Thoughts about Millennial Leadership

Are You a Millennial? Before thinking about millennial leadership, that’s a good question to consider.

Leading together
Leading together

Jon Mertz and Ted Coine have been actively writing lately on what it means to be a millennial.  Mertz has offered a series of posts on his blog, including a number of guest posts, from “millennials,” shedding light on what it might mean to be a millennial and a millennial leader. From that series, Mertz offered this post and list of the “Top 5 Leadership Traits from Millennials.”

The traits Mertz outlined were:

  • Conscious
  • Future Oriented
  • Transparent
  • Collaborative
  • Problem-solving

Being both by age definition and from those traits, a millennial myself, I can affirm these traits. Ted Coine took this further by taking these ideas and others and creating a sort of quiz with six points which would suggest you are a millennial. The points which he offers include:

  • “You can’t stand the term ‘Millennial’ – or any other generation-defining term, for that matter.”
  • “You are psyched about the future.”
  • “You refuse to work for pay alone.”
  • “You embrace the power of WE.”
  • “You really like sincere recognition.”
  • “You are dedicated to making the world a better place.”

I believe these points and their explanations which Coine offers are most helpful. I agree with both Coine’s and Mertz’s lists. However, I don’t think either list from Mertz or Coine is exhaustive or definitive, because no list can ever really be exhaustive.

In addition to these traits and observations that they have shared, I believe there are three other points, which though related are unique and I hope will further our conversation.

1) Authenticity matters!

This means transparency. This also means a desire not to be treated as a “token” for a particular perspective or demographic. This is grounded in a recognition of identity, in that each individual has their own story and perspective. It is important to admit this, and any bias or at least the context that comes to shape (or has shaped) one’s perspectives and story. From what I have seen, millennials value people who are honest about who they are, willing to admit mistakes and fault, and openly share how they are feeling and what they are thinking about.

Authenticity also means that one values another. To share feelings and thoughts takes courage and is a risk. To be authentic then, and to take down whatever created barriers or blinders one might have, takes a big risk. But when one is willing to meet another person honestly in such a way, that is a sign of great respect. Millennials value this among themselves but also especially among all others they meet in any area of life.

2) No person knows it all, so its essential to not only collaborate but to connect across sectors and perspectives.

Both Mertz and Coine picked up on the idea that millennials are collaborative. I would add that they are also networked (in every sense of the word) through relationships and social media. They are not networked just because its the way people build relationships and find job opportunities, its because they believe they are and need to be connected because what they are doing relates with what others are doing in different areas. This means perhaps that someone working in development for a for-profit, may have made some discovery that would be most valuable for public education, and then being willing to share that insight collaboratively for the greater good. There is also a recognition that no one person knows everything or has a definitive knowledge about everything.

In terms of leadership, I think this is really the fulfillment of what Jean Lipman-Blumen sensed was occurring within the world and in leadership when she wrote about Connective Leadership in the late 1990’s. Millennials, I believe, are the first “generation” (though millennials shrug at wide cast labels and categories) to really be connective in a way that is second nature to them.

3) There is a desire to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.

Millennial leaders see themselves as part of a global community with a desire to be part of something bigger than themselves.
Millennial leaders see themselves as part of a global community with a desire to be part of something bigger than themselves.

This is related to Mertz’s perspective of millennials being future oriented, and to Coine’s point about being dedicated to make the world a better place. I think its both of these and more. There is a general sense that based on connections in work and life, that people want to be part of the bigger picture. Millennials don’t want to just focus on their own worlds and sectors, they want to be a part of the larger world. But its more than this, they feel deeply that they need to be connected and part of that larger world.

This also speaks to the desire for “meaningful work.” No longer will people just work to earn a paycheck. Part of why they do what they do, and perhaps a bigger part than income frankly, is to be a part of something that they can see is doing something important in the world, affecting some kind of change, or “serving” in some way. There is a desire to be a part of something that creates tangible good and positive results in society. This is a sort of transcendence beyond the individual and its something that seemed to be the case among my peers in school growing up, and only continued to intensify through high school, college, and grad school among peers and colleagues.

I should add a note. These perspectives are both from what I see as a “millennial” myself and from what I have seen from other leaders. Because of this, I offer them only as my perspective and not as something definitive. I do appreciate though that Jon, Ted, and I have seemingly found resonance.

So, what do you think? Do you see similar realities among yourselves or others that could be classified as millennials? What other characteristics or points would you add to these combined lists? What do you think of Jon’s, Ted’s and my perspectives and thoughts?

Image Credit: Leading together and Global community.

This Week’s Links

Internet1Tuesday means that it is time to share some of what I have seen, read, and found interesting and thought provoking in the past week. This week’s topic categories are:  Church and Ministry Thought & Practice; Cross-Sector Collaboration; Leadership Thought & Practice; Neighbor Love; Social Media & Blogging; Stewardship; Vocation and Miscellaneous. I entrust these links to you now and hope that you enjoy them.

Church and Ministry Thought & Practice

Dave Barnhart shared, “Leadership for the Timid.” It offers perspective, good references to and use of Tom Rath and Barry Conchie’s Strength Based Leadership. Give this a read and some thought.

