Taking a Congregation’s Stewardship Temperature

If you follow this blog with any regularity, you know that I occasionally share thoughts, ideas and questions about stewardship. Today I am sharing about an in-progress idea with all of you. 

I am currently serving a congregation as its Intentional Interim Director of Worship, Music and Stewardship. This is basically a nice way of saying that I am doing a lot of work cultivating lay leadership, promoting collaboration and imagination, and helping the congregation see its ministries in new ways, while hopefully equipping the people in the congregation to be able to articulate “why they do what they do.”

In helping the congregation think about stewardship, I asked the people in the faith community to think about what they are grateful for.

After some thought, I invited them to take a piece of wood home and write, decorate, paint, or use however they see fit, to highlight something (or things) they are grateful for in life, faith and as part of the work and ministry of the congregation. The boards are slowly starting to trickle in, as you can see what have been returned so far in the picture below.

The beginnings of a Gratitude Wall
The beginnings of a Gratitude Wall

In looking at these and spending some time with them, the thought hit me that this really might be a good way of guaging the congregation’s stewardship temperature, or at least of measuring where they are in terms of their understanding of themselves as stewards. What do you think of the responses so far?

The responses are all over the board from the personal of naming an individual, to societal rights, to broadly used faith terms, recognition of generations and their gifts, the gifts of vocations and service, and even thankfulness and gratitude for the love of the community. There is thankfulness for God’s love in this, but its interesting how so far that hasn’t actually been stated as directly.

My hope is that ultimately all of these boards will be assembled together and put on a wall in the church called a “Gratitude Wall,” to help the congregation see what it collectively is grateful for. This might be a helpful place of reminder and grounding for mission and stewardship. It might also be a good starting place for helping the congregation go deeper in seeing themselves as stewards with many vocations, entrusted with different gifts and strengths to do God’s work in the world.

I wonder, as I share this in-progress snapshot with you:

Would this exercise work in your context? 

Would it have some value in helping capture the stories of mission, service, gratitude, etc. that exist in your community?

We’ll see how it goes for us. In the meantime, its a work in progress much like life and ministry.

This Week’s Links

Internet1Tuesday on the blog means that I get to share some of what I have found thought provoking and worth a read over the past week with all of you. To help make sense of all these links, I have grouped them into the following categories: 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

In preparation for Holy Trinity Sunday this coming weekend, check out these thoughts from Rev. Dr. David Lose in “Trinity B: Three-in-One Plus One!” Also check out this post about the “Trinity” from Bishop Michael Rinehart.

Friend, adviser and professor Rev. Dr. Matthew Skinner was selected to give this year’s Commencement Address for Luther Seminary’s Commencement. This was a very well deserved honor. You can read his commencement address here.

Speaking of commencement addresses, Paul Brandeis Raushenbush shared one he gave at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School arguing that, “It’s A Great Time to be Graduating from a Mainline, Progressive, Christian, Divinity School.

For a refreshing perspective on the church and being part of it from a young adult, check out this great piece by Kayla Koterwski entitled, “A grammatical moment: Young adult’s synod assembly experience results in passion for church.” Speaking of Kayla, she maintains a wonderful and thought provoking website and blog which I encourage you to check out called “Human Ponderings.” Her most recent post was a reflection about “Jesus the ‘Not Pure.'”

With Pentecost being this past weekend, Friend and professor Rev. Dr. Matthew Skinner shared this piece from the Hufflington Post about “Pentecost 2015: History, Facts and Traditions.”

Derek Penwell shared, “Six Things Christians Should Worry about More Than the Decline of Christianity.”

Out of the United Methodist Church, Heather Hahn shared that the “Church body seeks greater openness on human sexuality.”

Friend and pastor Brian Mundt shared this post by Alvin Ward with a number of maps detailing “The Second-Largest Religion in Each State.”

David Gibson shared very sad news last week about how “Author Phyllis Tickle faces death just as she enjoyed life: ‘The dying is my next career.'”

In another very sad story, it was announced that Pastor John Hogenson, senior pastor at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church in Minneapolis has an inoperable brain tumor.

In an article with great ministry and stewardship implications and insights, Adam J. Copeland wrote and shared, “A broader appeal: How crowdfunding inspires creative ministry.”

I feel great hope and assurance for leadership in the church in reading this story by Meghan Johnston Aelabouni about “10 under 40: These adults are leading the church & changing the world.” Included among this great list are friends, collaborators and colleagues in ministry Joe Davis, Rob Saler, Rozella White and Rachel Wrenn (who I went to both undergrad and seminary with).

Friend and educational director Ryan Cumming at ELCA World Hunger shared thoughts about “Exploring: Advocacy.”

Here’s an interesting look and video from Trinity Lutheran College about “Faith Matters at Trinity.”

Kate Frentzel shared a wonderful profile about “A Place of Welcome.”

In celebration and remembrance of Oscar Romero, Vonda Drees created, "Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero… Santo de América!"
In celebration and remembrance of Oscar Romero, Vonda Drees created, “Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero… Santo de América!”

Tripp Fuller shared this great listen about “Faith Formation in a Trans-media Era” with pastor, writer and blogger Clint Schnekloth.

Clint also shared some reflections about “The Pew Forum’s Cat of Religious Uncertainty.”

Carlos Dada wrote about “The Beatification of Oscar Romero.”

Friend and communications director Trip Sullivan shared thoughts, observations and insights from experience in this story by Robert Milis about “Retiring with purpose.”

Tom Ehrich wrote about, “5 Ways Churches Inflicted Pain on Themselves.” The 5 ways that Tom highlights: we stopped trying; we stopped giving; we turned inward; we fixated on Sunday morning; and we trashed our reputation. These are all valid observations as far as I can tell. Now the question is, how do we admit this and then live into the new day knowing that God is ever present, and that everything is being made new? (Hint check out some of the links I included above that give me great hope and assurance.)

Rev. Erik Parker wrote and shared, “Everybody Panic!- Why We Are All Wrong about Church Decline.”

Friend and professor Dr. Ron Byrnes shared thoughts, observations and links in “Christianity’s Decline.” Included in this is a link to a post written by Adam Copeland.

Elizabeth Rawlings wrote, “A new kind of attractional ministry (or: the church has done this to itself).”

John Pavlovitz shared “5 Ways Churches and their Leaders can Love Single People Well.” The ways he expands on are: stop treating singleness as an illness or temporary setback; pursue truly multigenerational ministry; recognize the great diversity of singleness; teach ‘community’ as much as ‘family’ from the pulpit; and really see and hear single people.

I shared some reflections, ideas and wondering about “Openness to Imagination and the Church.”

The Millennial shared some thoughts and an article by Daniel DiLeo about “Papal Authority and Climate Change,” as well as important observations from Robert Christian that “Churches Aren’t M.I.A., But Haven’t Done Enough for the Poor.” Check out both of these posts.

Friend Beth A. Lewis shared thoughts, stories and ideas about “Engaging in Worship at an Early Age.”

Church and Social Media (#ChSocM) shared a transcript of their chat from last week about “Building Online Communities.”

Blogger and Pastor Jan Edmiston shared thoughts about “Memorial Day for a Non-Military Family.”

