From Me to We: Shared Ministry as a way forward


by Peggy Hahn, Executive Director, LEAD

Until about the last 100 years shared ministry has always been included as an indispensable model for the Christian movement – faith communities sharing mission, pastors, buildings, and resources for the good of the whole church. Reclaiming this ancient model is more about the faith than it is about survival once people can let go of the idea of “my church” and embrace the truth – the church belongs to God.

Watch this video as leaders from congregations tell their stories of shared ministry and ask yourself this:

Who is your congregation called to partner with?

Since the days of Jesus, people have understood that God’s call to mission includes building networks of communities with people of other faiths, local businesses, hospitals, schools, and more.

A shift in leadership mindset from me to we, is a faithful, ancient and renewing response to being church in a changing world.

Work-Life Balance – It’s a Lie!

Did you know that only 20% of the US population feel like they have a healthy work-life balance? So, you’re not alone! But since when is work-life balance our life goal anyway?

There is no perfect metric that can set life on a balanced course. From day to day, week to week, or year to year, the variables are tremendous.

So, how are we to live the lives we are meant to live as holistic, integrated, fully-human human beings?

This isn’t a rhetorical question. I want you to take a moment now and ask yourself this:

How can I live the life I was born to live?

At the end of your life, would you prefer to be known as the person who did a great job juggling life or a person who had integrity?

If our goal is to keep our lives balanced, we will lose. Most days, real life is too hard to balance.

If our goal is to identify and live out our personal values, the values we share with our partners at home or the values that define our work teams, we have a chance at an integrated, centered life that holds together, no matter what.

How can you break free of the work-life balance life to really live the life you were born to live?

As much as we love planning ahead, being organized, and checking off lists, it is even more important to hear the people who are closest to us say:

You are the same person at home and at work. You practice what you preach. You walk your talk. You have integrity.

For this to happen, we need to be centered.

I don’t know about you but I have a better chance of hitting that mark on a day to day basis. If I can wake up in the morning knowing what I believe, if I am centered, I only have one me to manage…and that is a relief.

It won’t matter if I am playing at the park with my grandchildren, in a heartfelt conversation with a staff person, responding to a client, sitting with my aunt as she gets cancer treatment or responding to the aftermath of hurricane Harvey…I am centered and what I am doing reflects that.

If this is something you want to work on with intentionality, LEAD offers Value Cards (or you can make your own using Post-It notes) that can help you get centered. They work for personal reflection or for teams of people negotiating shared values. My husband and I used them when we were working on his retirement plan. Once you’ve identified your values, go to work aligning your life around your top 3-5 values.

Embrace the feeling of living a holistic life. Notice that I did not say easier life because once you have your values in place, being centered means using them to make decisions with intentionality rather than letting the markets, your peers, or competing values drive the day. We can do this…you and I can do this…it’s worth it.

The Stories of Easter

Our Kids Are Crying

From Athletic Coaching to Leadership Coaching: Taking Your Development Seriously

by Rozella Haydée White, LEAD Consultant

I’ve been coached since I was 13 years of age. I grew up cheerleading in Texas. Contrary to what many think, cheerleading is INDEED a sport. Not only did I take it very seriously, I still do! I began cheering in middle school and continued cheering through my senior year in high school. I “lettered” in cheerleading, earning patches that went on my letterman jacket for cheering on both the junior varsity and varsity competition squads.

After I graduated from high school, I began dancing on college dance teams. All of these teams had coaches that crafted our practices and provided us with the tools needed to grow our skills. We provided the raw material with our physical bodies and talents and they provided the frameworks needed for us to excel.

Not only was I coached during this time, I also worked as a coach to a high school cheerleading squad. I loved this work. I have always been passionate about helping people develop their skills and my time as a cheerleading coach was no different. I was able to accompany my squad members not just in the task of cheerleading but also in their development as young women. I provided accountability and support, while empowering them throughout the year. I did this work throughout my twenties until life changed and coaching seemed to be a thing of my youthful past.

I encountered coaching again during my time in seminary. This time, it was life and leadership coaching rather than athletic coaching. There were people in both my personal and professional life that did something other than mentor me. They asked me thought provoking questions that made me look within for answers. They encouraged me to articulate my goals and helped me craft plans to meet them. They were concerned with me reaching my fullest potential and would recommend resources to aid in my development. These people were as much coaches as any athletic coach I had as a young person.

While a well-known tool for empowering and equipping leaders in other industries, coaching is still misunderstood or unheard of within faith communities. Many of us know the power of therapy, mentoring and spiritual direction but we haven’t explored how coaching might be a tool that is beneficial to ongoing leadership development.

LEAD is an organization that believes in the power of coaching to help people become faithful leaders who nurture their spiritual lives while growing in their adaptive skills. Much like the athletic coaches of my past and the coach I was to young people, LEAD coaches are a resource to empower leaders in their ongoing development. Athletes wouldn’t dare compete without the support of a coach. Why would leaders, tasked with transforming faith communities and influencing the world, NOT partner with a coach in order to fulfill their call?

When was the last time you had an accountability partner? When was the last time you did some serious visioning for your own leadership? When was the last time you created space in your life to listen to your leadership voice within? When was the last time you had someone cheering you on as you continued to develop your gifts and passions?

It is LEAD’s goal to offer excellent coaching services to leaders and teams that help you understand yourself, envision change and transform your community. Consider partnering with us today. I promise you, it’s worth it.

Renewing Leadership

photo credit: Julia Scruggs

by Pastor David Hansen, Director of Communication & Innovation – LEAD

In January, much of the US was hit by winter storms. Even here in Houston, schools and businesses were closed as ice made it unsafe for us to travel on roads.

And all of a sudden, I had three extra days off.

Let’s face it. Those of us in ministry are prone to overworking. We are likely to not take all of our vacation or continuing education time. To put in work time on our days off.

People in ministry are people who sometimes don’t know how to turn it all off.
To really rest.
To truly take a break.

Even though the research proves that as people work longer hours, they become less productive and less creative.
Even though we stand in pulpits and classrooms and teach people about the importance of Sabbath.

But in January, the weather left many of us with no choice. We had to take a break. And in those days I was reminded – I am a better pastor, preacher, and leader when I am well rested. I am more able to be the leader God has called me to be when there is time for prayer, contemplation, and rest as a part of my day.

Rediscovering Rest

For those of us who follow the liturgical calendar, Lent is here – a time that is traditionally devoted to spiritual practices and renewing our faith.

What if this Lent is a time not just to preach and teach about the importance of renewal, but a time to lead by example?

What if we – as leaders – took this season of Lent to become more intentional about rest and prayer?

You – beloved child of God – are deserving of rest. And not only are you deserving of it, taking the time for rest and prayer will help you to be a better leader to those whom you serve.

This Lent, listen to God’s call for leaders.

Take out your calendar for the season, and schedule time for rest – write it on your calendar.

Rediscover the powerful work of rest, prayer, and renewal.

LEAD offers free print-ready resources for Lent.

Fly Through the Crash

by Peggy Hahn, LEAD Executive Director

The night before I was about to launch the biggest project of my life, I got some of the best leadership advice ever from Sally Ahrens, my partner in ministry. She looked me in the eye and said with all seriousness:

“No matter what happens, fly through the crash.”

At this point in our preparation, I knew she wasn’t kidding, but I also had no idea what she was talking about, so I just gave her the “huh?” look.

“Fly through the crash. You just might land the plane,” was her response.

This was only a few weeks after the plane had landed in the Hudson River. I got it.

I am sharing this with you today because I have come to realize that the language of “being in survival- mode” that people use regarding their congregation does not fit at all. Every story I know about survival-mode has a high level of “fighting for life” that includes a willingness to fly through the crash.

Survival behavior is hopeful because it brings an instinct for living that overcomes a willingness to die.

We hear it when POWs tell horrific stories of pain and suffering, always aware that death is very real yet always hanging on to a glimmer of hope that life may come tomorrow. You can see it in the eyes of people who have survived the devastation of hurricanes, fires, or tornados.

Survival has a do-what-it-takes-to-live kind of courage.

I honestly wish I saw more of this in congregational leadership.

More often I see stubbornness wrapped in nostalgia. That digging-in-our-heels posture is not survival, it is (you won’t like this) death.

Once we become closed to new ideas, even about our faith, we start to die.

This is true for people and for organizations.

The great news is that we can change our mindset.

We have a choice about how we will react to things we don’t like, things that are thrust upon us, or even things we choose that have unexpected outcomes.

We have the power to survive.

Theologically, I think that God has wired this into our humanity. It is the Holy Spirit wrestling with our ego and offering us a glimpse of hope, if we can let go of our stubbornness to grasp it.

My prayer for leaders is that they get in touch with their survival instincts, let go of their stubborn egos, and fly through the crash.

In this time of re-generation of the world, the church as we know it is in a metamorphosis not a death. What looks like death are places where people stop surviving.

Take Sally’s advice (trust me, I always did!) and fly through the crash.

Thanks to her encouragement, we created together a way for 36,000 people to serve in New Orleans in 2009. This was the largest servant event in the world. From the air traffic control tower, there were countless opportunities to crash, including a few minor collisions. Yet we landed the plane with a city blessed by our church, young people engaged in a faith that made a difference, and a church with a new way of doing a youth gathering. Not bad for a four-day gig.

Imagine what leaders who serve every day in a particular neighborhood could do if they started to survive?

Read More in 2018

by Peggy Hahn, Executive Director of LEAD

How many books do you read in an average year? Not sure? Me either… until now because I plan to keep track for the first time ever.

One of my personal goals this year is to start a book log, capturing the books I read along with a few personal notes on each book. I’m thinking of this as an annual bibliography. Usually I send out book recommendations from my favorites, but honestly, I am curious about yours! What are you reading and loving?

I have become a huge fan of audiobooks that let me “read” while I walk or drive. Occasionally I love a book so much I have to have the paper copy too. I’m still a bigger fan of paper books and, as it turns out, I am not alone in this. According to Pew Research, more people in the U.S. prefer paper books, even with all the digital alternatives. There is also interesting research that says you remember more of what you read on paper than digitally.

As we are only a few weeks into a new year, I am looking forward to starting my new habit. I am going to utilize a few of these tips that came into my inbox from Daniel Pink to turbo-charge my reading.

In case you are wondering, here is my January list so far. I would LOVE an email or a Facebook post about your book list. The only thing better to me than a book recommendation is a restaurant referral!

Books I have read so far in 2018: (with my * ratings)

It’s been a pretty great reading year so far. How about you? What do you recommend?

$10 for 10, because we love God and God’s church

LEAD exists for you – we are in it together. Friends, we have a heartfelt request for each of you to invest $10 in LEAD this month to help us grow and expand the resources and services we offer leaders and faith communities in 2018.

Leaders are launching community gardens, initiating new faith practices, partnering with local schools, asking hard questions, responding to needs in their neighborhoods, creating strategic plans, identifying shared core values and a clear purpose, and so much more with YOUR support through LEAD. Their stories are pouring in and inspiring new resources for a new year. This is where you come in.

We are asking you to donate $10 by January 31 in honor of the 10,000+ volunteer hours our team has given to provide you with these top 10 resources. Please show your love by donating today.

Here are the Top 10 ways LEAD has supported leaders in 2017. Together we can make an even bigger impact in 2018!

  1. Created free print-ready Advent and Lent resources used by nearly 1,000 congregation around the world in 2017. Get a sneak peek at our 2018 Lenten resources now!
  2. Sent free monthly newsletters filled with leadership tips, tools, and challenges to over 4,000 people each week. Check out the 10 most-read articles from 2017.
  3. Equipped leaders with 40+ free 10 Minute Toolbox videos.
  4. Encouraged individuals and congregations to engage in new spiritual practices through newsletters articles, seasonal resources, and more.
  5. Improved the user experience for accessing resources through the LEAD Partner
  6. Opened the door to travelers on our pilgrimage to Turkey and Greece by providing scholarships to new leaders.
  7. Empowered 70+ congregations in six different synods to reach out to their neighborhoods through LEAD Journeys.
  8. Published a new book, Work Out Guide, and prepared to launch Faithful Metrics(with accompanying resources) on February 1, 2018.
  9. Provided financial gifts to 53 leaders impacted by Hurricane Harvey, through The Courageous Community.
  10. Supported individual leaders and congregations with coaching and peer cohorts. Take advantage of our January special for coaching!

This is just 10 of the many ways our LEAD team, made of a small paid staff and many volunteers, serve you. We are excited about reaching even more individuals and congregations with new resources and services in 2018. With YOUR gift of $10 (or more) by January 31, we can make it happen!

Thanks – with all our heart – for your partnership. We exist to serve you. Let us know your leadership needs… we are listening!

Top 10 of 2017

Wondering what caught people’s attention in 2017? Here’s a list of LEAD’s most-read blogposts from 2017. Revisit your favorites or catch up on those you may have missed.

There are 250+ blogposts available on the website, so if you don’t see what you’re looking for in this list (or if you get excited and want more), check them out!

10. Rules that Matter Most – to YOU! by Peggy Hahn

9. Chicken and Eggs: A Tale of Mindfulness by Lynn Willis

8. Dying Church? by Pastor David Hansen

7. From Insider Community to Inclusive Church by Peggy Hahn

6. Developing a Statement of Theology by Rozella White

5. A New Thing… by Peggy Hahn

4. Summer Reading Recommendations by Peggy Hahn (these are good winter reads too!)

3. The Best Advice My Dad Has Given Me (so far) by Peggy Hahn

2. Leaders Helping Leaders by Peggy Hahn

And the most read article of 2017…

1. Owning My White Privilege by Peggy Hahn

Do you have a favorite that wasn’t included? Share it on Facebook.

This is personal

Most of us live two lives: The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Overcoming the resistance between the two is what deep, bold, consequential faith is all about.

Hold that thought for a minute.

First, answer this question honestly: How are you right now? Tell yourself the truth.

Admittedly, there are days when leadership and life in general wear me down. I fight the urge to embrace the introvert within me that yearns for the deserted island, while my calendar, filled with meaningful commitments, looms over me. In my deepest heart, I know that this feeling is the holiday hangover that will soon pass, but, in this very moment, I’m tired. That’s just true. And, I said it to you, out loud.

