Category: Leadership

A Conversation on Civility


 ci·vil·i·ty \sə-ˈvi-lə-tē\“

Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. Just keep being friendly to that person. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies. (from “Loving Your Enemies”)”

― Martin Luther King Jr.A Knock at Midnight: Inspiration from the Great Sermons of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

We do still believe in civility. – Don’t we?

I always believed we were a society that was striving not for wealth and prosperity, but rather that humanity was always striving to be more decent, more humane, than the generation before them…that our common purpose was to not make the mistakes of the past.

Have human beings regressed?  As we have advanced in technology, have we declined in our maturity?  Maybe we weren’t ready for such technological advances.  Maybe our species can’t keep up with the rapid movement of technology and by using it, we have lost the foothold we had on the capability to reason, forgive, and have empathy.

As a species, homo-sapiens are given a conscience.  A mother duck abandons her baby duck because the duckling is weak and we say, “well, that’s nature” and we accept her behavior.  A mother human abandons her child, and we say, “that is unconscionable” and we have an emotional response to that decision and say, “that is unacceptable”.  We expect more from our fellow human beings than we do from nature, because we believe that human beings are creatures with a conscience.

I want to believe that most of us human beings around the globe want a civil society.  I want to believe that greed and economic gain is not our highest value. – Although, I confess I am becoming more cynical on that one.  I want to believe that we all want our great grand children to breathe clean air and drink clean water and be tolerant of people from other religions and cultures.  I want to believe that as a society, we care more about ethical behavior and civility and justice, then power and wealth.

I want to believe that most of us want civility, ethics and reason to be front and center of societal norms.

Those with voices of reason, calm and integrity must speak out.  If you are a mature, critical thinker, who has been watching all of the world events from the side line, reading the editorials,  watching history roll out before your eyes, and wondered, “When are the reasonable people going to show up?”  – You are it.  Ghandi  is not coming back.  You are the one the world is waiting for.  There are no other reasonable people left, but you.

If you are waiting for civility to return to our nation, it will not happen unless you fight for it.

Wringing our hands on the side line while evil pervades, puts evil in the place of power.

There are more people who identify themselves as centrists, moderates, balanced thinkers, and its time they speak up.  We have got to stop blaming, shaming, and hating those who disagree with us.  Because when they strike the nuclear bomb, nobody is going to care where you stand on an issue.  When the ice caps melt and the planet does what the scientists tell us is going to happen, no one will care if  you believed it would happen or not.

If you feel hatred, I mean real hatred, towards another person or kind of person, because you think they are evil, or destroying our country, or blind to reason, or see the world differently from you, and if you actually hate them for that, then evil has won and the plan, intended or not, to bring neighbor against neighbor is working.

We need to be more civil with one another, so that when we see true evil rear its head, we stand more united then divided.  We must name evil when we see it.

Being tolerant of other people’s point of view does not devalue your point of view.  We have somehow convinced ourselves that our world view is the only world view.  We have fallen to the lowest common denominator.

Edwin Friedman said something to the effect of, “it’s much harder to be the most mature person in an immature system, than the most immature person in a mature system.”  We are living in a immature system.  It’s time to grow up, or as my dad would say, “get your head on straight.”

We are regressing as a society.  What I mean  can be best explained by Friedman:

“By the term regression I mean to convey something far more profound than a mere loss of progress. Societal regression is about the perversion of progress into a counter-evolutionary mode. In a societal regression, evolutionary principles of life that have been basic to the development of our species become distorted, perverted, or actually reversed. Chief among those evolutionary principles are:  self-regulation of instinctual drive;   adaptation to strength rather than weakness;    a growth-producing response to challenge;    allowing time for maturing processes to evolve; and    the preservation of individuality and integrity. Emotional regression, therefore, is more of a “going down” than a “going back”; it is devolution rather than evolution. It has to do with a lowering of maturity, rather than a reduction in the gross national product. One needs to view societal regression in three dimensions, not two. At the same time that a society is “pro-gressing” technologically it can be “re-gressing” emotionally.”
― Edwin H. FriedmanA Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix

Let’s work on self regulating and not just reacting with an emotional response.  Let us work toward identifying our strengths and focus on where we see possibility.  Let’s remember that the fast speed way in which we work is not necessarily the right way.  We need to slow down.  For the love of God, we need to stop just thinking about our self interests and thinking that we are more righteous than our neighbors.

We need to stop blaming, othering, triangulating, shaming, and fighting.

We need to start listening, learning, pausing, communicating, and forgiving.

In other words:  We need to get our heads on straight.


No Longer Silent

Ecclesiastes tells us there is a time and season for every purpose under heaven.  A time to be silent and a time to speak.  Over the past four months I have found myself silent, when I have wanted to speak.  I have internalized, lamented, swore, studied, and sought wisdom.  I have let other people carry the burden of speaking out for issues that I have agreed with, but have held back.  I have done this mainly because like it or not, I am a public person and I have not wanted to offend or isolate those whom I am called to serve. I care more about them, than my personal opinion.

Our society is so tribal right now. I have tried in vain to stay out of my tribe and move into a higher level of thinking – one that honors all people, sees that we all breathe the same air, walk the same earth, and fundamentally, I believe, share common values of loving our families and our country.   I refuse to place people in categories of “good or bad.”

That being said, as I have sat mainly on the sidelines and watched issues that are fundamental to my core values and beliefs be put on the auction block, I have sat on my hands, held my tongue, and closed my eyes.  I knew that there would be a time to be brave and now was the time to be wise.  So I sought wisdom. I sought higher understanding. I sought God.  I found Him on a brief spring break, when I visited the ocean.  The ocean didn’t seem to know what was going in the world. It didn’t seem to know that there was conflict on every continent that the ocean reached. dad's sunset The breathing waves just kept rolling, kept pulsing a heart beat as if to say, “I have been here long before you and I will be here long after.  There might not be any fish, or choral, or life in me, but I will still be here.”   As I sat on the warm, white beach of my childhood and felt the sun on my face, I realized again, how small we are and how big God is, and how much God trusts us to take care of what has been given to us. I told God that He might want to rethink that decision.  I sat on the beach, and cried for the creatures and for my great grandchildren, and I wondered if they would ever know the beauty of the ocean. – I still remained silent.

But now, today, something is happening, and I can no longer only seek wisdom.  It’s time to be brave.  Today, the President of the United States will  sign an executive order that will repeal the Johnson Amendment.

What’s the Johnson Amendment?