You might be interested in this idea, and the resources and conferences associated with it from Rev. Dr. Rich Melheim, “Killing Sunday School & Birthing Cross+Gen Worship.”

Erik Raymond asked, “Are We Expecting too much or too little from the church?” What do you think? Give this a read and some thought.

Morgan Guyton shared, “6 Ways Capitalism Fails the Church.” You should check this out and see what you think. I have a hunch that not all of you are going to be comfortable with this. In case you are curious, the 6 ways include: when discipleship becomes an industrial complex; when consumerism becomes a moralistic obligation; when churches with bling build their membership on transfer growth from churches without bling; when people who don’t tithe say the church should take care of the poor; when “helping” becomes a consumer product; and when God is defined as a banker instead of a shepherd. Check this out, I think its a very important read.

Tom Ehrich asked, “If the Internet isn’t killing religion, what is?” There is lots of great stuff in this to sink your teeth into and think about. One particular thought I want to highlight is the claim that, “The problem is noncreative leaders who fear new ways and have concluded that new means wrong. Even though Christianity has benefited tremendously from technology — printing press, modern libraries, sound systems, video systems, computerized record-keeping, and now Web-based tools — these leaders fear the new and feel incompetent when presented a new tool, and they mistake those feelings with the will of God.” I bet we have all witnessed this feeling and result by others, and perhaps have all done it in some ways ourselves too. What do you think? 

Evan W. Rohrs-Dodge explained, that at least for him, “Social Justice is not social holiness.” It’s an interesting read. What do you think?

Ed Trimmer shared, “Appointment Time Again!” There are good and authentic thoughts on congregational leadership and change, among other things in this.

RJ Grunewald shared reflection on what he believes is “The Promise of the Gospel.” Good reflections here as always.

Clint Schnekloth shared, “Re-rooting in the Neighborhood.” There is great insight and thoughts about how congregations can be (and need to be) contextually rooted and relevant. Because of this there are also great missional ideas and practices as well. It’s well worth a read, and I suspect will be a helpful thing for any congregational leader to reflect on this.

Magrey deVega shared, “5 Reasons Pastors Should Lead Bible Studies.”

Katie Stever shared, “Making new ways out of old ways: alternative churches,” as part of her blog about “Doing Church Differently.” There are good insights here about mission starts, emerging churches, etc., including notes about Humble Walk and Mercy Seat (congregations in the Twin Cities of Minnesota).

If you are in the Pacific Northwest, and have a free evening this coming Friday, May 2nd, you should definitely check out this discussion, “Spiritual but not Religious:  Seeking Transcendence in a Secular Age.”

Cross-Sector Collaboration

Jason Fell shared this video with ideas and discussion about how to create a successful startup around your passion. Check it out!

Leadership Thought & Practice

Scott Anthony explained “Why you have to generate your own data.” What are your thoughts and ideas?

Drake Baer shared, “9 Tricks Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Other Top Execs Use to Run Meetings.” These tricks include: sticking to a strict agenda; a demand that people be super prepared for all meetings they are going to be in; keep meetings as small as possible; no one should wait for a meeting to make a decision; doodle trough your meetings; meet with people individually; aggressively vet every idea; always bring a high potential employee to participate; and getting people arguing. What do you think of these tricks and ideas?

Carey Nieuwhof pointed to “3 Words to banish from your leadership vocabulary.” These words are:  someone, something, and someday. What do you think? Will you banish these words?

Dan Rockwell wrote, “Don’t Get Ignored.” There are important tips for effective communication and emails. Check it out!

Kate Nasser wrote, “People Skills: The Secret within every great communicator #peopleskills.” Good thoughts and great questions which I hope you give some time to this week.

Peter Drucker
Peter Drucker

Anita Bruzzese shared, “The Secret to Peter Drucker’s Career Success” with insights from Bruce Rosenstein. Important reminders and insights include:  don’t just live in the moment; embrace the fact that tomorrow is unknown; don’t ignore trends; be willing to take a risk; pay attention to innovators; and be ready to let go. These are all ideas that Peter Drucker wrote and explained about. What do you make of these? As Anita asked, allow me to reiterate, “what steps do you think we should take to better prepare for our future success?”

Julian Stodd recently shared, “Evolutions in Leadership.” There are a couple great graphics and diagrams, and a lot of wonderful insights and theory unpacking here. Check it out, you will be glad you did!

Jeff Goins shared, “The Secret to Not Sucking.”  What do you think?

Tim Kastelle asked “Can asking better questions make us better innovators?” I would say, absolutely! What do you think? As Tim asks, let me repeat, “What questions should you be asking?”

Betty Liu wrote, “When a Hard-Charging CEO Leaves.” There are important insights and reminders about leadership, leadership change and transition, conflict and organizations here. Check it out.

Cranston Holden wrote that, “Your lack of planning is not my emergency.” There are some good thoughts about leadership and boundaries among other things in this. I like the imagery that Cranston concludes with, “A good leader may take on this emergency once in a while. It’s part of the job. But if you’re not careful the lack of planning will become a habit and they will expect you to do it on a regular basis. The only way to break this habit is to force them to fix the problem they created themselves. Your time is valuable and running behind them with a dust buster is not good for them or for you.”