LEAD shared a great question and invitation asking, “Are you satisfied with your congregation’s Faith Formation Ministry? Are you registered for the Best Practices in Faith Formation Seminar on August 15, 2015?” Well, are you?

Cross-Sector Collaboration

Humanosphere shared a guest post by Amy VanderZanden about “Closing the education gender gap worldwide.”

Anne Loehr shared an interesting post with implications on the new state of the economy of remote, project and freelance/contract employees in “A National Survey of the Freelance Workforce: America, Meet Your Future Workforce.”

In a paper that I found interesting, if not a little unsettling though unsurprising, Bruce Bartlett shared insights about “How Fox News Changed American Media and Political Dynamics.”

Julian Stodd shared a number of posts with implications for leadership, organizations and communities. Julian wrote, “From Aspiration to Culture: the erosion of values,” he shared some other ideas in “Microcosm,” and reflections about the “Layers of Storytelling.” Spend some time with all of these posts and see what you think.

Leadership Thought & Practice

Karin Hurt shared the May edition of the “Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival,” with special attention given to “Energizing Leadership.”

Marcella Bremer shared thoughts about “Positive Leadership Toward Reinventing Organizations.”

Dan Rockwell shared a number of posts that caught my eye. Dan shared, “7 Ways to Become a Respected Leader,” “The Answer is Who,” and “Three Steps to Great Leadership,” including: give yourself wholeheartedly to service; pour into yourself so you can pour into others; and stop doing leadership, be a leader. Dan also shared about “Stink Bugs and Flowers,” and “7 Ways to Embolden the Timid.”

The Connective Leadership Model
The Connective Leadership Model

My friends at the Connective Leadership Institute shared a playlist of 12 talks about “How to be a great leader.” Check out these TED Talks, and perhaps listen to them while sitting stuck in traffic, or in your office while in the need of some ideas or inspiration.

Speaking of Connective Leadership, definitely check out this explanation about what Connective Leadership is and “How the model and assessments can be used.”

Steve Keating shared a leadership reflection that perhaps we can relate to in some way, writing, “Somebody Ought to do Something.”

Karrie Landsverk shared a leadership development inspired post and video about “The Power In Sharing Your Lollipop Moments.”

John Boitnott explained “Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid to be a ‘Servant Leader.'”

Justin Irving shared some great thoughts about the essential leadership practice of “Fostering Collaboration.”

Friend Lace Smith shared, “His Majesty King Harald V of Norway’s Commencement Speech at Pacific Lutheran University.” Check out this great speech given at PLU’s commencement and see what you think.  You can read more about the King’s visit in this article written by Rob Carson for The Tacoma News Tribune. 

Dan Forbes and Lead with Giants shared a guest post by David Greer asking, “What Is Holding Back You and Those You Lead?

Lolly Daskal shared that “The Act of Empowering Others Changes Lives.” I definitely agree! Do you?

Frank Glick's famous photo of an eagle on a gravestone at Fort Snelling National Cemetery
Frank Glick’s famous photo of an eagle on a gravestone at Fort Snelling National Cemetery [credit here]
Amy Gallo shared thoughts late last year about “How to Write a Resume that Stands Out.”

As yesterday was Memorial Day, here are a couple posts that were written and shared with that in mind. First of all, here are some “Memorial Day Reflections” that I shared last year. Also, Jon Tevlin shared about this now famous picture taken of an eagle on a gravestone at Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minnesota in this “Memorial Day look back: Eagle photo touches hearts.”

Also, as Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial beginning of summer, Jon Mertz at Thin Difference shared a great idea both for your own leadership but also learning and appreciation of history, nature in more, in writing, “Go to a National Park This Summer!” I’m planning on it. Are you?


Thin Difference shared a guest post by Alison Brattle detailing and noting “Top Trends in Leadership Development for 2015.”

David Van Rooy shared, “12 Interview Questions You Should Always Ask Millennials,” noting that “There are now more Millennials than any other generation in the workforce. Use these interview questions to hire the best of them.”

Eugene Fram asked, shared and started an interesting discussion in writing, “Nonprofit Boards Prepare- The Millennial Workforce is Coming.”

Also with Millennials and the workforce in mind, Chris Komisarjevsky wrote and shared, “The Corporate Wake-Up Call: Millennials Are Now in Charge.”

Kern Carter asked and reflected, “Why is Simple so Appealing?

Neighbor Love

Columnist George Will shared about what he sees as “Capital punishment’s slow death.”

Friend, professor and mentor Dr. Terri Elton shared a post written by Kate Knutson inspired in part by the “Song of Ruth,” titled, “Where you go, I will go.”

John Pavlovitz shared a couple neighbor love related type posts including thoughts about “When Mean, Scared, Scary People Have Stolen My Jesus,” and “Waking Up on Memorial Day.” John also shared, “Some Lessons all Christians can learn from the Duggar Family situation,” as well as thoughts about “Why Religious Hypocrisy is Unavoidable (and why it’s unacceptable).”

"gospel marrow" by Vonda Drees
“gospel marrow” by Vonda Drees

Friend Dr. Deanna Thompson shared this post by her daughter Linnea which was featured on Caryn Riswold’s blog, “At the Intersections: #BlackLivesMatter Vigils & the (white) Privilege of Growing Up.”

David Brooks shared thoughts about what I think is an intriguing concept, “Building spiritual capital.” Check this out and see what you think.

Friend, artist and blogger Vonda Drees shared a number of absolutely gorgeous and beautiful posts over the past week. These included some reflection in pondering “What did I avoid today?” Inspired by the beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero, Vonda shared ___ posts, “ojos que han llorado…eyes that have cried,” “voz de los sin voz~ voice of the voiceless,” “Seamos dignos~ Let us be worthy,” and “Monsenor Oscar Arnulfo Romero…Santo de America!” Vonda also shared, “stoke our hearts,” “gospel marrow,” and “wholly kind.”

Blogger and pastor Lura Groen shared and wrote, “The God who made me Queer also taught me Black Lives Matter.”

Blogger and pastor Jan Edmiston shared about “Climate Refugees We Have Known & Loved.”

Friend, pastor and blogger Frank Johnson shared his sermon from this past weekend for Pentecost based on Romans 8:18-38, “Take a chance! Spiritual advice to the Spirit-starved church.”

Tom Murphy over at Humanosphere shared an important reminder that cannot be repeated enough, “Poor people are not lazy, so stop debating it.”

Christina Embree shared some great reflections in response to, “Here’s What Wrong…” something many leaders hear as the start of statements, stories, accusations, complaints and worries.” Christina also shared, “Four Simple Questions Your Family Should Ask.”

Social Media & Blogging

I came across this great post by Belle Beth Cooper about “How to Find Your Best Time to Tweet: The 4 Most Accurate Methods.” Included is this depiction of the best time during the day to Tweet, found on this timeline and graph.

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

Leslie Gaines-Ross shared about “What CEOs Have Learned about Social Media.” Check this out and especially spend a few minutes reflecting on the five included tips to improve social media engagement.

Friend and professor Dr. Ron Byrnes shared some miscellaneous thoughts and links with his post, “All Things Considered- Long Weekend Edition.”