 It is one of the brightest lines in the legal separation between religion and politics. Under the provision, which was made in 1954, tax-exempt entities like churches and charitable organizations are unable to directly or indirectly participate in any political campaign on behalf of, or in opposition to, any candidate. Specifically, ministers are restricted from endorsing or opposing candidates from the pulpit. If they do, they risk losing their tax-exempt status.  (Jeremy Peters, February 2, 2017, New York Times.)

When I read about this in  February, 2017, I prayed it would go away, be forgotten in the piles of administrative priorities.  But today, on this the National Day of PrayChurch-and-State-300x200er, the President will be signing an executive order that will diminish that bright line that separates church and state in our country. By doing so, the President will open the door for a slippery slope of where the demarcation of church and state rest.

Let me tell you why this is dangerous.

In 1934,  almost immediately after the Nazi seizure of power in 1933, Protestant Christians faced pressure to “aryanize” the Church, expel Jewish Christians from the ordained ministry and adopt the Nazi “Führer Principle” as the organizing principle of church government. In general, the churches succumbed to these pressures, and many Christians embraced them willingly. The pro-Nazi “German Christian” movement became a force in the church. They glorified Adolf Hitler as a “German prophet” and preached that racial consciousness was a source of revelation alongside the Bible. But some Christians in Germany—including Lutheran and Reformed, liberal and neo-orthodox—opposed the encroachment of Nazi ideology on the Church’s proclamation.

At Barmen, this emerging “Confessing Church” adopted a declaration drafted by Reformed theologian Karl Barth and Lutheran theologian Hans Asmussen, which expressly repudiated the claim that other powers apart from Christ could be  God’s sources of God’s revelation.

Adapted from Robert McAfee Brown,Kairos: Three Prophetic Challenges to the Church, published in 1990 by Eerdmans.

The Barmen Declaration states:

1. “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

“Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold through the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved.” John 10:1,9

Jesus Christ, as he is attested to us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God whom we have to hear, and whom we have to trust and obey in life and in death.

We reject the false doctrine that the Church could and should recognize as a source of its proclamation, beyond and besides this one Word of God, yet other events, powers, historic figures and truths as God’s revelation.

2. “Jesus Christ has been made wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption for us by God.” 1 Cor. 1:30

As Jesus Christ is God’s comforting pronouncement of the forgiveness of all our sins, so, with equal seriousness, he is also God’s vigorous announcement of his claim upon our whole life. Through him there comes to us joyful liberation from the godless ties of this world for free, grateful service to his creatures.

We reject the false doctrine that there could be areas of our life in which we would not belong to Jesus Christ but to other lords, areas in which we would not need justification and sanctification through him.

3. “Let us, however, speak the truth in love, and in every respect grow into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body is joined together.” Eph. 4:15-16

The Christian Church is the community of brethren in which, in Word and sacrament, through the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ acts in the present as Lord. With both its faith and its obedience, with both its message and its order, it has to testify in the midst of the sinful world, as the Church of pardoned sinners, that it belongs to him alone and lives and may live by his comfort and under his direction alone, in expectation of his appearing.

We reject the false doctrine that the Church could have permission to hand over the form of its message and of its order to whatever it itself might wish or to the vicissitudes of the prevailing ideological and political convictions of the day.

4. “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to have authority over you must be your servant.” Matt. 20:25-26

The various offices in the Church do not provide a basis for some to exercise authority over others but for the ministry [lit., “service”] with which the whole community has been entrusted and charged to be carried out.

We reject the false doctrine that, apart from this ministry, the Church could, and could have permission to, give itself or allow itself to be given special leaders [Führer] vested with ruling authority.

5. “Fear God. Honor the Emperor.” 1 Pet. 2:17

Scripture tells us that by divine appointment the State, in this still unredeemed world in which also the Church is situated, has the task of maintaining justice and peace, so far as human discernment and human ability make this possible, by means of the threat and use of force. The Church acknowledges with gratitude and reverence toward God the benefit of this, his appointment. It draws attention to God’s Dominion [Reich], God’s commandment and justice, and with these the responsibility of those who rule and those who are ruled. It trusts and obeys the power of the Word, by which God upholds all things.

We reject the false doctrine that beyond its special commission the State should and could become the sole and total order of human life and so fulfil the vocation of the Church as well.

We reject the false doctrine that beyond its special commission the Church should and could take on the nature, tasks and dignity which belong to the State and thus become itself an organ of the State.

6. “See, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matt. 28:20 “God’s Word is not fettered.” 2 Tim. 2:9

The Church’s commission, which is the foundation of its freedom, consists in this: in Christ’s stead, and so in the service of his own Word and work, to deliver all people, through preaching and sacrament, the message of the free grace of God.

We reject the false doctrine that with human vainglory the Church could place the Word and work of the Lord in the service of self- chosen desires, purposes and plans.

The Confessing Synod of the German Evangelical Church declares that it sees in the acknowledgment of these truths and in the rejection of these errors the indispensable theological basis of the German Evangelical Church as a confederation of Confessing Churches. It calls upon all who can stand in solidarity with its Declaration to be mindful of these theological findings in all their decisions concerning Church and State. It appeals to all concerned to return to unity in faith hope and love.

Verbum Dei manet in aeternum.
The Word of God will last for ever.

I don’t know if I can fully comprehend the bravery it took for the authors of the Barmen Declaration to write these words in Germany in 1934, under the barrel of Hitler and the Third Reich.   I do know that I will not let their brave words, which are part of my tradition’s confessions, be forgotten.

Furthermore, let me say this:  any pastor who uses the sanctity of the pulpit for their own political views, or the political advancement of another person, desecrates the integrity of their position and the Word they are called to preach.

Regardless of what the President does today, I call on clergy of every stripe to stand firm in their integrity and say they will not violate their calling to preach the Word alone and not become mouth pieces and pawns for the political flavor of the day.

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of the Lord stands forever.





The Atticus Project


My High School  Freshman is reading Harper Lee’s, To Kill A Mockingbird  in her English class.  The poor thing doesn’t have a chance, with two parents who have their own personal copies between us and own the movie, we are on her every minute, asking her “where she is in the book, what’s happening now, and has she gotten to the trial yet?”

It’s a beautiful book, with rich story telling of childhood, summertime, make-believe and growing up  in a time of political and social unrest.  Remember how Scout has to encounter her classmates and even her relatives say that Atticus is a  word that she is not aloud to say and doesn’t know what it means, or what they mean when they say it?  Remember how Atticus knows he is going to lose the case, but he takes the case anyway?  Remember how he tried to protect her and Jem from comments from a community that just assumed he be quiet? Remember how she curled up next to him on the porch swing, after she got in a fight with a classmate, and he said, “You never can fully understand someone until you consider things from his point of view” and then went on to say that “you need to climb into another person’s skin and walk around in it.”