Yes, at this very moment, I feel like escaping from the whirlwind of my life by going on a long walk with my dog (no people), getting a cup of coffee (alone), and reading a romance novel all day (learning nothing).

Even Jesus went away from the crowds from time to time.

What is stopping us from planning an occasional escape?

This feeling and these questions have led me to seriously wonder: How do we “go away” from the crowds in a 360-degree world? Someone is always waiting for a response. Always. The Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/WhatsApp/Slack/email/text/calls/face-to-face conversations/you-name-it communication explosion offers a true leadership management opportunity.

Most of us live two lives: The life we live, and the unlived life within us. It takes time outside of the whirlwind to break through the barrier between the two. We must do this.

I know that to be my best self, I need space to pray, worship, exercise, read, write, learn, and sleep. My commitment to you is that I am sitting down THIS WEEK to schedule each of these into my calendar. (That is truly the only way they will happen.)

Please join me in making a commitment to a healthy new year by carving out and protecting time for these seven life-giving habits.

To support you in these practices, LEAD is offering a huge sale on coaching. Why? Because we know firsthand how hard it is to keep our commitments to ourselves. I need accountability for myself, don’t you?

Our leadership abilities are compromised when we don’t make personal care part of our daily, weekly and monthly life. Making personal time a priority is especially hard for caregivers who are raising young children or caring for someone who is sick; for single people; and for people who have just moved to a new neighborhood or congregation.

Coaching can provide you with the accountability and support you need to move forward. Our promise to you:

If coaching feels like just one more thing on your to-do list after your first three coaching conversations, we will refund your money.

Most of us live two lives: The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Overcoming the resistance between the two is what deep, bold, consequential faith is all about. What do you need to stay centered? This is personal—and it is really important if we are going to be in ministry for the long haul.

A Vibrant Church

Christmas Blessing

May God give us

The strength and determination of a woman
laboring to deliver new life

The encouragement and wisdom of a midwife
helping another to bring forth new life

The care and nurture of a shepherd
fiercely protecting new life

The wonder and curiosity of a baby
discovering the happiness and work of life

The joy and thanksgiving of Angels
delighting in new life

And grace in receiving
even the most humble of gifts.

May we keep all these things and ponder them in our hearts.

Nativity used with permission of the artist, Carol Aust
Blessing by Lynn Willis



A Gift of the Holy Spirit

by David Hansen, Pastor at Spirit of Joy! and LEAD Director of Communication & Innovation

“I believe that by my own power or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him, but instead the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, made me holy, and kept me in the true faith.”

Martin Luther, Small Catechism

Faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit – something which we cannot earn or achieve through our own effort. Along the way, the Spirit places in our path people who help us toward faith and discipleship. People whose presence in our lives calls us to faith, or to deeper, more mature faith.

These people go by lots of different names: guides, mentors, confessors, influencers, advisors. As the LEAD team has shared our stories with one another, we call them “faith givers” – faithful people empowered by God to share the gift of faith with us.

I am a pastor’s kid, and so I was raised by the church and in the church. Sitting in the church fellowship hall, my feet swinging from the metal folding chair while Dad was teaching and Mom was in choir rehearsal. And there, the saints of the church saw me and began to gift me with faithfulness.

I always cringe at this sort of list because I am likely to forget people – but that is no reason to not start giving thanks. Here is the beginning of my list of faith givers as I give thanks to God for them and the faith they have shared with me:

  • My Godparents: Kathy and Joe, Cec and Johnny
  • Lawrence and Florence, who sat with me in the pew every Sunday, and the rest of the Bethany crew
  • Youth leaders like Bob and Cathy and Shawn
  • Pastors (because even PKs need a pastor!) like Pastor Kirsten and Pastor Kelly
  • Mentors along the way like Richard, Gerry, Dennis, Mike, and Charles
  • Friends whose lives and love are gifts of faith: Derrick, Aaron, Deb, Carol, Jason, Andrea, Kathi, Scott, Joelle, Keith, Kristin, Lance, and too many more to name
  • Megan, my spouse
  • My daughter, parents, brothers, niece and nephews, and in laws

I bet you have a list like this too.

The LEAD team would like to help you to say THANK YOU to the faith givers of your life.

How? Go to Faith Givers.

  1. Click on Give Now to make a donation online with a credit card or by mailing a check to LEAD.
  2. Include the names and email addresses of the people or congregations you want to honor (up to 5 per donation). There is no minimum gift.

Emails will pour into inboxes and the people you choose to recognize will know that when they share their faith, it really matters!

Shaping lives-community, prayer & service

by Kristen Krueger, PhD – LEAD Consultant

I was eight years old when my family moved from Denver to Houston. I vividly remember crying in the arms of Miss Lila, my Sunday school teacher at All Saints Lutheran Church on my last Sunday there. Miss Lila reassured me that I would find friends and life would be good in Texas but I didn’t really believe her. For the next six months I wrote her regular letters telling her about my new school and eventually about the new Sunday school class at New Hope Lutheran in Missouri City, TX. When we returned to Denver at Christmas to visit family, Miss Lila was there waiting. She gathered all the children from my Sunday School class for a special holiday party planned around my family’s schedule so I could be included. It’s my first memory of a faith community caring for me.

Miss Lila understood the value of community.

I was eighteen years old when my mom left me at Texas Lutheran University as a freshman with anxious, hopeful tears stinging my eyes. Surrounded by peers, I felt alone. Until I received an anonymous greeting card with a simple prayer in my mailbox the following week. And every week after that until the Christmas break. When I went to worship at Faith Lutheran Church in Bellaire for Christmas Eve, Miss Betty Jean gave me a big hug and whispered “I hope you got all my notes” as she walked away.

Miss Betty Jean understood the value of prayer.

I was twenty-eight when I discovered I was expecting my first child. When she was born three months too soon, I received an email asking me to leave a cooler on our front porch for as long as she was in the hospital. Twice a week we would arrive home from long days of sitting next to my two-pound baby’s bed watching for every rise and fall of her chest to find a warm dinner waiting inside that cooler. Each meal came with a note of encouragement and the overwhelming feeling that we were not alone in our journey. The people of Faith Lutheran provided meals for my family for 73 long days until we brought our daughter home.

Faith Lutheran understood the value of service.

Faith givers have shaped every season of my life in ways I could never have predicted. I doubt Miss Lila, Miss Betty Jean, or some of the people who provided our family’s dinner will ever know how their actions planted seeds of faith. Their gifts went far beyond a party, a letter, or a meal by showing me what faith looks like as community, prayer, and acts of service. Who has shaped your life with these gifts of faith? How can you honor their stories this Advent season?

We invite you to consider making a gift to LEAD in their names. We will send them a personal email thanking them for sharing their faith with you.

The Power of God Moments

“I need to bless you,” interrupted my two-year-old granddaughter as we gathered for dinner this weekend.

Wow. A God moment named and claimed by a baby.

How does she know that God is with us? How does she know she has agency to bless us?

The faith givers in her life, especially her mom and dad, have passed their love for Jesus to this baby through the rituals of their lives. They use the Faith5 practice as a family and it works. People of all ages can be blessed by this ritual.

God is always with us, but sometimes it takes a baby to be the faith giver in the family. God coming to us as a baby says it all.

With the feelings of gratitude still warm in our hearts from Thanksgiving, please join me in thanking those who have passed the faith to you.

Give a gift of any amount to LEAD and we will send a personal thank you note for you.

The holidays are rich with traditions we can build on to name the God moments all around us. Do the people in your life know the story of the Christmas Tree or the symbolism of the poinsettia or the Advent candles?

This is a great time to trade up on our traditions to strengthen our own faith language.

Thanksgiving Prayer 2017

This year
may our Thanksgiving not be small and rote.

This year
may our thanks giving be broad and deep.

May it fill to overflowing
every cell in our bodies,

So that each exhaled breath
may be carried by the Holy Spirit

And laid gently upon all things and all persons.

This year
may all things and all persons
feel loved
by God and by our Thanks Given.

by Lynn Willis, LEAD Spiritual Director

Gratitude as Soul Care

by: Rozella Haydée White

How is it with your soul?

When was the last time you stopped, asked yourself this question and listened for the answer?

When was the last time you reflected on the thoughts and feelings that emerged when you intentionally tuned into your soul?*

Our souls have so much to share with us and oftentimes, we are too busy to listen. Your soul can be thought of as your spirit, your gut or your heart center. Its holds the essence of who you are and is one of the most profound teachers in our life. Yet, so many of us go day in and day out with little time or attention paid to soul care.

Even if I’m not asking this question of my soul daily, I can’t help but ask this question during the holiday season. The holidays bring up a lot of feelings and our soul is often a place that can guide us towards clarity and healing. Some experience elation as they think about spending time with family and friends, while others feel anxiety at the thought of attending holiday parties or family gatherings. I am one who has struggled with Seasonal Affective Disorder, so the holidays hold both anticipation and anxiety as I struggle to remain present and not be overcome with sadness.

There are as many responses to the holiday season as there are people in the world.

Leaders aren’t immune to the emotional roller coaster that the holidays bring. I believe that leaders experience emotions on a deeper level because they tend to carry their personal feelings and the emotions of those they serve. If you are not attending to your soul health and well-being on “normal” days, holiday wellness might be a challenge.

There are many practices for attending to our souls but I have found one practice to be particularly helpful. It is not difficult nor does it require a lot of time. However, this practice can literally change lives.

Gratitude. Practice gratitude. That’s it.

One way that leaders can pay attention is by slowing down and practicing gratitude; by turning their focus from all that has to be done or has been left undone to the people, experiences, leanings and opportunities that are present in their lives.

When I practice gratitude as a form of soul care, I am more in touch with what I’m feeling and I become aware of all the good in my life and in the lives of those I care for. The holiday season is a perfect time to start a Gratitude Jar, Journal or some other form of daily, intentional practice that invites you to be attentive to your thoughts and feelings.

Another way to practice gratitude this year is to participate in LEAD’s Faith Givers Campaign. We are launching an annual fund campaign that has two goals – to share stories of the people who have passed on faith to us and to raise funds so that LEAD can continue in the work of empowering Christian leaders, transforming faith communities and influencing the world. LEAD is dedicated to forming leaders with deep, bold, consequential faith and we know that this cannot happen apart from uplifting those who have passed on the faith to us. We believe that leaders with bold, deep, consequential faith in Jesus are also leaders who practice soul care and gratitude on a daily basis. Consider joining us in any way that you can and by sharing this with others.

*This Advent Season, LEAD has produced FREE resources to help you slow down and reflect. LEAD also provides a wonderful resource that helps individuals and communities listen deeply and listen well to how God is speaking in your life through Scripture, through your relationships and in your community. Check out our Tune In Process.

Who are the Faith Givers in Your Life?

Faith is a free gift of the Holy Spirit.
People love God and they love you enough to pass it on.

These are the faith givers.

Maybe you had faithful parents or grandparents. Maybe you went to camp as a kid, campus ministry as a student, or had a youth minister, pastor or a caring adult who invested in you. Faith is passed person to person, usually by caring adults to children and youth. Sometimes it works the other way around with children and adults passing their faith to the adults in their lives.

LEAD grows leaders with a deep, bold, consequential faith – like you! Show your gratitude to those who have influenced your faith this holiday season by making a gift in any amount to LEAD in their names. If you provide their email addresses, we will send them a special email thanking them for sharing their faith with you. We can also include their names on our website with other faith givers from around the world. Learn more about Faith Givers.

I am already thinking about people I would like to honor. I am wondering how many will be surprised when they get this gift from me this holiday season. Most of these are people who aren’t on my Christmas card list and many haven’t heard from me in years, yet when I reflect on my life, I am so deeply grateful that I want them to know their investment in me really matters in my life.

Here are the people I’m giving thanks to God for (and this is just the start!):

  • Pastors Arno Martin, Steve Quill, Liz Stein, Paul Schairer, Herb Palmer, Paul Blom, Rob Moore, Roland Martinson, Bill and Carolyn Keys, Julio Chaves, Walter and Betty Baires, and Tim Barr
  • My youth group at Faith Lutheran years ago
  • All five of my children and their spouses
  • My husband
  • My parents, my grandparents, and my aunts and uncles
  • My dear friends, including some in El Salvador and Peru

If I can find their email addresses, they will be surprised with a thank you note from me and LEAD!

And those you choose to remember will be surprised with thank you notes too! Imagine how many people will be blessed by this gift of gratitude!

Please pass this invitation along to everyone you know. Let’s use #GivingTuesday to say thanks for the gift that changes everything – the gift of faith givers.

Or do it now – you don’t have to wait for #Giving Tuesday!

How? Go to

  1. Click on Give Now to make a donation online with a credit card online or by mailing a check to LEAD.
  2. Include the names and email addresses of the people or congregations you want to honor (up to 5 per donation). There is no minimum gift.

Emails will pour into inboxes and the people you chose to recognize will know that when they share their faith, it really matters!

With deep gratitude,

The LEAD Team

From Insider Community to Inclusive Church

by Peggy Hahn, LEAD Executive Director

Yes, a church is a community, but is a community a church?

In an interview, this week with Pastor Mike Louia of First Lutheran Church in Ellicott City, MD, a congregation on the LEAD Journey, truth was named.

Pastor Mike said:

I will know we are truly being church when people introduce themselves as ‘My name is ____ and I saw God do ____ today’ rather than the usual ‘My name is ____ and I’ve been a member here for ____ years.’ 

When we wear our years of membership as a badge of honor, something happens to the new people around the table. They are unintentionally pushed out. They have less power in the system and a smaller voice in the conversation. Authority is ranked and they are not at the top.

But imagine if the authority in the group was given to God instead. Every time we gather.

Insider communities are focused on themselves whereas an inclusive church is focused on deep hospitality for all people. The way a congregation acts can either open up space for people to name God in their midst or make it clear that the power in the congregation resides in certain people.

So, what if we use this fall as a time to shift behavior?

What if instead of focusing on the community’s preference for “the way we’ve always done it,” we ask the inclusive question, “how does this welcome new people into the conversation?”

Here are a few ideas you might consider. I invite you to add to the list.

