This Week’s Links

Internet1Tuesday on the blog means that I get to share some of what I have found interesting and thought provoking over the past week with all of you. This week’s stories range from Advent and Christmas to fairy tale weddings, and neighbor love stories across the spectrum. To help bring some sense to all of the links this week, I have categorized them by the following topics: Church and Ministry Thought & Practice; Cross-Sector Collaboration; Leadership Thought & Practice; Millennials; Neighbor Love; Social Media & Blogging; Stewardship and Vocation. I hope you enjoy these links!

Church and Ministry Thought & Practice

Friend and pastor Aaron Fuller shared and asked, “First-Call Pastor Stuff: Two Questions.” The two questions which Aaron honestly reflects on, and I think all leaders (especially in ministry) should reflect on are: How are you feeling? Do you know why you’re here? What would your answers be to these questions?

Brian Dodd shared “11 Practices of Churches You are Excited to take your Unchurched Friends To.” Practices he lists and expand upon include ideas and observations that such churches: act like they are expecting unchurched people to show up; they are genuinely glad unchurched people showed up; give unchurched people multiple options; are proactive and well-informed; are concerned with their children’s safety; are generous to unchurched people and more.

Jan Edmiston pondered some stewardship and finance type questions related to congregations on her blog when she asked, “Is Church only for Rich People?” Read through her post, ponder her important questions, and then see what you think.

Jan also pondered about “Church M&Ms.” I really hope you read this creative, ingenious and important post tying in the candy M&Ms, the church, and “Morbidity and Mortality.” There’s good stuff to ponder here about the vitality of the church and faith communities.

RJ Grunewald took on “The Two-Sided Cliff of Numbers in the Church.” RJ brings some sanity and good critique to the conversation and debate about numbers like attendance and membership, as well as the prosperity gospel tendencies that can come along with this as well. I appreciate his conclusion where he writes, “We need an honest look at our numbers and an honest look at our faithfulness to God’s calling as His Church.  My goal as a leader is to live in the tension.”

Friend and pastor Diane Roth reflected in “You Say You Want to be Inclusive.” This is both a neighbor love and cross-sector post, but it also hits at the core of identities and relationships within faith communities. I think Diane is really on to something when she writes, “We can talk about the value of human life, each life, all lives, in different ways.  We can talk about the realities experienced by people of color, by immigrants, by at-risk children, by the poor, by Alzheimers patients.  But as long as we continue to speak in generalities (We Welcome Everyone!), we are not really welcoming anyone.  As long as we don’t listen to the realities of particular people, and particular communities, we won’t know how to welcome anyone.  As long as we don’t pay attention to the lives, the realities, the stories of those who feel left out, excluded, marginalized, un-welcome, we will not be able to include them.” What do you think?

An Advent Wreath
An Advent Wreath

LEAD asked, “How do leaders defeat despair and overwhelming stress?” Included in this are six ideas which some times help: spiritual space; get outside of your head; set boundaries and stick to them; stay close to your friends and family (if they are life-giving); learn to trust, even if it hurts and just give.

John Meunier pondered about “The purpose and power of the church.”

As we journey through Advent, I’m not the only one on my blog offering daily devotional type reflections. Friend and intern pastor Chris Michaelis is doing this as well on his blog. Two of his recent posts included a reflection on “The Commemoration of Our Lady of Guadalupe,” as well as “The Feast Day of Santa Lucia.” Check out these posts and Chris’ daily offering.

Looking ahead to Christmas, if you are in a leadership role in a faith community check out these “7 Ways to Welcome Church Visitors on Christmas Eve,” from Carolyn Chilton. Things or ideas to keep in mind include: greeters; nursery; service bulletins; the service; your website; social media; greeters at the door as people depart; and thanking all of your leaders and volunteers who helped make everything possible.

Friends Katie asked an interesting question, especially for faith communities where singing hymns is the norm (like my own), “Can you ‘worship’ to hymns?” Give this a read and some thought. There’s good room for pause here I think.

Cross-Sector Collaboration

Deanna Olson over at Minnesota Connected wrote about “Dill Pickles and Sharing Traditions.” It’s a good post especially as we are in the midst of a time of year with many gatherings of friends, families and different communities. How do you share traditions, especially among blended cultures and experiences?

