This is going to be a relatively short post. APRIL FOOLS! 🙂 Anyway, Happy April and hopefully wherever you are the snow has melted or is melting, and spring has really begun in earnest.
As it is Tuesday, that means on the blog that it is time to share what I have been reading, seen, or found interesting in the past week with you. This week’s topic categories include: Church and Ministry Thought & Practice; Cross-Sector Collaboration; Leadership Thought & Practice; Neighbor Love; Social Media & Blogging; Stewardship; Vocation; Worship and Miscellaneous. I entrust these articles, stories and links to you now and hope you find them interesting, helpful and perhaps even thought provoking and enjoyable.
Church and Ministry Thought & Practice
Let’s start off with some big and exciting news. One of my alma maters, Luther Seminary, announced this past week that Rev. Dr. Robin Steinke will be its new president. This is great news for the seminary as she brings great leadership experience, wonderful energy, particular areas of interest that will be beneficial, and a systems theory background which will hopefully help break down some silos which I think are very real and problematic at Luther. Congratulations to both Rev. Dr. Steinke and to Luther Seminary, what wonderful news!
There was also a big moment last week as President Obama and Pope Francis met for the first time. The two leaders met and conversed together for about 50 minutes, exchanging gifts and sharing together. The Catholic News Service provided a brief video and some more details about the meeting.
Tony Jones shared some reflections and a great video last week about his experience at the Progressive Youth Ministry conference. Likewise, John Vest shared a recap of his experiences and take-away’s. Check these out. Perhaps you will want to attend that conference next year?
Vibrant Faith Ministries shared 40 ideas for Lent with kids. Here’s a good list, and could be helpful for the last couple weeks of Lent. At this point though, this might be most helpful for planning for Lent next year. Either way, give this a look.
Ron Edmondson shared some helpful ideas and reminders in his post, “The Church Afraid of Leadership.” If you are struggling with critics in your ministry setting, this might be a helpful thing to read and reflect on.
Carey Nieuwhof shared his perspective on “Why we need more entrepreneurial church leaders, not more shepherds.” What do you think? Nieuwhof shares 5 things that entrepreneurial leaders bring and offer: a willingness to risk; experimentation; restless discontent with the status quo; boldness and a bias for action. I like the thoughts and ideas. What do you think though?
How about this for an idea? “Plant a tree for a sacrament.” It gives new meaning to the life-giving nature of the sacraments. Plus, its a potential good example of environmental stewardship. (Thanks to my friend Margaret Ellsworth for bringing this to my attention.)
Jerrod Hugenot shared, “Lenten Reflections: The Travails of Change, or Transition Comes to Downton.” It’s a nice reflection about congregations- their culture, history, changes, futures, etc. with some connections to popular culture (and particularly Downton Abbey.)
The Malphurs Group shared “11 Church Hospitality Tips to Serve Guests.” I am not sure I like some of the word choices, so there probably needs to be some “translation” here for particular congregations or denominations to find this post most accessible and helpful. But aside from the word choices, the ideas are generally good ones. They are helpful for visitors, “seeker-friendly” in nature (to use a past buzzword), and perhaps good practices in general. What do you think?
Friend and pastor Diane Roth shared “Lent means spring.” Just to give you a quick taste of what you will read, Diane starts by writing, “Contrary to what you might have been told, Lent does not mean ’40 days of beating yourself up.’ It does not even mean ’40 days of God beating you up and reminding you of what kind of a person you really are.'” All I can say to that is, “yes!” Anyway, give this a read, you will be glad you did.
Sarah Bessey shared thoughts on people leaving evangelicalism. I especially like the part where she writes, “Set out, pilgrim. Set out into the freedom and the wandering. Find your people. God is much bigger, wilder, generous, more wonderful than you imagined.” There are important implications here about community- faith communities, but all community. It’s really a hopeful post I think, and very helpful given recent events and trends. What do you think?
David Henson shared a very interesting and enjoyable post, “6 Things the Church can Learn from Jimmy Fallon.” These things include: embrace the joy of enthusiasm in the moment; embrace divine playfulness; embrace others’ talents and accomplishments; embrace that its all bigger than you; embrace the change and embrace hope. These are all great things! Give this a read and share it with others.
In a post that I found for myself over the weekend and then actually had emailed to me yesterday by my Dad (perhaps this shows that this post has generated great interest and thought already), Ross Douthat writes about “The Christian Penumbra.” Give this a read and see what you think.
Zach Hunt wrote, “We Need New Wineskins (or why Evangelicalism Needs to be Abandoned).” There is so much in here that needs to be thought about and reflected on, so please do check it out. One particular passage I greatly appreciate is this, “therein lies the misstep of evangelicalism. The gospel was never about opinions and beliefs to begin with.. The gospel has always been about people and that’s what evangelicalism has allowed us to forget.”
