Book Review- “Spiritual Kaizen: How to Become a Better Church Leader”

Grant Hagiya, Spiritual Kaizen: How to Become a Better Church Leader, (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2013). ISBN: 978-1-4267-5322-0. 

Spiritual Kaizen
Spiritual Kaizen

I recently had the opportunity to read Spiritual KaizenI had not heard of this book until receiving a copy of it in the mail, but I am very glad to have received it. It’s a nice and relatively short book (142 pages including notes) about ministry leadership and life. The book itself may be short, but its concepts, ideas and questions took me a lot of time to process because so many examples came to mind from my own experience based on what Grant Hagiya was writing about.

The book is divided into five chapters. The majority of the book is spent in chapter three unpacking what Hagiya defines as “The Big Three of Spiritual Leadership.” Elsewhere discussion is given to what he defines “Spiritual Leadership” as, the present situation of the church, traits and qualities of effective clergy, and “The Critical Role of Church Culture, Systems, and Organizational Development.” If you are looking for a book on church leadership, this is your book. If you are looking for a golden ticket and sure fire plan for effective church leadership without fail, this is not your book. (Such a book really can’t exist if we acknowledge every context and situation is unique.)

To quickly unpack the title of the book, it would be helpful to share the definition of “Kaizen” which Hagiya offers. He writes that Kaizen means, “steady and continuous growth and learning” (page ix). This theme is repeated throughout the work and helps underscore the book’s premise. Hagiya explains that “the premise of this book is that leadership traits are not set at birth, and that all of us can grow and develop into more effective leaders at any time during our careers” (4).

In unpacking and evaluating the book, I will not offer a thumbs up/thumbs down, or a ranking of stars, or things like that.  Rather for my processing, and hopefully for your benefit, I will share what I found that I loved, what I likedwhat I might have done differently, and what I felt raised questions for myself.  What I value in a book is that it makes me think and not just shake my head in automatic agreement or in hasty disagreement.  I want to be challenged when I read, sometimes affirmed, but most importantly I want to be able to think, learn, and grow.

What I Loved

There was so much that I loved in this book. I appreciated that the author’s premise was clear (4), and his emphasis on learning and life-long learning (86) and growth were helpful (133). His use and reference of tools like Strengths Finder was appreciated too. At the end of each chapter, he also provides suggestions “For Further Reading.” Those lists have likely given me a few more books to read and add to my library (including some more works from Jim Collins, Ron Heifetz and Marty Linsky).

Bishop Hagiya
Bishop Grant Hagiya, the author of Spiritual Kaizen

I also loved his descriptions and sense of the kind of leadership necessary to do the missional and adaptive work necessary to be in ministry today and in the coming years. He writes that, “effective leadership means that one should change styles in order to match the context of the situation one faces” (9). In order to meet the varying and changing needs, one needs to be able to adapt and use different styles and approaches. This conjures images of the connective leader. It’s reiterated throughout the book like when he adds that some researchers who studied the role and work of clergy “had never seen another profession where individuals had to switch roles so often and so quickly. They called this phenomenon ‘multitasking and polychronic orientation” (19).

Hagiya’s perspective on what he sees as being critical for ministry and leadership is helpful. He explains that, “some of the skill sets I see as absolutely critical for the ministry are adaptive leadership, resiliency, entrepreneurism, discipleship systems, networking, and mission field engagement” (45). Life-long learning is critical, but that also means being able integrate that learning into one’s behaviors and actions (38). To be the kind of leader that Hagiya believes is necessary to survive and thrive, they need to have a “a deep curiosity coupled with a hunger to learn on a sustained basis,” (43) and “an ability to create hope” (67). He also recognizes that this requires courage, noting that “Leadership also means having the courage to venture forward, and to sometimes moves ahead of the rules in order to take advantage of an opportunity” (59).

The leadership theorist in me especially appreciated his discussion and distinction between transactional and transformational leadership. He wrties, “In terms of a leadership model, the mission of the church has never been a transactional one, in which something mutually beneficial is exchanged. Rather, our missional model is one of transformation, where both parties are lifted to a higher level of love of life” (13). He later unpacks more about what it means to be transformational. He explains, “a transformational relationship acknowledges that alone, I do not have enough to fulfill my needs, and you do not have enough to fulfill your own needs, but perhaps together we can pool our resources and power to fulfill both our needs” (78). This idea speaks to the need of the larger community (Body of Christ). Collectively, this understanding of leadership and ministry is something that resonates and excites. He connects it theologicaly to the idea that all are commissioned. He continues, “All baptized Christians are so commissioned. There cannot be a consumer mentality in such a process. As baptized Christians we are not primarily to be taken care of, but through the gifts empowered to us by Jesus we must take care of others. This is what it means to be the church of Jesus Christ” (14). As to how Hagiya explains this, I like the example elevator speech he shares (77) and wonder how each one of us might explain our understanding in such a short little speech.

Hagiya recognizes the importance of being in touch with what is going on in the world so it doesn’t “pass us by” (107). At the same time he recognizes the tensions of what it means to be a leader and in ministry. To put it simply, a good leader needs to be able to hold things in tension (114). They need to be integrative thinkers, and often the most successful leaders in ministry “thrive on the complicated and uncharted positions of the ‘not yet'” (115). In thriving in this, relationships matter, as do being able to notice and point out the gift of others and help discern with them what those gifts might be (92).

What I Liked

Building off of what I loved, I liked much of what Hagiya shared regarding adaptive leadership.  He connects Jesus to the idea of the adaptive leader which creates a nice theological and leadership theory bridge (14). He recognizes that new approaches are needed in ministry and in church planting, and provides some examples as food for thought (29). He also plainly admits that the church is struggling with what it means to be adaptive and how to respond to such challenges. He surmises, “Since many denominations are unclear about the type of pastor they need for the adaptive challenges of the future, their present system continues to produce the same type of pastor as in the past” (44). In response to this struggle he shares what he believes would be a helpful response through the growth of “adaptive spiritual leadership” which means “that we must learn and grow in entrepreneurial and innovative ministry, change and transformational models, and systems theory to name just a few” (49).