Speaking of tradition, Julian Stodd shared some thoughts on “Tradition and Change.” There is great reflection in here about change, and some of the challenges that comes with it. Among the great points in this Julian adds, “Sometimes things have to change, but it’s our approach that defines the success. Creating the spaces for the conversation and then listening to what is said. A co-created model. Surely that’s the way.” I tend to agree with him. Do you?

Julian also wrote “To Thrive in Chaos and Ambiguity.” I greatly appreciate his reflections in this especially related to organizations and leadership. Julian writes, “We need the humility to lead by doing, through sharing and storytelling, by ensuring equality and freedom for everyone. We set aside our mantle of formal authority in favour of social leadership. We become agile: constantly learning, adapting, sharing and growing. We thrive by being given or taking the permission to change. Only organisations that understand this, that welcome it, that adapt to it, will be here ten years from now.” What do you think?

Leadership Thought & Practice

Bruce Jones at the Disney Institute writes that “The Key to Transformational Leadership” is to “Know how to Empower Your People.” As Bruce asked, allow me to repeat, how do you empower your team?

Lolly Daskal explained “How to Become the Most Compelling Person You Will Ever Know.” In an effort to live your most compelling life, Lolly shares some things to do: be bold; find your unique self and wear it like a badge of honor; conquer the unknown; be inclusive; be confident (but not arrogant); be generous with everyone you meet; never miss an opportunity to give a compliment; say no so you can say yes; practice humility and stand for something.

Tanveer Naseer wrote about “Why Leadership Should Be Hard.” What do you think?

University of Oregon Quarterback and Heisman Trophy Award Winner, Marcus Mariota will lead Oregon against Florida State on New Year's Day in the Rose Bowl in the first game of the first ever College Football Playoff. The winner will face the Sugar Bowl winner, Alabama or Ohio State in the National Championship.
University of Oregon Quarterback and Heisman Trophy Award Winner, Marcus Mariota will lead Oregon against Florida State on New Year’s Day in the Rose Bowl in the first game of the first ever College Football Playoff. The winner will face the Sugar Bowl winner, Alabama or Ohio State in the National Championship.

Anne Loehr explained and shared, “How to Manage Difficult Employees: Six Iconic Types.” Check this post out and see how many of these types you have or have had to lead and manage. What have your experiences been like?

As a sports fan this post from Brian Dodd caught my eye, “16 Leadership Quotes and Lessons from Heisman Trophy Winner Marcus Mariota.”

Dan Forbes shared a guest post by Frank Sonnenberg, “10 Warning Signs of a Conversation Going Bad.”

Randy Conley wrote and shared, “Follow Your Conscience- 13 Ways to Build Trust & Credibility.” Insights in this post are drawn from the work of Frank Sonnenberg.

Susan Price shared “The Truth About Older Workers.” Two main points to note within this piece: older workers make fewer errors and bring more to the table; and older workers can be more creative.

Back in October Nicole Fallon shared, “The Social Age: 3 Ways to Adapt Your Leadership Style.”

Bruce Boyers shared about Ted Coine in “Titans of Sales: Ted Coine and the Human Touch.”

Brad helpfully shares “define your mission.” How do you define your mission?

Dan Rockwell shared a number of great posts as always. These posts included a reflection about how “Egoless Leadership is a Myth,” “Seven Ways Leaders Create Tipping Points,” and “They’re Excited- You’re Not.” Additionally, Dan shared “7 Powerful Qualities of Humble Leaders,” which I found particularly helpful. Check out all of these posts and spend some time thinking with them.

Steve Keating writes that “There is No Value in Free.” Do you agree?

Regarding change and leadership, Heidi Oran shared, “Necessary Changes: 3 Questions to Ask Yourself About Change.” The three questions to ask yourself are: Are you willing to sacrifice things in life right now? Can you persevere? Are you willing to go back to the drawing board? I greatly appreciate the way Heidi wraps up this post by writing, “So why not have some say in the change that happens to you? For most of us, it will be the first time in our lives.” What do you think?


The Legacy Project shared an interview with leadership and Millennial thinker and writer, Jon Mertz, the founder of Thin Difference.