Karl Vaters shared, “7 Steps to Start Becoming a Church People Want to Commit To.” These steps include: stand for something that matters; be genuine; be good at what you do; don’t just talk- hang out and listen; get to know people outside the church walls; keep learning and getting better; and offer people a challenge worthy of their time and talents. Check this out! There’s great stuff in here.
I feel like I’ve been linking to a good amount of stuff from Rachel Held Evans lately, but that’s because she has been writing some especially wonderful stuff a lot lately. Yesterday she wrote and explained for CNN from her perspective about “How evangelicals won a culture war and lost a generation.” Rachel nailed it! I only hope other people and congregations sense this too and move from “fighting a war to washing feet.” What do you think?
I came across this interesting examination of the value of a college degree. Give this a look. It’s pretty interesting.
Carey Nieuwhof also shared “6 Reasons You’re Losing High Capacity Volunteers.” Reasons offered include: the challenge isn’t big enough; your mission, vision and strategy are fuzzy; you’re disorganized; you let people off the hook too easily; you’re not giving them enough personal attention and you don’t have enough other high capacity volunteers around them. This is something particularly helpful for both congregations and non-profits, but also community organizations and groups as well among others.
Kelley Holland shared perspectives on “why millennials have a tough time landing jobs.” What do you think?
Here are some thoughts about “gaining a competitive edge through online education.”
Nick Stockton shared, “Where everyone in the world is migrating- in one gorgeous chart.” Check it out!
Leadership Thought & Practice
David Grossman reminds that “stories matter more than you might think.” This is a good reminder for anyone in leadership and needing to be able to communicate the story and articulate the vision and message.
Christopher Avery explains “Why you need passion to be successful.”
Peter Economy wrote (in the vein of Jim Collins), “Leadership: How to Get from Good to Great.” Ideas to focus on include: perspiration; vision; communication; collaboration; decisiveness; integrity; and inspiration.
Ed Zinkiewicz wrote earlier this month, “You Might Not Hear it Coming.” There are some good thoughts here on change, motivation, and how leadership offers and responds to both.
Bob Tiede asked and shared reflection on by Michael Marquardt, “What is a Questioning Culture?” Of note, are the inclusion of six hallmarks of a questioning culture. He writes, “When an organization has a questioning culture, the people in it: Are willing to admit, “I don’t know.” Go beyond allowing questions; they encourage questions. Are helped to develop the skills needed to ask questions in a positive way. Focus on asking empowering questions and avoid disempowering questions. Emphasize the process of asking questions and searching for answers rather than finding the ‘right’ answers. Accept and reward risk taking.”
Bill Murphy Jr. shared “9 Things Great Leaders Say Every Day.” These include: “this is the situation”; “here is the plan”; “what do you need?”; “tell me more”; “remember our values”; “I trust you”; “you can count on me”; “we can do better”; and “let’s celebrate!”
Jon Mertz asked, “What does your vision incite?” Follow-up questions for reflection include, “is your vision exact or aspiring?” and “What does your vision incite: feelings or actions?” Give this a read. This is an excellent exploration and examination of vision and how you work with it, employ it, and reflect on it!
Maureen Mackey shared, “The Worst Mistake America’s CEOs Make.” Included are great tips for effectively asking questions. These tips include: it’s smart to ask dumb questions; smart leaders reward questioning- they don’t discourage it or inhibit it; and smart leaders break free of conventional wisdom.
In the vein of asking questions, perhaps there is nothing better than hearing Peter Drucker’s perspectives. Here is a look at what he thought about “asking the right questions.” What do you think?
Rick Wartzman shared, “Here is Exactly Why You Wish You Were Self-Employed.” There is great insight in here. Check it out.
Have you ever wondered about your leadership balance? Or, how do you balance your professional and personal life? Sabrina Baker offers helpful thoughts, including a reminder that in reality, “it’s messy.”
My wife Allison is back in the links this week. But as far as I know, for the first time ever, she is appearing in the leadership section. Included in her post from yesterday is an important insight that “leadership is a gift.” Check it out and see what you think.
The biggest story in my humble opinion in this area last week was that of World Vision and its initial decision to change its policy for hiring people who were married and gay and then its reversal of that decision. So much was written about this, that I am going to lump all of these stories together here in no particular order (other than perhaps the order that I read them in). All of these stories are great and provide different perspectives and lenses on the complexity and importance related to neighbor love of these decisions.
First, Rachel Held Evans shared her initial joys and thoughts about the original news early last week. The Reluctant Xtian asked and shared, “Hey, did you hear about the time the largest Christian charity actually lived into its name?” Chris shared his sentiments in “World Vision: I have seen the finish line.” Brandon Robinson considered the relationship between World Vision and the state of American Evangelicalism. This was a popular thing of reflection last week, and seems like it will be this week as the posts above under the church and ministry suggestion might suggest. Matthew Paul Turner offered, “The Good News for World Vision.”
Then came the decision to reverse the initial decision. This probably led to much more writing and articles then the original decision had led to. Sarah Pulliam Bailey shared the news that World Vision reversed its course on its same-sex marriage policy. The Huffington Post also reported as much, as did Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times in this report.
