executives. So he asked if I was interested. 

In that position and role, I had the experience of seeing how lonely it is at the top for these women leaders. At this ministry, The CEO Forum, I had a woman come up to me at one of the first meetings and tell me, ‘I thought I was a unicorn, but here I found my other unicorns.’ Because for so long they were either the only female or only Christian female at their company, these women really did feel like a bunch of unicorns. Through that community coming together and doing life together, they were really able to experience what community can feel like and just how powerfully it can help to cure loneliness. Just like when Diane created that small group of five women years ago, you have to create the community you need and you will find that you are not alone in how you are feeling. 

God gave me that opportunity and season of serving in that ministry to really allow me to see two things: there is such a need for women at that level to have a safe kind of cohort-style community, and that my life’s call is to minister to women leaders. This was a part of His plan and purpose for me. At first, I didn’t feel like it was going to be a long-term calling, but I’ve stayed in a posture of asking God where I could really serve and use the gifts He’s given me. This is why 4word is such an exciting time for me now! 

Diane Paddison, 4word Founder and President, is a Harvard MBA, former global executive of two Fortune 500 companies, CBRE and ProLogis, and one Fortune 1000 company, Trammell Crow Company, and serves as an independent director for one corporate and four not-for-profit boards. 

Diane is a leading advocate for Christian women in the workplace. Diane published Work, Love, Pray in 2011, and Be Refreshed . . . a year of devotions for women in the workplace in 2017, laying the foundation for 4word.

She authors weekly posts at 4wordwomen.org and is a featured columnist for The Washington Times and the 4word Mentor Program has been highlighted in The Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch.

Diane and her husband, Chris, have four children and two grandchildren and live in Dallas, Texas.

Melissa Harrison Headshot

Melissa Harrison is a bilingual journalist with more than 20 years of experience in television and radio news. She has worked as a news anchor and reporter in six different television markets including WNBC in New York City and WFAA-TV in Dallas/Fort Worth. Melissa has also worked as a writer for ABC’s World News Tonight and as a morning news anchor for CBS Radio. 

Melissa founded PURE in New York City in 2004 where she served Christian women leaders through events and retreats until 2016. She also served women executives at the C-Suite level through the CEO Forum from 2021 until 2023.

Melissa is currently an Executive in Residence at SMU where she teaches Digital Media. She earned her master’s in Journalism from Columbia University and her bachelor’s in Spanish and Communications from Baylor. She also studied with Syracuse University at the Instituto Internacional in Madrid, Spain. Melissa speaks frequently at conferences and industry events across the globe including recently in Chile, Indonesia and The Philippines.

Melissa and her husband live in Dallas with their three young children.