That strong, protagonist we all admired was Atticus Finch.

Atticus never spoke harshly of his neighbors or of any person who saw the world differently than he did. He treated everyone, regardless of class or race with the same respect and dignity. He never tried to convince them to change their minds or call them names or demeaned their position.  He did try to be a voice of reason in a community that was divided racially and socio-economically.  In essence, he lived a life of integrity. He said, “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”

I dream of a world where we all find the Atticus living inside us.

We need to launch an Atticus Project in our nation. Imagine a world where we all take the higher ground. A fire has been stoked that is now ablaze and we have become far too comfortable using language that is divisive and obstructive. We need to calm down. That doesn’t mean we don’t speak the truth in love, or refrain from standing for the innocent, or abandon our integrity.  We do that and remain in relationship with each other.

My biggest worry, or fear, or anxiety is that some day there will be a crisis. -A storm will come, made by nature or man,  and we will all need each other.  We will need to bring a meal to a neighbor, a hand to a friend, water to a stranger, and it will not matter where we stand on the issues, it will matter that we stand together.

We need to take all of the anger and distrust and frustration we are feeling and turn those feelings into a movement of radical empathy. I got this term from this article in the Atlantic:

Empathy is a building block of morality—for people to follow the Golden Rule, it helps if they can put themselves in someone else’s shoes. It is also a key ingredient of successful relationships because it helps us understand the perspectives, needs, and intentions of others.

Without empathy, our morality crumbles.   Studies show that empathy is good for your health, it reduces bullying, it’s good for your marriage, and it reduces prejudice and racism.  Without empathy there cannot be a just society.

So I am calling for each and every one of us to participate in the Atticus Project.  A project in which we will try to be less judgmental and more empathetic.  A project in which we look upon our friends and strangers and try to see where they are coming from.

You look across the way and you think, “Man they are really scared.  I don’t really understand why they are scared, and I think they are really stupid for being scared, but they are scared.  I do not share their fear, but I have been afraid before. I know what fear feels like, I’ve been there. I know what I needed to hear when I was scared, maybe I can listen.”

You look across the way and you think, “Man, they are really happy.  They are so enthusiastic about the future and how things are going.  I don’t really share their hope, but I remember when I felt hopeful.  I remember feeling really annoyed with anyone who rained on my parade.  I remember wishing they would come on board and get with the program.   I can’t really do that, but I can respect that they feel hopeful, even though I don’t, maybe I can listen.”

My other daughter is studying India and is sitting across from me at the dining room table as I write this.  She just asked me how Ghandi died. I remember the story of how he brought a divided nation together and I remembered his words, “I offer you peace. I offer you love. I offer you friendship. I see your beauty. I hear your need. I feel your feelings. My wisdom flows from the Highest Source. I salute that Source in you. Let us work together for unity and love.”

Finally, and personally, I believe this is the work of the church.  The church must express at it’s very foundation the commandment to do unto others as you would have them to do you.  We must show the love of Christ to our neighbors, even the one’s we would rather not have over to dinner.  Peace begins with us.

May the Peace of Christ be with you.


Gregory Peck, Mary Badham

“What do you say?”


What do you say?

Remember that parental prompt our parents would give us to remember to say, “thank you, ” “please,”  “excuse me,” “may I please be excused?”

We do share those are phrases in our collective vernacular?  Correct?

I think we have lost something in translation.  Somewhere in the invasion of “say whatever you are thinking,”  we have lost the practice of having manners.

Whatever happened to manners?  Where did they go?  They must be around here somewhere, like those expensive sunglasses I shouldn’t have purchased last summer.

Whatever happened to manners?  You  know, back in the day, young people took etiquette classes.  Families used to have Sunday dinner with linen napkins and maybe two different kinds of forks at the table.  Parents would teach their children to put their napkin in their lap, to pass the butter, and to sit up at the table.

Back in the day, people would shake each other’s hands, look people in the eye, and say, “nice to meet you.”

But today?  Good Lord.

Whatever happened to being offended by crass language, immature name calling, and flagrant disregard to humanity?

Whatever happened to the  notion that boys and girls are to become gentlemen and ladies?  I know I sound like some prim, stick in the mud, but come on, we have gone off the deep end here.1528290674_55e8846e48


I’m not saying we need to go back corsets and  coming out parties. I’m not saying that men and women should be separated by gender roles or responsibilities.  What I am saying, is that our children are growing up believing it is o.k. to live without a filter, or a sense of what is appropriate to say to each other, to other adults and to the world – and that we adults are modeling that behavior.

They see and make posts on U-tube, Snapchat,  and Instagram images of themselves  without thinking.  They believe they can say and do whatever they want without thinking through the consequences.

And there are consequences.

Today, with the uninhibited temptation of texting, people say whatever comes to their mind without thinking about that the fact that that feeling at the moment can become forever part of their persona, when really it was just a fleeting thought, that should have kept fleeting.

The media says that if we are shocking, than we will be noticed. So we try to keep shocking the system to be seen.

How many times can our culture be shocked, before we realize we are flat lining?

Whatever happened to civility, decency and kindness?

This falls on us adults. If we are outraged at the way kids behave today, we better take a long look at the way we permit political leaders to talk to each other, the way we talk to strangers and the ways in which we let violent language pollute our psyche.

The whole world needs to stop and ask the question, “is this a speak it, or a think it?”  Then stop, reflect and then speak, or not.

We must hold our leaders and ourselves to a higher standard of conduct, in which we are not impressed with name calling, vulgar language, or petty remarks.  We should be so offended by those who do this, that we not avoid them, but we teach them that they cannot talk or behave in a manner that is unbecoming to the office they are seeking, or the role they are in.

Why?  Because our children are watching and they deserve better.

Because if we lose our common value of civility, we lose ourselves.

We must teach our children well.

Here is an article by David Lowry to help us with some guidelines:

How are we doing?


Helping your child master these simple rules of etiquette will get him noticed – for all the right reasons.

By David Lowry, PhD.

Your child’s rude ‘tude isn’t always intentional. Sometimes kids just don’t realize it’s impolite to interrupt, pick their nose, or loudly observe that the lady walking in front of them has a large behind. And in the hustle and bustle of daily life, busy moms and dads don’t always have the time to focus on etiquette. But, if you reinforce these 25 must-do manners, you’ll raise a polite, kind, well-liked child.