JoAnn Corley wrote, “The Power of Now- the key to increasing leadership effectiveness.” There are good thoughts about being open and aware of the present, as well as flat out, “being present.” Check this out.

Susan Mazza asked simply, but profoundly, “How will you spend tomorrow?” That is a great question that I hope we all wrestle with often.

Tanveer Naseer shared perspective on “How successful leaders build teams that thrive.” A few important insights that stand out (among many) are: the importance of building relationships to understand the needs of those whom you serve; the importance to demonstrate one’s commitment to doing right and not just being right; it is imperative to build an environment where everyone feels heard and understood; and leadership is not just about you, its about the people you serve. Give this a read and some thought this week.

Neighbor Love

A couple weeks ago Daniel Fincke shared, “Top 10 Tips for Christian Evangelism (from an Atheist).” There are some very interesting thoughts and ideas here. Give it a read and some thought. What ideas come to mind based on these tips? Anything you want to try in response to these ideas?

I didn’t see this post from a month ago until this past week, but in case you missed it, do you think Macklemore is a modern prophet? That question was considered by Jeff Keuss.

Friend and blogger Hannah Heinzekehr shared a guest post by Michelle Voth. There is great stuff in here, so I hope you give it a read. Consider this important passage, “As I have come to see it, life is all about connection. Connection to ourselves, our community, our planet. When we lose those connections, we lose something of ourselves.” I think most of us could definitely agree with this.

Abby Ohleheiser shares this story about Jars of Clay’s Lead Singer and some of his thoughts that he shared recently about same-sex marriage. In my view this really points to the need to create safe space and was to have dialogue and conversation among people we disagree (and deeply so). What do you think? What strikes you from this?

LEAD shared a reflection on “Unwritten Rules.” I love this post, and want to share its introduction and conclusion with you in the hopes that you will check out the whole thing. It begins, “The resurrection of Jesus frees us for a life of Christian pilgrimage.  Now, if we could only allow ourselves to really live as liberated people.  How many of the rules we live with as iron-clad are, in fact, self-inflicted and optional?” Great question! It also concludes with a great question, “We live in a country where religious freedom is a gift.  We are people who believe Jesus liberated us from sin and death on the cross.  Now we have to have the courage to live it. So who makes the rules?” What do you think?

Friend and pastor Amanda Brobst-Renaud wrote, “Unbelief: The Seed of Faith.” It’s a great reflection and message for the second week of Easter. She concludes powerfully and importantly, “It would be a small thing for God to fashion preachers of the resurrection out of people who believed it all 100% of the time. It is a different thing altogether for God to take us- our doubts, our fears, our unbelief- and to make us preachers of the resurrection, inviting others to come and touch, come and taste, come and see.”

Somewhat related to Amanda’s post, Dr. Norma Cook Everist wrote, “Seven Sundays after Easter and More.” Give this a read too.

Jan Edmiston shared a quick perspective and important (though disappointing) reminder about “Everyday Racism.”

Some times the first step for having a welcoming church, is to have an open door, a smile, and an invitation.
Some times the first step for having a welcoming church, is to have an open door, a smile, and an invitation.

Friend and pastor Aaron Fuller shared his sermon for this past Sunday, “Welcoming Church” which was grounded in John 20:19-31. Within this, he writes, “What a welcoming church recognizes is that those newcomers….they’re the very presence of the crucified and risen Christ among us, showing his wounds.” That’s powerful! It also looks like Aaron is starting a good and important sermon series unpacking what it means and might mean to be a welcoming church. I look forward to his upcoming posts and will be sure to include them in the upcoming weeks’ links.

Hillary Rodham Clinton gave a speech this past weekend to a large gathering of Methodist women, and I think this speech sheds a lot of light on her own faith and faith perspectives. To put it simply for her, “faith means caring for others.” I find resonance with this. Do you?  (Credit to Adam Beam for writing the report.)

One of the big Neighbor Love related stories from this past week involved Sarah Palin. To put it mildly, it isn’t for a good reason. She gave a speech, using the image and concept of baptism and connecting it with water boarding. Theologically this is bad. But its also bad, because she was basically condoning torture. How can one reconcile their faith (especially Christianity) with such behavior and actions opposite the very basics of love of neighbor? As you can expect there have been responses all over the board. Andrew Sullivan simply wrote, “Sarah Palin: Anti-Christian,” and then dug into the implications that at least within America, those who support the use of torture are often Christian. What does that say about Christians and Christianity? Joe Carter asked, “Is waterboarding how we ‘baptize’ terrorists?” David R. Henson responded by saying that Sarah Palin was right about one thing, “#AmericanBaptism.” Rod Dreher also wrote as part of the discussion on “The Sacrilegious Sarah Palin.” All of this just confirms to me that there is much to be done to expand and respond to explain what it means to really love our neighbors. (Not to mention, to reflect deeply on what it means to be Christian.)

Yesterday, news broke about a suit regarding religious freedom and same-sex marriage in North Carolina. It’s an interesting twist, and perhaps not quite what you might expect.