  • What if…introductions start by naming God’s presence in our daily life instead of membership status or any other kind of status. The spotlight is on God.
  • What if…prayers at congregational meals are no longer the work of the expert (pastor or staff) and instead, everyone is invited to pray. Even children, youth, and visitors. (Be sure to invite them in advance so they aren’t put on the spot.)
  • What if…decisions at the council or leadership tables are made after a time of prayer and serious discussion around some or all of these questions:
    • What does this mean for the newest, youngest, or oldest person in our midst?
    • How does this pull in or push out people who are newly divorced or speak a different language or have a sexual orientation other than the majority or have just moved here or have lost their job or have had a recent death in their family?

You get the picture. Having clear values will help you make your own list.

  • What if…the website is used to preach the Gospel and invite people (including especially visitors) into a spiritual journey of deepening faith. Websites that look like photo albums filled with pictures of empty buildings aren’t welcoming, they don’t speak to visitors (and that should be its primary focus). And telling people where the pastor went to seminary, but not what the congregation believes, is not helpful.
  • What if…announcements at worship assume people in the room don’t know how what we are doing connects to our faith life so there is intentional clarity when sharing opportunities. The same is true for printed material.

For example: Everyone is welcome at our Advent dinners. This is time we set aside to deepen our relationships with each other as we share our day and a meal much like the early church did when they gathered together in homes.”

  • What if…all the learning and worship of God that takes place in the sanctuary is linked to the learning and worship of God that happens at home, in the car, at work, or at bedtime. When you consider how much time people spend outside the church, the importance of resources for ministry in the home becomes clear.
  • What if…ministry for young families teaches parents how to talk about God and faith at home, and offers them rituals, blessings, and God stories to use.

What else can you think of?

This is a valuable leadership conversation that will shift results. Pick two or three you want to try for the remainder of the year.

Remember, it takes three weeks to form a new habit. Given the inertia of church life, those three weeks may be more like three months, so stick with it. The shift from being an insider community to being an inclusive church is worth it.

Advent 2017 Reflection

by Vonda Drees, creator of the 2017 Advent art and Director of Grunewald Guild
This post was originally published in Vonda’s blog, journaling the Spirit’s stirring

It all began with a question: What if during Advent, we began with four lit candles and each week lit one less, quieting/stilling our way toward the center Christ candle? How could a question like that be imaged?


One person said it’s like a countdown… Yes, indeed! I’ve also suggested that it mirrors our physical experience (in the Northern Hemisphere) with light.

The image breaks into five vertical panels, from right to left: four lit candles, three, two, one, and the Christ candle with the Madonna and Child.

One of the things that delights me is that in the tradition of reading left to right, the image begins with Christ. God is with us all along. Becoming quieter can help us discern that. I had a conversation early on about my desire to have people move through the image from right to left, like coming back to the beginning. The person I was talking with told me about the “O, Antiphons.” Really, really interesting stuff… “O, Antiphons.” Really, really interesting stuff… And although it can’t be proven, I choose to leave room for the mystery.

Download (free) this image in black and white using the link below. Add your own color this Advent!

Check out the liturgies that accompany the images… it’s all free here from LEAD.


By Peggy Hahn, Executive Director of LEAD

Sometimes the truth hits a little too close to home. What happens when the sanctuary isn’t a safe place?

Don’t live in la-la land.

Sexual assault is not just a scandal in the Roman Catholic Church.

It is not a Facebook gimmick.

Sexual assault is real and has happened at your church too.

One in four women and one in ten men have been sexually assaulted and that is just the number of people willing to admit it.

This is a leadership conversation that may make you squirm. You can start by asking yourself, “why does this make me uncomfortable?” Your answer to that is reason enough to have the conversation.

To truly make your sacred space a sanctuary, we need to talk about this.

Why are we uncomfortable talking about creating a space where women don’t have to fear being squeezed too hard or children don’t have to feel afraid when they go to the bathroom?

Telling off-color jokes, stereotyping people by race, gender, sexuality or ethnicity – these things are not okay. The “boys will be boys” phrase we use to excuse our children, youth or men from bad behavior is unacceptable.

Here are a few things to help you start this conversation – don’t shy away from taking steps to make your congregation a safe place.

First, resist asking the women in your congregation if this is true. If women want to talk with you about this they will.

People may be retraumatized by pushing them into conversations they are not ready to make public. Their assaulters may be standing next to you. Instead, let it be known that this kind of behavior is not tolerated and if people want to share their stories you would be willing to listen and support the conversation.

Set boundaries and policies that protect children, even if your congregation does not have a children or youth ministry.

There are children in the neighborhood or in the family and this conversation may be what is needed to free someone to get help, to speak out, or to call out a high-risk situation. Every church should have safe haven guidelines of some kind, do background checks if there are any children on the campus, and have a no-adult-alone-with-a-child policy. People new to the church should NOT be allowed to work with children or youth unsupervised until they a have been there for over a year. Sexual predators can’t wait a year before targeting a victim.

Call out the subtle practices for what they are – dehumanizing to women.

Stop asking the man in the family for the stewardship commitment card as though women do not contribute to the household or have a brain in their head. Stop expecting the women to be “in the kitchen” while the men hang out in decision-making conversations.

Women stop making excuses for your husband, father, brother, or son.

You are not helping yourself or the world when you apologize to others for the bad behavior of the men in your life. If you are in a violent situation, we urge you to find a safe person to help you.

Men stop participating in the machismo culture.

Passing around pictures of women as if they are objects, feeling empowered to comment on someone’s breasts or a million other ways men undermine women are not acceptable. This behavior hurts everyone including their own mothers, wives, daughters, and granddaughters.

If you think a #metoo@church? conversation is hard, that is a good indication that you need to have one. Use this article to prompt a conversation at your church council table.

How will you create a culture of respect and safety for all people?

Book Pantry

By Peggy Hahn, LEAD Executive Director

It’s only been a few weeks since the flood waters wiped out the neighborhood including Faith Lutheran Church in Dickinson, Texas.

While the church building is not yet open for worship, Pastor Deb Grant and her congregation aren’t waiting to respond to the needs in their community.* They have a vision, a vision that will help parents put books into their children’s hands this year at Christmas.

I met with Pastor Deb a week after hurricane Harvey hit Texas. Over dinner she told me the two things that were most tugging at her heart during this time:

  1. Her prayer for the people of Faith to know that God was holding them close during this life-wrenching experience
  2. The fact that all the books that had been donated for the community had been lost in the storm.

The Ark Book Pantry is proof that the Holy Spirit is blowing through her congregation even as they wait for the city to get rid of the mountains of debris (this is what we call our furniture, drywall, and insulation after its been flooded) waiting on the front lawn for garbage pick-up.

Yes, in the midst of the devastation, Faith’s leaders are already looking ahead to the holidays. They want to see books in the hands for their neighborhood children, and more than that, they are making it happen!

Born out of the flood but showing signs of hope and life”, Faith is creating a book pantry, a place where new books will be given away to children, but that’s not all. It’s also a place to build trust in their neighborhood and support parents who are facing a host of challenges in the wake of the hurricane.

The psychological toll of a natural disaster is predictable. There is a formula for forecasting the lowest point in the recovery process and in the emotional health of the community. For victims of Harvey, this coincides with the holidays. This is the time we can anticipate a rise in family violence, addiction, depression, suicide, and divorce. What helps is for people to feel supported, to get the resources they need, and to be reminded that God has them when everything else feels like it is falling apart.

A book might not seem like much, but a neighborhood congregation that cares is life-giving.

Two ways you can help:

  1. Buy books from the book list requested by the flooded schools in Dickinson.
  2. Build a book pantry in your own neighborhood.

Increasing literacy is the #1 way to move people out of poverty. Parents who are not strong readers themselves can benefit from reading with their children. Books can change a child’s life as they expand their vocabulary, confidence, and vision for a world bigger than their own.

On a side note, the ELCA Youth Gathering has invited everyone to bring books to Houston next summer. Stay tuned for more on that in a few months.

Why not make this holiday a book-giving experience by partnering with Faith or another book distribution center, or by building one of your own? This is a great way to be a good neighbor.

*Faith Lutheran Church in Dickinson is worshiping with Holy Trinity Episcopal Church each week, another neighboring opportunity.



A word found over 71 times in 39 of the Psalms and three times in Habakkuk 3. It is the last word of Psalms 3, 24, and 46, and in most other cases, it comes at the end of a verse (the exceptions being Psalms 55:19, 57:3, and Hab. 3:3, 9, 13).


A word not fully understood, yet surely meant to remind us to pause, to say amen – let it be so.


A word that faithful leaders need to breathe in and out on a regular basis.

All together now…


In the midst of hurricane recovery, of fall programing, of family life, of health issues, of whatever, we all need to relish the moments of calm when they come. We all need to be intentional about making these moments happen.




Remember you are loved.

That is enough.


Leaders Helping Leaders

Rules that Matter Most – to YOU!

By Peggy Hahn

Everything cannot be of equal value – or nothing would have meaning, right?

So, what rules matter most in your life?

Make a Top 10 list of the Rules that Matter Most to You.

The rules will change from time to time and that’s okay. But making this list helps bring into focus what matters most to you right now.

Here are the rules that are holding me right now – not necessarily in priority order:

  1. Pray first and last every day. In between too.
  2. Make space to create, read, write, and walk every week. No exceptions.
  3. Stay close to my family and even closer to my husband.
  4. Experiment as often as possible. Risks are good.
  5. Drive the calendar so it doesn’t drive me.
  6. Pick up after myself. Clean up my own mess.
  7. Listen to people deeply. Beyond words.
  8. Forget the hurt, anger, and wrong as quickly as possible.
  9. Practice gratitude even when (especially when) it’s hard.
  10. Make the effort to get to know the new people in the room.

My rules keep me right-side-up. I break them once in a while but the point is that I am trying to live by the values that really matter to me. What are yours?

Check out this article about the ‘2-hour rule’ based on Einstein’s habits. Then come up with your own rules. You will may be surprised at what is shaping your day, week, month, and life.

God has given us a life to live – enjoy it!

Deepening Faith

By Pastor Mindy Roll – Campus Pastor for Treehouse, the Lutheran Campus Ministry (ELCA) at Texas A&M and the Blinn Colleges

—For all those longing for a deeper faith, or just feeling “stuck,” or even just wanting to build deeper friendships – check out this new 8-week small group study.

As our synod began a process of intentional listening related to our strategic plan, one conversation haunted me. I had had it many times, with many folks, in many churches, but this time, the response startled me.

When asked to identify a period or moment or group that had deepened each person’s faith, one woman gave me a steady look. What do you mean? she finally asked. 

It could be anything, I responded – a Bible study, or women’s group, or retreat, or the weekly experience of worship – anything that has challenged or deepened or grown your faith over the years.

I don’t understand your question, she responded. I’ve served on Council nearly my whole adult life, but I’ve never had an experience where I felt like my faith was deepened. 

Her response, and many like it, was a wake-up call for those on our team. We began to grapple with the question – what does it mean to deepen faith? What does it mean to have a maturing faith? What does it look like for faith to be nuanced and complex, while also prayerful and sustaining? Lutherans are good about teaching faith to children, but what next?

Is deepening faith not a lifelong process? And if not, why on earth not?

All the leading research tells us that faith grows best in small communities built on trust, sharing, and feeling known. As we began to explore a small group process that might work in our churches, Deepening Faith was born.

The process is fairly simple – over eight weeks, each participant is invited to hear the stories of each member in the group. The participant’s book serves as a guide for learning how to listen and share. After the first eight weeks, groups choose which direction they want to go next (for example, Prayer & Spirituality, Theology & Study, The Language of Faith, Service & Justice, Faith in the Home, etc.). Our team is working to develop curriculum in each of these areas, as well as others that may come from your feedback.

So, if you find yourself longing for a deeper faith, or just feeling “stuck,” or even just wanting to build deeper friendships, gather a small group and get sharing! We’re eager to grow alongside you.

Holding a Gathering – Post Natural Disaster

Gathering – Post Hurricane Harvey or other Natural Disaster

The impact of a natural disaster varies from person to person in a group, family or congregation. There are many variables that can paralyze leaders and keep them from facilitating a shared conversation about communal pain – just when the community needs it most. Courageous leaders will stop regular programing or practices to pay attention to current events in order to deepen the faith, trust, and overall health of the community. People need space to reflect and notice how God is with them during a disaster.

This resource is a guide to building resiliency following Hurricane Harvey that could easily be modified for other natural disasters. Please feel free to use this and share this to create a safe space for people to talk about their feelings.

There are five parts to this one-hour session.

Part I. Share your feelings: Begin by creating a brave space, inviting people to share their feelings as they are ready. Remind people that they can reveal as much or as little about their feelings as they choose. Invite people to opt out if that is their brave response to the invitation. Feelings will be shared first by inviting people to walk to the part of the room that most reflects their perspective.

Set Up: Designate the four corners of the room as A, B, C, and D. People will gather in the corner that corresponds to their answer to each question below. After the question is read, people can move to the place that most reflects how they are feeling. As noted above, people may opt out of moving and stay in the middle.

Share your feelings (Activity): Invite people to walk to the corner of the room designated for their response. This should be done without a lot of talking. The leader may make a few observations about where people are or are not standing in relationship to the statement as long as it does not shame or blame anyone. For example, after the first question, if no one in the room is standing in the “D” corner, the leader might offer a prayer for the families and friends of those who have died during the storm, even if they are not in the room.

  1. My personal loss due to Hurricane Harvey is:
    A.Friends or family had flooding or other impact from the storm.
    B. I had some flooding or other impact from the storm at my home.
    C. I lost my home or am still waiting to hear about my home.
    D. People I care about or know have had a death related to this storm.
  2. My personal experience with other natural disasters:
    A. This is my first experience.
    B. I have been through several hurricanes or other natural disasters.
    C. I have worked on recovery teams, heard stories, and felt the impact of disaster many times.
    D. I have been flooded, lost my home or had a death in my family in the past due to a natural disaster.
  3. In the past week, I have:
    A. been able to move into a normal routine.
    B. felt unable to concentrate, felt moved to tears or generally been overwhelmed.
    C. been in a deep fog, unable to make decisions or carry out daily activities much at all.
    D. been paralyzed by my feelings.

Part II. Write: Following the sharing above, give each person a piece of paper. Invite them to take two minutes to reflect on their feelings. Encourage them to journal for 15 minutes a day for four days. This is a proven method for helping people build resilience. Write anything that comes to mind.