Manner #1 

When asking for something, say “Please.”

Manner #2 

When receiving something, say “Thank you.”

Manner #3 

Do not interrupt grown-ups who are speaking with each other unless there is an emergency. They will notice you and respond when they are’ finished talking.

Manner #4 

If you do need to get somebody’s attention right away, the phrase “excuse me” is the most polite way for you to enter the conversation.


When you have any doubt about doing something, ask permission first. It can save you from many hours of grief later.

Manner #6 

The world is not interested in what you dislike. Keep negative opinions to yourself, or between you and your friends, and out of earshot of adults.

Manner #7

Do not comment on other people’s physical characteristics unless, of course, it’s to compliment them, which is always welcome.

Manner #8

When people ask you how you are, tell them and then ask them how they are.

Manner #9

When you have spent time at your friend’s house, remember to thank his or her parents for having you over and for the good time you had.

Manner #10 

Knock on closed doors – and wait to see if there’s a response – before entering.

Manner #11 

When you make a phone call, introduce yourself first and then ask if you can speak with the person you are calling.

Manner #12 

Be appreciative and say “thank you” for any gift you receive. In the age of e-mail, a handwritten thank-you note can have a powerful effect.

Manner #13 

Never use foul language in front of adults. Grown-ups already know all those words, and they find them boring and unpleasant.

Manner #14

Don’t call people mean names.

Manner #15 

Do not make fun of anyone for any reason. Teasing shows others you are weak, and ganging up on someone else is cruel.

Manner #16

Even if a play or an assembly is boring, sit through it quietly and pretend that you are interested. The performers and presenters are doing their best.


If you bump into somebody, immediately say “Excuse me.”


Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and don’t pick your nose in public.


As you walk through a door, look to see if you can hold it open for someone else.


If you come across a parent, a teacher, or a neighbor working on something, ask if you can help. If they say “yes ,” do so – you may learn something new.

Manner #21 

When an adult asks you for a favor, do it without grumbling and with a smile.

Manner #22

When someone helps you, say “thank you.” That person will likely want to help you again. This is especially true with teachers!

Manner #23

Use eating utensils properly. If you are unsure how to do so, ask your parents to teach you or watch what adults do.

Manner #24 

Keep a napkin on your lap; use it to wipe your mouth when necessary.

Manner #25 

Don’t reach for things at the table; ask to have them passed.

Originally published in the March 2011 issue of Parents magazine

What Kind of Avocado Are You?


I have always been the recipient of the “Nice Award.”  Once,  in grade school, I heard a group of girls didn’t like me because I was,  “too nice.”   – Whatever.

When I was in high school and I had a friend ask a boy if he “liked me,”  the boy would always respond, “Well…..she’s nice. ” – Gag Me.

Being nice is a quality that serves us and doesn’t serve us.  Having manners, being friendly, sharing, being thoughtful these are all good values.  Furthermore being a “nice girl”  always gets more affirmation than being, well, a being a word that I’m too nice to write.

In eighth grade, I hit a boy  in my science class and my teacher pulled me aside and said, “I know you are nice girl, and nice girls like you shouldn’t hit.” Never mind why I hit the kid, or the fact that maybe I wasn’t being nice, or the fact that I wished I could have invoked more violence on the kid.

In sixth grade,  I wore a t-shirt that said, “I won’t work” to school.  My creepy sixth grade teacher pulled me aside and said, “I know you are nice girl, and nice girls get A’s and work hard. I don’t think you should wear that shirt. ” Creepy, right?

Being a people pleaser, being nice has always been my mode of operation. If people feel good, I feel good. If people are disappointed, angry, annoyed, unimpressed,  then I will pretty much do back flips to see if I can please them.  What, you aren’t happy?!  Here let me fix this, and that, and that, and worry, and fret, and worry some more. There, now are you happy?  Oh. Thank God. I’m exhausted.

Enter the ministry.  Ministry is such a mixed bag. On the one hand, you hear people talk about their pastors. “Oh, he’s wonderful. He’s the nicest guy.”  You feel this pressure to give people, yes people, not Jesus, people, the sermon they like. You want them to feel comforted by your prayers at the hospital.  You want them to know they are loved, cared for, prayed for, accepted.  You feel this burden and obligation for the church to grow. If it grows, they like you. If it doesn’t grow, they don’t like you.  Let’s just say right now, that if this is how pastor’s function, the church will die and so will the pastor. The question is, Who will go first?

When people leave the church, or are critical,  or simply don’t like you, it’s hard not to take it personally, or be indifferent….especially when you think your purpose is to be their shepherd.  So the shepherd runs a round with her staff, trying to herd and keep everyone happy. And then shepherd gets eaten by a pack of wolves.

Enter dysfunction, exhaustion, and anxiety.  Enter a cancerous system, where the body is taken over by cells that mutate and overtake the soul.

There is a great book, called “People Pleasing Pastors,”  by Charles Stone.


He writes:

If you peel away an avocado’s skin, two parts remain: the mushy green stuff and the pit. It doesn’t take much effort to remove the fleshy part of the avocado. You can easily cut it off or scrape it off. However, you can’t do the same with the seed. You can’t easily cut it or change its shape. Why? Because it’s solid.

A strong spiritual and emotional core (strong immune system) is like that large, solid seed in an avocado. We certainly must have a soft side, but at his core, a good leader is solid, in the good sense of the word.

However, with a weak spiritual immune system, a people pleaser, a margin-less leader, or an inflexible leader has a much smaller inner core and a much larger ‘squishy’ part. We easily morph and adapt to the pressures around us and lose parts of ourselves when we try to please others in an unhealthy way. And of course we could swing in the other direction as well when we become too ‘solid;’ that is, unyielding and inflexible.

One writer on this subject, Murray Bowen contrasted these two parts by calling one a ‘solid self’ and the other a ‘pseudo-self’ when he wrote these words

The solid self says: “This is who I am, what I believe, what I stand for, and what I will or will not do in any given situation. The solid self is made up of clearly defined beliefs, opinions, convictions, and life principles….The pseudo-self is composed of a vast assortment of principles, beliefs, philosophies, and knowledge acquired because it is required or considered right by the group.” [Murray Bowen, Family Therapy in Clinical Practice (New York: Aronson, 1978), p. 365]

Evaluate yourself to see how solid or squishy you are as a leader:


Stands on principles vs changes to avoid other’s displeasure
Does what is right vs keeps the peace to keep others happy
Authentic vs pretend
Clings to God when pressured vs acquiesces to others when pressured
Listens to disagreement vs giving in to it or becoming defensive
Carefully considers differing viewpoints vs quickly embracing them to avoid someone’s displeasure
Thoughtfully responds vs automatically react

I think it’s very easy for avocados to go soft. If you don’t pay attention, one day they are ripe and ready to enjoy, and the next day, they are too mushy and have to be pitched.