To underscore his emphasis on adaptability I want to share one longer quote with you. I believe this covers a repeated theme throughout the text and helps highlight some of the larger ideas and theories that Hagiya is incorporating in his work.

“Adaptability is one of the key themes of the new literature of adaptive leadership coming out of the Harvard Business School. The church is borrowing heavily from the adaptive leadership model, and I believe it is one of the most promising resources as we head into an uncertain future. The very premise of adaptive leadership is that there are no easy answers currently available for adaptive problems, and no answers means there are no experts that we can turn to…Adaptive leaders must resist giving superficial answers and keep giving the experimental work back to the people themselves” (59-60).

This concept speaks the importance of being part of a team, and building up the people of your team, organization and community around you. The idea of a “‘lone ranger’ mentality will surely lead to burnout and ineffectiveness'” (21). The concept of adaptive leadership is also served well when connected with the concept of the servant leader, and “10 Traits” of what Hagiya sees are part of being a servant leader, “listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of people, and building a community” (62).

Theologically and pastorally I liked a few other ideas that Hagiya shared. He mentioned that he found resonance among pastors as being entrepreneurs when defining “entrepreneurial” as “”immediately seizing on opportunities and avoiding hazards like the plague” (58). That seems to represent most effective pastors I know. I also liked the theological idea that “the vision of God should make us uncomfortable, as we continually fall short of that vision due to our human sinfulness” (84). Ministry and the work of ministry is not about doing something comfortable. Some times we forget that, as do the people who are part of faith communities and congregations. This speaks to the observation Hagiya shares in that, “We must pay attention to our own development and growth as spiritual leaders, but the culture and systems of the church have a profound impact on who we are as leaders” (108).

Other ideas that I liked included Hagiya’s foundations of being a spiritual leader. He explains that he believes “there are three major foundations that all spiritual leaders need to possess: a deep well of faith, emotional intelligence, and transformational leadership” (48). He provides a helpful story about Coach John Wooden (80-83), as well as a fun quote from Peter Drucker about how “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” (107).

What I Might Have Done Differently

As you can discern from this review, I loved this book. However, there are two things I would probably change or question. One, the book focuses fairly exclusively on leadership and ministry within a United Methodist Church (UMC) perspective. This is to be expected when the book’s author is a UMC Bishop. However, I think this book might be a bit more accessible and translate a bit easier if there were some additions or alterations that included examples from other denominations or churches. It would likely broaden out the book’s reach and audience if this were the case.

The other piece I question or take issue with is Hagiya’s assertion about millennials (33). He seems to suggest that millennials have or will develop positive feelings about institutions. As a millennial, I am not sure I agree with this. I have not seen millennials develop positive feelings about institutions to this point. Millennails seem to resonate well with causes and in responding to causes, but institutions don’t seem to be a place they place faith or attention in necessarily.

What Raised Questions

question markA good book raises questions in my view. This book did that and then some. There were some questions that came to mind about how to cultivate leadership and stewardship among younger members (33), but most of the questions I found and pondered had more to do with learning and the role of the seminary (and or the relationship of the church and academia).

Regarding millennials and younger generations, Hagiya writes, “”Because they lack knowledge of the structure of the church, there is little understanding of how giving to it will actually buy nets in Africa” (33). To this I have to admit and ask rhetorically, why would they? Why should they give? The church hasn’t really given the reason to give or told the story. These are important questions and point to needs especially regarding stewardship and how to help move a congregation forward by telling the story of what it does and why it does it.

Regarding learning, a few questions come to mind about life long learning. For example, when Hagiya writes, “One of the key abilities here is how much information, experience, or skill one can observe,” (39) you have to ask, well how much can they? At the same time, this idea of learning needs to be connected to “spiritual discovery in a relevant and nonthreatening way” (73). A continual process that builds leadership according to Hagiya, “helps your leaders uncover their own dreams and personal ideals. Examine their strengths and their gaps. Use their daily work as a laboratory for learning” (108). What this looks like though for you will be context dependent and thus be an open question for you to keep in mind. Further, how do we as the church best connect people with their gifts and strengths with opportunities to serve? Hagiya is right when he notes, “the church does not do a very good job in volunteer placement” (126). I have seen this far too often. But again, as to how to go about doing this, it is an open question.

Regarding the relationship of the church and academia, I appreciate Hagiya’s observations. I think he rightly notes that “our present church-seminary system does not facilitate the best relationship between the church and the academy. Communication does not always flow directly between the two, and more often than not, there is criticism on both sides of the fence….I think the academy must work more directly with the needs of the church and that the church must reduce its huge expectations of the seminary” (45). The question that comes of this then, is how to go about this? Hagiya continues, “the seminary must be more open to the end product it produces; a postmodern clergy candidate who is grounded in the traditional disciplines but who has an open mindset about the church and world. Adaptation in ministry is going to be a fundamental necessity, and those candidates who have a rigid and fixed mental model of what the church should be will not fare well” (46). Some seminaries have recognized this and are taking risks to respond to these challenges. Others have yet to really do the adaptive work necessary. Those that are making positive strides, are also likely “Using the local church as a living laboratory,” and allowing seminary students to debrief the experiments and experiences with peers through case studies and sharing results (66). Successful seminary training will teach prospective leaders of the church how to learn daily in their lives (109).

Regarding the church in general, a few questions come to mind, particularly about innovation and entrepreneurship. Hagiya writes that “the mainline church has valued and honored mastery, but not originality and innovation. This latter area has been off our radar screen as a church. This is probably the reason for our huge decline, as we have been attempting to maintain our churches, not grow them” (117). Do you agree with this assessment about a lack of originality and innovation leading to decline? Thinking for myself, I find it hard to argue. Additionally, I appreciate his point that, “As established denominations, we have lost this outreach edge. Unless we can capture this sense of purpose to make disciples of Jesus Christ, we have little hope for true renewal” (118). This again speaks to the importance of story. What is story? What is so significant that we have to share with the world and why do we share it?