Clint Schnekloth wrote and shared, “The Struggle against poverty as an object of consumption.” Please read this, there are really important insights for how we love our neighbors, especially in poverty. There is also important reminders and wake-up calls for how the church engages poverty. Let me share some of what Clint concludes with, “All I am inviting in this post is greater awareness not to confuse our consumption of our own struggle against poverty with the struggle against poverty itself. All I hope for is that I myself will be convicted to live in solidarity with the poor, or to even stop making a distinction between myself and “the poor,” for indeed we are all beggars, we are all people. We are human first. We are called to enter the fray as human beings, to share place with our neighbors, rather than live above (or below) our neighbors. We are in this together.” Amen! What do you think? Ideas? 

Friend and pastor Diane Roth wrote that “Every Sunday is Easter.” Good and honest reflections as always here, definitely worth a read!

The Reluctant Xtian explained, “Why you get mad when your pastor mentions politics, and why she has to…

Social Media & Blogging

Mike Poteet wrote, “The Web and the Church.” There is good stuff here worth checking out.


Friend and blogger Hannah Heinzekehr shared a guest post from Nancy Flinchbaugh offering, “Earth Day Reflections” which include good reflections on what it means I believe to be a steward of the earth, nature and creation.

Friend and classy frugalist Grace Duddy shared some “Fun and Frugal Things to Do in Spring and Summer.”

One of my posts was also shared by Ministry Matters, “Leading around the Potholes: Thoughts on Stewardship Leadership.”


Friend and adviser Dr. Terri Elton shared a lot of important self-reflection, which I would call vocational discernment or at least vocational insights, in her recent post, “The Need for Funerals.” There is a lot of stuff about change, transition, changed expectations, realities, etc. Give this a read, I am sure there are things in here that we can all relate with.

Jan Edmiston asked a question many a ministry leader has pondered, “How do we tell people ‘this isn’t your gift’? (When they believe it is).”Good question!

Len Wilson shared, “How to turn your weaknesses to your advantage.”

TK shared a great post this morning about the power and importance of books and reading, and how “Minds change with the turn of a page.” As she asks, let me repeat, “How have books changed the way you viewed the world?” (By the way, check out the cover picture on her Twitter profile and see if you can name what cartoon library it’s from.)


The Canada and USA Border between Blaine, WA and Surrey, BC
The Canada and USA Border between Blaine, WA and Surrey, BC

By now you probably know that I am a baseball fan. Because of that, when I saw this story that involved baseball, maps, and fans, I couldn’t resist checking this out! You can see, county by county, what are people’s favorite baseball teams! Check this out!

Have you ever wondered about the largest and smallest national parks? If so, here are some answers for you.

Do you know how the border between Canada and the USA was created and continues as is to this day? If not (and even if you do) check this out and watch the cool video tell you the story.

If you like state fairs, then this is the perfect list for you with the dates and details of every state fair in the United States.


That will conclude this week’s offering of the links. I hope you have enjoyed them and found them interesting. As always, if there are particular topics that you would like me to include, please let me know. Additionally, if there are particular questions or topics that you would like me to think about and wrestle with on the blog, please let me know that too. Until the next time, blessings on your week! -TS

Image Credits: The Links; Peter Drucker; Open Door and The Canada-USA Border.

Gratitude and Gifts

rainandflowerAs the rain falls and pours outside, it’s hard not to be a little nostalgic for the Pacific Northwest. Even as it rains, and its unseasonably cold here, its hard not to be grateful for today and the opportunities it brings.

Last week I was reminded what gratitude can look like in different ways. First, as I mentioned previously, it was my wife Allison’s birthday. To celebrate we did a number of things. Instead of a gift from me, she wanted to get flowers and hand out a flower representing each year of her life so far to a perfect stranger. It was a practice or idea that she had first found on Pinterest. (I would share the link, but as of yet, I haven’t gotten into Pinterest.) These flowers to me symbolized abundant life, hope, dreams, joy and love.

The expressions on people’s faces were priceless. As we drove down the street and stopped so Allison could share some with a dentist’s office, with people along the street, perfect strangers going about their days, auto workers, etc., the energy and joy was impossible to miss. I can still visualize one woman, who I imagine was perhaps a mother of two or three, being handed her flower. As she walked further along the street, the woman read the note on the flower and then didn’t just do a “double-take” towards Allison, she did a “triple-take,” looking back over her shoulder three times. I think she was wondering, “Is this for real? Can somebody really be this nice?” She smiled inquisitively, and then stepped into her mini-van and drove away. I hope she had a better day because of that chance encounter and I trust she did. Needless to say, I loved this!

I believe that holding the door for another person and offering a quick smile is the least one can do to show love to a neighbor and stranger. Last week, my wife decided to do a bit more and share a flower to help celebrate her birthday and to share some love and gifts with others. I think she might have inspired me to share some chocolate next year (or something) with others on my birthday.

In addition to this, we celebrated my wife’s birthday by going out for dinner with friends at one of my wife’s favorite restaurants in the world, Red Robin. As Northwest kids at heart, Red Robin holds a special place for us. (That and its bottomless fries and bottomless Root beer floats.) We are so blessed with so many wonderful friends, family and people in our life here in the Midwest, back in the Northwest, and really quite literally around the country and the world. It was special just to be able to gather with a number of them to celebrate. I am grateful for that. I am grateful for the friendships and relationships, and I am grateful that we are able to call so many people friends and family in this world. I am also grateful that they are so willing to take time out of their busy lives to spend with us.