What kind of avocado are you?

How solid is our your core…and how do you preserve it?

Stone uses the acronym PRESENT and  says those with strong cores:

  • Probe the Past
  • Revisit their Values
  • Expose their Triangles
  • Search for Gaps
  • Engage with their Dissidents
  • Nurture their Soul
  • Tame their Reactivity

So, friends in ministry, as you work through the season of Lent, plan for Holy Week, visit the sick, teach the class, attend the meeting, answer the email, seek volunteers, support families, plan weddings, schedule funerals, write sermons, and try to remember who are at your core through it all,  remember this:

1. You have a core. Remember where you left it. Don’t lose it. Preserve it.

2.Remember it’s all about love. – Including loving yourself.

3. You are not Jesus.

4.  And if you were Jesus, remember that Jesus wasn’t always nice.

5. No  prophet ever won a popularity contest.















Dear Leader,


Dear Leader,

What do I want to say to you that you have not already read in a book, or on a blog, or seen on a Ted Talk?

What clever quote could I throw your way that hasn’t already been quipped?

What possible wisdom could I offer you other than the wisdom to keep quiet and walk along side you in your leading and sigh at your setbacks and smile at your achievements?

I want you to know, dear leader, as you walk your journey, that there are many things you are and there are many things you are not.

You are not perfect. Now I know you know this, and maybe you live under the false impression that all good leaders are, but even the strongest leaders are human – and therefore not perfect. Take the idea that you have to always get it right, say it right, do it right, live it right, and get it out of your head. I’m not saying perfection isn’t what is expected by others.  I’m not saying that people will not be quick to tell you where you are flawed, and will find some secret pleasure in pointing out your mistakes. I’m saying that they are right. You do stink at a lot of what you do. You are not perfect. You do forget. You do get tired. You do worry. You do get angry. You are human.  So take your human, flawed, messy self and lead with humility and be an imperfect leader.

You are not supposed to please everyone. Again, I know you know this, and you also know that leading in conflict sucks. You are under the false impression that if everyone is happy that there is no conflict. That is a fallacy. Living in that idea is a way of playing make believe.  Of course there is conflict, and there always will be. Get over it.  Accept it. Embrace it. Don’t run away from it. Fall in love with it. Fall in love with conflict? Yep. Get right in there and snuggle up to it and say, “Oh, conflict, I am so happy to see you!  What are you going to teach me today? How will I grow or change because you, beautiful conflict, stand before me? Most importantly how will you make the organization healthier because  we are using you, conflict, to address things that need to be said and do things differently?”  Don’t be afraid of conflict.  Let conflict do it’s job. It is there for a reason.

You are not going to achieve anything by trying harder.  You know how you think if you just try hard enough things will change, get better, move along?  You are wrong. You cannot lead change by trying harder. You will join Don Quixote in battling windmills, and frankly wear yourself out. You can reframe the challenge. You can speak the truth.  You can ask a different question. The only thing you achieve by banging your head against the wall, is a headache.  Don’t try harder, try something different.

Dear Leader,  I don’t know what is in store for you today, and maybe you don’t know either.  What mountain will you be climbing today? What unexpected challenge will you face?  Whatever it is, trust yourself. Breathe. Speak from the heart. Listen. Look out for traps, hooks, pitfalls, and stumbling blocks. Do not let your feeling of empathy override your feeling of clarity. Your clarity will come by looking beyond the ego and leaning into me.

Lean into me and you will be strengthened with all the resolve, courage, and words you need to make it through this challenge and the next.

Remember, I am with you always, until the end of the age.



Getting it Right , Eventually


I have always envied the people who seemed  to “get it right” the first time, whatever it was.

I always wished I could be one of those people.

I remember learning multiplication in third grade. Everyone seemed to get their multiplication tables faster than I. God knows kids got the hang of driving a car faster than I. Oh, and being able to sing, and learn how to tap a Time Step, and how to type, play Chopin, and learn Hebrew (Lord in your Mercy, that was hard), and figure out how to Relevé en point, and write a good paper, and run, and work a sewing machine (gave up on that one)  and read (and understand) Karl Barth, and the list goes on…..

I assumed, as I looked over the proverbial fence, that everyone was catching on faster than I. I assumed that because I had to work at it, revise it, redo it, and struggle with it, that I wasn’t good at it.. and therefore that I was less than.

I also assumed that it was a race to catch on – that somehow the kids that caught on before I did were smarter than I, and that I was smarter than the one or two kids that were still figuring it out after me.  This of course, is untrue.

I have never been a person who has gotten it right the first time, and I think in truth none of us are. We live in a world that values the finished product: the winner of the violin contest, the art on display in the museum, the performance on stage, the published book.  What we don’t see, nor can we fully appreciate, are the hours of practice, discipline, drafts, and retakes it requires to get it right.  Furthermore, is it ever really right?     There is always one more word choice, one more touch up.

If it is true art, even finished products are never finished.

My oldest daughter is about to start high school, and let’s just say I’m an emotional basket case over this.  A. I’m too young to have a high school student. B. That went WAY too fast. C. High School is when everything starts “counting.”  D. What if she doesn’t get it right? E. What if we don’t get it right?   Slow down there, sister. High school is but a heartbeat in the scheme of life.

Here is the thing: life is not about getting it right the first, fifth, or 100th time. Life is about the practice of living. It is the exploration of the self.  There is no right. There is only the practice of living.

What we practice at, whether it be the practice of being a good parent, a good friend, a good leader, a good student, a good athlete, a good citizen, these are things that shape our lives and make us who we are, but we never get them right.  We just keep at them, shaping them revising, breaking them down and starting over, working at them until we…. well that’s it isn’t it?   There is no end to the practice of life, until there is no life.

Our vision of what it means to achieve, excel, or accomplish is far too short-sighted.  We need to take the longer view and change our expectations of ourselves and others.  Everyone is working on and practicing living life.  What if we acknowledged that in each other?  What if we valued the work in progress, instead of the final product?

What if we could see that each of us are ultimately a living piece of art?







So you want to be a leader?