A Closing Thought

Like I said above, if you are looking for a golden ticket and sure fire plan for effective church leadership without fail, this is not your book. However, if you are looking for a relatively short book that is full of a wealth of rich perspectives and good thought provoking material about what it means and might mean to be a growing and learning learner and leader in ministry, this is a fantastic read. If I haven’t convinced you in this lengthy review, let me quote Brian McLaren’s perspective. He writes that, “This is the one book on Christian leadership I wish every seminarian and young pastor would read and discuss with peers. And the same goes for every mid-career and senior leader too. Spiritual Kaizen is pure gold.” I generally agree.

Image Credits: Bishop Hagiya, and Question Mark.

This Week’s Links

Internet1Tuesday on my blog means that I get to share some of what I have been reading and found interesting with all of you. This week has a nice and wide selection of things. Topic Categories include: Church and Ministry Thought & Practice; Cross-Sector Collaboration; Leadership Thought & Practice; Millennials; Neighbor Love; Social Media & Blogging; Vocation and Miscellaneous. I hope you enjoy these links and entrust them to you now to read, share and contemplate.

Church and Ministry Thought & Practice

Friend and current Ph.D. student Tim Snyder wrote a helpful piece explaining “What the Surveys Don’t (and can’t) say about the rise of the ‘Spiritual but not Religious.'” Give this a read and see what you think.

Ron Edmondson wrote, “Introverted Pastors: Be Extroverted on Sunday.”  He has three particular ideas as to how this can be done. He explains that: you have to be intentional; your family will have to cooperate; and realize it’s for a purpose.

Pastor John Partridge explains why “Taxing Churches Might Be Good.” His idea and argument has to do with “if taxes can drive the church back to its mission.” It’s an interesting argument. What do you think?

Paul Franklyn shared an “Interview with Bishop Mike Lowry” about same sex marriage and how the United Methodist Church can constructively move forward in its current conversations.

Friend and mentor Dr. Terri Elton shared reflections from “The Confirmation Project” about “Connecting with the European Study on Confirmation.” Check out this reflection and find out more about the Confirmation Project.

In a somewhat related post, Pastor Timothy Brown writes that “We’re Teaching Our Children to Graduate from Church.” I think this speaks to the need of “The Confirmation Project.” What do you think?

A bit broader than just confirmation, LEAD shared some information and invitation to a session about “Best Practices in Faith Formation.”

Bishop Elizabeth Eaton of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America wrote a letter of concern and solidarity to Bishop Munib Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. Thanks to Bishop Mike Rinehart for sharing.

Alyssa Rubin shared a story that I haven’t seen reported much on about “ISIS Forces Last Iraqi Christians to Flee Mosul.” When you hear someone say they are persecuted for their faith in the United States, point them to this story and then see what they think.

Pastor and blogger Jan Edmiston shared “A Silver Linings Playbook for the Church.” You have to check out this post for the title alone! Give this a read and see what you think.

Cross-Sector Collaboration

If you like a story about how different generations can discover and learn from each other, here is a perfect example as a “Sixth-Grader’s Science Fair Finding Shocks Ecologists.”

Tom Murphy shares an important reminder about how all sectors are needed when responding to crisis and disaster, including the private sector.

Leadership Thought & Practice

James MacGregor Burns
James MacGregor Burns

Sad news came last week about the passing of James MacGregor Burns. Burns was both a scholar of presidents and leadership, and in some ways is credited with really beginning or at least advancing the modern study of leadership. One of his main theories which has shaped many leadership theorists since, has to do with the distinction of transactional and transformational leadership.

Glenn Llopis wrote, “Manage Your Leadership Agenda Through the Agendas of Others.” This is a core understanding, concept and expression of connective leadership.

Dan Rockwell shared a number of wonderfully thought-provoking and helpful posts this past week. They included, “3 Ways to be the One Others Love on Their Team.” The ways include: love learning, invite feedback and develop relationships. He also wrote about “How the ‘Bring a Solution’ Rule Backfires“; “10 Ways to Create a Sense of Ownership“; and “13 Ways to Spot Energy Draining Blood Suckers.” Check these out and see what comes to mind for you.

Dan also shared a post on Jesse Lyn Stoner’s blog about what he has learned about “Vision Casting.” I love his insight that, “Successful vision crafting transforms leadership from pushing to aligning and igniting.” Give this a read.

Karin Hurt shared a very interesting post, “5 Reasons to Lose a Battle- And How to Lose it With Grace.” The reasons to lose a battle are: to maintain your dignity; to enhance your reputation; to win the war; you might be wrong; and to preserve the relationship. What do you think?

Jon Mertz shared a guest post by Andrew Brushfield about “5 Characteristics that Most Successful People Possess.” The characteristics are: communication; pro-activeness; problem-solving ability; self-motivation; and curiosity.

Rob Asghar recently explained “Why Many Star Performers are wrong for Management Roles.” What do you think?


David A. Frankel shared, “The Absolute Last Open Letter to Millennials.” Check this out and see what you think!

Elena Iacono wrote, “Leading Gen Y.” Key insights for leading and working with millennials/Gen Y include: stay present; be accessible; consistently coach; reward and recognize; hold people accountable; prioritize feedback; keep it cool and be trusting.

Neighbor Love

Sad and appalling news came last week as a Malaysian Airlines civilian airliner was shot down over the Ukraine. Among the passengers, nearly 100 people on board the plane were top AIDS researches, students and advocates heading to a conference in Australia.

Yasmine Hafiz shared news that “Pope Francis calls Israel and Palestine Presidents in Plea for Gaza Ceasefire.”

In response to the news of the plane being shot down as well as the fighting in Gaza, Paul Brandeis Raushenbush wrote and reflected in “How Do We Respond to this Really Horrible Day?” This is a powerful read. One line that particularly stood out to me, “It’s too late to reverse the death and destruction, but it’s never too early to advocate for peace and life.”

Friend and Ph.D. student Amanda Brobst-Renaud also reflected on all of these stories this past week as she wrote about “Where God is.” Amanda writes and reminds beautifully, “You have been given a spirit of adoption; you have not been given a spirit of bondage that you might fall back into fear. You have been given a rootedness in God’s kingdom that will not allow you to be uprooted. To this, the present sufferings cannot be compared. Indeed, even in the present sufferings, those who suffer do not suffer alone. Christ, revealed in suffering, draws alongside, taking it on as his own.”