Ullrich's and Siburg's together. (Left to right: Amanda Ullrich, Jeremy Ullrich, me, my brother Thomas Siburg, and Allison Siburg)
Ullrich’s and Siburg’s together. (Left to right: Amanda Ullrich, Jeremy Ullrich, me, my brother Thomas Siburg, and Allison Siburg)

As the weekend came to a close, we got another piece of news which I am grateful for. Two of our closest friends (and really now family), Amanda and Jeremy Ullrich, received word and announced their acceptance of calls to be pastors in Texas. This will be their first calls, and we could not be more proud and happy for them and for the congregations they will be serving and leading as part of. I am grateful for their friendship, and for the congregations for calling these two people. The church at large and locally will be served very well and grow in new ways because of these two and people like them. That much I am sure of! As more friends hopefully get good news about calls in the coming weeks and months, I hope to be able to share a bit more about gratitude and hope for the present and future of the church that I see possible through these people, friends, and colleagues.

Even though its raining today outside, it’s hard not to smile and be grateful. If you need something to start your week off right, how about you give this now modern classic a listen to. (Thanks to Pharrell Williams for sharing!)

Image Credit:  Flower in the rain

Happy Birthday to Allison- A leader, neighbor lover, and church and ministry doer

Birthday cake for Allison
Birthday cake for Allison

I don’t usually write family related posts on my blog, so it is very rare that they come two posts, right after one another. But I think you will enjoy or at least appreciate today’s post.

Today, it is my amazing and wonderful wife Allison‘s birthday. In the spirit and theme of this blog, here is a quick look at how I see Allison as a leader, exhibitor of neighbor love, and a leader in ministry and the church.


Allison is as genuine and authentic as they come. This was one of the reasons I fell in love with her originally and continue to fall in love with her every day. She can’t hide who she is or how she is feeling. I love this about her. She doesn’t have much of a poker face, and she doesn’t keep many secrets. She means what she says, and because of this she is an authentic person and leader.


I could have easily put “Leader” here, but I figured that would be cheating. Allison is a great listener. She loves hearing people’s stories- the good, bad, and ugly. She loves talking about vocation and helping others see the vocations they are serving. She loves story telling and sharing these stories, which can only happen first through listening.


Allison has a genuine thirst for learning and remaining engaged and wrestling with some of life’s big questions (especially about identity). This is a big part I think why she is really thriving with her work with Discourse. Part of what gives her joy in learning is in helping other people reflect and learn a little bit more about themselves, about what they believe and why they believe it, and then helping equip people to share their stories and understandings in positive and communal expressions.


Not only is Allison present, she is generally involved. She is present and active in what she is doing and what her larger team is doing. She is active and involved in other people’s lives because that is important to her. She is an includer and is always concerned about bringing others into conversation and community together. This is great leadership, ministry, and neighbor love.


Those that know Allison, can’t argue with this. She loves to talk with others. She is engaged with them in many different means, and needs to be because the world is a big place full of amazing stories and possibilities. The connections between people and stories bring some of her great joy. Speaking up about challenges, problems, and injustices (especially for women) is also one of her great strengths.


Allison finds new ways of doing things. Discourse is one example. Another, is that she is certainly making her own path creating and discerning her role in ministry (a role that is certainly an innovation). Allison is “unique” in all of the best ways possible. The ways that she sees connections and possibilities is uncanny, and the way that she works to help others see these connections and possibilities is awe-inspiring. When she sees potential new ways of doing things, she is not afraid to give them a try and share them.

Allison and I at the Grand Canyon
Allison and I at the Grand Canyon


I thought about Allison as a non-conformist here. But, I have decided to go with notable. I know how blessed I am to be her life partner. I also know that any one who calls Allison a friend (or has called her one) can’t forget her. She leaves a mark and impression because of her passion, love and joy for all she meets and does.

These are just a few quick examples of how Allison is a leader, neighbor lover, church leader and ministry doer. If you know Allison, what would you include? (Especially if using the letters of her name to describe her.) If you did this exercise for yourself or another, what might this look like?

I can’t conclude this post though without the admission and proclamation:  Happy Birthday darling, I love you!

Family Time, Processing, and Reflections on Holy Week 2014

If you read my blog often, then you probably are aware that this past week was Holy Week. On the blog I shared some thoughts as we journeyed from Palm Sunday to Maundy Thursday, to Good Friday, Holy Saturday and then Easter Sunday.

Proof of parents presence.  Thanks to @cgubsch for the photo of my parents in the background.
Proof of parents’ presence.
Thanks to @cgubsch for the photo of my parents in the background.

What you may not know is that my Mom and Dad were out visiting us and joined us for the fun. That was such a wonderful time. I feel bad because we really didn’t take any family pictures while they were here, but that has never been the biggest priority for my family. The biggest thing to me was simply their presence. They were here with us, and that was so wonderful.

For the first time in at least 15 years I had no major Holy Week worship responsibilities. That was strange. But I am sure it was stranger for my mom, as this was the first time in 42 years for her that she didn’t have any major Holy Week worship responsibilities. In that sense it was very different. It was a new experience to just be present and worship. It was also a new experience to worship in new or different contexts.