Our country is going about the process of finding its next leader.  I wonder how much time presidential candidates actually spend thinking about the kind of leader they are and will hope to be.  It would behoove them to reflect on what it means to be a leader.  Rather than thinking about leadership, they are immersed in getting out sound bites, messaging, and stating their position on issues. None of that is true leadership.  Anyone can give their opinion and then find like-minded people who agree with them.  That is not being a leader.  Leadership has more to do with listening than speaking, compromising than winning and humility than power.

There is nothing glamorous about being a leader.

It begins with maturity. It is easier to be a mature person in an immature system, than a mature person in an immature system. All organizations have a level of maturity.  When the organization is immature, and by that I mean,  highly anxious, reactive, and self-seeking, it’s easy to get stuck in unhealthy patterns and behavior.  It’s much more difficult  to stay above the anxiety, not become part of the immature behavior.  It’s easy to get hooked.  We all have emotional buttons and old scripts that trigger emotions that do not serve us and end up hurting the system. This requires self-awareness and a good dose of maturity.

Any time there is vision, no matter how many people share that vision, always, always, always expect resistance. You can communicate, plan, strategize and work for consensus with the greatest due diligence and someone will say, “That is not going to work,” “I have a problem with that,” “You are wrong.”  Resistance happens any time there is change in a system. Be ready for it. Stay the course. Listen again. Stay the course. This requires self actualization and persistence.

Don’t be reactive.  When you get a snarky email or someone uses emotional language, or is critical, it is so hard to not be reactive.  This is especially true when you have put your heart, mind, soul, and body into a project.  It is so easy to get defensive and react.  The only way I have learned to not be reactive is to have advisors who are not in the system, to hear my reaction and help me step away, see the comment without emotion, and then respond.  This requires discipline and perspective. Get into the balcony!

It’s not about being liked, or popular, or placed on a pedestal. People like putting their leaders on a pedestals. Don’t let them put you there! Once you are put there, jump down immediately.  It’s dangerous up there on that pedestal.  Many good leaders have been placed up high, only to fall hard. When you are up there on that pedestal, it’s easy to forget you are a human being, with the same temptations and habits as everyone else. Stay grounded. Stay human.  This requires humility and awareness of your own ego.

A word on challenge: Lord, in your mercy. I could keep a journal of every challenge I face each week and turn it into a book. I bet you could too.  If you are a leader, you are going to face challenges. That’s why you are a leader: to take on challenges. Some of them will be technical.  Technical challenges are like mosquito bites. They are a pain, but they go away quickly.  It doesn’t mean they aren’t important, or get in the way of greater issues, but you can manage them by finding clear steps to resolutions. Don’t make technical challenges bigger than they need to be.

Adaptive challenges, why they are another story altogether. The are like running an obstacle course blind folded. You think you know the obstacles ahead of you and then, surprise! there is another obstacle for you to work through.  This process can be absolutely exhausting and irritating.  This is where staying non anxious and not taking things personal come in to play.  The approach I have found most helpful is to see adaptive challenges as a challenge course. I take it on like a game to be won and try to figure out how to use resources, problem solving, skills, intuition, humor, communication and rest,  to learn my way through it. Challenge courses are fun, and they are most fun when they are accomplished with a team.

Team. Team. Team.  It is impossible to accomplish anything significant alone. Leadership requires the ability to work with a team. This means every person has a job to do and not one job is more important than the other. It means you trust people to do their job, and don’t do their job for them. It means you get your job done, so others can  get their job done. Creating a good team is so difficult and so important.  It’s o.k. to tell a team member they are not carrying their weight. If teams are going to be successful, they most be honest with each other.

Lastly, I want to say as something about peace. Your leadership is not all of you, its only a part of you. You have permission to not be the leader all of the time. You have permission to set boundaries where your phone is off, your email goes unchecked and your batteries are recharged.  You have permission to be a human being instead of a human doing. You will be a better leader,  if you live into your higher purpose.

Dear Leader,

A final word. There will some days when you will fail at being an effective leader and you will think, “I suck at this. What’s the point?!”  Don’t give up, or give in to the voices that tell you to work harder, be perfect, be stronger, please everyone, and get angry. Listen rather to the voice that says, breathe, listen, laugh, accept, surrender, and be yourself. You got this.

God Bless you in your leadership.

Chart depicting the leadership style of transformational leaders
Chart depicting the leadership style of transformational leaders





The Holy Spirit Alive!

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Photograph by Linda Rinker

The Holy Spirit Alive!

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.  (Acts 2:1-2).

Orchard Park Presbyterian Church 

Indianapolis, Indiana

 Summer, 2015


In the winter of 2015, church officers determined that there were three major areas that needed the greatest attention at Orchard Park Presbyterian Church.  First, there was a deep need for the congregation to establish a shared identity and vision. It was crucial that that common identity be born out of the congregation. The congregation needed to learn who they were, who was their neighbor and how they were called to serve.  They needed to discern these questions as a congregation. Second in a similar vein, there was a great desire to improve communication strategies and overall presentation of the congregation.  New branding and website was imperative, along with an overall communication strategy that reflected Orchard Park’s identity and purpose. The third greatest need was to eliminate the church’s mortgage.

The following proposal suggests three projects that will address each of these priorities.

Identity                                               Communication                                 Mortgage

(Purpose)                                             (Outreach)                                           (Future)


Condition:             To create a common narrative of who we are and who we serve

Intervention:         Appreciative inquiry process: Discovery, Dreaming, Design, Doing

Result:                  3-5 new action plans that unify and testify to our common purpose


Condition:             To establish a communication strategy that shows our identity to the congregation, community and world.

Intervention:        Communication Assessment, Branding, Website

Result:                  Church Identity/ Feeling of Revitalization


Condition:             To pay off mortgage.

Intervention:         Summer campaign

Result:                  Debt is extinguished


The Theory:

All organizations go through life cycles, through times of birth, growth and death.  In order for organizations not to die and go full circle they must be revitalized.  The sooner organizations can change, shift, adapt and recreate, the more they continue to thrive.  If congregations do not revitalize, they decrease in number and energy to the point that they are in need of greater change, or redevelopment.  Redevelopment takes longer than revitalization to push to rebirth, but it is possible to prevent death and move into new life.

In considering where the congregation is in its life cycle, Church officers have identified the congregation of Orchard Park to be in the Redevelopment Phase.

“Redevelopment is what the journey is called when the congregation has fundamentally congealed. The church now has become primarily focused on preserving the status quo. The congregation’s God-given energy flows almost totally towards its own survival. When the faith community walls itself off from its community rather than living to serve, death is inevitable” (Sellon 2002, xii).