Friend and pastor Aaron Fuller also pondered, reflected and responded to current events this past week in this post about “Casualties of War.”

Some children at the border
Some children at the border

Immigration and the humanitarian crisis at the southern border of the United States is definitely a current Neighbor Love issue as well. In that vein, Roque Planas and Ryan Grim explain, “How the U.S. Sparked a Refugee Crisis on the Border, in 8 Simple Steps.” It’s a very interesting and eye-opening read. The question really is, how do we best respond? David Dorn offered some thoughts “On Immigration (and why some Christians should be ashamed).”

Given that the current immigration news focuses especially on children traveling alone, Tasneem Raja helpfully reminds that, “Child Migrants Have Been Coming to America Alone Since Ellis Island.”

Speaking of the children of immigration, Bishop Mike Rinehart was recently part of a group who visited with “Children at the Border.” Please read this, it’s important perspective and these stories need to be heard. Bishop Mike also shared some important perspective in this post about “Border apprehensions.”

Friend and pastor Aaron Fuller shared his sermon from this past weekend about “Chapels, Churches, & the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Rachel Birkedal reflected on her experiences in serving with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Young Adults in Global Mission Program. She wrote, “Convivir: to live with.” It’s a great post and offers good thoughts about accompaniment too.

Blogger and theologian Rachel Held Evans shared some reflections in her post, “From the Lectionary: ‘Without a parable, he told them nothing…‘” Rachel also wrote that “We need feminism…” For the record, I definitely agree with her.

Social Media & Blogging

Sam McNerney shared six words that you should erase, “Before You Send that Email or Write that Blog Post.” The words to erase are: particular; personally; personal; frankly, to tell the truth, I’m not going to lie; actually; and aforementioned.

Friend and blogger J.W. Wartick shared his version of the links in his “Really Recommended Posts.”


James Garner
James Garner

Friend and pastor Diane Roth reflected on “Loving a weed.” It’s a beautiful reflection about milkweed and the images that come to mind when one recognizes that it is a weed but also a place of transformation. Check out this post to see why.

Kris Brugamayer reflected about life and vocation in “A life of service (to date, that is).”

Apparently my friend and college roommate Tyler Scott has taken his love for musicals to the actual stage. He writes about this in “Break a leg, and maybe some old traditions along the way.”

Hometown friend Jared Prince, who made it high up in the Texas Rangers minor league system, is returning home to become a teacher and high school coach. He has always been a good leader, and I have no doubts he will be for many years and decades to come.

One of my favorite actors of all time, James Garner, passed away over the weekend. He always seemed so authentic. One of my favorite films of his will never make his greatest films list, but it’s still one of my favorites, “My Fellow Americans.” It’s a hilarious movie about politics and the presidency and also stars Jack Lemon and Dan Akroyd. Thanks for your service and dedication to your craft Mr. Garner.

Friend and blogger Hannah Heinzekehr shared an update on her on-going celebrations for turning 30 in “A Feast for 30.”


For all of you geology fans out there, news broke last week that apparently the “Risk of Earthquake Increased for One-Third of the U.S.” This is worth checking out, especially if you live in an area where you wouldn’t suspect you are at risk of an earthquake.


That concludes this week’s edition of the Links. I hope you have enjoyed them! As always, if there are particular topics or questions that you would like for me to wrestle with on the blog, please let me know. Also, if there are particular types of stories you would like me to include in the links, let me know that as well. Until next time, blessings on your week and thanks for reading! -TS

Image Credits: The Links; James MacGregor Burns; Children at the Border; and James Garner.

A Prayer for Today

A Child's Prayer
A Child’s Prayer

Sometimes all I feel I can do to make sense of the world, and to respond to its needs is through offering a prayer. Other times I even struggle to utter the words of that prayer. Fortunately, this time around Paul Raushenbush has shared words that sum up what I am thinking and feeling today. Because of this, I want to share his post from yesterday with all of you. I hope you read and reflect on it. He sums up my thoughts and feelings better than I could at the moment.

Image Credit: A Child’s Prayer

This Week’s Links

Internet1Today is Thursday, and two days ago was Tuesday. Tuesday usually means that on the blog I share some of what I have found interesting and thought provoking from over the past week with all of you. However, I have been on vacation, so that means that this week’s edition is coming to you a little late. This week’s topic categories are: Church and Ministry Thought & Practice; Cross-Sector Collaboration; Leadership Thought & Practice; Millennials; Neighbor Love; Social Media & Blogging; Vocation and Miscellaneous. I hope you enjoy these links, and that they are better late than never!

Church and Ministry Thought & Practice

Ron Edmondson shared “7 Times When it’s not a Good Time to Change.” The times include: when there isn’t a compelling purpose; when there are no good leaders behind it; when you haven’t defined a win; when the loss is more expensive than the win; when the leader isn’t motivated; when too many other things are changing; and when an organization is in crisis mode. Check this out and see if your experiences would support these.

Leneita Fix wrote about “Emotions After the Trip.” There is great stuff in here for thinking about and reflecting on how to support, think and process with youth and young adults (and anyone really) who has just returned from a mission trip.

Rachel Held Evans shared, “5 Ways Progressive Mainline Churches Welcome Disenfranchised Evangelicals.” The ways she includes are: update your website; take risks on unconventional church plants; infuse the traditional liturgy and sacraments with some creativity; don’t assume we know why you believe what you believe, or why you do what you do; and create safe places to talk and build relationships. This is a good list. I think its helpful for a congregation to use these five to welcome people in general. What do you think? What might you add to the list?

A depiction of the World Cup Trophy
A depiction of the World Cup Trophy, that Germany won

David Lose recently wrote a good series of posts on his blog looking at the Church and the World Cup. I particularly loved this post about “Competition” where he reflects on the fact that “the church lives and does ministry in a competitive environment.” Give this a read and see what you think.