One of the ideas that holds a lot of resonance among Millennials seem to be authenticity. Achim Nowak provides an important reflection on this in “The Problem with Being Authentic.”

Back in September Kelsey Manning wrote and asked, “I Currently Have 4 Jobs… Is this the new normal?” I shared this on Twitter the other day and got some good feedback, as well as some not so good or helpful feedback. As for my experience, I have to say I have to wonder if Kelsey is on to something because I am currently working three different jobs, and I have a few other projects on top of those three. What has your experience been like?

For those of us like Kelsey and myself who are working multiple jobs and projects, Michelle shares helpfully, “10 Ways to Squeeze Side Hustles Into Your Busy Schedule.” Ways offered include: wake up earlier in order to fit time in for your side hustle ideas; strategically use your lunch time; take vacation days at your work just for your side hustle; use short gaps in your day correctly; multitask correctly to fit in your side income jobs; rethink your commute so you can fit in time for your side income jobs; always be organized; use your days off for side income jobs; and be realistic about how much time you have for your side hustle jobs.

I stumbled on this post shared by Chelsea Krost from this past March by Amanda Loveland, “4 Questions Every Millennial Must Ask Themselves.” The questions to ponder are: Do I know how to make my own money? Am I willing to do what is required to have a child and have a life? What can I do better than anyone else? What is one thing I can do today that will significantly improve the quality of my life?

Neighbor Love

black lives matterAndy Dubbin shared a helpful perspective and important food for thought in “The Counter-Protest: ‘All Lives Matter’ and other signs that diminish a movement.”

Many congregations and denominations joined together in “Black Lives Matter” Sunday this past weekend. In case you missed it or would like to know more, check out this post about it from Bishop Guy Erwin.

If you need proof that racism exists- structurally and otherwise, read this story by Union Theological Seminary students Rev. Shawn Torres and Benjamin Perry, “What Happened When Two Students, One Black and One White, Participated in a Peaceful Protest.” This is a must read.

In a justice and neighbor love story, Tom Murphy shared on the Humanosphere that “Murder is among the top 3 causes of death for men” globally among those aged 15-44.

One of the newer major stories over the past week with neighbor love and justice implications was the release of a report on the “torture policies” that were apparently used during the administration of President Bush and Vice-President Cheney. In light of this story, Steve Benen shared this powerful response from Senator John McCain who stated directly and boldly, “We need not risk our national honor to prevail in this or any war.” Bishop Mike Rinehart also shared some reflections and links in regard to this news.

Bishop Rinehart also shared a guest post on behalf of Lutheran Immigration & Refugee Service (LIRS), “First Steps Shows Us How to be More Supportive to New Americans.”

Friend and professor Dr. Mary Hess shared a great and helpful video, “5 Tips for Being an Ally,” in “Understanding Privilege.” Definitely spend some time with this video.

Speaking of privilege, Rachel Hackenberg writes, “Dear White Preachers, Take Off Your Prophet’s Mantle.”

John Pavlovitz wrote about “The Continued Crucifying of Rob Bell, and What it Says About the State of Modern Christianity.”

John Meunier shared some good thoughts, especially appropriate for Advent and Christmas, in “Nouwen on incarnation.”

Friend and pastor Frank Johnson offered “An argument for reading the parts of the Bible you don’t like.” Within this, Frank writes, “In short, I believe that scripture we don’t like is a useful testing ground for whether our reading of scripture is self-centered or God-centered—whether we come to the Bible looking for the answers that we want to find, or whether we come honestly, faithfully looking for God. You can ultimately come to the conclusion that certain scripture does not capture the essence of the true God, and you can even say that this conception of God is no longer helpful after Jesus, but you had better wrestle with it to get there. And then, most importantly, you better come back to it—again and again—because the places where we are challenged contain the most verdant soil for our faith.” What do you think?

Rev. Dr. Will Willimon shared a good reflection for during the Advent and Christmas, “Help is on the way.”

In another Christmas related post, Jan Edmiston asked, “Are the Spirit of Christmas and the Spirit of Christ the Same Thing?” What do you think?