Speaking of worship, on Maundy Thursday, we had the joy of being able to worship with both Redeemer Lutheran Church and Westwood Lutheran Church at Westwood for their annual combined worship service. It was a beautiful service with hand washing, and a fantastic sermon on the relationship between vocation and serving by Pastor Kelly Chatman. I really wish that I had a recording of that sermon, because it was just full of wonderful imagery and Lutheran understandings of vocation grounded and related to love and service- key pieces of Maundy Thursday.

On Good Friday, we were able to worship together at Trinity Lutheran Church. This was probably the most meaningful and moving Good Friday service I have ever been a part of. The way it was so intentionally designed around the passion narrative and Good Friday story from the gospel of Luke made it stand out first of all, from the way it wasn’t the same as the lectionary. But additionally, the way poetry and music were integrated was just gorgeous. Pastor Stephanie Vos also added a beautiful and short reflection at the end of the service leaving open the questions that Good Friday creates.

On Easter Sunday, we worshiped in two places. First of all, we joined my brother Thomas at Redeemer Lutheran for their sunrise service. Their sunrise service is held outside in the congregation’s courtyard and that was a fun and meaningful service to be together, hearing the birds, and singing accapella. Pastor Kelly Chatman preached and used one of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s stories about a farmer, eagle, and family of chickens to help illustrate what Easter is and what it is about. After that, we enjoyed a beautiful breakfast and great conversation at the church. From there, it was out to Trinity to attend two of its Easter Sunday services and to hear Pastor Dan Poffenberger preach. Like Pastor Kelly, Dan had a wonderful story in his sermon too- his about a boy, a grave, literally touching death, and recognizing that his father was not in the grave. Beautiful!  Attending one of those services though was a totally new and strange experience for me. There were upwards of 800 people at one service. In my life, I think I have only been to one or two services with that many people at some place or another.

Overall, the worship experiences were amazing. Though I did feel a little odd not helping or leading in some capacity. But I knew going in that would be the case. What helped this though, was the family and community around me. Having my parents in town really brought the feeling of family that made me nearly ignore those feelings of strangeness about not being involved. Joining my brother gave me feelings of Holy Weeks past. Being there and worshiping with my wife made me know it was okay.

Birthday cake for Allison and one of our Great Aunt's.
Birthday cake for Allison and one of our Great Aunt’s.

Add in the presence and community of many friends gathering for potlucks and other family dinners (including a birthday dinner for upcoming birthdays) and that made it special. This year was indeed different. We didn’t have a 800-1000 Easter egg hunt in the woods of my parents’ backyard, but we still had a 50 Easter egg hunt around our apartment.

Even though this year was different, it was beautiful in its own way. The presence of my family and friends, the presence of community, really is what is at the heart I think of the reminders and truths of Holy Week. By remembering our baptisms, and the love which is present, we understand what being a part of the larger community of God’s people is all about. By having so many wonderful people in my life and being blessed by them here locally, back in the Pacific Northwest, and elsewhere is a reminder too.

Yes, this year has been different. But that’s okay. Life and experiences aren’t meant to always be the same. There is no one right way to do anything. Yes, I might have been worried that I didn’t sing “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” as the opening hymn on Easter at any worship service, but its okay. The world did not end. If anything, this year reminded me that it’s okay. Things change, but the promise of love, the support of family, and the presence of others and myself, grounded in the presence of God are constant.

So, if you observed Holy Week, what do you feel and think about in looking back at last week? What was the same? Different? What stands out from your experiences this past week? Did you gather at all with family and friends? If so, how was that?

This Week’s Links

Internet1Tuesday means that it is time for me to share some of what I have seen and found interesting and thought provoking in the past week with all of you. This week’s categories include: Church and Ministry Thought & Practice; Cross-Sector Collaboration; Leadership Thought & Practice; Neighbor Love; Vocation; Worship and Miscellaneous.

Church and Ministry Thought & Practice

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton shared her Easter message for this year. Check it out.

Pastor Jodi Houge shared news and an update about Humble Walk’s space and location situation. If you have potential connections or location ideas, please check this out and respond.

Billy Doidge Kilgore shared, “Emotional Landmines: Leading when explosions occur.” There is good stuff in here, and a reality check that conflict and “explosions” will happen in congregational life.

Friend and adviser Dr. Terri Elton wrote, “Curiosity and Inquiry.” It’s an authentic expression of some of the changes she is facing, and includes the idea of “educators as cultivators of curiosity and inquiry.” Definitely check this out and give this some thought.

Dr. Jeremy Myers wrote, “A Church for the World,” which includes a wonderful diagram and model featuring a relationship between accompaniment, integration, discernment and proclamation. Give this some thought!

Pastor John Partridge explained “Why Easter is more important than Christmas.” What do you think?

Suzanne Ross shared, “Faith Forward: The Future of Christian Education.” Give this a read and see if you feel moved to join the conversation.

Elise Hu shared, “America’s Less Religious: Study puts some blame on the internet.” Is there causation and/or correlation? What do you think?