There are three seats open for nomination this year on the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s (ELCA) Youth Ministry Network Board. If you are interested or might have potential nominees check out this post.

Friend and professor Dr. Mary Hess shared that “Adults need to question to learn.” This is an imperative insight, especially for faith formation and multi-generational learning and ministry in congregations and faith communities.

News broke on Monday that the Church of England approved Women Bishops.

Cross-Sector Collaboration

How Gov Leads shared “3 Tips to Encourage Collaboration.” The three tips include: spend time innovating; make time to move around; and remind your team to engage their customer. At the end of this there are two great questions which I want to repeat, “How do you keep your team excited about their work? Is there something you do regularly to remind yourself why you love your job?” Great questions!

Mary Schaefer wrote, “Job Security: Change your mind, change our life.” There are some good reminders in here including: make sure you have a support system; create a ‘cushion of goodness’ in your life; and expand your network.

Julian Stodd wrote a number of thought provoking posts over the past week. He wrote, “Unleashing Creativity: getting fit for the Social Age.” He also wrote, “Radical change: engaging communities” and “Creating Spaces: a framework for devolved creativity.”

Anne Loehr shared, “It’s Story Time: Corporate Storytelling Brings Results.” This is a wonderful read and offers thoughts about how storytelling is helpful and important for both organizations and leaders. How do you use stories? How might you better incorporate them into telling others about you, what you do, and why you are passionate about doing what you are doing?

Leadership Thought & Practice

Jeff Boss shared, “6 Ways to Thrive in Chaos.” The ways offered included: Re-frame your thoughts; speak to the positive; take the 30-day challenge; exercise; give yourself a mental boost; and socialize.

Three Jellyfish at Monterrey Bay Aquarium
Three Jellyfish at Monterrey Bay Aquarium

Dan Rockwell shared a number of both helpful and interesting posts over the past week. He wrote, “10 Statements that Eliminate Misconceptions.” He also wrote, “How to Have Fiery Meetings and not Blow Up,” good advice for conflict and challenge which can lead to (hopefully) healthy and positive outcomes. If you are reviewing or constructing your team, this post, “The Seven Qualities of Perfect Teammates” might be helpful. He also shared, “Make Mistakes- Avoid Screw Ups” and “13 Ways to Spot Energy Draining Blood Suckers.” Check these posts out.

Matthew Fritz and Chris Stricklin shared, “Swimming with Jellyfish: A Sea of Virulent Leaders.” Check this post out for its imagery of jellyfish alone. There’s great stuff in here, which I think is helpful especially for reflecting on who you are leading and work with.

Meghan Biro wrote that, “Communication Equals Love: A Missing Link in Your Hiring Process.”


Karl Moore wrote a helpful post this past week, “Working with Millennials– Why you need to listen more and talk less.”  Definitely check out this post and see what you think.

Neighbor Love

Friend and pastor Aaron Fuller shared his sermon for this past weekend, “Care for All.” It’s a great message which I hope you read in full. Here’s one excerpt that really stood out to me, “When I think of what it means to be sowers, CARE FOR ALL hits the mark.  We are to care for all, without expectation or agenda.  We are to care for all, with reckless abandon, never ceasing in that care. We are to care for all because that’s exactly what God – the sower who casts his love and grace on us – does for us.” Amen!

In light, at least partly, because of the recent Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision, other Faith Leaders have responded to President Obama by basically pleading, “Don’t Let Us Discriminate, Either.” Thanks to Elizabeth Dias for sharing.

Jonathan Merritt wrote that he believes that “Christian bookstores are the next gay-marriage battleground.” What do you think?

The Word Cloud of Change
The Word Cloud of Change, from the Disciple Project led by LEAD: Living Every day as Disciples

LEAD: Living Every day as Disciples shared “Today is Our Now” reflecting on the take-away’s from the recent Disciple Project which I previously wrote about.

LEAD also shared an “Urgent Call to Prayer” regarding the humanitarian crisis of unaccompanied minors and their families.

Antonia Blumberg writes that “Faith Leaders Sign Letter Opposing Religious Exemption for LGBT Hiring Non-Discrimination.” In the conclusion of the letter, the many faith leaders who signed it write, “Mr. President, we believe that the path to national unity lies in affirming the full equality and potential of every person. In the spirit of equality, fairness, and justice, we urge you to issue an executive order that ends discrimination against LGBT people in federal contracting without exceptions.” I couldn’t agree more.

Friend and PhD student Amanda Brobst-Renaud pondered, “What Happens When We Don’t Believe?” She poses some great questions and offers some wonderful reminders. Here’s a few more questions that she shares, “what happens when all of the lights seem to have gone out? What happens when tragedy strikes, fraying the edges of our faith so that we’re not sure whether it is faith, God, or we ourselves who are going to get us through the mess? What do we cling to? Who do we cling to? Where do we go?” Check out the post to see some of her reminders and thoughts.

Social Media & Blogging

Apparently “Custom backgrounds are coming” for LinkedIn. If you want to get a jump on this possibility, check this out.

Friend and blogger J.W. Wartick shared his version of the links in his “Really Recommended Posts.”


Friend and pastor Diane Roth reflected on “Paying Attention.” Give this a read and see if it resonates for you like it resonates for me. Diane also wrote, “Good Soil.”

Allison and I at Disney World (2013)
Allison and I at Disney World (2013). What might this look like at a Disney park elsewhere around the world?


I stumbled across this post which you should check out, “This Guy Just Changed the Way We See Calvin and Hobbes. Seriously.”

If you are a Disney fan, and love to go to the Disney theme parks, you might enjoy this list of “18 Truly Magical Disney Attractions You Can’t Ride in the United States.”

Former Twin Cities meteorologist Jerrid Sebesta shared a life update and words about how for him and his wife, “Natural Family Planning = #Zeropercenteffective.”


That will conclude this week’s tardy set of links. Hope you enjoyed these, and look forward to seeing more again next week. As always, if there are particular topics or questions you would like me to include or wrestle with on the blog or the Links, please let me know. Until next time, thanks for reading and blessings on your week! -TS

Image Credit: The Links; World Cup Trophy; and Jellyfish.