Part III. Small Group Conversation: Invite people to get into small groups of 2 or 3 people to share their answers to the questions below.

  • What surfaced for you in the sharing exercise?
  • What bothered you?
  • What did you value most?
  • What do you need?

Debrief: Invite a few people to share their feelings with the whole group, if they are ready.

Follow this activity with a short debrief and definitions of these words. Keep in mind there are much fuller descriptions of each response to a disaster. These are only briefly named here.

  • Acute Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome: Characterized by the development of severe anxiety, dissociation, and other symptoms that occur within one month after exposure to an extreme traumatic stressor.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome: Ongoing (chronic) or even short-term (acute) symptoms that interfere with relationships or work following a traumatic event.
  • Secondary Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome: A set of symptoms that mimic post-traumatic stress disorder, but is acquired through exposure to persons suffering the effects of trauma.
  • Survivor Guilt: Symptoms that occur when a person believes they have done something wrong by surviving or avoiding a traumatic event when others did not.
  • Compassion Fatigue: Caring too much can hurt when caregivers focus on others without practicing self-care. Destructive behaviors, apathy, isolation or bottled up emotions can occur.
  • Children: As children have fewer coping skills and less life-experience, they can be extremely vulnerable or show remarkable resilience. Special care should be given to children experiencing loss.

Part IV. Adapt: The practice of adaptive leadership requires time moving away from the action to observe, interpret, and create helpful interventions. A time of disaster allows for many adaptive moments on any given day as recovery begins. Adaptive leadership means experimenting with new ideas, new solutions to existing problems, and returning to the balcony to observe, interpret, and intervene over and over.

Invite the group to talk as a whole about the adaptive leadership they have experienced during or since the disaster. Note the creative innovative thinking, repurposing of resources, and new ways of thinking that have emerged.

Wonder with the group:

  • What part of these adaptive practices do we want to make normal as we move into a new way of life following the disaster?
  • What do we want to let go of?

Part V: Close with scripture reading and prayer:

Read and reflect on this scripture from Isaiah 43:1-2:

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.                      

Ask: Are there other scripture passages or Bible stories that you find sustaining during this time?

Pray together, remembering that God is always with us.

PPT Presentation to accompany the Gathering

Is Caring Wearing You Out?

HOPE for Children after a Storm

by Kristen Krueger, PhD

On the first night of the storm, my family of four (and one dog) huddled inside the laundry room for yet another tornado warning. Flood alerts came across my phone and pictures of disaster filled my Facebook feed. I looked at my six year old daughter who was sleeping at my feet and began to wonder “how will I explain this to her? How can I find the words to help her understand the nightmare happening around her and help her find hope?”

Honest answer: for three days, I told her nothing. It took me that long to find the words and because we had the unique privilege of living in a neighborhood that emerged from the storm unscathed, I was able to avoid the conversation. I know most families in our city were not as lucky. When we did talk, these are the resources I found helpful.

Children have specific needs when dealing with disaster. Start with an honest evaluation of what your family has experienced, move on to a story of a friend or neighbor with a different experience, and end by helping your child think about ways they can engage in recovery. Keep the conversation age-appropriate but don’t sugar-coat stories. Turn off the constant stream of media filled with scary images and words. Be aware of your own stress levels and practice self-care. Constantly point out the places that you see hope in response to the storm. Assure your child that God does not send storms to punish but instead sends people to act out of love as the city recovers.

We believe in a God of love. A God who walks with us in the storm and uses us to share that love with others. God is in Houston, and in disasters around the world, in every act of hope that we see.

Some key things to remember as you focus on HOPE:

HELP: As you talk, look for opportunities to help your child identify the “helpers.” First responders, neighbors, pastors, friends, strangers who are helping one another. These people are acting out God’s love in their communities.

OPEN: Be open to questions your child has about the storm. Answer them as accurately as you can and if you don’t know the answer look for it together. Invite your child to ask more questions as they come up and keep that line open.

PLAY: Make time for play, it is how children process. Watch your child’s imaginary play. Notice when their anxieties and questions are interpreted in imaginary worlds. Use this as a jumping off point for further conversation or join in their imaginary world.

ENGAGE: Find a way for your child to contribute to the recovery. Make food for first responders, collect supplies for shelters or those who are cleaning out houses, or donate books to schools that have been flooded. Tangible action items help children (and adults) become God’s hands in the world and see that they can be part of healing. If your house was flooded, help your child engage by providing routines as much as possible. Something as simple as a nightly bedtime prayer, book, or song will provide comfort in an uncertain time.

Finally, pray together. Invite your child to name their feelings and their heroes. Thank God for the gift of hope and the knowledge that Jesus calms storms.

Additional resources on talking with children:


Responding to a Natural Disaster

A message from Executive Director Peggy Hahn

The Best Advice My Dad Has Given Me (so far)

By Peggy Hahn, Executive Director – LEAD

These seven words cause my heart to bleed:

“There is a hurricane in the gulf.”

People’s lives have been forever altered by the monster named Harvey through hurricane winds, tornadoes, and flooding. No doubt about it.

Keeping the faith during a hurricane or flooding, and especially during the hours, days, weeks, and months that follow, is the only way to keep from going crazy, yet it is far easier said than done.

Every time since 2005 in moments like this, or frankly any other heart wrenching time, I find myself leaning into the best advice my dad has given me so far. I can hear his voice over the telephone like it was yesterday. I had called to see if he and my family were on their way to my house, evacuating due to Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf, when he reminded me that my grandpa was in the hospital, unable to travel. Of course, he wouldn’t leave New Orleans.

But then, the next morning, he called me back.

“We are on our way. Meet us at the airport.”  (My dad is a pilot.)

I had to ask, “But what about…” and before I could finish he said what I can only imagine was God speaking through him to all of us:

“I am making a decision for life.”

There it was. Seven words, spoken through a lump in his throat, teaching his daughter, and really everyone, what it means to trust God with your whole heart.

When it comes down to it, our houses can flood, our cars can be washed away, ending up on someone’s roof or worse, but that is never the essence of life. Our life is more than what we own. Our security is not in our stuff. Our hope is stronger than anything we mucked out after a flood.

My grandpa died in the storm. My dad’s decision for life saved many people’s lives as he supported our family and the rescue and recovery efforts of so many people over the next few years.

A time of crisis can recalibrate our ability to distinguish what matters most by leaning into the promise that God is always with us. Always. With. Us. Make your decision for life.

We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul… Hebrews 6:19a


Responding to a Natural Disaster

A message from Executive Director Peggy Hahn

Storm Update

As you know, many of our LEAD Team have their homes and offices in the Houston area.

We are heartbroken watching the images of Hurricane Harvey and the devastation around our city. In addition, many of us on staff are dealing with the care of our own families and property, and other communities of which we are a part, during the storm.

For this reason, many of the usual ways to contact our LEAD team are less effective this week. If you need to reach us, please use the email  and we will do our best to respond to you as quickly as possible.

Disaster response efforts will not get underway until the rain stops and the water recedes. In the meantime we urge you to generously support Lutheran Disaster Response and the Gulf Coast Synod disaster fund.

Please join us in praying for Corpus Christi and those on the coast who were hit by landfall, the Houston area, and all those affected by Harvey.

Together in Christ,

Peggy Hahn and the LEAD Team


Responding to a Natural Disaster

A message from Executive Director Peggy Hahn

Is it hot enough for you?

by Peggy Hahn, Executive Director, LEAD

As leaders, we have our hands on the thermostat when it comes to leading change in our circles of influence and managing the heat may be our number one work.

The perfect temperature is right before the pot starts to boil! (That sweet spot between simmering and boiling over.)

Managing the heat is the practice of adaptive leadership.
And to do this, you need to check the temperature sooner than later.

If your congregation feels complacent or apathetic, chances are there’s not enough heat in the system. A lack of urgency, energy or commitment is a good indicator that it is time to set a stretch goal that engages the heart, encouraging new questions and faith imagination. Congregational systems will always prefer stability but too much stability is more dangerous than too much disequilibrium. In these cases, it is the role of the staff and the council to turn up the heat. A comfortable leadership system is a sign of decline.

If your congregation is racing around and reacting in every direction, it could be time to turn down the heat. Leaders who dig in their heels and insist on their own way, regardless of the cost, usually get burned.

When it gets too hot, leaders forget that people don’t resist change, they resist loss. If the loss is too great or happening too fast, the grief will show up in all kinds of negative ways. This is a pretty good indicator that it is time to cool things off for a while – but not so long that passions grow completely cold (and turn inward).

There is an art to managing the heat and The Practice of Adaptive Leadership by Heifiz, Grashow and Linsky can be a really helpful field guide. LEAD coaches are skilled at helping congregational staff discover the best temperature for their congregations, and great at helping them get things warmed up after a cold spell.

The worst thing we can do as leaders is to do nothing at all. Don’t do this alone. Gather a team. Ask for outside support.

Build a coalition of the willing and incrementally crank up the heat. Another resource that may be helpful to you: Leading Through Change: The Practice of Adaptive Leadership by Rev. Sue Phillips.

Owning My White Privilege
walk with me to the balcony for a minute, please

Sunday night, members of the LEAD team gathered with people in Houston to grieve, pray, reflect and plan for a new future post #Charlottesville. As an organization, we are committed to living our values out loud. We recently shared LEAD’s theological statement, which serves as a foundation for our actions. May leaders of faith around the globe live their values in ways that speak out against injustice and stand up for equality.

By Peggy Hahn, Executive Director – LEAD

What are the odds that I was born in the city of New Orleans with white skin? I don’t need to search the data to know that not only was I in the minority of babies born in the city that year, but that my life’s journey has been shockingly different due to something I had no control over. The skin color we are born with is not a choice, but the way we live in our skin is.

It is sobering to realize that the access I had to a privileged childhood is owed both to my amazing, hard-working, loving parents AND to the color of my skin. The history I was taught in a Lutheran elementary school reflected this privilege. Growing up white in New Orleans made Jackson Square and Robert E. Lee Circle part of a heritage that felt as nostalgic as singing “When the Saints Go Marching In,” cooking gumbo, and going out for beignets. All of this was wrapped up in my family’s love for me, without me ever taking a step onto the balcony to see how this same warm nostalgic experience was oppressive and pain-producing for others.

Over 50 years later, I have gained perspective. I can recognize that the history I was taught was from one point of view and that most of the world has a different view. When I get perspective, it isn’t hard for me to admit that Andrew Jackson and Robert E. Lee are icons of an oppressive culture.

The problem with being in the ethnic majority in our country is that you can get away with ignoring, dismissing, and unintentionally participating in the oppression of others. For many, it is hard to imagine how a statue has the capacity to remind people of the pain they live every day. This does not make that pain invalid or untrue. Coming to terms with this is a heartbreaking and crucial part of being a white leader in the church today.

I didn’t learn about institutional racism until 30 years ago and today I am confessing to you that I am a racist. Maybe you are ready to confess that with me.

I don’t have to worry that when my children are pulled over for speeding they will be harassed, raped or deported. Or even lose their life. Just writing this makes me feel sick because I can’t bear knowing I am part of a system that means other mothers live with this fear every day. But it is true.

Being a female leader brings challenges of its own, but I would be blind if I didn’t see the incredible, and seemingly endless, stereotypes and biases my Latina, Black, Asian, Native American (and this is only naming a few) sisters have to endure.

The recent events in Charlottesville are sickening not only because I reject white supremacy but because I know that I too am complicit by virtue of being white.

It is time for the white church to show up. Why aren’t we a counter movement? We must stand against racism of all kinds. We need to say out loud “God actually made ALL people in God’s image.” God embodies diversity.

Rozella Haydée White, a LEAD consultant, calls us to return to scripture and read the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5) carefully. LEAD stands with her as she writes:

We will not let the light be overtaken by those who seek to use it to intimidate. We must let the light be what it was meant to be – an illuminator, a guide, a source of comfort…turn to the first sermon of my Lord; the one that turned every system and relationship on its head. Now is the time to embrace and enliven these words. Now is the time to turn everything upside down so that we may be right side up.

Please join me in stepping into the conversation about racism that we have avoided so elegantly. LEAD is committed to the work of ending white supremacy and challenging racism. We are overdue for a heart-to-heart conversation about what it means to be a white Christian. We all need to confess our complicity and grow out of our relational comfort zone. Here is a short list of what you can do now:

  1. Stop permitting racial jokes. Make your life an unsafe space for this kind of profanity.
  2. Stop discounting others because of their skin color, language education, income level, gender or sexuality. Add this to the “off limits” list in every zone of your life, leading by example.
  3. Use this litany from the PCUSA with your leaders. Pray about this together.
  4. Start a small group movement with LEAD’s Work Out resources or a focus on Jesus’s ministry of inclusivity. Create momentum starting with those most open to growth.
  5. Show up at prayer vigils or better yet, lead one in your own congregation.
  6. Build a relationship with someone outside of your ethnic group. Add them to your prayer life.
  7. Worship with people from a different culture.
  8. Introduce yourself to your own neighbors. Keep them in your prayers.
  9. Vote
  10. Teach your children to do the same.

I didn’t choose my skin color.

I can choose how I live in my skin. We all can.

Dying Church?

by Pastor David Hansen,
LEAD’s Director of Communication and Innovation
This blogpost was originally published on David’s blog:

I am always looking for a new book to read – something that will help me to grow both in my own faith and as the pastor of a faith community.

Sometimes when I ask for recommendations, the same book will pop up again and again. I tend to pay attention when the same book gets recommended by friends of very different backgrounds.

Thom Ranier’s Autopsy of a Deceased Church is one of those books. For the last year, it has repeatedly come up in conversation as a highly recommended book. Ranier’s blog also often shows up in my newsfeed, with helpful articles about church leadership. So I am paying attention.

To be clear: I have not read this book yet. It’s on my to-read pile – which is especially tall this year. This is not a review of the substance of this book. 

But I do want to talk about the attitude that seems to underlie the title and promotional materials. Fear.

“12 Ways to Keep Yours [Church] Alive” is the subtitle. “No one wants to see a church die” reads the back cover.

I hear this attitude any time that church leaders gather.

Fear. Worry. Anxiety.