Jessica Stillman shared “10 Tricks to Write Radically Better Emails.”

Jessica Malnik shared a helpful list of “33 Social Media Groups and Chats You Should Know About.”


I was inspired by these three videos and stories from the Southwestern Washington Synod about congregations, faith communities and leaders engaged in deep listening and doing ministry in new ways in “My Offering at Work.”

Michelle at Making Sense of Cents shared “Memorial Day and Some Summer Spending Statistics,” as well as “What Hopping Around Countries Taught Me About Money.”

Stefanie shared about “Bad College Habits Busted.”

DC at Young Adult Money shared a list of “5 Personal Finance Books on my ‘To Read’ List,” while Erin at Young Adult Money shared “5 Financial Quotes to Live By.”

In a post that’s just as relevant as a year ago, friend and Director of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center, Marcia Shetler wrote, “Congratulations- and Condolences? Graduates and Student Debt.”


Friend and pastor Brian Mundt shared this resource to “Improve Your Vocabulary with the ‘Wheel of Feelings.'”

Friends Katie and Will continued their adventures and experiences abroad, and updated us on their blog over the past week about how things are going now in Cameroon. They wrote and shared: fruit inspired posts like “A Mango a Day…“and “I’m Going BANANAS!!!!“; interesting advice and observations like “Don’t Poop in the Churchyard… and other things Americans take for granted…“; and other observations in “Crickets in the Shower- and Other Bits of Life.”

As a morning person I appreciate this post from Leo Babauta with ideas about “Creating a Lovely Morning.”

Friend and blogger Julia Nelson shared some vocationally related posts in her “Friday Favorites” with some great looking photos and her “Sunday Snippets.”

Parker Palmer shared reflections about “The Gift of Good Questions.”

Friend, pastor and blogger Diane Roth shared some vocational and life reflections in “Stuff.”

Omid Safi shared reflections in “The Power of the Glance.”

Friend Dr. Deanna Thompson shared a happy life update in “A Hopeful Start to Summer.”

Have you ever heard about a “Life Audit?” If not, or if you are intrigued, check out this post by Ximena Vengoechea.

PLU friend Lace Smith shared reflections about PLU’s Commencement from this past weekend in “A Great Day to Be A Lute! #PLUGrads.”


That will conclude this week’s edition of the links. I hope you have enjoyed them! As always, if you have things to include in future editions of the links, please let me know. Also, if you have topics, ideas or questions for me to dig into as the focus of a blog post (or two or three) please let me know that too. Until next time, thank you for reading and being part of the conversation. Blessings on your week! -TS

Image Credits: The Links, “Monsenor Oscar Arnulfo Romero…Santo de America!,” Frank Glick’s photo of eagle on grave, and “gospel marrow.”

Openness to Imagination and the Church

I recently re-read the first social statement of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), “The Church In Society: A Lutheran Perspective,” adopted at the Churchwide Assembly in 1991. This statement laid the groundwork for the importance of such social statements and all the statements that have since been written. They have helped ground the conversation about the identity of the church (and this particular denomination of it) and its relationship and vocations in the world.

Overall, I think it is still a very nice introductory statement now 24 years later. But, as I re-read it, one word and concept jumped out at me more than any other. There is a recognition of the importance of imagination. Early in the statement and under the heading of “The Church’s Responsibility in Society,” it reads that:

“As a reconciling and healing presence, this church is called to minister to human need with compassion and imagination” (3).

imaginationThis idea of imagination I find encouraging and hopeful, especially as we ponder the church today in our post-Christendom contexts. As we celebrate Pentecost this weekend, we also acknowledge the fire of the Spirit and how in pondering “What God might be up to,” we are called to wonder, sense, imagine and even co-create with God as God leads us through the Holy Spirit.

Later in the statement, there is discussion and reflection about being “A Community of Moral Deliberation.” Again the idea of imagination is included, as the statement reads:

“Transformed by faith, this church in its deliberation draws upon the God-given abilities of human beings to will, to reason, and to feel. This church is open to learn from experience, knowledge and imagination of all people, in order to have the best possible information and understanding of today’s world. To act justly and effectively, this church needs to analyze social and environmental issues critically and to probe the reasons why the situation is as it is” (6).

I believe it shows great humility on the part of the church to recognize that we are still learning, discovering, and growing into what it means and might mean to be the church. We are still discerning and will continue to discerning, what we are called to as Children of God. We recognize that God provides different gifts, strengths and passions and works through them in all people in different ways. It is important to remember this, because when we forget I believe we turn inward, relying completely on what we know now, and no longer asking and wondering with imagination what God might be up to in a new way in the world.

For the work and ministry I feel called into and find myself serving, I find great hope in the church’s openness to imagination. When I see congregations that are being innovative in responding to needs in their neighborhoods and the world, I am overjoyed. When I hear of and see synods and denominations that are willing to try new things for the sake of the gospel and caring for the neighbor, I am encouraged. When I see institutions of the church and para-church organizations (schools, seminaries, social ministry, nonprofits, NGOs, etc.) actively working to provide new experiences and new ways of doing things to continue pondering “what God might be up to” that only affirms me more in the work and ministry I feel part of and see myself as a partner of and collaborator with.

Images of Palm Sunday
Signs of Baptism and Baptismal Promises in Worship

All of this is possible when we remember all we do is grounded in the Gospel and Good News. I have been reminded of this recently, and been helped to further articulate my understanding of what this might mean through the gift of being intentionally coached through the baptismal promises this spring by friend and pastor Sara Vanderpan, as an initiative of the ELCA. I am grateful for Sara’s conversations, support and accompaniment in this process.

In my own journey, it is coming at a great time. This week I am beginning to write my approval essay and other such materials as part of the process of being more formalized in my denomination as an “Associate in Ministry.” In writing and preparing these materials I am going to continue to build off of these reminders of the baptismal promises and the importance of imagination as a gift of the Spirit.

Now it’s your turn. With this in mind, and in celebrating the gift of the Holy Spirit this Pentecost weekend, How do you make room for imagination in your life? In your ministry? In your leadership? 

Image Credits: Imagination.

This Week’s Links

Internet1Tuesdays on the blog mean that I get to share some of what I have found interesting and thought provoking over the past week. To help make sense of all these links, I have grouped them into the following topic categories for you: Church and Ministry Thought & Practice; Cross-Sector Collaboration; Leadership Thought & Practice; Millennials; Neighbor Love; Social Media & Blogging; Stewardship; Vocation and Miscellaneous. I hope you enjoy these links!


Church and Ministry Thought & Practice

Can you believe that we have already traveled through the entire season of Easter? That means that this coming weekend is Pentecost. In preparation for worship, sermons, messages and other creative ideas I am happy to share a host of Pentecost related resources with all of you.

What Pentecost Sunday may look like in a sanctuary near you.
What Pentecost Sunday may look like in a sanctuary near you.