This Week’s Links

Internet1I hope all of you had an enjoyable 4th of July/Independence Day weekend! I did, as I was in Wisconsin celebrating my Grandma’s 90th birthday.

Turning to today’s post, Tuesday on the blog means that I get to share some of what I have found interesting over the past week with all of you. This week’s topic categories are: Church and Ministry Thought & Practice; Cross-Sector Collaboration; Leadership Thought & Practice; Millennials; Neighbor Love; Social Media & Blogging; Vocation and Miscellaneous. I hope you enjoy these links and I entrust them to you now.

Church and Ministry Thought & Practice

If you are a member or participant of a congregation or faith community, then you are probably familiar with the importance such groups need to give towards welcoming any all visitors and guests. At the same time, there is a fine line between welcome and scaring people away. Joseph Yoo reflects on this tension.

Heidi Hagstrom, the director of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s (ELCA) Youth Gathering shared, “Standing at the cross together.” This is a great reflection a year ahead of the next youth gathering which will be held in Detroit in 2015.

Pastor Don Carlson shared some reflections for the upcoming Sunday’s lectionary readings on Bishop Mike Rinehart’s blog. If you are preparing to preach this coming weekend, this might be a helpful resource for you.

A group of seminary professors (and friends) got together for a podcast about “How to Talk with Young People about ‘Adult Content’ in the Bible.” The podcast features Eric Barreto, Michael Chan (who also wrote the accompanying article), Terri Elton and Cameron Howard.

Friend and youth leader Kara Lattu shared some reflections after the conclusion of her congregation’s latest mission trip in “Home, safe and sound.”

Nate Cohn shared data and observation about “Where the Christian Right is Strong” in “The Upshot.” You probably won’t be surprised about the answers.

Blogger and pastor Jan Edmiston shared a number of wonderful posts about many important questions this past week. She pondered and asks us to ponder, “what’s the future of church gathering spaces?” in “Church Buildings for Sale.” She also pondered a question which often comes up in congregations around federal holidays and election times, “How do we respond when parishoners say they don’t want politics in church?Jan also reflected on the idea of “Church as Incubator.” As she asks, allow me to repeat, “how is your spiritual community incubating new ministries?” And, “how are we individually acting as incubating partners/mentors?” Great questions all around! What do you think?

Last year the Lutheran World Federation hosted their first global virtual conference on Diakonia. The second, and now annual conference, will be held on September 18th. Check it out!

In case you missed some of the insights from “Social Media Sunday,” you can find a transcript here from Church Social Media about “Joy Shared and Lessons Learned on #SMSunday.”

I have shared some about Appreciate Inquiry (AI) before on the blog here. I want to thank friend and professor Dr. Mary Hess for pointing me to two resources I hadn’t seen before about AI in congregational settings. First, here is an intro guide that was created for the Church of Scotland. Second, here are some more resources for congregations, faith communities and their leaders. Check these out.

Cross-Sector Collaboration

Friend and professor Dr. Ron Byrnes shared some about what he thinks “Chester Finn’s Fordham Institute Gets Wrong about School Principals.” What do you think?

Tom Murphy pondered, “Did the Millennium Development Goals accomplish anything?” Great and important question. Give this a read and see what you think.

Julian Stodd shared some reflection about, “Social Leadership: crossing boundaries.” There is good food for thought about both social leadership and the idea of the social age in general. Check it out and give this some thought.

Leadership Thought & Practice

Georg Vielmetter and Yvonne Sell explained at HBR that “Leadership is About to Get More Uncomfortable.” I wholeheartedly agree with most of this especially with their bold claim that “Leaders motivated by power over others will not thrive in this new world.” Give this a read and let it sink in for a bit.

Scott Mabry writes that “Leadership is a Promise Kept.”

4th of July Fireworks in Washington DC (behind the Lincoln Memorial)
4th of July Fireworks in Washington DC (behind the Lincoln Memorial)

In the spirit of Independence Day, recently celebrated in the United States, Jon Mertz shared “15 Presidential Perspectives on Freedom and Liberty.”

Ted Coine reflected on “The Most Important Word in Leadership.” It’s pretty hard to take issue with Ted’s focus on “trust” as the most important word in leadership. Do you agree? Why or why not?

Lolly Daskal writes that “Courage is the Key to Fearless Leadership.” She explains that courageous leaders: speak their truth; lead with tenacity; and stand apart from the crowd.

Terri Klass asked a great question, “Are You an Empowered Leader?” She uses the idea and image of a playground in pondering this question and a related question, “How do you help others to be their best?” Great questions! What do you think?

In one of the most interesting posts from the past week, Kevin Evers writes about “The Leadership Paradox.” He shares that, “a weird paradox emerges: the most respected leaders seem reluctant to lead.” Think about that idea for a bit.

Josh Linkner shared “8 Ways to Undermine Yourself as a Leader.” These 8 ways he lists make a good list of cautions to keep in the back of your mind. The ways offered include: violate trust (echoing Ted’s point above); be selfish instead of a servant leader; lack focus and flip-flop on priorities; be user “unfriendly”; deal in fantasy instead of science; lack passion and creativity; play checkers instead of chess; and act as if it’s just about what you say. What other ways might you add to the list?

Dan Rockwell shared a number of awesome posts this past week as well. The posts included: “Stop Wasting Time: 10 Ways to Learn What Maters,” helpful for anyone trying to be more efficient, balanced and productive; “Authenticity: 7 Ways to Navigate Self-Doubt“; “7 Power Tips for Facing Turbulence,” helpful for anyone facing some uncertainty, tension or conflict; “15 Reasons to Ignore Feedback,” feedback is usually helpful and generally should be accepted graciously but sometimes it may be irrelevant, unneeded or confusing; and “Fewer Policies- More Conversations.” Give these a read and see what ideas come to you.

Shawn Murphy shared a podcast with Dr. Andrew Thorn about “Defining Your Leadership Legacy.”