“Our church is dying, how can we keep that from happening?”
“How can we survive?”
“What are the best tools to keep our church from dying?”

This fear is pervasive in many congregations, across geographic and denominational divides. After all, no one wants to see a church die.

To put it bluntly: Fear and the instinct to survive are often the driving emotion behind much congregation leadership.

Fear of Death in the Gospel

Thankfully, we have a lot of advice in Scripture about this sort of thing. Turns out, death has always been a concern for mortals.

Jesus himself began to talk about his death before it happened. Walking along with the disciples, he began to talk about the suffering that he would have to endure.

And Peter has the perfect logical, human response. “God forbid it!” After all, no one wants to see a friend die.

And Jesus said, “Yes! Here are twelve steps to prevent the death of a messiah.”

Or maybe not.

Instead, in the face of Peter’s fear of death, in response to Peter’s survival instinct, Jesus replies “Get behind me, Satan!

What do we imagine Jesus says to the church as we pour energy, enthusiasm, and resources into the work of surviving – the work of avoiding death?

What do we imagine Jesus says to the church as we are wracked with fear and anxiety about avoiding death?

As we fight to keep death away from our churches, are we also keeping away God’s power of resurrection?

From Autopsy to Birth Story

I think it is time for us to change the narrative.

Resurrection people are not afraid of death.

Easter people do not fear the grave.

We know, deep in our bones, that the God whom we worship is the one who brings life out of the grave – in fact, the act of transforming death into life is the defining belief of our faith.

Death does not surprise us. We are not scared of death. We expect death.

Because death is exactly how God brings about new life.

We need fewer autopsies of deceased churches. We need less hand-wringing about dying churches.

What we need are birth stories of resurrected churches. 

We need stories of ministries that have prayed in the garden and seen the darkness of the tomb, and been raised on the other side.

We need to share birth announcements for congregations that have embraced death only to be surprised by meeting the God of resurrection.

I serve a congregation that has seen resurrection, and I know there are others.

Let’s start to tell these stories.
Stories of hope in middle of hopelessness.
Stories of mourning transformed into dancing.
Stories of communities where the joy of Easter is lived, because death and resurrection are a part of the community story.

If we are to be the Body of Christ, we must be a resurrected church!

I’d love to hear your story of a resurrected church. Connect with me on twitter or Facebook.

Joy in Stopping

by Pastor David Hansen, LEAD’s Director of Communication and Innovation

The author of Ecclesiastes reminds us that “for everything there is a season …”

From time to time, one of the gifts of ministry is healthy stretching. Trying new things. Achieving more than we thought possible. Exploring different ways of doing ministry together.

But at other times, that stretching can be unhealthy. We can become stretched too thin – with too much on the calendar, pulled in too many directions.

During those times when we are stretched too thin, it is good to discover the joy of stopping.

Stopping or pausing a ministry can be a real gift – both to the leaders and to the community. Stopping can be a way to free us up for other opportunities by putting our energy elsewhere. Stopping can also allow us to have healthy boundaries and better energy for the projects that we continue to work on.

This month’s Toolbox invites us to reflect on what it looks like to come to a stopping point.

At LEAD, we also are a growing and learning organization – just like yours! The ideas that we explore for leaders are also how we work in our ministry. With that in mind, we are also exploring the joy of stopping – this will be the last of the monthly Toolbox videos as we focus our energy on some other new and continuing projects.

You can find our archive of over 40 Toolbox videos here.

And make sure to follow our Facebook page to be the first to hear about our new projects.

LEAD Intern Reflection

by Cassandra Nagle, LEAD Intern

My goal as I pursue seminary is to be able to develop as a leader who understands the breadth and depth of Christian ministry. The LEAD Intern program allowed me the opportunity to interact with a church whose ministry partners and congregational leaders taught me about, guided me within, and led me through the beautiful realm that is the Lutheran faith.

Christ the King Lutheran Church in Houston, Texas is a physically magnificent church. The nave resembles an inverted wooden ship, flanked by a beautiful Bach organ to the north, which serves as a foundation for worship, and by a newly dedicated columbarium to the south, which honors congregational members who have died and emphasizes the declaration that “we are dust, and to dust we shall return” (Genesis 3:19).

The deepest beauty, however, is nestled within the minds of the children at Christ the King, whose knowledge of and excitement about the Gospel struck me to my core. A program called Godly Play is implemented at Christ the King in its Sunday school classes for kids ranging from preschool age to sixth grade. Godly Play leaders present Bible stories to the children in ways which allow them to wonder; they process stories, analyze what is important, question what should or shouldn’t be included, and search for how the story can apply in their own lives. I spent several weeks with kindergarteners and first graders, all of whom not only understand complex Biblical metaphors but also can interpret those metaphors with a contemporary perspective.

Like those six and seven year olds, I would like to take my newfound knowledge of the Gospel, illustrated through Godly Play stories, into the world as I continue my life journey in seminary. It is my hope to be able to keep the Godly Play program in my mind as I continue my studies, learning more about it and seeking ways to apply it to programs for children of all ages as well as for hospitalized or homebound congregational members.

Serving as a LEAD Intern allowed me to view the church from the perspective of a leader rather than as simply a member. I observed much of the work that happens “behind the scenes” in church life – pastoral meetings and visits, planning for Bible studies and youth group, and preparation for worship and special events. As I move forward in my discernment process and prepare to apply to seminary, I pray that I can serve future congregations with the same compassion and grace that was shown to me at Christ the King Lutheran Church.

Developing a Statement of Theology


Who We Are, What We Value, and How We Show Up in the World
By Rozella H. White, LEAD Consultant

This past June, LEAD held a three-day retreat that gathered staff from around the country. The LEAD staff is made up of part time, full time, contract, and volunteer staff representing five states and a plethora of experiences. This marked the first time that the staff in its newest configuration gathered. The hope was that the staff would not only spend time getting to know each other but that it would also be a time of discernment, visioning, and planning.

It became abundantly clear leading up to this retreat that LEAD is beginning a new chapter. This new time is marked by a need to be more focused on what LEAD offers and to articulate with clarity what LEAD values, believes, and practices. The staff set out to work on developing a theological statement that reflects who LEAD is, what LEAD values, and why this is important.

LEAD is an organization that practices what it preaches. We never ask clients – individuals, congregations or communities – to do anything we haven’t done or aren’t willing to do ourselves. We are clear that aligning our values and our beliefs is foundational to any work that we undertake. We also believe that keeping these values and beliefs at the forefront guides our practices – our way of being in the world.

LEAD is a faith-based non-profit organization that works with a diverse population of clientele. We value each and every relationship even as we know that differences of opinions exist. As we take the steps to clarify who we are, it is our hope that everyone we partner with also reflects on their values, beliefs, and practices.

LEAD believes that adaptive, spiritual leadership is needed for such a time as this. In order to become leaders with a deep, bold, consequential faith in Jesus that leads us to make a difference in the world, we have to be clear about who we are and what we value. LEAD also believes that our values inform any public statements, stances, or decisions made on the side of justice.

Who we say we are and who we actually are have to be in alignment if we are to fulfill our mission of empowering Christian leaders, transforming faith communities, and influencing the world. Won’t you join us in uncovering your deepest values, beliefs, and practices? The following LEAD Resources can help:

Click here to read our Theological Statement.

The Year in Review – or at least the first half

Did you know that LEAD has been sending out a newsletter every week for over 4 years? It’s true!

And each week, the feature article (200+ at last count) is posted to the LEAD website where you can access them any time.

Here are 2017’s articles to-date. We invite you to revisit your favorites or catch up on ones you may have missed.

We hope you find this helpful!

Christian Leadership articles by Peggy Hahn, Executive Director of LEAD

Excerpts from LEAD books:

10 Minute Toolbox videos by Pastor David Hansen, Director of Communication & Innovation – LEAD


Chicken and Eggs: A Tale of Mindfulness

By Lynn Willis, Spiritual Director – LEAD

A while back, I listened to Chris Markert who is a Lutheran Franciscan – a modern monastic. I asked him about his vow of poverty. What does that look like? Do you, for example, buy the 99 cents per dozen eggs so that you live on the least amount of money? Or the $5 free-range eggs because they are more earth friendly?

His answer, which wasn’t very satisfying to me at the time, was, “Each person must make that decision for themselves.”

I listened to a Rabbi who said, “The kosher food laws are concerned with killing the animal in the least painful way. But modern observant young Jews frequently wish to know that the animal was treated well during its lifetime. So, they are more likely to buy a pasture-raised chicken than go to the kosher butcher.

And then there was the Imam who said that observant Muslims display Revelation mixed with Reason. (no chickens in this example). He said that we need to see the “text in context.”

All three of these people of God observe that God wishes us to be mindful in all our actions. We are called to make thoughtful choices. This is a lot harder than blindly following law or custom. This takes some thought, some prayer, some feelings. It takes an attitude of openness, of listening, of learning.

Jesus teaches us to practice the spirit of the law, not just the letter of the law.

So how will I know if I am right? This is where faith, hope, and love take center stage.

Richard Rohr wrote:

I don’t need to be perfectly certain before I take the next step. Now I can trust that even my mistakes will be used in my favor, if I allow them to be. Love is the source and goal, faith is the slow process of getting there, and hope is the willingness to move forward without resolution or closure.

So how much water I use, which foods I choose to eat, which products I purchase, how I interact with other people – all of these and more can remind me of my relationship with God and how God has asked us to live in this world.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

Grant me also Lord, the ability to learn and to make thoughtful choices.

In faith, in hope and in love with you, Lord. Amen

Joy in Finding the Right Resources

by Pastor David Hansen, LEAD’s Director of Communication and Innovation

Every ministry leader we know is looking.

Lay or ordained, professional or volunteer, they are all looking.

Looking for one resource or another to help them move to the next step in their ministry.

We know how hard and how frustrating that search can be.

For the last five years, the LEAD team has been talking with ministry leaders, learning from their lessons about ministry, and listening to what resources have helped them.

We know the joy of finding the right resource – the thing that inspires you to look at ministry in a new way, to better understand your context, or the piece of advice that calls you to deeper discipleship.

And we want to share that joy with you. (Check out the July Toolbox video.)

The LEAD team has curated the lessons we have learned – pointing toward existing helpful resources and creating many new ones – all to help you experience the joy of finding the right resource.

Summer Reading Recommendations

By Peggy Hahn, LEAD Executive Director

Leaders who are growing congregations are reading, listening to podcasts or audio books, or watching videos. They never stop learning. We have listed a few of this season’s favorite books for your consideration – and we would LOVE your reading list in return. Let’s learn from each other. Email us your favorite books or post them on our Facebook page so we can discover what’s energizing you.

The books are organized into two categories: Relational Development and Organizational Development. We recommend choosing one in each area as you expand your thinking this summer.

Relational Development: one key to growing congregations (and family life) is to transform your self-awareness and your capacity to interact with others. Check out these three amazing books to help you coach yourself.

Organizational Development: Every congregation can expand its capacity for a larger worldview and shift the way things get done. The books listed above support the relational dynamics embedded in these shifts; the books below open up new awareness of the changing world in which we are called to lead.

These six books offer great conversational opportunities for you and those you work or live with. I find that asking someone in my life to read a book I find interesting expands my own capacity to remember what I have read. This happens through the conversations we share, even when we have opposing perspectives on a point the author makes. It is in this dialog that I can identify and practice my own convictions around new material before putting this new learning into action.

Why not ask your team, staff, colleague or spouse to join you in reading the same book this summer?

Happy reading!

What is your God-narrative?

What do we tell ourselves about these questions?

  • Where is God?
  • What is God doing?

No household or faith community has a single story that communicates who God is in their life together, only a dominant story that is primary for existence. That narrative either builds up or tears down a person’s capacity to cope with the hard things in life. It can reduce our capacity or expand our resiliency.

What is the God-narrative in your life, your family’s life or your congregational life?

Which of these sounds most like you?

  • God is above all watching and judging
    This perspective creates a deepening feeling of shame or pride.
  • God will rescue us when it is time
    This perspective creates a feeling of helplessness, powerlessness or inaction.
  • God is walking with us throughout the process
    This perspective creates a feeling of mutual respect, growing trust, and accompaniment.

We have a relational God who is in relationship with God’s self in the Trinity. God the Creator, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit all give us a glimpse of God.

Expanding our God-narrative is at the heart of Christian leadership. Some days are better than others. Clarifying your own God-narrative as an individual, family or faith community starts with a conversation that honestly wrestles with these questions in community and prayer.

Find brave spaces* to talk about this with a friend or your leadership team or your whole congregation.

**The brave space language comes from Micky ScottBey Jones. Click here to view her video presentation “Confronting Opponents with Love—Tools and Tactics.” 

Brave Space*

*The Brave Space language comes from Micky ScottBey Jones. Click here to view her video presentation “Confronting Opponents with Love—Tools and Tactics.” Micky will be presenting a FREE Brave Space webinar on June 30th. Click here for more information and to register. 

by Peggy Hahn, LEAD Executive Director

The Goal:
To frame a space where all voices are valued
and human dignity is restored.

Brave Space: A community space where different points on a journey of learning and growing are acknowledged. 

Framing a safe space for diverse conversations may feel scary, even to seasoned group facilitators. The concept of Brave Space moves the responsibility of valuing diversity from the facilitator to everyone in the conversation. Guidelines like the ones below are helpful. We are leading in a polarized society.

What if the church could become a Brave Space that practiced reconciliation and loved like Jesus?

  1. Strive to learn about experiences other than your own and seek permission to ask questions about other people’s experiences: e.g. “Would you be willing to tell me more about…”
  2. Recognize that your experiences, values, etc. are unique and avoid generalizing. Similarly, avoid language that assumes all people are in the majority (e.g. heterosexual, Caucasian, Republican/Democrat, or Judeo-Christian) and stereotyping based on assumptions and perceptions.
  3. Address conflicts peacefully to the best of your ability.
  4. Validate and support the ideas, feelings or experiences of others.
  5. Always ask questions to learn more of another’s experiences; avoid attacking or debating the validity of someone else’s experiences. Be considerate of each other’s activities (meetings, projects, reading, etc.) and mindful of noise levels, as this is a shared space.
  6. Before reacting or responding to jokes or statements you feel are hurtful or offensive to yourself or others, ask for clarification: e.g. “What I heard you say is… Is that correct?”
  7. Be mindful of sexually charged topics, language, and perceived behavior as we all come from different cultural and life experiences and have different boundaries.
  8. Practice forgiveness. Remember that this is a space where we are all learning and growing.