First of all, spend some time with this podcast about the “Day of Pentecost” with friends and professors Rev. Dr. Karoline Lewis, Rev. Dr. Matthew Skinner and Rev. Dr. Rolf Jacobson. As Matt Skinner is a New Testament scholar who has spent a great deal of time and research on the book of Acts and the Pauline writings, you might guess that he has quite a bit to say and share about Pentecost. A few years ago when I was still one of his students Matt wrote, “Pentecost: When Christians Dream.” He also has shared this “Commentary on Acts 2:1-21,” which I think you might appreciate. In a post written this week for Pentecost, Matt wrote and shared, “Sorry, Presidential Candidates: Hope Resides in Groans, not in Your Rhetoric,” based on Romans 8:22-27. Karoline Lewis also shared a Pentecost inspired post in “Spirit Feelings.”

Also with Pentecost in mind, check out Rev. Dr. David Lose’s reflections in “Pentecost B: Come Alongside, Holy Spirit!” as well as thoughts and ideas from Bishop Michael Rinehart in “Pentecost B.”

Church and Social Media (#ChSocM) shared a transcript from their weekly chat about, “Planning, Branding and Audience.”

If you are using the Narrative Lectionary and planning to use the Psalm series appointed for this summer, then definitely check out this post and resource from Rev. Dr. Rolf Jacobson, “Commentary on Drinking Deeply from the Psalms.”

LEAD shared a post by Jessica Noonan with thoughts about “Making Our Churches Safe for Everyone.”

Have you ever wondered about what religion looks like in your context? If so, check out this project from the Public Religion Research Institute.

The big story from the past week was the release of a report and study from Pew Research about “America’s Changing Religious Landscape.” By now about a week later it has led to a number of responses and reflections. At some point, I might offer my two cents on the blog, but in the meantime, all of the following reflections should hold you over. Peter Manseau wrote and reflected one of the better responses in, “Thou Shalt Worship None of the Above.” Friend, pastor and blogger Erik Gronberg shared some thoughts and reflections in “Labels.” Nate Pyle wrote and shared, “The Pew Study and Being Driven to Drink.” John Pavlovitz added to the conversation writing, “Shift Happens: Why American Christianity Dying, is a Good Thing.” Friend and pastor Eric Bodenstab wrote, “Overstated Headlines Lie about Death of Christianity in U.S.” From the Pacific Northwest, Rev. Alissa Newton noted about “Why that Pew Report is great news for the Church.”  And from another Lutheran perspective, writer and pastor Clint Schnekloth shared, “Mainline Self-Loathing/mainlinedecline/Mainline Protestant Gaze.” Check out all of these different takes and see what you think. What might you add to the conversation?

Brian Dodd shared a couple helpful posts for church and ministry. Brian shared, “Encouragement for Every Church Volunteer Who Wonders if What They Do Really Matters.” Brian also offered, “14 Characteristics of Great Church Leadership Meetings.”

Blogger and pastor Jan Edmiston wrote and asked, “Who Are the Most Creative Leaders in Church Leadership?

Blogger and pastor Nurya Love Parish shared a couple posts, “This is how renewal starts- reflections on #EpiscopalResurrection,” as well as news that “Episcopalians To Consider Food Ministry Resolution.”

A beautiful artistic post by Vonda Drees called, "beauty in brokenness."
A beautiful artistic post by Vonda Drees called, “beauty in brokenness” based on 2 Corinthians 4:7.

Friend, pastor and blogger Diane Roth wrote and shared, “Kairos.” In this she writes, “The message that morning was about Kairos time — not the same as the time on our watches, not chronological time, but the right time, the acceptable time, the time of opportunity.  “it is your time,” he said to the confirmands.  “It is your time to serve, your time to follow Jesus, your time to say yes to the grace and beauty and love of God in your life.”  Those aren’t the exact words, but that is what I heard.This is your time — the right time, the acceptable time.  That’s the message that the confirmands heard, but not just those eleven students.  Is it the right time for us as well?  Who is Jesus calling us to be?  How is Jesus calling us to follow?” Check out the whole post!

John Pavlovitz shared, “A Pastor’s Apology to the Single Community.”

Candice Czubernat wrote and shared about “Gays and the Church.”

Blogger and Vicar Eric Worringer wrote and shared, “The New Doctor(s) of the Church.”

Stephanie Kirchgaessner and Jonathan Watts shared news that about how the “Catholic church warms to liberation theology as founder heads to Vatican.”

Cross-Sector Collaboration

NWB reflected about “Why the Sustainability Myth is just as destructive as the Overhead Myth.” Check this out, especially if you are in leadership of non-profits or if you care about their work, mission, development and stewardship.

Have you heard about “This 23-Year-Old (who) Built and Sold his Startup while in School?

Julian Stodd shared great insights for leadership, life and organizations with more of his blog posts over the past week. Among these he shared thoughts and ideas about the importance of stories and narrative in “The Story Machine.” Julian also shared thoughts in and about, “Handshakes” as well as “Groundswell: waves of change.”

Leadership Thought & Practice

Last fall, Bruce Jones at the Disney Institute wrote and asked, “Why Is Vision Critical for Leadership Success?

Lolly Daskal shared a couple very thought provoking posts. She shared this post from last fall, “Lead By Example Others Will Follow,” as well as more recent thoughts in “The Act of Empowering Others Changes Lives.” Lolly reflects especially about the following ways of empowering others: by helping them reach new heights; by appreciating them; by having the right attitude; by sharing information and giving them what they need; by modeling the way of empowerment; and by grooming others for leadership.

Bill Gates
Bill Gates

Bernard Marr shared a list of “The 15 Biggest Body Language Mistakes to Watch Out For.”

Brian Dodd shared “18 Leadership Quotes and Lessons from Bill Gates TED Talk.”

Dan Rockwell, “The Leadership Freak,” shared a number of great posts and reflections over the past week. These included: “Coaching to Capitalize on Frustration“; “Cows and New Gates“; “7 Ways to Put in More than You Take Out“; “12 Ways to Get People to Listen to You“; “10 Ways to Discern Rather than Condemn” and “Half the Team Doesn’t Trust the Boss.”

As we are in the midst of commencement and graduation season, “Here Are the Famous People Giving Graduation Speeches Across America.”

Justin Irving wrote and shared, “Engaging in Honest Self-Evaluation (Leadership Practice 2).”

Steve Keating shared thoughts in “Write Better Emails, Not Bitter Emails.”

Dan Forbes shared a guest post by Meaghan Sullivan at Lead with Giants entitled, “Great Leaders Pay it Forward.” Meaghan highlights the following points: choose carefully who deserves a break; be the sort of mentor that an emerging leader needs; bring all the right pieces into alignment; make a difference on a grander scale; and be the kind of leader you want to see in the world.

Tanveer Naseer wrote and shared, “This is What Real Leaders Do.”

Bill Taylor writes that, “The Best Leaders, ‘Talk the Walk.'”

Gretchen Spreitzer, Peter Bacevice and Lyndon Garrett shared thoughts and explained, “Why People Thrive in Coworking Spaces.” Check this out and see what you think.

Brian Fielkow reflected and shared about, “Tom Brady, ‘Deflategate’ and the Lesson for Business Leaders.”

For all the Muppets lovers like me out there, KC Ifeanyi writes and shared about innovation and creativity in “The Life and Rebirth of Jim Henson and the Muppets.”