A redevelopment effort returns the congregation to the earlier stage of “formation.” This starting over again necessitates letting go of pride, guilt, shame, deception, illusion, and fears about the congregation and about change. There is a certain logic to the process of beginning formation over again. The probable steps are as follows:

  1. Identity: “Why are we in business? What are our assets and strengths?” Members rediscover who they are and why they exist as a congregation in this place and time.
  2. Vision: “Where do we want to go?” Members reaffirm their obligation to become more faithful to their congregation as it could be in the future.
  3. Strategy: “How will we get the job done?”  Leaders re-equip members and themselves with whatever it will take to reach for their new future. They plot and prepare for the step-by-step progress that will make the dream come true.
  4. Experimental Action: “What are we ready to try?” Members choose the highest priority and closest possibility in their plan and commit themselves to a metamorphosis, one small step at a time until the dream turns into a revised vision or a full reality.
  5. Reflection: Finally, “How is it going, and what’s next? Where do we adjust our course?” The congregation should always pause for thanksgiving, absolution, offertory, and celebration. The insights and prayers of the membership guide the evaluation of how they are doing.


The Purpose: The Urgency:

This means that younger families coming into OPPC from our neighboring communities do not necessarily see their family dynamics, ages, tastes, values, social needs, or aspirations reflected on the faces of current OPPC members; this must change over time if this congregation is to continue to grow and thrive. This change must happen in concert with discerning the will of the Holy Spirit for OPPC, and is embodied in the themes that form the vision of the future for OPPC. People exploring OPPC as a possible church home must feel embraced and not shunned, welcomed as they are and not for what we want them to become, comfortable, and encouraged to question and express doubt, knowing that God’s love and grace are bigger than any question we can ask or doubt we can harbor (Mission Study Report 2012, 23)

This paragraph was written in the 2012 Mission Study Report, and succinctly addresses the sense of urgency: The ultimate goal of this project is to lead the congregation through the process of redevelopment into new life, so that they are able to articulate who they are and why they exist, and live into a unified, shared vision.

The purpose of this project is to bring the congregation to a time of personal and spiritual renewal so that they can gain and establish a unified vision, of who they are, and who they serve.

  • 41% of the membership is estimated to be 65 or older, as compared to roughly 11-15% of the population in our surrounding communities;
  • 13% of the membership is estimated to be 35 or younger, versus 30-38% for the surrounding communities
  • the average age of our members is 58

The Project:

To shepherd the congregation through a season of appreciative inquiry in which they discover who they are, dream who they want to be, design how they will accomplish those dreams and do the work for the glory of God. Over the spring and summer we will do the work of discovery and dreaming, with a congregational event in the late summer.  We will then move quickly into the design and doing stages with another large event in early fall.

While the core planning team does the work of collecting data from the congregation and the community, a communication and website consulting firm will be working alongside us to assist with a communication assessment, branding and eventually a new website.

A third major project will be a campaign to pay off the mortgage.  With the mortgage paid in full, the congregation will be free to dream, design and implement new ministries without the weight and obligation of debt.


The Outcome:

The ultimate goal of this project is to lead the congregation through the process of redevelopment into new life, so that they are able to articulate who they are and why they exist, and live into a new story.  The purpose of this project is to bring the congregation to a time of personal and spiritual renewal so that they can find their voice and use it for God’s will.

By the end of this season, we will determine if there is a more unified vision and common narrative.  We will make this determination through interview and outcome and an overall feeling of renewed energy and outward focus. We will have a concise communication plan, brand, and website.  The mortgage will be paid in full.



The Timeline:

Month Objective Activity ExpectedCompletion Date Person ResponsibleShelly Wood is Project Manager * Budget
May Discovery Phase Communications Assessment – Secret Worship attendee, on-site group interviews & Communications eSurvey July 2015 Shelly and Session select 25-30 individuals for eSurvey & 10 individuals forCommunications Panel $5, 750
May – July2015 Discovery Phase Core Planning Team:·       Interviews the congregation·       Creates Wall of History·       Interviews organizations who use the church·       Interviews the neighborhood July 2015 Core Planning Team
May Introduce Campaign to pay off mortgage  
June Congregational Meeting Bylaw amendments and vote to sell property July 2015
August2015 DreamingPhase Branding/Identity ScopeAugust 15 – OPPC meets to brainstorm visions of what they’d like OPPC to be. Repeat process to discern OPPC’s identity and new branding as necessary. New Logo September 2015 Open to all church members to sign-up to participate. After first meeting, present vision to church to see if they own the direction the church is going. If yes, move on if not, repeat brainstorming session. $14,500.
August2015 DreamingPhase August 15,   Discovery/Dream SummitEstablish five provocative statements – based on what we have learned, this who we are, who we want to serve and how we want to do it. September 2015 Open to all church members, all whose use the building, the learning center, and the neighborhood. Nominal cost for food and material
September2015 Congregation wide event – mortgage is paid off September 2015 – Early Possible cost for food
August-September Designing Get consensus from the congregation. – Do you agree that these five statements best define who we are and who should serve? September 2015 Core planning team
September Designing and Doing Second SummitCreate five year plan for the five provocative statementsCreate teams for short wins Mid September Nominal cost for food and material
November Implement-ation Phase Subscription & Hosting – Launch of new website! End of November 2015 Fishhook and Web Team $732/yr

The Evaluation:

During the entire process, we will be considering both process evaluation and outcome evaluation.  The focus will be less on how we are doing and more on how the congregation is changing, learning and growing.  Evaluation will be built in to the structure.

We will measure outputs- (what happened and how many people showed up) and indicators (what changed  in the congregation and the community, based on the project).