The Congregational Mission and Leadership person in me was so excited to see this post by achurchforstarvingartists this morning, “Let’s Get Together and Fail at Something.” Depending on who you ask, 75-90% of what you try in a congregation will “fail.” But in the failing you learn and grow, and your congregation or faith community does as well. The worst thing that a congregation can do is to do nothing and to be afraid to try new things in any and all areas of ministry. The second worst thing is to spend 1o-12 months (or more) surveying before acting and doing anything. Surveying and discerning is good, but it is often most effective to be coupled with some sort of experiments (which can be small) along the way to learn by doing. I agree with the premise that the church is generally “failing at failing.” Failure, at least in ministry, is not a bad thing at all. It’s a sign of life, hope, imagination, and a real practice of actively trying to discern what God is up to. Give this some thought this week, and see if any creative ideas hit you.

Cross-Sector Collaboration

Jessica Amortegui asked and wrote, “Want to keep your team happy? Talk to the people who just quit.” She includes these tips: “don’t resist the ‘grass is greener over there’ syndrome; kindle meaningful memories; and measure how many employees return.” What do you think?

Vernetta Walker shared, “20/20 Hindsight: A Cautionary Tale in Governance.” This is an important read for non-profits, community groups and congregations. It focuses on the recent experience of World Vision which I previously blogged some about. I greatly appreciate the discussion about generative thinking and the four issues which she outlines in this article. Please read this and see what you think and what strikes you.

Leadership Thought & Practice

Terri Klass shared this very interesting post about “How to build your unique leadership model.” She includes four logs which are essential for building the model in her view: the foundation log; a vision log; a people log; and communication log. What other pieces would you include as essential? What might your leadership model look like?

Christina DesMarais shared, “3 Unconventional ways to inspire employees.” These include: appeal to their green side by incentivizing them to live near the office; send them around the world to see philanthropy in action; and give them money with which to do good. What do you think of these ideas?

Lolly Daskal shared this “Leadership Reflection: the strength to change ourselves.” This reflection involves a series of questions which are best to be reflected on often, if not daily. These questions include: Who am I? What is my purpose? Who do I want to be? Read this reflection and reflect on its meaning for you. What impacts you and in what way?

Jon Mertz shared a list of the “Top 5 Leadership Traits from Millennials.” These traits include: conscious; future oriented; transparent; collaborative; and and problem-solving. I love this list! I can really relate with these top 5, I guess that might affirm the reality of me being a millennial. As Jon asks, I reiterate, “What have you learned from Millennials? What traits encourage you most?”

Susan Adams explains how to “Turn a rejection into a job offer.” What do you think? Would you give this a try?

Bridge Building
Bridge Building- a great metaphor for leadership and neighbor love

Kes Thygesen explained “Why emotional intelligence is more important to hiring than you think.”

Alli Polin wrote that “Leaders build bridges not walls.” Do you agree? What are some examples of this being true (or not true) that stand out for you?

Frank Sonnenberg shared a “Leadership Scorecard.” What do you make of it?

Tanveer Naseer shared thoughts on “How leaders can successfully champion change.” Three lessons related to this include: “don’t just tell but show why change initiatives matter; don’t confuse conviction with inflexibility; and clarify expectations of what this will look like going forward.”

Cranston  Holden used the imagery of a baseball umpire to explain why one needs to “Let go of your need to be popular.”

Neighbor Love

Friend Grace Pardun Alworth wrote, “This is my body.” It’s a good reflection wrapping up Lent and moving into Easter. Give this a read!

Isaac Villegas shared, “Stay with us, part II.” I included the first part last week, and I hope you read this post as well. Credit again goes to friend Hannah Heinzekehr for sharing this post originally.

Jared A. Favole shared the news that President Obama and evangelical leaders discussed potential and needed immigration overhaul.

Parker J. Palmer shared, “The Hospitality of being a ‘guesthouse.'” Palmer shares a poem by Rumi and makes a connection between being human and being a guest house. You need to read and reflect on this! Do it!

As the hostilities and unrest continue in Ukraine, there came this story about leaflets being distributed claiming that Jews needed to register in Eastern Ukraine. Abraham Foxman, a Holocaust survivor and national director of the Ant-Defamation League explained that the hate was fake and overplayed, but that it still could fuel instability. Additionally, Rabbi Pinchas Vishedski discussed the incident and experience as well.

With this past week being Holy Week this means that there were even more great sermons and messages shared than usual. Friend and pastor Diane Roth will start this set of links related to Holy Week with her great post, “To begin the three days: eat standing up.” Friend and pastor Aaron Fuller shared his Maundy Thursday sermon based on John 13, “Because I love you.”  Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber shared her “Maundy Thursday Sermon on Loving One Another and Why That Can Sting.”

For Good Friday, the Rev. Dr. Will Willimon shared a “Good Friday Meditation.” Friend and pastor Amanda Brobst-Renaud shared this powerful reflection for Good Friday, which she entitled, “God’s NO.” Nate Pyle shared this post, “Unsurprised by Good Friday.”

For Holy Saturday, Barbara Brown Taylor shared, “Learning to wait in the dark: a Holy Saturday reflection.” My wife Allison also shared some thoughts on the “Waiting between the Good Fridays and the Easters.”

The Empty Tomb
The Empty Tomb

For Easter, friend and pastor Aaron Fuller shared a message grounded in Matthew 28:1-10, “Because He Lives.” Out of that sermon, Aaron shared a project and a hope that others would join in the project. Check this out, and share your response to the saying, “Because he lives…” Friend and pastor Frank Johnson also shared his message, “Grace-filled insanity: Easter and the way of the cross.” As a response and follow-up to her Good Friday sermon, friend and pastor Amanda Brobst-Renaud shared, “God’s YES.”