Jon Mertz shared thoughts about Millennials and the workplace in “Separate, Segment Or Integrate: How Businesses Are Handling Gen-Y.”

Clay Forsberg shared thoughts about “Bridging the Gap.”

Jeremy Chandler at Thin Difference reflected about “What Millennials Should Know about Fear and Chasing Dreams.”

Also at Thin Difference, Jon Mertz wrote and shared that “Graduation is Just a Phase,” a timely reflection as we are in the midst of commencement and graduation season.

In a related post on the subject of graduation, Chelsea Krost shared a post by Jasmine Crockett about “What They Didn’t Prepare You For After College.”

Kern Carter wrote and explained, “Visualize, Execute, and Learn to Let Go- Lessons for Life.”

DC over at Young Adult Money shared thoughts about the “Top Mistakes Millennials Make When Investing.”

In one more response to the aforementioned Pew Research report from last week, Daniel Burke wrote and shared, “Millennials leaving church in droves, study finds.”

Friend, pastor and blogger Aaron Fuller shared provocative thoughts about Millennials in writing about “What the 1% teaches us about the problem with the Millennial Obsession.” What do you think?

Rev. Dr. David Lose offers some great insights, questions and ideas related to faith, stewardship, vocation and Millennials in writing, “Faith Is Action.”

Here’s a post by a Millennial pastor simply titled, “Dear Millennials.”

Neighbor Love

In a story of neighbor love in action, here’s a story about a 911 operator who went above and beyond the call of duty to serve a man in need and to care and be in relationship with that neighbor.

Chad Bird offered an important reminder to “Don’t Tell Hurting People that God’s in Control.”

Friend, blogger and Ph.D. student Sara Wilhelm Garbers shared great reflections in “Living in the Face of Fear.” She also shared her recent sermon that was preached at First Covenant Church in Minneapolis, “Peace that Saturates Us.”

The Economist shared a provocative and enlightening article about race and society in “The fire and the fuel: What a dead white man can teach America about inner-city decay.”

Jamil Dakwar shared the news about how the “UN Issues Scathing Assessment of US Human Rights Record.”

Another gorgeous piece of artwork by Vonda Drees, "waters breaking forth."
Another gorgeous piece of artwork by Vonda Drees, “waters breaking forth.”

Friend, blogger and artist Vonda Drees shared a number of beautiful posts over the past week. These included: “fall into a larger brightness“; “make the circle bigger…“; “waters breaking forth“; “seeing with the eyes of love“; “beauty in brokenness,” based on the missional idea of treasure in clay jars found in 2 Corinthians 4:7; a post inspired by LEAD’s disciple frame, “living everyday as disciples“; as well as the questions “What reached me today? How deep did it imprint?

Lutheran World Federation shared news that “LWF’s Dr. Prabin Manandhar joins disaster committee in Nepal.”

Nekima Levy-Pounds wrote that, “Ferguson and Minneapolis are closer than we think.” Give this some thought.

Friend, pastor and blogger Diane Roth shared thoughts and reflections in “The Scenic Route.”

Blogger and pastor Jan Edmiston shared reflections about “Praying Well with Others.”

Friend, intern pastor and blogger Chris Michaelis shared his sermon for the past weekend based on the Narrative Lectionary’s text of Romans 6:1-14 entitled, “Learning to Swim.”

Pastor, blogger and writer Clint Schnekloth shared “Texting the Faith: Salvation and Christianity Explained.”

Friend, pastor and blogger Aaron Fuller shared his sermon for this past weekend based on the Narrative Lectionary’s focus text Romans 6:1-14 in “It’s about a death.”

RJ Grunewald shared exciting news about a commentary that he synthesized in Galatians: Selections from Martin Luther’s Commentary.

Over at Humanosphere, Tom Murphy shared and wrote that the “Status quo won’t end extreme poverty by 2030, think tank says.”

Friend, pastor and blogger Frank Johnson shared his sermon from a week ago based on Romans 5:1-11, “Senselessness, Suffering, and Salvation.”

The Humanosphere provided a guest post by Melody Schreiber about “The struggle to get aid to quake survivors in Nepal.

Friend and pastor Todd Buegler shared a piece that he recently published in the Owatonna People’s Press, We Only Have One Job.” Within this Todd writes, “We only have one job:  to stay connected.  We nurture the connection that comes as a gift from God, and we stay connected to each other.  Everything else flows from there.  Let go of your need to control (and I’ll try and do the same!) and trust in God who does the work, and who grows the fruit.”

Social Media & Blogging

Are you looking for blog post ideas? If so, check out “The Ultimate List of Blog Post Ideas,” as compiled by Russ Henneberry.

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

Write to Done asked and shared, “Are You Using this Simple Way to get more shares on Social Media? 9 Tools to Help You.

Friend and communications strategist Carrie Gubsch shared this post by Kevan Lee featuring, “Collaboration Tools for Social Media Teams: You Don’t Have to Do it All Alone.”

Carol Lynn Rivera shared, “10 Things I Learned About Content Creation from 100 Episodes of Podcasting.”


Friend and “Classy Frugalist,” Grace Duddy Pomroy shared a timely post for recent and soon-to-be graduates, offering “Frugal Tips for Recent Graduates.”

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner wrote and shared, “Stop Using These 6 Ridiculous Excuses For Not Saving Money.”

DC at Young Adult Money shared “8 Ways to Make Money Blogging.”

During the month of May, the COMPASS blog is providing space for reflecting on the question of “What’s next?” This is an important question for all those in transition or graduating. The series continued last week with a guest post by Beryl Jantzi, “Baby Steps Towards a Financially Balanced Life.”

Stefanie shared a couple great posts including, “The Not So Obvious Rules of Travel Hacking,” as well as “Making Room for New Spending Priorities.”

Pastor Tania Haber shared some great thoughts about “Online Giving.”


Friend and blogger Julia Nelson shared a couple vocationally rich posts as always including her “Tuesday Tea Time” as well as her “Friday Favorites.”

Friend and musician Stephanie Johnson shared thoughts and reflections in “What am I getting out of music, teaching and living life?

My wife and I on the campus of Pacific Lutheran University in the Fall of 2012 (where we met, graduated from, later got engaged...etc.)
My wife and I on the campus of Pacific Lutheran University in the Fall of 2012

In a post that brings back great memories of Pacific Lutheran University, here is Madeleine’s “PLU Bucket List.”

Friend, pastor and blogger Diane Roth shared some “Lessons from (her) Mother.”

Brianna Johnson shared “20 Paradoxes that Give Us Wisdom and Perspective.”

Friend and blogger Jenna Reyna shared pictures and thoughts from her family’s recent “Alaskan Cruise.”


If you grew up enjoying Thomas the Tank Engine like I did, then you should check out this post by Elizabeth Blair pondering, “Just How Do ‘Thomas & Friends’ Drive Sodor’s Economy?” It’s a very interesting read.

Friend and professor Dr. Ron Byrnes writes that “We Need a Different Sports Narrative.” What do you think?


That will conclude this week’s edition of the links. I hope you have enjoyed them! As always, if you have things to include in the links, please let me know. Also, if you have ideas or questions for future blog posts, please let me know those too. Until next time, thank you for reading and being part of the conversation. Blessings on your week! -TS

Image Credits: The Links; Pentecost; “beauty in brokenness,” Bill Gates; and “waters breaking forth.”