Identity and Vision Evaluation

Quantitative Results

  • Innovation teams up and running
  • More improvisational initiatives
  • Recognize people working in new ways
  • Five strong action plans with defined purpose and implementation

Qualitative Results

  • Level 1—Participant reactions
  • What worked, what didn’t from participants’ perspectives, (surveys after each summit)
  • Level 2—Participant changes at end of intervention
  • Do we see the congregation more outwardly focused?  Do they know their neighbors? Is there an increase in energy, desire to serve, and openness to new ideas?
  • Level 3—Is change maintained within leadership?
  • Do we see that the congregation as a whole has bought into the desired changes and is living them out in small and large ways?
  • Level 4—Impact on organizational outcomes
  • What has improved as a result of intervention?          
  • Was it worth the investment

Communication Evaluation

Month Objective Activity Expected Completion Date Person (s) Responsible
July 2015 Discovery Phase Communications Assessment- we will have a communications report that identifies the churches strengths and weaknesses and shows opportunities for improvement presented to selected church leaders. July 2015 Shelly WoodCore planning team, membership and growth committee
September 2015 Dreaming Phase OPPC will have electronic files of all new logos, a customized Visual Identity Guide of new branding, stationery package of all templates for correspondence, a Branding/Identity Unveil Plan for strategies & tactics to unveil to the congregation. October 2015 Shelly Wood, Core planning team
October 2015 Development Phase New websiteincludes-

  • Home page
  • Sub pages
  • Resources
  • Event pages
  • Staff
  • Responsive design layouts
November 2015 Shelly Wood/ Norma Schehl
November 2015 Implementation Phase New and updated online website November 2015 Shelly Wood/Norma Schehl
OPPC will evaluate its effectiveness by –

  • An increased number of website visits- keeping a record of visits and comparing it to a baseline prior to new website
  • An increased number of visitors,         initiated by website visits – filling out the Connection Cards during the Sunday Service and checking the box which states that they visited the website first
  • An overall feeling of revitalization, updated branding and overall positive attitude – at the end of the Discovery Phase, Dreaming Phase and at the end of the Implementation Phase, OPPC will provide Formative Assessment Exit Slips to a cross section of the demographic of the congregation to determine what worked and what didn’t work in that phase of the project.

Example of an Exit Slip:

                                                                Discovery Phase

1.      Does the Communication Assessment reveal the top three areas that need the most time and attention for improvement?           5 strongly agree – 1 Strongly disagree

5       4       3       2       1

If not, what area(s) do you think needs the most attention and why?


2.      Does the Communication Assessment suggest concrete ways to strengthen/build our communication?

5       4       3       2       1

If not, what would you like to see? Would you be willing to be part of this?


                                                               Dreaming Phase

3.      Did the brainstorm/discovery session reveal OPPC’s vision and refine its identity?

5 strongly agree – 1 Strongly disagree

5       4       3       2       1

If not, what would you say should be its vision and identity and why?


4.      Was the brainstorm/discovery session communicated well to the congregation so that the members could own the vision and identity discerned at the session?

5       4       3       2       1

If not, what could have been done differently?


                                                              Implementation Phase

5.      Does the new website help us communicate a unified vision of who we are?

5 strongly agree – 1 Strongly disagree

5       4       3       2       1

If not, why?


6.      Is the new website easy to use and is key information easily accessible?

5       4       3       2       1

If not, what could have been done differently?


  • The Exit Slips will be gathered after each phase listed above and then Shelly Wood, the Core Planning Team and the Membership and Growth Committee will track the responses and adjust accordingly.
  • The overall goal is for the congregation to discern who God is calling them to be and to serve. By the end of this project, the congregation, will be able to put words around who they are and why they exist.
  • The evidence that the congregation is changing, learning and growing will be evaluated as we see new ideas, increased engagement of the congregation and a feeling of ownership.

Mortgage Evaluation

  • Quantitative Results
  • Debt is paid in full
  • Qualitative Results
  • Overall feeling of financial health and stability
  • Does the congregation have a sense of unified accomplishment in being debt free?
  • Does the congregation feel empowered to use resources out of abundance instead of scarcity?
  • Is the congregation better off being debt free?

The Appreciative Inquiry Process

Renewed Identity

Discovery, Dream,  Destiny and Design


“The discovery phase involves a data collection and narrative exploration. It begins the process of revealing the positive, the successful, and the prideful experiences of the individual and collective. Through carefully developed interview questions based in the affirmative topic selection, the focus is to explore and enliven the stories that are shared through interviewing the defined group within the organization. Generally, the more reflective of the entire organization, the more effective the outcome” (Ludeman 2003, 125).

What is our enduring faith task, and what fresh form could we take it today?

What do we wish to be known for in our community?

What guiding story or image crystallizes our vocation?

Steps in Discovery

  • Interviews the congregation
  • Creates Wall of History
  • Interviews organizations who use the church
  • Interviews the neighborhood

Chart a Course: Three Essential Questions:

Who are we?

  • Who are we historically as a church in this place?
  • What were our best days like?  When were they? What years? What was going on the church?
  • Search for common elements.

Who is our Neighbor?

  • The core team will look for creative ways to learn about our neighbors. (knocking on doors, Going to coffee houses, identifying new people in the neighborhood)

Why are we here?

  • Resist the temptation of jumping into action. Pray. Discern. Listen.

Listen for Common Themes


The dream phase of appreciative inquiry begins the process of what could be. Whether we call it dreaming, envisioning, or imagining, the focus is to think about possibilities beyond the realm of present day thinking (Ludema 2003, 145).


Hold an Evening event for Discovery and Dream

  • Set a wide table. Include members of the community, the entire congregation, those who use the building on a regular basis
        • Share Research.
        • Come up with provocative statements: use previous statements that have been used before.
        • Do not reinvent the wheel – use and honor the work of the past. Then ask the question, “Where is there passion and where is there not passion in these past dreams?” What new dreams are there?
        • We want our congregation to look like this, feel like this, be known for this. – Do you agree?
        • Decide “what’s hot and what’s not”
        • Collect the dreams and begin provocative statements.
        • Establish emerging Design
        • Write provocative statements, get consensus on the directions you want to go in worship, nurture, care, and/or service; design strategies that take you from where you are to where you want to go, assign leaders/participants for each strategic direction, and begin doing/experimenting.


Design is more than a Vision. It enhances the organization by leveraging its own past experiences to create a Strategic Intent. Strategic Intent signals what the organization wants more of and recognizes that the future is built on what can be based on what is.

After the discovery and dreaming phase, the core planning team re-engages the congregation again and gains consensus on Provocative Statements, asking the questions: Do you agree with these provocative statements?  Do you want the congregation to look and feel this way?



Offer Second Evening Event, Focusing on Design and Doing

Agree upon top 5 provocative statements

Design Interventions based on interests – make five-year plan and back it out.   Take the top design interventions and find leaders that have a passion in them.  Break into five small groups that will work on implementing the interventions.

  • Build Support
  • Share the Vision.
  • Testify to ways the vision is being lived out
  • Celebrate small successes
  • Start gathering stories.
  • The core team monitors redevelopment
  • Communicate outcomes
  • Support innovation teams
  • Support improvisational initiatives
  • Recognize people working in new ways
  • Furthering the use of appreciative inquiry

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