Water for People CEO Ned Breslin shared, “The Power of , and alternatives to, forgiveness.” What do you think?

TK shared some important reflection on a statue portraying Jesus as homeless. What is it’s accuracy? What do you think of her thoughts and questions?

Nate Pyle wrote, “Having learned to judge (or learning to love).”  There is so much great stuff in here, including the question, “what would it look like to begin to learn the skill of loving our neighbor?” What do you think? Please read this!


Friend and blogger Julia Nelson shared some more tea time this past week, including vocational thoughts on why she writes and blogs as well as on friendship and relationships. Give this a read.

My wife Allison shared another post in her Mira voce series entitled, “Storyteller.” It is important that we all are able to tell stories. We are a people of stores. Great and effective sermons, speeches, and essays incorporate and include stories. Stories are conversation starters. They help unpack and expand on the many questions which give life meaning and shape. So as Allison asks, allow me to reiterate, “what’s your story?”  Read this please and give it some serious thought!

This could have been shared under leadership, but I will share it here. Lolly Daskal wrote, “Leadership: Claim your calling.”

I have always loved and found it important to stay well versed on what’s going on in the news. Growing up and to this day, one of my main sources of the news has been KOMO TV in Seattle, Washington. Dan Lewis has been the anchor there basically my whole life, and last week he announced plans to retire. Dan, thank you for your authenticity, dedication, honesty, presence, and way to really bring and share the life of the story and the news. Thankfully for us you will still be providing special reports and other things like that, but you will most definitely be missed behind the anchor’s desk.


Jessica Tate shared, “Why we welcome little children to worship.” Give this a read, it’s wonderful! Perhaps it might even be helpful for use in your own congregations or faith communities? What do you think?


St. Paul Union Depot
St. Paul Union Depot

If you like to travel, perhaps you like to travel sometimes by train? Even if that’s not your cup of tea, you might appreciate this look at the newly reopened St. Paul Union Depot for train travel.

With Holy Week being last week, it seemed fitting to share this story about Christo Graham and his voicing of the Muppet Christ Superstar. It’s pretty fantastic, don’t you think?

Have you ever wondered, which “West Wing” character you are? If so, now you can find out!


That will conclude this week’s edition of the links. I hope you have enjoyed them! As always, if there are particular topics or articles you would like to see included in the links, please let me know. Also, if there are particular topics or questions that you would like for me to wrestle with and consider on the blog, please let me know that too. Until the next post, thanks for reading and blessings on your week! -TS

Image Credits:  The Links; bridge building; empty tomb; and St. Paul Union Depot.

Jesus Christ is Risen Today! Alleluia! Happy Easter!

“Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia! Our triumphant holy day, Alleluia! Who did once upon the cross, Alleluia! Suffer to redeem our loss. Alleluia!

Hymns of praise then let us sing, Alleluia! Unto Christ, our heavenly king, Alleluia! Who endured the cross and grave, Alleluia! Sinners to redeem and save. Alleluia!

But the pains which he endured, Alleluia! Our salvation have procured; Alleluia! Now above the sky he’s king, Alleluia! Where the angels ever sing. Alleluia!

Sing we to our God above, Alleluia! Praise eternal as his love; Alleluia! Praise him, all you heavenly host, Alleluia! Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Alleluia!”

– “Jesus Christ is Risen Today,” Latin Carol, 14th century, tr. J. Walsh, Lyra Davidica, 1708, alt; Charles Wesley, st. 4. Music by J. Walsh, Lyra Davidica, 1708; Public Domain.

easter-empty-tombJesus Christ is Risen Today,” is my favorite Easter hymn. It’s also one of my absolute favorite hymns period. With its singing, the triumph is announced in the worship experience. We boldly sing and declare the promise of the resurrection. We are reminded of our baptisms. We are reminded of what has gone on over the past few days, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday in particular.

I can think of no better thing to share with all of you today in spreading the news and joy of Easter.  This is the day of celebration. This is the day which culminates Emmanuel- God with us. God has overcome all human limitation by overcoming death. The love of God for all has been shared and there is nothing we can do about it but give thanks and praise, rejoice, and share the good news through word and deed. This love is for all people and all creation. This is the good news that the gospels point to. This is why we love our neighbors as ourselves, because Jesus has done this for all. The least we can do is to try and do likewise in loving our neighbors as ourselves. Jesus doesn’t say, I love you “if.” Jesus says “I love you.” Period. That’s the point of Easter. There isn’t anything we can do to earn this love. There aren’t any rules we can follow which will secure this love. No. The work has been done. God loves us. Now what are you going to do about it?

I hope today and every day that you are able to share this good news- through stories, conversation, smiles to perfect strangers, holding the door open for another, etc. Rejoice and be glad, and share this Easter proclamation:

Christ is Risen!

Christ is Risen indeed!

Christ is Risen!

Christ is Risen indeed!

Christ is Risen!

Christ is Risen indeed! Alleluia! 

Image Credit:  Empty Tomb & Matthew 28:6