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. To help make sense of all these links, I have grouped them by the following topic categories: Church and Ministry Thought & Practice; Cross-Sector Collaboration; Leadership Thought & Practice; Millennials; Neighbor Love; Social Media & Blogging; Stewardship; Vocation and Miscellaneous. I hope you enjoy these links!

Church and Ministry Thought & Practice

In case you are planning worship or a sermon for later this week, Bishop Michael Rinehart shared some reflections about “Ascension B.” If it’s helpful, I also shared this post about Ascension Day last year.

Rev. Dr. David Lose asked a timely and provocative question, asking and reflecting about “What Are We Protecting?” Great question! How would you respond? Lose also shared a post for those preparing for worship this coming weekend, “Easter 7B: Called and Sent.”

Friend and professor Rev. Dr. Karoline Lewis wonderfully wrote, “Choose Joy.” Karoline also posted this on her own blog here, grounded in John 15:9-17. Spend some time with this post! Karoline also shared her post for this coming weekend, Easter 7, in sharing this reflection based on John 17, asking, “What Makes You Feel Alive?

Rebekah Simon-Peter shared thoughts about “Why Clergy Get Kicked Out.” Special attention is given to: excessive conflict, too little conflict and no results.

Ben Stroup shared “4 Behaviors Costing Your Church Money and Shared Vision.” Ben specifically highlights and unpacks the following behaviors: pastors who stay on the sidelines; stewards who leave their business sense at the office; an attitude of “not my church”; and marginalizing or excluding seniors.

News broke last week that the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg is now a Reconciling in Christ Seminary.

A little over four years ago, some friends and I concocted a fun experiment with brackets and seminarian’s favorite hymns and worship songs to coincide with March Madness. In some fashion or another I ended up running that experiment for a couple years consecutively after that fun. I’m sharing this because four years later our little experiment has become sort of a subject to an article by Paul Koch in an academic journal, The Cressettitled, “Hymn Brackets.” Check it out and see what you think.

My brother Thomas and his friend Mingo Johnson at Redeemer Lutheran on Easter Sunday.
My brother Thomas and his friend Mingo Johnson at Redeemer Lutheran on Easter Sunday.

Emily McFarlan Miller wrote and shared about, “4 Churches Changing Everything: a look at some of America’s most innovative church bodies,” including Redeemer Lutheran Church in Minneapolis.

Last month I had the privilege to attend and participate in the Academy of Religious Leadership’s annual conference and meeting. I finally got around to writing some about my experiences last week.

Rev. Dr. Will Willimon shared, “Being Present in Our Preaching.”

Friend and communications strategist Carrie Gubsch shared this interesting article by Dr. Elizabeth Drescher, “Let Kds Choose Church. I Double Dare You.” Definitely check this out and see what you think.

Christina Embree shared, “What if They Ask… (and They Will): 4 Thoughts on answering the questions.” The four thoughts she noted are: don’t react in fear; expect the questions; ask the questions and rely on Christ.

Pastor, blogger and writer Clint Schnekloth shared, “Take a vacation from church.”

John Pavlovitz wrote and shared, “Loving the Church Enough to Leave It.”

Church and Social Media (#ChSocM) shared a transcript from its conversation last week, focused on “Using social media to inform, organize and mobilize faith communities.”

RJ Grunewald shared this post “To Those Beaten Up by the Church.”

Rachel Held Evans shared, “7 Ways to Welcome Young People to the Mainline.” The ways that Rachel highlights includes: update your website; take risks on unconventional church plants; infuse the traditional liturgy and sacraments with some creativity; relax a little; don’t assume we know why you believe what you believe, or why you do what you do; challenge us; and help us build lasting relationships.

If you are looking for a great worship and music conference to attend this summer, check out “Called to be a Living Voice,” with a focus on vocation, Reformation and mission.

Here’s a story from last week about “Catholics and Lutherans looking ahead to Reformation anniversary.”

Friend, pastor and blogger Diane Roth shared a couple posts full of ministry and life reflections in “The Destination, Not the Journey,” as well as “Sunday.”

Marcus Traxler shared miraculous news from South Dakota in, “An answered prayer: Sunday school class safe during tornado.”

Cross-Sector Collaboration

Blogger, social leader and thinker Julian Stodd shared a number of wonderful and thought provoking posts over the past week. He wrote and shared: “Iteration,” “I Want to be Elected: Democratised Debate,” “I Need to Explore,” and “Confounded by the Unknown: Without a Paddle.” Check out all these posts.

Friend and professor Dr. Mary Hess also shared a post highlighting Julian Stodd’s work on “Social Learning,” and social leadership.

NWB shared an interesting post about “Standardized answers to the Sustainability Question.”

Personal Branding Blog shared about, “Home Grown Businesses Who Do Well by Doing Good.”

Leadership Thought & Practice

Dan Rockwell shared a number of intriguing posts over the past week. Dan wrote and shared: “10 Ways to Reconnect with the Big Picture,” “How to Get People to Take Responsibility,” “Never Tell Eagles to Stop Soaring,” “10 Ways to Shorten Long Meetings,” and  thoughts about “How to Seize Growth Points.”

Jason Shah shared thoughts about “How to Rethink Your Unnecessary Meetings.”

Tanveer Naseer shared ideas about “Creating a Workplace Environment Where Employees Matter.”

Cranston Holden shared a helpful infographic finishing the statement, “Employees stay when…

Peyton Manning
Peyton Manning

Brian Dodd shared a couple posts that caught my eye. First, for all the football fans out there, he shared “56 Leadership Lessons and quotes from Peyton Manning.” Brian also shared, “10 Tips on Picking a Great Leader for your Church or Business.”

Speaking of football, another quarterback has been in the news lately and has not fared nearly as well. With this in mind, John Pavlovitz wrote, “Hey, Tom Brady…” Check it out and see what you think.

Anne Loehr shared “Four Ways to Amp Up Your Emotional Intelligence Today.”

Justin Irving wrote and shared, “Model what Matters (Leadership Practice 1).”

Steve Keating wrote and shared a couple good posts, “Ask Why When Considering a Policy,” and “The Courage to Confront.”

Dan Forbes shared a guest post by Dayne Gingrich reflecting about “The Power of the Leader.”

Adam Pisoni shared, “Here’s Why Should Care about Holacracy.” The sub-title is perhaps even more helpful than the article’s title, “The ‘Leaderless’ workplace structure is sweeping companies like Zappos and Medium. Here’s Why.” Definitely check this article out!

I came across this post over the past week titled, “Forget Calls-to-Action, Focus on Obvious Next Steps.” What do you think?

Peter Cohan shared “Six Leadership Skills Not Quite Taught at Harvard Business School.” The lessons are: inspiration doesn’t come from the top, it comes from customers; vision is nice, but results matter; low tech can be better than high-tech; listening is more important than talking; you can’t do it all yourself; and leadership is simple.

In honor of Mother’s Day, Bob Tiede shared, “10 Questions to Ask Your Mom or Grandma on Mother’s Day.