Can your church be a Brave Space?

*The Brave Space language comes from Micky ScottBey Jones. Click here for her video presentation “Confronting Opponents with Love—Tools and Tactics.”

Redlining & Block Clubs

by Peggy Hahn, LEAD Executive Director

I was in Michigan last month as a speaker although, as is typically true, I learned more than I taught. As I sat in the back of a workshop listening to local leaders, I realized I was holding my breath.

The leaders were reflecting on the systems in Detroit and across our country that have created barriers for certain populations of people to thrive.


Like walls that people can’t cross, except this is not about citizenship, visas, immigration or refugees.

This is about power, prejudice, and racism.

Before I continue, I need to share two definitions with you. These may be familiar to you already but they were new to me:

Redlining is the intentional practice of denying services, either directly or through selectively raising prices or expectations, to people of a certain racial or ethnic composition.

Block Clubs are groups of people who have homes and families in a given block in the city and organize to improve the quality of life for the neighbors – and in its most heinous form, work to keep certain people from coming onto their block.

I was gasping for oxygen because redlining is a sad truth in the church too. We give so little time or energy to reflecting on how power truly hurts people. The church is walking by the people hurt on the side of the road every day. We don’t have time to care because we are so busy doing church that we are missing the opportunity to be church. We resist asking the question, “Who is my neighbor?” because we know we will hate the answer to that question.

Worse than a block club, we may be leading god clubs. I use a little “g” here because this is not about a big “G” way of life.

Is there any chance, even a few tiny bright spots, where we are the Samaritan who went over the top to help? You answer this question for your own leadership. Trust me, I am asking myself this same question for myself and for LEAD.

I am left to wonder if or how LEAD, as an organization, is not redlining or creating a block club in the way we do our own work. How are our consultation, coaching, and resources shaping a culture of Good Samaritan leaders?

I have a growing call to wrestle this one to the ground, but what will that mean for a leadership organization serving mostly white Christians, with a mostly white leadership team?

Zing. This is not easy, but it causes me to gasp for air when I realize that if we are not joining the Samaritan, accompanying all the pilgrims on the road, we are part of the problem. Leadership is risky but I think living like Jesus is even riskier – even in the church.

Joy in Governance

by Pastor David Hansen, LEAD’s Director of Communication and Innovation

“Joy” is not the first word that comes to mind when most people think of church constitutions and governing documents.

We tend to think of them as necessary evils or irrelevant artifacts of another age, or we just don’t think about them at all.

But the reality is that our governing documents shape ministry. The shape of our constitution, bylaws, and policies has an impact on every committee, ministry, and outreach of our church.

This month’s Toolbox invites us to consider what would happen if our governing documents began to match our purpose and core convictions.

Imagine: What if the governance of your church was a joy, instead of a chore?

How would that impact the rest of your ministry?

Additional resources that may be helpful to you as you review your constitution and bylaws include:

A new thing…

This is an excerpt from The Sacred Valley, 2nd edition, by Peggy Hahn.

This updated and expanded version incorporates LEAD’s newest learning
and includes a chapter on metrics.


The big question is “What can we do to grow our congregation?

Our typical expectation is that to move from where we are to where we want to be as a thriving congregation requires the addition of a NEW THING. We have been taught that growth looks like this:

There are a number of challenges with this way of thinking including a few key facts:

  • With this model of change, WE haven’t really changed at all. A NEW THING has been added (a staff person, a new building, a strategic plan, a program, a financial investment, a new goal, a training event, etc.) and WE are still doing what we have always done. Sometimes we add new language but the truth is we still do the same thing.
  • The NEW THING we add is in ADDITION to everything else. This is a great step toward being Out of Breath as more and more NEW THINGS pile onto the to-do lists of volunteers or staff in leadership.
  • The NEW THING is for THEM. We may add something that is great for our youth or our elders or our staff or our you-name-it, but we have not created alignment or harnessed the momentum of the congregation for forward movement. In the worst-case scenario, this NEW THING for THEM becomes a THEM and US rather than a new US. It can even unintentionally divide a congregation into factions that create a downward spiral and greater unhealth.

The changes identified in this book (The Sacred Valley) are all part of LEAD’s focus on healing our congregations from too many NEW THINGS. We are committed to deepening relationships, building trust, and growing in our discipleship. It is possible that there is never a NEW THING or if there is, it grows out of a life of prayer and discernment with leadership that is open to listening, experimenting, and innovating. It looks more like this:

Healing is messy. Taking on new behaviors feels awkward at first. Some people will push back. Others will feel relief and rest a little before engaging as they heal from being over-busy. A Sabbath season is expected as people discover themselves as spiritual beings not merely people who do church. Some long-loved programs will be celebrated and ended. Alignment will move through the congregation with an outward focus. It is good hard work that takes time and commitment with rewards emerging along the way, sometimes incrementally.

Are You Out of Breath?

This is an excerpt from The Sacred Valley, 2nd edition, by Peggy Hahn.

This updated and expanded version incorporates LEAD’s newest learning
and includes a chapter on metrics.

Most of the leaders in the church today are out of breath. Leadership in a changing world is exhausting. It involves motivating, organizing, honing, and coordinating the efforts of a wide variety of people around a shared purpose and values. But what are the purpose and values?

We are all part of a worldwide, history-wide God-story that is bigger than we can grasp. The world is changing and many congregations are shrinking every year. Life is hard to predict and there are many obstacles to any goal we might set. Sometimes it is hard to know what the “right” goals are for this place and time. It can feel like some people have all the answers and others don’t.

Sometimes we take the advice we are given or trust our guts when we are making important decisions. Yet authors Chip Heath and Dan Heath in their book Decisive share research that proves that our guts are full of questionable advice and so are many of our friends! If we can’t trust our guts, then who or what can we trust?

If any of this resonates with you, you are in good company. Most of the leaders in the church today are Out of Breath. The fast pace of change in our world has shifted the landscape and we cannot keep up. The church of our childhood or, in the case of the pastor, the church we were trained to serve is not bearing as much fruit as it once was.

There is deep concern among faithful leaders in this quadrant for making change without sacrificing members and for preserving what matters most. They are willing to try new things, but what? It often feels like every new thing gets a disapproval rating from the major stakeholders. Leaders are worn out and they over function just to try to stabilize the congregation. They feel like they are too busy to invest in their own faith life, leaving them spiritually empty. And nobody needs more conflict or negative attitudes.

The whole environment is eroding their confidence. To grow, Out of Breath leaders need a safe space to experiment but the current culture does not welcome their creativity. These leaders are often people who are learning to lead for the first time. The world they were trained for does not exist. Keeping up with the rapid development of new technologies and ways of thinking makes them feel like they are out of step. Even if they disagree with these new trends, they are being challenged to engage in them.

LEAD’s 4 Growth Indicators offer a way forward for leaders:

  • Listen – Out of Breath leaders need to step away from their responsibilities long enough to see God moving in a different place in the world. This time can spark new imagination for God moving in their own space. Widening their own experiences can be the beginning of visionary leadership.
  • Center – Out of Breath leaders need to reschedule their lives to include space to notice what the Holy Spirit is doing. Out of a life of deepening prayer and attentiveness we can gain confidence in our own call to lead others.
  • Explore – How we think about things can keep us stuck. Identifying our own assumptions, questioning unwritten rules, finding a pace that is life-giving, and stretching our thinking with reading, coaching, or new training can provide a wider perspective.
  • Connect – There are two primary connections that will be game changers for leaders who are Out of Breath:
    • Deepening discipleship (including physical, spiritual, and mental health)
    • Deepening relationships (increasing diversity, integrity, and transparency)

Welcome to Life in the Valley

This is an excerpt from The Sacred Valley, 2nd edition, by Peggy Hahn.

This updated and expanded version incorporates LEAD’s newest learning and includes a chapter on metrics.

A valley is a low area between hills, often with a river running through it. This is where we are located right now in the Christian movement. We are in this space, the sacred valley, between the ancient past and the not-yet future. Many wonderful writers have offered data, historical perspectives, and theological wisdom that inform our spiritual GPS. People like Phyllis Tickle have been especially encouraging. She wrote in her book, The Great Emergence, that every 500 years when the world and the church go through a social, political, economic, and religious transformation, we can be assured that the Christian movement grows. This is great news. But the problem with being in the sacred valley is that we lack confidence because we cannot see the end of the trail. In times like this, we must do what leaders have always done, have a little faith and pay attention to the bright spots. In their book Switch, Heath and Heath point to the idea of following bright spots as an effective method for making change.

There are definitely bright spots! LEAD has discovered certain behaviors that will help us navigate the trail. We encounter them over and over as we study leaders and look at faith communities that are growing. LEAD calls these the four Growth Indicators: Listen, Center, Explore, and Connect. Research shows that these behaviors are critical to growth making them a great place to start. Think of the Growth Indicators as trailheads, not the destination. Look for more information on these four Growth Indicators in later chapters.

What is important to know is that these four Growth Indicators are not uniquely Christian. They are at the core of organizations like Weight Watchers and Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) with proven track records for changing people’s lives by changing behaviors. These programs work when individuals invest their lives in making them work. As you will see in Chapter 4, Four Growth Indicators and Growing Congregations, these four Growth Indicators are designed for people living in the valley.

The first step is to choose to change. At Weight Watchers, when you decide to lose weight you are given strategies to reach your goal. If you admit you have a problem with alcohol, A.A.’s Twelve Steps “are a group of principles, spiritual in their nature, which, if practiced as a way of life, can expel the obsession to drink and enable the sufferer to become happily and usefully whole.”

Both of these organizations are striving for sustainable behavior change: new, healthier ways of life. They both expect that:

  • People hear stories from others who are struggling and share their own stories. (Listen)
  • People shift their mindset with a moment of self-awareness and show up for help. (Center)
  • People progress toward sustainable behavior change by learning, using new resources, and working a plan. (Explore)
  • People participate in a supportive community that holds one another accountable. (Connect)

A.A. and Weight Watchers do not promise it will be easy. What they provide are real behaviors that help people navigate the valley. A.A. and Weight Watchers are only effective when people apply what they learn and develop life-changing habits. We have much to learn from our brothers and sisters who have walked through these sacred valleys.

Before we begin changing other people or our own congregations, we need to change ourselves. By the power of the Holy Spirit, with real commitment and openness, growth is possible for all of us.

Joy in Many Voices

by David Hansen, Director of Communication & Innovation

The central moment of the Pentecost story is when the disciples are gathered in Jerusalem, and filled with the Spirit they begin to preach. There is a crowd in Jerusalem – people from a wide variety of nations and languages. And all of them – regardless of their backgrounds – see and understand the power of the Pentecost moment.

Pentecost reminds us that there is JOY in having many voices in our community of faith.

This month’s Toolbox invites us to look at our community with Pentecost eyes.

What voices are present, and whose are missing?
As we proclaim the Good News, can everyone understand?

A Space to Create


by Peggy Hahn

New thinking doesn’t just happen. It takes space and time, an intersection with other innovative thinkers, and a generative process.

The LEAD Studio was piloted this week for the first time. Here’s what people are saying:

  • A sweet idea for working on problems together.
  • The dialogue-the-process model worked – I loved reflecting in real time.
  • The rhythm of action, reflection, movement and learning / thinking model was great.
  • This was a great new concept for working on problems together.
  • Brilliant minds working for the sake of the Gospel!
  • Mind / body connection was awesome. Our culture needs this.
  • Loved the interludes for physical activities, variety of people present and focused outcomes.

So, what did we do that you can try at your place?

The LEAD Studio borrowed from three worlds to create a 48-hour space for innovation:

  • The Stanford model for innovation gave LEAD the bones for the process. Check this out for yourself as the resources are great and accessible to anyone.
  • The use of interactive learning modalities was drawn from best practices in youth ministry. This stuff works no matter how old we are!
  • The faith practices, storytelling, and spirituality that held this sacred space were the generous gifts of young leaders from diverse cultures with enormous resources to share.

The results of this rich space (whether at the LEAD Studio or in your own context) will continue to be seen in everyone who was present as they bring what was experienced or learned from this gathered community into their own leadership. For some, the take-aways will be new imagination for ministry, for others it may be new relationships or new ways of thinking. For LEAD, as an organization, the fruit of the LEAD Studio will be part of our on-going research, resource development, and wondering.

Leaders who step out of their busy lives to listen to the Holy Spirit with intentionality are blessed in ways revealed not just in the days and weeks that follow but for years to come.

The LEAD Team is deeply grateful for all those who came, led, prayed, played, wondered, and created together.

Reclaiming the Church as Space for Faith to Grow

  • What has helped you grow in your faith?
  • How has the church been significant in your faith formation?

These are the two questions I used for my second face-to-face meeting with a synod’s strategic planning team yesterday. The answers are worth repeating because they are so profoundly “church” that I can’t stop wondering, “isn’t growing faith THE bright spot we should be building on?”

Here are the themes that emerged. How do they resonate with you?

Connecting deeply with friends from church has connected me for life.

The church gave me a safe place to explore what I believed about all this faith stuff.

The church invited me into leadership to do things I didn’t think I could do, like chant the liturgy.

Parents, grandparents, mentors, and role models, all nurtured at church, nurtured me.

The church invited me into ecumenical relationships with diverse faith communities that gave me a larger view of God and faith life than I would have ever imagined.

Involvement in prison ministry has humbled me and let me truly see that Christ is for all people.

Invitation to travel to a developing country blew my mind about church, God, and faith life.

Almost four decades of research proves that faith grows in the home. What has been assumed for centuries is that faith grows at church. In this time in our world when people are not flocking to church, the church needs to re-claim its faith-forming space.

Ask these questions at your leadership tables. Find the answers and then use them as a frame to evaluate your congregation’s ministry.

  • Where are the faith-forming spaces right now?
  • How can we do MORE OF THIS?

Faith is formed by the power of the Holy Spirit and grows in safe spaces where other people who have deepening faith make faith-talk a normal part of conversation.