Jon Mertz recently wrote about “Why Millennials Will Be More Empathetic Leaders.” Three promising traits that Jon sees are that: Millennials are purpose oriented; transparent; and they give and receive immediate feedback. What do you think?

Kern Carter explained “Why 9-5 Won’t Work for Millennials.” Do you agree?

Daniel Newman shared, “The Millennials: Why this Generation Could Save Us.” Reasons offered include: they are different than we were; they crowdsource everything; and they will change the world.

Matt Marino wrote and pondered, “Millennials Still in the Church: What Do They Have in Common?

Neighbor Love

As you might have guessed the news and thoughts since the Supreme Court decision about the Hobby Lobby case have continued to be shared. Friend and professor Dr. Mary Hess, asked somewhat in response to this, “Are we going back to Constantine?” She quoted and linked to Andrew Sullivan’s post, “Why am I not so alarmed by Hobby Lobby?Dr. Norma Cook Everist asked, I think rightly, “The free exercise of religion for whom?” This post actually also was shared and adapted by Huffington Post. Lauren Markoe and Cathy Lynn Grossman also shared, “Five Takeaways from the Hobby Lobby Case.” Check these links out if you are interested and see what ideas and questions come to mind for you.

My wife Allison Siburg shared some “Stories: about serving your neighbor.” Check out the post and see how you can share and participate in the series.

Greg Carey reflects and shares about the very real concern that we are “At War with Ourselves,” grounding the reflection in Romans 7:15-25a. This is such an important reflection and contribution. Give it a read and spend some time with the study questions as well. Thanks to friend, professor and adviser Matt Skinner for sharing this.

Funeral Wreath
Funeral Wreath

Friend and pastor Diane Roth wrote about “The Funeral I Didn’t Want.” This is such a wonderful post and I hope you read it. Here’s a snippet of Diane’s writing, “I can still see her, taking the common cup, taking it from me and sharing it with the next person.  Abundant life. I have been at the same congregation for a long time.  Long enough to know and be known, even when it is painful.  Long enough for my weaknesses to be exposed.  Long enough to wonder, sometimes, what I am doing here.  Long enough to grieve, to doubt, to believe.  Long enough to share abundant life.”

RJ Grunewald shared about “How to Speak the Language of the Culture.” There are two core points about sharing one’s story and being a missionary in one’s context. According to RJ, the missionary “needs to speak the language of the people” and “needs to be one of the people.” What do you think?

Friend and blogger J.W. Wartick shared a book review for The Poverty of Nations. Check out this review and see if you are interested in picking up the book for yourself. (Those who like the intersections related to faith and economics, like me, might particularly want to check this book out.)

Also at the intersection of faith and economics comes this post from friend and professor Dr. Mary Hess about “Luther’s insights on the economy.” (If you find that interesting, you should check out friend, adviser and professor Dr. Samuel Torvend’s Luther and the Hungry Poor.)

Social Media & Blogging

For those of you who write and/or blog regularly, you might appreciate Lynette Noni’s10 Practical Writing Tips.” There are some good tips and advice here. From your own experience, what tips might you add (if any)?

Friend and blogger J.W. Wartick shared his version of the Links in his “Really Recommended Posts” from last week.


Friend, professor and mentor Dr. Terri Elton shared a great life reminder in “Play- a summer must!” I hope you all are enjoying summer weather wherever you are, and taking advantage of all opportunities to be out and enjoying this beautiful time of the year.

Allison and I at Disney World (2013)
Allison and I at Disney World (2013)

Friend and college roommate Tyler Scott shared, “Where dreams come true…”  There’s good vocational reflection in this, and if you love anything related to Disney (and visits to Disney World or Disney Land), then you will certainly enjoy this post. Check it out!

A good vocational discernment type question might be, “What keeps a bounce in your step?” Great question which Jon Mertz recently reflected on.

Friend and blogger Julia Nelson shared a great update about life and how summer is going at camp in her Sunday Snippits. Julia also provided a Physical, Mental and Spiritual (PMS) Check-up. This is a great vocational post, and might be a good vocational practice for you, yourself to add to your own life practices.

Blogger Jesse Evans shared some “Goals for Reading, Writing, Teaching and Creating.”

Blogger Rachel Held Evans wrote a post simply (but perhaps profoundly) titled, “Reentry.”

Friend and pastor Aaron Fuller shared, “Final Thoughts from Navy Chaplain School: Defining the ‘American Dream.'” Aaron also shared some “Lessons Learned: 4 Days in a Van, Navy-Style Field Trip, & the 4th of July.

Friend and professor Dr. Mary Hess makes the links one more time with this post about “Impact the World Positively.” She links to this post from early June by Kathy Caprino, “9 Core Behaviors of People Who Positively Impact the World.” Check out the list of core behaviors and see what you think.


Friend and blogger J.W. Wartick also wrote, “Move Over, Kalam, Here is the best argument for theism.” I was having trouble trying to classify this under a topic subject above, so here it is. Check it out and see what you think.


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

Image Credits: The Links; Fourth of July in Washington DC; and Funeral Wreath.

Celebrating Grandma’s 90th Birthday!

Grandma right before the party begins
Grandma right before the party begins

My Grandma T. recently celebrated her 90th birthday. To help celebrate, all of her kids, many of her grandkids, a niece and nephew from North Dakota, and many church friends gathered in person yesterday. Her grandkids that couldn’t be there in person joined her via Skype from Delaware and Namibia. There were also tons of cards and well-wishes from all over, and through every form of communication. It was a wonderful and special day!

All of this celebrating got me to thinking though. How many stories does my Grandma have to tell? Anyone who knows her, knows that she loves to talk. She has stories a plenty, whether they are completely accurate or not, well… whose going to argue with Grandma?