Also in honor of Mother’s Day, Lolly Daskal shared, “The Most Important Leadership Lessons You Can Learn Only from Mom.”


Jon Mertz at Thin Difference shared ideas on “Crafting a Conscious Culture.” Within this Jon shared three elements to crafting a conscious culture: give separately, work together in purpose; care for community equals care for team members; and a flattened hierarchy of needs.

Thin Difference shared a guest post by Scott Savage, arguing that “Entitlement is Stealing Our Future.” Not only are there good thoughts about leadership and Millennials in this, there is also good stuff on gratitude with implications for stewardship. Scott shared three ideas for cultivating gratitude in one’s life: exercise your gratitude muscles; understand that gratitude does not change your experience, but rather gratitude changes your perception of your experience; and stick with gratitude long enough for it to build generosity and contentment.

Also over at Thin Difference, Molly Page shared, “Failing All the Way to Success,” featuring thoughts and insights from writer and speaker Paul Angone.

Chelsea Krost shared a post by Matthew Stepp, “Millennials Re-envisioning Environmentalism and Climate Policy.”

Keith Anderson wrote and shared, “Coming Clean on Bringing Millennials Back to Church.”

The Huffington Post shared and pondered, “What Is the Future of Faith? These 10 Millennials May Hold The Answer.” Check this out and spend some time with it.

Neighbor Love

If you haven’t seen or read this yet, here’s your moving story from the week, “Big Bird’s heartbreaking story from his Reddit AMA.”

"With Whom Did I Feel Most Myself?" by Vonda Drees
“With Whom Did I Feel Most Myself?” by Vonda Drees

Friend, blogger and artist Vonda Drees shared a number of gorgeous and beautiful posts over the past week. These included: “Abiding reveals…“; “With whom did I feel most myself?“; “a feather’s influence“; “Love“; “Saturdays with Isaiah“; “the pace of Mother Nature“; “Love, rescue us“; and “a bigger arc.”

Matt Rawle shared thoughts about “Understanding Privilege.”

My cousin Kevin Tengesdal shared an important letter to the editor, writing, “Change the monologue.”

Pastor, blogger and writer Clint Schnekloth shared, “Race, Reparations, Restoration and Reconciliation.”

Chanequa Walker-Barnes wrote and shared, “White Feminist Privilege and the War on Mother’s Day.” What do you think?

In a story that certainly caught my eye because of the injustice and inequality in the United States, Arturo Garcia shared that “America’s richest congressman says poor in the US are ‘envy of the world.” In response to this story, Tom Murphy at Humanosphere wrote that “Darrell Issa is wrong, India better on income inequality than the U.S.”

Also over at Humanosphere, Tom Paulson shared that “PATH is on a ‘new’ campaign for global health equity,” as well as news from Tom Murphy that a “Record 38 million people are displaced in their own countries.

Rachel Held Evans shared, “Follow Friday: The Women of Why Christian?” Check out this post and these wonderful women leaders, including friend and pastor Jodi Houge. Rachel also shared, “How to be a Christian on the Internet: 6 Questions and a New Series.”

Nixon Boumba shared important thoughts on “How not to rebuild Nepal: lessons from Haiti five years after its earthquake.” Included in this are five important lessons for disaster relief: listen to local people; put money in the hands of local people; reach the most vulnerable people; invest in infrastructure now to prevent larger disasters in the future; and Aid must be coordinated, efficient and transparent.

Jesse James DeConto writes importantly, “Stop saying we’re all the same. It’s not helping.”

"Love Rescues Us" by Vonda Drees
“Love Rescues Us” by Vonda Drees

Bishop Michael Rinehart shared about a new resource that he and friend Megan Dosher Hansen have put together, “A Heart for Reconciliation,” which provides “a walk through 2 Corinthians.” Check this out!

With Mother’s Day in mind, John Pavlovitz shared thoughts “For Those Who Hurt on Mother’s Day.”

Friend and professor Dr. Mary Hess shared, “Interfaith Action!

My friends over at LEAD shared a couple great blog posts over the past week. Jennifer Clark Tinker shared thoughts about “Dealing with differences.” Cindi also shared and asked, “Centered? HUH?

Blogger and Pastor Jan Edmiston writes that, “Lack of Curiosity Might Be a Sin.” See what you thinks, and then contemplate that for yourself.

Social Media & Blogging

Friend and blogger J.W. Wartick shared his version of the links with his “Really Recommended Posts.” This week I’m especially grateful to J.W. for including one of my posts in his curated list. Thank you J.W.!

Are you getting ready for a vacation or summer trip but wondering about what to do with your social media channels? If so, check out this resource from last summer by Kevan Lee featuring, “10 Time-Saving Social Media Tools for a Productive Summer.”

Garrett Moon shared, “Why People Share: The Psychology of Social Sharing.”


Mom and I on the beach on a sunny day in Southern California! Happy Birthday Mom!
Happy belated Mother’s Day to my Mom!

In honor of Mother’s Day, Stefanie shared a post by Sarah Cooney, “Money Lessons from My Mom.”

Friend, stewardship mind and communications strategist Carrie Gubsch shared this helpful post full of great infographics explaining “Why Nonprofit Fundraisers Should Give More Attention to Gen X Donors.”

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner shared a couple good posts from “Making Sense of Cents,” including, “Money Statistics That May Scare You,” and “4 Reasons You Need Life Insurance.”

During the month of May, COMPASS is hosting a series pondering questions about graduation, student loans and life transitions. To kick off the series, I shared an introductory post asking, “What’s Next? Budgeting, Graduation and Student Loans.”

Erin at Young Adult Money asked and pondered, “What Does Financial Independence Look Like?


My wife Allison shared a beautiful and moving post titled, “California rain.” Within this Allison writes, “California rain. It pours. In my anxiety, I turn to see if he feels it pouring too, but see him smiling, offering me to join him under the awning. All I can feel is grateful.”

Friend and blogger Julia Nelson shared her vocationally rich weekly installments of “Tuesday Tea Time,” “Friday Favorites,” and “Sunday Snippets.”

David Brooks asked an important vocational question, “What Is Your Purpose?

Friend, professor and mentor Dr. Terri Elton shared life and vocational updates in “…and she returns!” There are good insights which I think any family with college students can relate to about the process of going to school, and coming “home” for the summer, among other things.

Friend and blogger Hannah Heinzekehr shared life updates in “On Somedays.”

PLU shared a nice video explaining why “Mentorship Matters.”

Friend and professor Dr. Ron Byrnes wrote, “I Need Your Help.”

Friend, pastor and blogger Diane Roth wrote and shared, “With or Without Thinking About It.”

Last week I also wrote and shared on the blog a post about “Spinning Round and Round.”


Do you enjoy traveling and doing so on a budget? If so, check out these great tips in “Flight attendant secrets for exploring a new city on a dime.”

Also, the next time I am lucky enough to be in Washington D.C., I want to be sure and visit the “Smithsonian Air & Space Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport.”


That will conclude this week’s edition of the links. I hope you have enjoyed them! As always, if you have things to include in future editions of the links, or questions or topics to share about and wrestle with on the blog, please let me know. Until next time, thank you for reading and being part of the conversation, and blessings on your week! -TS

Image Credits: The Links; Peyton Manning; “With Whom Did I Feel Most Myself?“; and “Love Rescue Us.”