Prayer for Holy Week


photo by Cindi Scruggs on the Camino de Santiago Pilgrimage                                       


We pray we never find ourselves without hope, without a glimpse of the empty tomb each time we happen upon a cross.

Help us begin our daily journey expecting both crosses and empty tombs
and rejoicing when we encounter either because we know you are with us.



Used with permission. Claiborne, Shane, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and Enuma Okoro. Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012, (Prayers for Others, April 28). Also available on Facebook and as a free iPhone app under School for Conversion.

Joy in New Life

Spring is the time of renewal and new life. It is happening all around us. New flowers blooming, grass growing, green on the trees.

As we move out of Lent and into the Easter season, new life is also the call of our faith. As we worship together, we experience the pilgrimage of Jesus from Good Friday to Easter Sunday. We pray for God to stir up that new life in our personal faith lives as well.

This month’s Toolbox invites us to participate in God’s work of new life in our communities – to be a part of the renewal of springtime and new life of resurrection in our life together.

The work of new life is not always easy.

Nature doesn’t get to Springtime without first travelling through winter.
Jesus doesn’t get to Easter without experiencing Good Friday.

Our experience of Easter worship is fully experienced by participating in the disciplines of Lent.

As we look for renewal, new life, and revitalization in our congregational life we commit ourselves to the entire journey. And we trust in the promise of God, “Look! I am making all things new.”

Show Up and Be Seen

One of LEAD’s highest values is faithful courage. At first glance, this may seem redundant, as if faith equals courage. Or it may make you think of the “don’t hide your light under a bushel” lesson from Jesus, but not quite. (Matthew 15:5)

Faithful courage is about vulnerability as we take a chance on our own capacity. Taking a chance on ourselves is scary stuff. The only thing harder is having the courage to take a chance on messing up the respect and trust we need from the people who matter most in our lives. This level of vulnerability means we are willing to risk respect, and self-respect, for something or someone that matters more. On the other hand…

Faith is a gift from God who takes a chance on us. If you think about that for very long, it can take your breath away. (But it can also give you the courage to lead.)

Here’s why this is worth thinking about: All of us live with our doubts even as we pray, worship, and try to keep the faith. Personally, I find myself in prayer way more during times of fear and doubt than I do when I feel like my “light is shining.” If I use my own life as an average test-case, I would have to admit that there are times when it is easier to have faith than it is to have courage. This is not to say that having faith is always easy, but rather that having courage can be hard.

Faithful courage is living out of God’s faith in us. Leading from this place is about as good as it gets. This kind of God-gifted vulnerability is huge. This is the space in our lives when we can lead amazing things. When we can fully show up and be seen. This is our most innovative self. This is when we join in being co-creators with a generous God.

In the words of Brene’ Brown, “without vulnerability you can’t create.”

And without creating, you can’t join in God’s mission. 

For more on creativity and vulnerability, check out this presentation by Brene’ Brown.

The LEAD Studio: Space to Innovate

by Peggy Hahn, LEAD Executive Director

We are excited to introduce an opportunity called the LEAD Studio. After several years of research and relationship building, LEAD has recognized that there is a gap between the training and skills leaders have and the training and skills leaders need to effectively engage their communities and make a difference in the changing world. LEAD is situated to address this gap and we are inviting you to participate in a time of innovation.

Our first LEAD Studio gathering is focused on how we can support and equip younger leaders. We are especially interested in gathering leaders under age 40. Please help us connect to the young leaders in your life by sharing this newsletter or this link to the LEAD Studio.

The LEAD Studio event will take place from Sunday, April 23 – Tuesday, April 25, 2017 outside of Dallas, Texas. Please note the following:

  • We are gathering for a time of deep listening, creation, wondering, and connection.
  • We are inviting leaders who serve in various capacities across faith communities and other organizations committed to leadership development.
  • We are inviting intentionally diverse leaders, paying special attention to age, gender, race, ethnicity, class, and orientation.

The cost includes housing, meals, and programming for three days and two nights: $200 for leaders in their first 10 years of ministry/leadership and those serving in communities experiencing poverty; $300 for everyone else. Travel is NOT included in this cost.

We hope that this is not only of interest to you but that you can join us. Registration is open now. Visit the LEAD Studio to learn more about this event. For more information about LEAD, visit

Spark your faith imagination

By Peggy Hahn, Executive Director – LEAD

Try this reflection to spark your faith imagination.

Sacred space can be found almost anywhere.*

So what does this mean for being “church” in a changing world? How can we expand our vision of church so that it is more than a building?

Church is who you are. Church is how you are. Church can be anywhere you are.

You embody church because the Holy Spirit is alive in you, not because you know exactly what to do or say.

Ponder this.

Church is_________. (You fill in the blank.)

Now ask yourself this question:

If sacred space can be anywhere, what does this mean for my relationships at home? At work? At school? In the neighborhood? At the gym when I am working out? On the playground with my children? On Facebook when I post?

What if we lived as if the church is every group of people gathered together, in Christ’s name, because Christ is in us?

Expand your imagination for the next few weeks as part of your faith practice during Lent.

“Take this most seriously: A yes on earth is yes in heaven; a no on earth is no in heaven. What you say to one another is eternal. I mean this. When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action. And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there.” Matthew 18:18-20 The Message (MSG)

*God is everywhere but sacred space can be violated by human sin and brokenness.

Why Work Out?

This is an excerpt from Work Out by Peggy Hahn, Kristen Krueger, Rozella White

Historian Marc Dunkelman, in The Vanishing Neighbor, describes three waves of life throughout the history of the United States.

First, the move from a nomadic existence of hunter-gatherer to an agricultural society that formed patterns of life centered in established towns and cities.

The second wave, which crested in the mid-1950s, was fueled by the advances of the Industrial Revolution. In this wave, nuclear families replaced multi-generational households, corporations became the standard way to organize business, etc. For most of us, this is life as we know it.

The third wave began in the late 1970s with an entirely new framework developing. In this digital revolution, the global access to information is only the beginning of the shift. We are living through one of the greatest transitions in our nation, not to mention the world, and the greatest impact is on relationships.

Dunkelman uses the image of the planet Saturn as he describes our relational rings. The planet is a person and the rings his or her acquaintances in a succession of diminishing intimacy. Some might suggest that the distance between the globe and each ring represents a measure of bonding between individuals. The most intimate relationships are those whose orbits form the innermost rings.

First and second wave relational rings

In both of these waves in our country’s history, the first ring (most intimate) and the middle rings (extended family, friends, neighbors) remained primary. The move to an industrialized nation did not alter the way relationships operated.

Third wave relational rings

In this recent wave, the inner ring has expanded with helicopter parents, families cocooning, etc. The middle ring has been reduced to very limited connections while the outer rings have expanded.

A few implications

Å The reduced middle ring has a direct impact on institutions which thrive in this place in our lives.

Å The church sits in the middle ring. Without intentional connections to the neighborhood, congregations play no active role in the local community. Their value is disappearing.

Å There are three new opportunities for congregational mission:

  1. The family—operating in the inner ring.
  2. The neighborhood—becoming a new middle ring.
  3. The digital world—now participating as the accessible outer ring.

The point is our relationships are changing along with all the other changes in our world.*

What are YOU doing to respond? Join the conversation with Pastor David Hansen on Facebook and share your ideas for deepening relationships in your congregational context. Pastor David Hansen is an active voice throughout the country on how ministries can use digital tools to better proclaim the Good News and build deeper relationships.

*From Work Out by Peggy Hahn, Kristen Krueger, Rozella White

Joy in Our Faith

By Pastor David Hansen

Leadership in ministry involves lots of details. Planning. Coordinating. Tracking numbers and reports. Decision making. These things are all part of how we carry out the work of ministry.

It is easy to let them overpower the most important part of our ministry: our faith.

It is easy to let the how of ministry get in the way of the why of our ministry.

This month’s Toolbox invites us to re-center on the why of our ministry – to return the practice of our faith to the core of our leadership.

In the midst of budgets, to center on our prayer life.

In the midst of agendas and minutes, to center on Scripture.

We remember that we are not just people of faith who happen to be in leadership – what we lead is a community of faith.

So take a break.

Check out the Toolbox.

Remember why this all matters.

Rediscover the joy of faith-filled leadership.

Who Owns the Church?

Sometimes I think we confuse the privileges we have in other organizations or in the work place with our understanding of the church. There are many reasons why membership in a church should be understood as different from other places we belong. Today, let me share just 3:

  1. Giving money and time is not the same as ownership.
  2. Status is not ranked by years. How many committees you serve on, how many times you have been on the council, or how many years you or your family have “belonged” does not make you more important than anyone else.
  3. Programs, even the ones we have personally started or personally invested in or those that meet our personal needs, may have to change for the well-being of the mission.

The church belongs to God. The mission of the church is God’s mission. We get to participate.

The money and time we freely offer (no strings attached) are a response to the lavish love God shows us. It will never be enough. Our generosity always lags behind God’s. God is constantly surprising us with forgiveness, unconditional love, and grace upon grace.

Let’s be honest. The years we have invested have personally benefited us with a life filled with meaning, hope, and a deepening faith. The fact that God trusts us with God’s mission is what amazes me the most.

Sometimes we have to say the hard stuff out loud to reset our expectations. It is easy to buy into the mindset that everything belongs to us. To be sure, the opposite, thinking nothing matters or belongs to us, is equally challenging as it releases us from any opportunity to join with God in mission.

The parable of the Good Samaritan is Jesus helping the religious leaders recalibrate their priorities. I think we all need this attitude adjustment from time to time. As we prepare for the season of Lent, let us step back from our own feelings of entitlement or powerlessness to recognize where power comes from and to keep our own agency in perspective.

God uses us to carry out God’s mission, and it has more impact when we remember whose enterprise this really is in the end. I am praying for a church where they really do say, “Look how they love one another.”
(John 13:34-35)

A Summer to Remember: Take a Pilgrimage to Latin America

by Peggy Hahn, Executive Director 

Do you wish you could speak Spanish? Or upgrade your language skills?

Would you like to experience God in the Sacred Valley learning about the Ancient Incan Empire?

Do you wonder how Lutherans in Latin America worship? Teach the faith? Live their lives?

Come with us for a summer to remember.

LEAD knows that leaders are slammed with busy schedules and often struggle for personal renewal. We also know that your congregation will benefit from you recapturing your joy for ministry as you get re-centered in your call.

Two weeks is a short investment for a year of revitalized ministry.

We welcome high school students with their parents, grandparents or mentor; college students; and professionals on our cross-generational experiences.

Registration is open now – which one will you choose?


I am a product of LEAD’s best thinking


by Rozella H. White
Creator, Consultant, and Cultural Curator with LEAD

I would not be who I am as a leader today without LEAD. Specifically, I wouldn’t be who I am without Peggy Hahn and her God-given vision and passion for leadership development. Now let me be clear. This isn’t the leadership development of days’ past; the kind that was more focused on skills than on adaptive change. I’m talking about soul-shaking, earth-shattering, change-making, transformational leadership that changes the leader, changes those in their circle of influence, and deeply engages the world around them.

I am a product of some of LEAD’s best thinking. Before this organization began, I was a young person in the TX-LA Gulf Coast Synod, a synod that was dedicated to youth leadership development, support, and uplift. I was nurtured into leadership by my home congregation, a black lutheran church in Houston’s historic Third Ward community. I served on youth leadership teams, attended synod youth events, went to summer camp, later served on camp staff, and began my career in ministry as a 21-year-old on synod staff as the coordinator for youth ministry alongside Peggy Hahn. I’m very clear that I served under Peggy’s MENTORSHIP and not merely her leadership because that’s how Peggy leads. She is a woman after God’s own heart; striving to create, connect, and coach into existence God’s beloved community right here on earth. And to be clear, this isn’t a lovey-dovey endeavor. This is a mind, body, heart, and soul undertaking; a holistic dive into new life and new ways of being that come when we connect with who God is and what God desires for all creation.

I’ll say it again, I wouldn’t be who I am as a leader – with the passions, gifts, desire for faith-based justice and drive to change the world – without LEAD.

So it should come as no surprise then, that four years after LEAD’s inception and 10 years after my departure from Houston, I’ve returned home and I’m working with LEAD.

One of the first projects that I was asked to be a part of was the co-creation of the Work Out Guide, the fourth book in a series focused on inviting people of faith into meaningful relationships across dividing lines for the sake of engaging more deeply with who God is and how God calls us to act out our faith in the world.

As we plotted out this book and spent time reflecting on how we understand connection and relationship, it became very clear to me that we were working on something that has the potential to really change lives. I believe that all of LEAD’s resources are impactful, but the Work Out Guide does something that no other resource does – it cuts across theology, history, and sociology, inviting people to consider how they’ve been formed. Our thesis is that meaningful relationships that change lives and ultimately move us closer to God’s vision of the Beloved Community only happen when we work out our faith; when we stretch and expand and uncover ways of being that keep us from fully seeing ourselves and seeing each other. The Work Out Guide lays out a framework for moving through ways of knowing that keep us separate. We want to invite people to not only think about their faith, but to EMBODY their faith.

This is the kind of leadership I was invited into over 20 years ago. It’s the kind of leadership I’ve fallen in love with and it is my deepest desire that you consider how your leadership is formed, supported, and sustained. LEAD wants to be that organization, the one that empowers leaders, transforms faith communities, and influences the world. We hope you join us.

Joy in Our Team

Every February, the Super Bowl is the culminating event of the NFL season. It is a huge media event, drawing the attention of people well beyond the football league’s core base.

But the work that leads up to the Super Bowl begins long before that. Before the first game of the season. Before the first drill of pre-season training.

Two months after the Super Bowl ends, the NFL holds its annual draft – the time when teams invite new players to come and join their organization. This work – building the right team, finding the right talents and gifts, and bringing new people into the work they share – is what builds championships.

Similarly, there is one key factor at the heart of any ministry leadership: The team that we work with.

When a ministry is thriving, you will usually find a leadership team that functions well together. When a ministry is struggling, you are likely to find a leadership team that does not work well together.

Assembling the right team and learning to enjoy the work that you share makes a huge difference in both how you experience the work of leadership and how effective that leadership will be.

This month’s Toolbox invites us to look more closely at our team and find the joy of leadership.

