Anyone, and everyone, can lead!

This afternoon I have the privilege of spending time with the camp counselors at Green Lake Ministries. For those who don’t know, Green Lake Ministries has three camp sites, two in southern MN and one in northern MN. Over the years I have known many people who have served in this ministry in some capacity. They entered with a role, short-term or long-term, a heart of Jesus, passion for serving God and eager to be a leader in outdoor ministry. The completed their time of service, months or years, more deeply rooted in faith, with Christian community supporting them, and with enhanced leadership skills for serving God’s church.

What can I say to these 50 adults preparing for another exciting summer of ministry? What difference can I make? What word can I share that, sometime in July when they are tired or next October when they are lonely and questioning faith, will be remembered and matter?

Bottomline – nothing! So rather than be profound, or offer the top ten things outdoor ministry leaders need to know, I’m going to say this – You are already a leader! You have already received a call. Now live into it! Everyone is called to be a leader, because in our world today living a Christian way of life, following Jesus and loving our neighbor and caring about the world God created, is being a leader. Sure some of us lead on a small scale and others lead on a larger scale. Some of us see ourselves as leaders, others of us just call it being a disciple of Jesus. And leading can happen anywhere – at any time.

I’m hoping, at the end of my 90 minutes, a growing number of people in the room believe they are called to lead and that it is not about them, but about God working in and through them. And it might seem odd, at times, or it might feel awesome. That actually doesn’t matter. Leading is seeing an opportunity, an opening to make the world more like the world God imagines it to be, and then going for it. Doing something, being with someone, recognizing someone, praying for peace even in the midst of suffering or violence. All of us, 15 months, 15 years, 50 years, can lead. Will you?

As I was doing some last minute prep, I opened my computer and Facebook came up. I scrolled through and stumbled on two videos that made this point real. If you need encouragement, or a push, today, take some time and watch these stories of two people offering up a bit of themselves for others. It’s amazing.

Your story could be next!

The other is about a man who was having a bad day and was moved to buy a women sitting in her car in the parking lot flowers. (If you can find the link, post it or send it to me.)

And if you want the notes from my presentation, you can get them here:




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For the past several years I have decided on a word that would guide me throughout the year. Based on that word I set goals – annually, quarterly, and monthly – and each day I record one or two things I did that day to advance my goals. At the end of each month, each quarter, and the end of the year I reflect on my actions in relationship to my goals. It’s not a public practice (although I’m currently letting the cat out of the bag), but every now and then I find it helpful to talk about it with other leaders. Today is one of those days.

My word for 2016 is refine. There are several questions I use to make decisions about things that will have longer-term effects on my life. The questions are nice to have because often times I have to make important decisions in a short amount of time and from these questions I can easily rule out some opportunities and just as easily say yes to others. (It’s the middle ones that I struggle with – and often that alone is a sign it’s maybe not the right thing.)

In the past two days I have exercised my questions and made decisions that helped me refine my work. Ironically, the work is not in my paid job, but centers around places I volunteer my time and gifts. One was a yes to a new role, which meant leaving another role; one was a decision to simply step away. One decision I knew was coming, another came unexpectedly. Both feel good and align with my goals for this year and the places I want to make an impact.

I share this with you not to brag or build myself up, but as a leadership lesson I am working on. To truly lead, leaders have to have a sense of direction. For many of us, that direction use to come from external sources – employers, community organizations, family expectations. Today we lead in a world that has flattened and become more complex. Many of us know our employers will be only one area where we can make a difference, so we also invest our time and energy in other places. Many of us see our homes and families as places to experiment and reimagine family life and meaning. And many of us know that our world provides opportunities to lead outside of our work and our homes, and we capitalize on those opportunities. But in that, we can become confused, overwhelmed, and stressed. Having focus certainly helps us navigate all the arenas in our life with purpose and meaning.

I don’t have a neat and tidy way of making decisions. But I have developed some habits for making short-term and long-term decisions that allow me to lean into the places most meaningful for me as a leader, as a mom, and as a person of faith.

I’d love to know if you have developed some simple processes or tools that help you. Share them in the comments below and we can all learn from each other.