Academy of Religious Leadership

This post is long overdue. In the middle of April I had the pleasure and privilege of attending and participating in the Academy of Religious Leadership’s Annual Meeting and Conference. This year’s theme for the event was, “Innovation and Leadership.” 

Going for a walk with Dr. Terri Elton and friends
Going for a walk with Dr. Terri Elton and friends

In attending and participating in the Academy of Religious Leadership (ARL) last month I had one feeling that struck me more than anything, “I’ve found my people.” There’s something that happens when you find community, a feeling of peace and affirmation. But in experiencing ARL, I felt more than just a community I felt like I was in community with people who also live at the intersection points of leadership and leadership theory, and ministry, theology and religion. If you follow this blog at all, you know that at its core are points of intersection across sectors.

So it was such a joy that my friend and mentor Dr. Terri Elton not only invited me but helped make it possible for me to attend. Terri, I am grateful and indebted to you. I am also grateful that the congregation I am currently serving helped with some of the expenses as well as part of my “continuing education.”

The discussion was amazing. Rev. Dr. Dwight Zscheile, one of my favorite professors from Luther Seminary, kicked us off with a presentation and discussion on “Disruptive Innovation and the Deinstitutionalization of Religion.” It was a conversation grounded in part based on his recently released book The Agile Church, but also as a sort of a follow-up. There were also presentations and discussions on the intersections of innovation and creativity, identity construction and the tension between innovation and tradition. One of the questions we pondered together with Dr. Scott Cormode was, “How do we pursue innovation when our credibility depends on continuity with the past and fidelity with tradition?” I also greatly appreciated the idea as a counter to the more usual leader-follower dynamic that Scott shared, that as he sees it, “leaders do not have followers; they have people entrusted to their care.”

In front of the Bean
In front of the Bean

In addition to the discussion and learning, the food was fantastic. During a lunch break Allison and I briskly walked down to the Bean and Millennium Park, just because I had never seen either before as I had never previously spent time in downtown Chicago. That evening we all enjoyed wonderful and authentic Chicago cuisine, especially deep dish pizza, at Gino’s East, a famous pizza restaurant a block a way from the hotel where our conference was taking place. The pizza and the conversation around it might have been worth the whole conference alone, it was so good.

Together at the Bean
Together at the Bean

Even more than the discussion, location and food, the people were amazing. All of the ARL participants I met are humble, affirming, and great conversation partners. No one had to take care of an ego, or felt defensive it seemed. Rather, each was generally interested in learning about each other’s stories, and catching up with old friends and colleagues. It was a joy for me to connect in person with people I have read their work over the years, in classes and online. It was also nice to connect not only with people from Luther Seminary, but especially with other thinkers and leaders from places like Claremont and Fuller Seminary, but also with people from Boston, Chicago, and even as far a way as Belgium at this conference.

We had a wonderful weekend at ARL and in Chicago. Thank you to all for helping make it happen!
We had a wonderful weekend at ARL and in Chicago. Thank you to all for helping make it happen!

It was a gathering with high gratitude for one another. There was time spent towards the end of the gathering to share things we were grateful for about fellow conversation partners around our tables. That was humbling and affirming. I was welcomed, and even more so, the group welcomed Allison with open arms. Allison tagged along with me to spend the weekend together away from Minnesota. I think Allison enjoyed the learning as much as I did, and certainly the conversations and meeting with new people as much as I did too.

To everyone who participated and helped make the time so rich and wonderful, thank you! I am already looking forward to next year’s meeting and conference, and hope (and trust) that I will be able to again attend and participate.

Spinning Round and Round

As I sit here and take some time to write with you all today, I am struck by the fact that my head keeps feeling like its spinning round and round. No, I am not feeling dizzy. But, I am feeling like my world is in the process of becoming really “topsy-turvey.” This isn’t a new experience for me, and probably its a normal part of the life and fields my wife and I have felt called into. I have written before about the idea of being in perpetual discernment, so there is that too.

"Round and round we go..."
“Round and round we go…”

In the midst of the craziness, I have come to the following conclusions:

I love people who are imaginative, willing to experiment and bend over backwards to make things work. I have little patience for people, institutions or organizations who put processes ahead of people. 

Maybe it’s the fact that I believe in the gospel to such a deep extent. Maybe its because I also believe in the business ethics and philosophies of Peter Drucker. Maybe its because I believe that the future of ministry will rely heavily on leaders who are willing to try new things and innovate, be intentional listeners, and courageous members of their communities willing to ask and wonder about “What might God be up to here?”

Lately, I have had a number of amazing experiences where these ideas have been lived out and experienced. I have witnessed them in the work I am currently doing in a congregational setting, as well is in conversations with a few other congregations and synods. I have experienced the desire and importance of innovation in gathering and thinking with other religious leadership minds at the Academy of Religious Leadership. I have wondered and learned with other stewardship thinkers and leaders at the North American Conference on Christian Philanthropy. For that alone, you might think my head is spinning.

But, at the same time, I have also felt like I have been running into a wall of sorts. It’s not an insurmountable wall, but I feel like this innovation and desire to seriously be a servant and leader who views innovation and entrepreneurship as essential has been met suspiciously by some people.

I am not writing today to complain. I am not even writing to point out the inconsistencies I have seen among facets of the church and its many institutions that I am part of. I am writing today to simply say, my head is spinning. I have so many ideas, questions and observations. I just hope (and trust) that there are a whole lot more dreamers and innovators like I think there are, then scarcity minded barriers to creating opportunities to experiment. I hope that in the midst of these times of discernment, that I am able to hold on to the trust that God’s abundant love is central.

If I have learned one thing from this journey and from my studies in innovation, the church needs to learn how to “fail faster.” In order to learn this though, congregations and church related institutions have to take experimentation and its importance seriously. That will mean trying new things as it relates to families in seminaries and on internship or first calls (like Allison and I will soon be experiencing). That will mean continuing to imagine what it means to be a “minister” or “associate in ministry” type leader of the church. Honestly, it will also mean at times, the importance of needing to reclaim terms such as “stewardship,” but also words so central, but without one shared understanding, like “the church.” What does it mean to be the church today? What did it mean 500 years ago? How about 50 years ago? What might it mean 5 years from now? How about 50? 

What might these answers mean for my work and ministry and future work and ministry? What might it mean for my wife Allison’s work and ministry, and our shared work and ministry together?

Are you willing to imagine about these questions with me? Are you excited about them? Or, do these questions make you anxious, and leave you hoping for some clarity? No matter how you answered these last few questions, welcome to my head spinning world of late.

Thank goodness that the church, ministry and leadership (as I understand it) are grounded in the promises of the gospel. That they recognize that these roles, responsibilities and opportunities are entrusted to us, and that the people we lead and serve with are “entrusted to our care.” When I remember the grounding of the Good News, even though the world and all these questions may well circle, I can still find it possible to breathe, center and know that it is going to be okay. I am not alone, we are not alone. That’s something I say a hearty “Thanks Be to God” for.

Image Credit: Merry Go Round