With the news, came the responses. Rachel Held Evans provided a quick, and honest update where she expressed authentically her heart break about the decision. Many, including myself, shared these exact feelings. Paul Raushenbush in a related post reflected deeply in, “World Vision’s (Failed) Attempt at Justice for Gay Christians.” Benjamin Corey also wrote, “World Vision Announces New, Radically Consistent Employment Standards.” Tony Jones added some important explanation and background information in talking about what happened. Peter Montgomery shared a powerful reflection about this entitled, “Global LGBT Recap: World Vision Caves, World Congress of Families Vamps, God Weeps.” It would be hard not to think that God weeped because of all of this last week.
In wrapping it all up, Sarah Pulliam Bailey offered some analysis about how the “flip-flop reflects evangelical angst as culture shifts.” What do you think about all of this? I already shared my sentiments on the blog last week, but in case you missed them in, please check them out.
Changing gears, I believe that I shared this last year at some point, but in case you missed it, make sure you watch this TED Talk by Dan Pallotta about how “The way we think about charity is dead wrong.” You will very likely change some of your perspectives related to service and neighbor love lived out organizationally after this.
Lutheran Immigration & Refugee Service’s CEO Linda Hartke has been doing a great job of sharing stories on her blog focused on “redefining welcome.” Check it out! There are important implications for how we love and serve our neighbor here.
RJ Grunewald wrote that “Theological Conversations Require Everyday Language.” I couldn’t agree more. If people can’t articulate and relate to what they believe, theologians and ministry leaders have failed. New contexts require new ways of explaining things and helping people come to be able to articulate for themselves and others about how they understand God and their faith. What do you think? What are some theological ideas that could use some better words or perhaps translation to today’s understanding and ideas?
Molly Kestner asked, “Where’s the Faith?” This reflection was part of other reflections by the ELCA Young Adult Delegation to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. Check it out!
Finally, if you haven’t heard the news about climate change being released by the UN, please check this out. There are major implications for how we live, how our neighbors live, and how we live together as humanity.
Social Media & Blogging
Nora Brathol shares, “Social Media Commandments,” which are important rules of thumb for ministry and social media. (This could have been shared above under the congregations and ministry header, but its being shared here.) Give these a read and then post them for anyone who uses or maintains your congregation’s social media outlets.
As Social Media and video conferencing and meetings are becoming more the norm, “likability matters more at work.” What do you think?
If you haven’t heard this yet, a teen has discovered and claimed that if the government changed its typeface it would save millions. Do you think this is true?
Vivek Wadhwa asked, “Could it be I was wrong about Facebook?” This comes as a follow-up after writing previously how he thought Facebook was doomed. It is an interesting read if you regularly use Facebook and social media.
Do you give to multiple causes or organizations? Have you ever wondered what organization might be the best match to donate to based on your particular interests? If so, check out this quiz I found through friend Jared Rendell from GiveMN, you will discover what kind of giver you are.
Emily Nauman shared, “What does a grateful organization look like.” There’s good stuff here. What would you add? And, do you work for or as part of a grateful organization?
Actor James Rebhorn recently passed away, but in an interesting twist, he took it upon himself before passing away to write his own obituary. It’s beautiful, and a beautiful gift to his family I believe. I think this summed up his sense of his many vocations well, and I found it to be inspirational. Perhaps you will as well? (On a related note, I loved his work in “Independence Day” and the TV show “White Collar,” and I offer thanks for his life, and prayers of support for his family.)
Sara Quarberg wrote, “Bridging Life with Vocation and Identity” for the FirstThird blog. There is important vocational reflection here grounded in the overall belief that she is a child of God. Give this a read and some thought. As she asks, think deeply about “who God is calling you to be?” I agree with her hope that the answer is “yourself.”
TK shared an important reminder that “Restricting Curiosity Hinders Progress.” I would agree. Curiosity and questions are important and ever present parts of life, discernment, vocation, etc. What do you think?
Rev. Dr. David Lose shared and asked, “Worship Worries: Do We Understand What We’re Doing?” It’s similar to one of my favorite questions, “Why do we do what we do?” This is important to contemplate in any area of life and work, and worship is not alone in this. But this is definitely one area of ministry that this question is especially important. Give this a read and then see what you think. Do you understand why you are doing what you are doing? Do others?
If you find cityscapes interesting, as well as the potential for sustainable community living, see this story about freeway removals and what happened to cities after such big changes. It’s very interesting and hopeful. What do you think?
Finally, in celebration of the fact that baseball is back and the regular season of Major League Baseball started up this week, check out this great story by Mike Barnicle about “The Timeless Beauty of Baseball.” And, Go Mariners!
That will do it for this week’s edition of the links. I hope you have enjoyed these and found them interesting and helpful. As always, if you have particular types of articles or topics you would like for me to include, please let me know. Also, if you have particular questions that you would like for me to wrestle with on the blog, please let me know that as well. Thanks and blessings on your week! -TS