Reset in New Jersey


For the past 3 days, over thirty church leaders from Lutheran and Episcopalian congregations reimagining confirmation. We explored our driving questions as ministry leaders, we wondered about the driving questions of God’s people in the past, and we named the brokenness and joys of our world…all before we started talking about confirmation. Then we engaged research, especially the portraits of multiple approaches to confirmation with various purposes and talked with youth themselves. We prayed together, celebrated the Lord’s supper, gathered for conversation over food and drink, and became one expression of Christian community.

Today, we return home. On one level, not much will change. Many will lead confirmation ministry tonight in their home congregations. Many are preparing sermons for Sunday. And then there are the committee meetings, administrative details, and pastoral care needs to attend to. On one level it will look the same.

But on a deeper level, we leave knowing the church is changing and believe God is in the midst of it. We are renewed for another week, month, season of ministry. Scattering across the Northeast this afternoon, we know there are kindred spirits wrestling with similar ideas, praying for the real needs of the world and our churches, and open to God’s promises breaking in. And on that level, we are not the same. Hope lurks like spring on our doorstep. It longs to find a home in us. And we long for it, just as we are uncertain that the winter winds are done with us.

Today, I invite all of us to pray for our youth, our world, and our churches as we navigate this change of season.

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Let the Summit Begin!


We are the church and today we are living into our calling!

Today I join 40 people, from 40 networks, to discuss, imagine, and pray for faith formation within the ELCA. Our goal for the next two days is to connect, align, and collaborate existing initiatives in the ELCA around faith formation ministry working with children, youth, young adults, and their families in order to cultivate a culture of faith formation within our church, congregations, and ministries.

We have been having formal and informal conversation about this for years. We have prayed for coordination, leadership, and support around such work. And today…we take these conversations a step further. Please pray for us in these next two day…and the months and years ahead.

Follow the conversation online – #formingfaithelca

Safe Containers

I have been working on a book project studying congregations and nonprofits innovating and experimenting. What a great project in these changing times. I love hearing the stories of leaders and congregations/nonprofits leading with faith and hope.

One of our findings was these communities gave a lot of attention to cultivating community and attending relationships. It sounds so simple, and perhaps obvious, but this finding highlights both the importance of relationships in our lives and how we hunger and thirst for such spaces in our lives.

Brene Brown and her work on vulnerability lifts up the importance of not only relationships, but also spaces, or as she calls them safe containers, for us to be our selves. Be it our home spaces, work spaces, or schools, we need safe spaces to discover who we are, our ability to lead, and for us to learn.

I invite you to watch this great video on safe containers and then commit to cultivating some safe container in your life.

And then … LIFE

Here I sit, on the other side of Easter. No more Lent, no more focusing on despair, no more walking to the cross. So now what?

The theme for our Easter sermon on Sunday was life, like living…actual heart-beating in our chest living. Before worship I went on an early morning walk and noticed life – spring sprouting, worms on the sidewalk, grass turning green. It’s hard to miss it, yet we do, rather I do, all the time.

So what would living, like really living look like in your world these days? If death had no hold on you, what would change in your life?

I’m not sure I know what that looks like for me yet, but I do know I’d risk more, I’d spend more time working together with others for the common good, and I’d listen to other people’s stories (because most people have very interesting stories).

Each of these ideas surfaced as I surfed Facebook and these videos caught my attention. Maybe, on this side of Easter, they might get your attention too.


Is it time?


Many of us leadership know the value of stepping back from the immediacy of leading (be it in our homes, workplaces, or volunteer work) to see the bigger picture of what is going on. The new year, and/or new seasons, often nudge us into such reflection.

What you may or may not know is that this reflection type of reflection has a name. According to Ronald Heifetz it is called “Getting on the Balcony” and he names how critically important this practice is for leaders.

Today one of our Luther Seminary students shared this blog with me, a reflection on this engaging this practice. It’s worth a read…and worth the time to practice this type of reflection yourself.

Leadership Insights Blog by Wesley Dorsett

And the results are in!

So it wasn’t a big poll (37 people), but it was interesting.

Last week I posted a poll asking about your plans for 2016. And here’s what you said…

38% are planning to learn something new

32%  are planning a special vacation

16% are are starting a new habit

(the rest of you fell into the other category)

That’s pretty cool, and thanks to all who participated.

Look for more to come in 2016.



Looking ahead to 2016

I’ve been thinking about 2016. Have you? And I’m just wondering what plans you have for the coming year.

Just for fun I’ve created a little poll. I invite you to take it and then after the new year I will report my findings.