In a post that really highlights how this time of year can be hard with the long nights and in a real sense a “Blue Christmas,” Kelley Nikondeha honestly reflects about these hard feelings in “None to Comfort.”

candlelightFriend and pastor Aaron Fuller shared his sermon for this past weekend, “Isaiah 42 & the Promise of Despair.”  One of the more moving parts for me in this piece is where Aaron writes, “People’s despair is certainly uncomfortable, but I wonder if perhaps on some levels, we’re not drawn to it….drawn to stand alongside them because we know what despair is, what it feels like, how it breaks us…..and what we so desperately want is for some one to come stand alongside us.” I think Aaron is definitely on to something here. What do you think?

The Guardian shared a moving and compelling global development article about the “Tsunami, 10 years on: the sea nomads who survived the devastation.”

For your feel good story of the week of neighbor love in action check out this video and story of police officers playing Santa.

Social Media & Blogging

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

The Seminarium Blog is calling for bloggers for 2015. Do you have an interest in sharing and writing with or for them? Do you know someone who might be interested or have something to share?

Brad writes, “go digital or go home.” He even alludes to Peter Drucker in making his case! In the spirit of Drucker’s idea that “the customer is always right,” Brad concludes, “It’s clear that brands need to embrace a sound digital strategy in order to be well-poised for the future. Note that success in this space requires embracing the consumer’s demands — after all, it’s a demand side issue (there’s enough supply). Brands should cater to consumers’ desires and appeal to consumers’ nature by keeping their experience simple, effortless, and personal.”

Cindy King shared “20 Social Media Marketing Tips From the Pros.” The tips include: mine twitter to grow your audience; analyze past content to improve posts; optimize visual content with links; create a social media channel plan; deliver content consistently; use hashtags strategically; use social updates to write blog posts; become a resource on Facebook; manage time effectively; focus on one social media channel; automate curated content and more. As for myself, I am doing some of these well. Others are definitely areas of growth to try and experiment in. How might these tips help you?


Friend and “Classy Frugalist,” Grace Duddy Pomroy finally shared a post about her “Fairytale Frugal Wedding.” Check this out and see how Grace and Tyler were able to have a wonderful wedding, but doing so frugally. Friends, let me say again, a hearty congratulations to you both!

Grace also shared a timely post, “A Christmas Carol: What are you investing in this Christmas? (Part 1).”

Erin shared “7 Reasons Why You Should Track Your Spending.” The sensible reasons pointed to include: you need to know where your money is going; it forces you to prioritize; it shines the light on spending habits; it keeps you conscious of your bank balance; you’ll be aware of questionable charges; it allows you to take control; and how else will you meet your goals?

Stefanie shared, “Bringing Positivity to Retirement Savings.”


Friend and blogger Julia Nelson was officially consecrated as a Diaconal Minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) over the weekend. While she was busy with all of the fun and excitement of that, she asked that Allison and I fill-in for her on her blog with two of her usual vocationally rich posts. I shared some “Friday Favorites!” and Allison shared some “Sunday Snippits.” Check out how we did filling in for Julia, and be sure to follow Julia’s blog. Julia, thanks for letting us help out and blessings to you friend on your consecration!

Rev. Dr. Will Willimon shared “Sabbath and Self-Care: a conversation.”

Friends Katie and Will continue to update and share about how their first year of marriage is going while spending it abroad currently in South Africa. Will shared the latest in “Part 1: Reflections on the First Three Months.” Give this a read and see what they have been learning, observing, thinking, sensing and wrestling with.

Jon Mertz shared a vocationally rich post in “Your Life Quest: Doing. Stopping. Feeling.” Check this out and spend some time reflecting with it.

Friend and pastor Erika Grace Buller shared some wonderful life and vocational reflections about the morning and day of her ordination in “For Waiting and Rushing.”

Friend and professor Dr. Ron Byrnes shared a nice little reminder in “Improve Your Health- Go Outside.”


That will conclude this week’s edition of the links. I hope you have enjoyed them! As always if you have particular areas of focus to think about on the blog, questions to ponder, or types of links to include, please let me know. Until next time, thanks for reading and being part of the conversation. Blessings on your week! -TS

Image Credits: The Links; Advent Wreath; Marcus MariotaBlack Lives Matter; and Candle.

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