By turning 90 this summer, we can discern from history that Grandma has seen and experienced:

  • The Great Depression
  • World War II
  • She earned the first college degree in her family
  • A long and happy marriage to Grandpa (who passed away in 2007)
  • A long life as a pastor’s wife, church choir director and Bible Study leader
  • The birth of four children
  • Living in four different states
  • A great career as a registered dietitian
  • The weddings of three children
  • The birth of five grandchildren
  • The weddings of one grandchild
  • Touching countless lives (no doubt in the thousands at this point, really!)
My Grandmas- Grandma S. and Grandma T. together, the evening after our wedding rehearsal
My Grandmas- Grandma S. and Grandma T. together

The list should be much longer, but if I kept going I wouldn’t know where to stop. In looking at these few overview points though, you can see how full of a life she is living. It’s no wonder then, really, why it’s never been a question if her kids or grandkids would go to college. It’s no wonder why most of her family is so active in leadership in the church and their congregations. We all grew up with that as the way things are.

Grandma, until the last ten years or so, was also an amazing cook and baker (time and age have taken a toll there.) I heard more stories about that yesterday from one of her nieces and nephews. She has always loved to entertain and host people, valuing hospitality, another trait that has been picked up by much of her family.

The ways she lives, loves, and is not afraid to talk to anyone continues to be a great lesson for me. In that way, she values others and wants to hear their stories. She might drive us crazy sometimes with some of her perspectives, but deep down we always know what she does and says is out of love. She wants to keep learning and thinking and never backs down from a question or conversation.

Even at her age, I don’t know someone who reads the Bible and devotionals more often (except for maybe my Grandma S.). I’m grateful for both my grandma’s, for their life, love, faith and family. But also for their hopes for us, for me, and for their constant support and love for all their families and all they meet.

Happy Birthday Grandma!


What a Week!

Of the many great quotes I have heard last week, this one stands out.
Of the many great quotes I have heard last week, this one stands out.

You probably noticed that I didn’t write as much last week as I tend to do. That’s mainly because I was attending the Disciple Project. I did check-in with a brief update last week, but was saving the majority of my writing and reflections for later. Well, its probably time to share.

I mentioned previously that I met a number of people in person whom I have either followed or friended through social media channels over the past couple of years. That was certainly true, and it was wonderful to be able to put a face to all of these amazing people and beautiful minds.

Laughing during Bible Study with Peggy and Megan
Laughing during Bible Study with Peggy and Megan. (Photo Credit to Rafael Suarez.)

Even more than meeting these people though, I was in awe of and engaged in so many conversations with great depth, these conversations were definitely a highlight. I had fantastic conversations with leaders of all areas related to ministry and the church. From assistants to the bishop, to people who are serving on synod and church related non-profits, to pastors, faith formation directors, youth directors, and even the educational director of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s response to World Hunger. These conversations were all life giving, and who knows, may lead to a new call and/or future opportunities in some area for me.

In addition to these conversations, it was invigorating to hear from high school and college aged leaders about ministry and ministry projects they are leading and serving, as well as ones that they will be serving. Their minds are full of hope and ideas for collaboration that inspired me to continue in my own work. There obviously is so much innovation and entrepreneurship going on among these leaders, I think Peter Drucker would surely be proud. But this is true of all the leaders that were present and part of the Disciple Project last week.

I know that I am going to continue to process this past week for quite awhile. But in sharing some more of what I am thinking about right now, I think it might be nice to share both some of the quotes that struck me last week, as well as some of the questions. These are all potentially great blog topics individually, and I might pursue them as such in the weeks ahead. We’ll see. For now, give these quotes and questions a read and see what strikes you.

Favorite Quotes that were said or shared:

  • “At this point, we need to move from ‘Here I Stand,’ to ‘Here I Go!” ~ Shared by Pastor Rich Nelson, attributed to Brian McLaren
  • “The best leader walks with their people and group.” ~ Peggy Hahn
  • “How you think about what you do, makes all the difference.” ~ Peggy Hahn
  • “If I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it, even if I do not have it at the beginning.” ~ Shared by Peggy Hahn, attributed to Gandhi
  • “Cross-cultural experiences are imperative and under-valued!” ~ Peggy Hahn
  • “My life is like a living prayer, and through this, people see me as a leader.” ~ Judith Dykes-Hoffman
  • “I define ‘leader’ as ‘one who is willing to sacrifice self.'” ~ Judith Dykes-Hoffman
  • “I’m tired of complacency.” ~ Judith Dykes-Hoffman
  • “Often the important starter of change is simply a reflection or understanding that things can be different!” ~ Peggy Hahn
  • “It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” ~ Shared by Peggy Hahn, attributed to Charles Darwin
  • “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” ~ Shared by Peggy Hahn, attributed to Albert Einstein

Favorite Questions Posed, Pondered or Created:

  • How do you define what it means to be a leader?
  • Who are the people who have taken a chance on you?
  • How do you channel “good intentions” in good and effective ways?
  • What is going on in the world that is bothering you most?
  • What do you want to change in the world?
  • How are you a part (or can/will be a part) of making that change?
The Post-it-Note Wall of Change
The Post-it-Note Wall of Change

These quotes and questions are all somewhat related to the conference’s overall theme and focus on koinonia. What strikes you out of all of this? What immediately strikes me is that there is both a sense of collaboration and community in all of these. There is a sense of service, and I would even say neighbor love as well.

One of the social activities of the week is a whole group block party. As part of this, each small group or track that everyone was in, was in charge of providing one part of the fun. Our small group, “Follow to LEAD” decided that we wanted to poll all those attended using post-it-notes and sharpies to respond to the question, “What do you want to change in the world?” We got some great responses (which you can see in the picture at left), and posted them on the wall.

The Word Cloud of Change
The Word Cloud of Change

My friend Megan Dosher Hansen, typed them up and created a Wordle. We reviewed the Wordle, and then it was used as part of the closing worship sermon at the end of the week (you can see what the large group came up with at right). It was a good experiment, but also a nice way to visualize the possibilities, passions, vocations, and perspectives of the whole group at the Disciple Project.

I have a hunch, that if we polled a much larger audience, we would probably get similar responses. That gives me hope. The question then is, how are you a part of (or will be part of) making that change that you want to see?

What questions do you have for me about my time at Disciple Project? 

Finally, I need to say thank you! Thank you to all of you who made last week possible for me to be there, but also for sharing and providing such depth and life. To speak in the vernacular for one moment, Y’all are amazing, thank you!