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.
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.
Tuesday 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!
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.
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.)
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?
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
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).
This 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.
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?
Tuesdays 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.
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.”
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!
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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
Tuesday 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?”
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.
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 Cresset, titled, “Hymn Brackets.” Check it out and see what you think.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.!
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, 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.
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
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.”
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.