Lenten Resources: Let the Living Water Lead Us

God of imagination, you show yourself to us in so many ways. During this time of Lent, we remember the stories of Jesus and how he used everyday objects to show us your power and your love. This year we look at how you used water to teach and to sooth and to remind us that we are all truly connected in this life-giving substance. Be with us as we remember Jesus’ time on earth and inspire our own imaginations to more fully experience you.

Invocation – Week 1

Welcome to LEAD’s Lenten journey – Let the Living Water Lead Us

Many of you know that during Advent and Lent, LEAD provides FREE print-ready contemplative prayer liturgies and accompanying coloring pages that can be used by congregations, small groups, or individuals for worship or personal reflection.

This year’s theme, Let the Living Water Lead Us, looks at the water flowing through the Gospel texts: Week 1 – Temptation of Jesus, Week 2 – Nicodemus Visits Jesus, Week 3 – Jesus and the Woman of Samaria, Week 4 – A Man Born Blind Receives Sight, Week 5 – The Death of Lazarus.

Each week’s bulletin includes:

  • Invocation
  • Confession
  • Gospel from the Revised Common Lectionary
  • Prayer
  • Time of Silence (with prompts for reflection, an introduction and invitation into Ignatian Contemplation, and coloring)
  • Blessing

The resources and spiritual practices are designed to be used by all ages and have been particularly meaningful for intergenerational groups.

Everything provided is FREE (although we do ask that you register) and may be used exactly as presented or customized for your own context.

Over 600 individuals and congregations from 14 different countries and more than 40 denominations registered for LEAD’s Advent resources. Check out the creative ways they used the resources:

  • A coloring table in the entryway for kids and adults
  • With confirmation students for devotion time
  • During a 3-hour silent retreat
  • In prison ministry settings
  • Small group bible study at a local restaurant
  • Conference clergy meeting
  • Coloring pages provided as a take-home resources
  • For an ecumenical bible study
  • At a local senior residence
  • Combined into a devotional booklet
  • Images enlarged as posters for group, collaborative coloring or hung as banners
  • Blessings sent out in weekly emails and posted on Facebook

On the Train to Somewhere: Council Planning

by Peggy Hahn, Executive Director

If you have a seat on the council train, read this article.

If you are struggling with power dynamics between the pastor and council, read this article.

If you care about joining God in mission, read this article.

Stop long enough to ask two questions of your current council practices.

  1. What are your strategic goals for this year? These may be very different from last year depending on key stakeholders.

By stakeholders, we mean the people for whom the mission of the church is crucial. These aren’t necessarily “members” or people in leadership. Stakeholders could be your neighbors, children, youth, young adults, or those who are under served by your current way of life.

  1. How will your meetings make space for faith practices and learning together?

By this we mean taking an hour a month to focus on the movement of the Holy Spirit among you. This isn’t just a token devotion or going through the motions of a book study. Now, before you groan at the idea of the meeting getting even longer, please know that’s not the intent. Instead we want to encourage you to use a consent agenda so that you have time for the conversations that matter most. “Church business” is first about discipleship.

Practical Resources for You

Congregations are not the only ones impacted by this time of fast change. We all know that when we keep doing what we have been doing, nothing new will happen.

Let 2017 be the year you change trains, getting rid of the patterns that are slowing you down and grabbing a seat on the train to where God is calling you as a congregation.

The best council leadership is in partnership with the pastoral staff. When the pastor blames the council for being closed to new ideas or the council blames the pastor for resisting change, we get stuck in an endless power struggle with the ultimate loser being the church’s mission of the church.

If this is where you find yourself, seeking outside support can help you discover ways of leveraging the gifts across the whole leadership system: council, staff, and volunteers. The members of the church are not the owners of the church – the church belongs to God. The leadership, on behalf of the members, are called to join God in mission.

LEAD offers resources (many of them free) that will help you and your leaders get on the train that is moving forward.

  • Our weekly newsletter, monthly Toolbox videos and seasonal Lenten and Advent resources are free. They are available to everyone in your congregation at no cost.
  • Our Council Planning Retreat on February, 24-25 at Lutherhill, La Grange, TX is an opportunity to work with a LEAD Consultant using the Annual Roadmap.
  • The Annual Roadmap is also available online as a downloadable package with everything you need to lead the retreat on your own (including participant guide, PowerPoint presentation, facilitator guide, supply list, etc.).
  • LEAD also offers coaching, consulting and LEAD Journeys for congregations wanting to take on new behaviors to help their leaders grow deeper in faith.

“All Aboard!” The train is ready to pull out of the station, jump on!

3 LEAD Team Practices to try

A waymarker on the Camino de Santiago. A group of 10 traveled on a LEAD pilgrimage to Santiago in fall 2016. Photo courtesy of Cindi Scruggs

by Peggy Hahn, Executive Director

Full transparency: our LEAD Team has been crafting our organization for just four short years. The creative freedom that comes with a new organization has provided us with space to experiment, to pivot or persevere based on the results, to struggle with the issues that come with rapid growth and change, and to celebrate some really bright spots.

We’re constantly learning. Job duties (and titles) change regularly. We are all stretching ourselves in new ways we’d never have imagined. This open, flexible and committed team is willing to do what it takes to make the right things happen.

Our staff includes volunteers and small contracts that produce big results. Each of these people bring their own gifts and skills to provide many of the resources that you are most familiar with (like the 10 Minute Toolbox and seasonal resources).

The influence of the people on our team has nothing to do with their salary level, job title or status. It has everything to do with freeing people to use their passions to innovate, generate, and evaluate.

Here are some things we do that are essential to our success, that you might want to try:

LEAD Listens Strategically – sounds easy, but takes time

This is not a superficial gesture to keep key people happy by letting them voice their opinions. Strategic listening is about actively seeking out diverse voices before making key decisions. It’s about getting outside your usual circle and listening to people from different backgrounds, including those you expect you’ll disagree with. We use our own Tune In Process before the designing begins. (Then we use our own Wake Up Process to bring clarity to our purpose, values, and alignment.)

By starting with questions rather than answers, good things happen.

And when we listen to others, relationships grow, increasing the likelihood that they will want to listen to us too.

Try it and see for yourself.

LEAD 360 – strategic organizational evaluation

Our team sets aside a whole week each year for a “LEAD 360” – that is a deep dive into everything we are doing to ask ourselves these questions:

  • Why are we doing this?
  • Should we keep doing this?
  • Is there a better or more effective way to do this?
  • Who should do this now? (If anyone…)

Try it yourself. I guarantee that the effort will produce great (and often unexpected) results, more efficiency, and better alignment. Here is a Guide for doing your own LEAD 360 or contact us if you’d like to talk about having a consultant help you with the process.

LEAD Partnerships for Execution – expand your team by building partners

We are a small non-profit with very limited financial resources but endless human resources. We courageously seek out people to join us as partners so we can share and learn together. We never cease to be amazed by where God leads us through these partnerships – trust me when I say the results are always far greater than the vision we began with! Check out some of our partners. Feel free to talk with them too. Find your own. Get beyond your own wisdom.

If you try any of these, let me know! I would love to hear how it goes. Or share with us the strategies that are working for you. You never know what we might be able to do together when we listen, evaluate, and partner.

Leadership is Joy

by David Hansen, Director of Communication & Innovation

Church budgets.

Congregational meetings.

Constitutional amendments.

Don’t all these things sound joyful to you?

There are lots of tiring, stressful, and hard aspects to ministry. We know. We’ve been there ourselves. And we’ve listened to leaders who are in the middle of it themselves.

Many ministry leaders are tired – exasperated – stressed out – worn out.

We’ve noticed a pattern. Ministries often look like their leaders.

Growing ministries are led by growing leaders.

Generous ministries are led by generous leaders.

Prayerful ministries are led by prayerful leaders.

You get the picture.

This year, we want to help you rediscover your joy.  As leaders, we often feel like our attitudes are affected by our ministry.

I’m stressed because there is conflict in the ministry.

I’m relaxed because things are going well.

I’m tired because there is too much going on.

But what if the opposite is true?
What if we find our attitude first, and that then shapes our ministry?

Hold on to that thought for a minute.

We hear throughout Scripture that the Christian life is marked by joy. And if that is true, one would expect that Christian leadership would also be marked by joy.

As we have listened to leaders, we know that many of you are tired. This year, we want to help you rediscover your joy.

Real joy. Your joy. A joy that isn’t dependent on whether your board meeting goes well or poorly, on whether you meet your budget numbers or not, on what last Sunday’s attendance was.

Because when you find your joy, you will lead with joy.

When you lead with joy, it will infect your ministry with joy.

When your ministry is joyful, the people you minister with are more likely to experience joy.

And joyful people transform communities.

Behold, I bring you good news of great joy!

Join us on this experiment in 2017, as we explore all the ways that Leadership is Joy. Each monthly 10 Minute Toolbox video will focus on ways that God’s joy can transform our ministries.

We have a vision and it includes YOU!

by Peggy Hahn, Executive Director

At LEAD we are imagining a new way of serving YOU, of providing the high quality resources you need in the ways you want them.


  • Digital Resources with access to the best Christian leadership training online with faculty from all around the world
  • Networked Resources with access to the most interesting learning communities either face-to-face or online – YOU choose  
  • Wisdom Resources with access to experienced and professional Christian leaders for mentoring and support either face-to-face or digitally – YOU choose

But it can’t happen without YOU! If each of the 4,000 readers of this weekly newsletter invested $25, we would have $100,000 to make LEAD’s vision to support YOU; young leaders, leaders serving communities of poverty, leaders with a lot to teach the rest of us, leaders in congregations that are struggling to grow, leaders that are tired, leaders that are strong and want to grow even stronger, a reality!

Please make an end of the year gift to LEAD by clicking here. Consider it an investment in LEAD and in YOU!

The Fragrance of Christmas






The first,

life-giving breath

Jesus took.

And then the smell of his mother’s skin.

Jesus meets us where we are. Emmanuel.


May you embrace the raw,

amazing story of the incarnation this year.

Unwrapped. Untidy.

With all of its dank and sharp and acidic edges.

And in thanks and praise and wonder know that

Jesus meets us where we are. Emmanuel.

by Lynn Willis, Spiritual Director – LEAD


Two LEADership Practices to Master: WHY and HOW

by Peggy Hahn, Executive Director

(check out Part 1: Why)

“How?” is the number one question LEAD gets from congregational leaders.

Let’s be honest – considering all the tutorials available on zillions of social media platforms (YouTube, TED Talks, Pinterest, just to name a few), it seems like the question of “how” should have been answered by now.

Yet this is absolutely the right question to ask. Our behaviors – or “how” we do something – have a direct impact on the results.

Here are three bold steps for finding the right “HOW” for your goals. 

Step One: Measure Lead Not Lag

Metrics matter. There is a lot we can’t control – but we can decide what we will measure. Typically, our focus is on lag metrics. A lag measure is something that has already happened by the time you get the data. The results metric is always lagging. For example: How many people are in church? or How much money do they give? Both of these are lag metrics because by the time you are counting, it is too late to influence the outcome.

Lead metrics on the other hand are predictive and influenceable. They are strategically set to change the lag metrics. For example: How many intentional systems can we put in place on a Sunday morning to make new people feel welcome? or How many times in the course of a year do we inspire people to share their resources to reduce human need in our neighborhood?

For great information on this, read The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling.

Step Two: Execute Experiment

Try a pilot project. Add a short-term experiment to test an idea. Rather than asking “everyone” to study the Bible at their kitchen table, try inviting 10 households to pilot an in-home study with digital support (a Facebook group maybe?) for a season (what about Lent?).

Maybe it will work, maybe it won’t, but either way, a lot will be learned. If it works, the stories can be used as leverage for a larger experiment. No big risk here. In fact, the bigger risk is not to try.

Step Three: Pivot or Persevere

This “how” works on new or existing ministries. Once the lead metrics are in place, you can use “pivot or preserver” to guide next steps in much of congregational life.

  • Pivot…an incremental shift toward a new direction (adaptive challenge)
  • Persevere…more energy, effort, and excellence in the same direction (technical challenge)


The question of “How?” is a precursor to action.

Action is the call of a leader.

Engaging others in action is leadership.

Nothing happens without leadership.

As this year comes to an end, it is time to begin wondering about next year’s actions. These three steps offer a path forward. Let’s go!


Are you ready to:

  • Turn “Why” and “How” into action?
  • Connect with your leadership gifts?
  • Develop your strategic skills?
  • Lead in context?

Start the New Year right with LEAD Coaching!

Register by January 31, 2017 and pay by February 15th to receive 6 sessions for the price of 5.

Healthy leaders take advantage of coaching to put personal accountability in play recognizing the benefit not just to themselves but also to those they lead at home and in the congregation.

Two LEADership Practices to Master: WHY and HOW


by Peggy Hahn, Executive Director

Come on…Reveal your thinking!

What is the “WHY” behind your thoughts?

Leaders that are vulnerable enough to reveal their thinking are leaders that are worth following.

We can all expand our integrity and build stronger relationships when we have the courage to reveal our own biases, backstories, and perspectives. Without the “WHY,” we are withholding vital information and that can result in unintended stories or assumptions that are often worse than the truth.

Next time you say “No,” reveal your thinking. Why are you saying no?

  • Try this in your personal life if you want more meaningful, intimate relationships.
  • Try this in your work life if you want to lead beyond your job title. The least influential leader is the one that people follow only because they have been deemed the “boss” or “team leader” or  (you fill in the blank) . Entitlement leadership is a thing of the past, if it was ever a thing at all.
  • Try adding the expectation that those you work with will “reveal their thinking” too. Understanding why people behave or think the way they do is essential to your own growth as a leader who listens.

The LEAD Team has added this phrase to our team covenant. We are calling each other to act with greater integrity. We believe it starts with us.

  • Try this on for size: LEAD is committed to leadership development.

WHY? From our point of view, the church has confused job roles (pastor, council president, membership tenure, etc.), power (who gives the most money), and ownership (back to who gives the most money, or maybe time) with faithful leadership. We feel an urgency to work on this with others who care about living out their faith within the context of our daily struggles. We believe that the Holy Spirit is up to something new, and we are curious, and crazy enough, to want to trust that kind of leadership.

What is your “Why?

Revealing your thinking may not surprise anyone, but it will free you to lead and live with greater transparency. It will open you up for more. More of what? Hmmm, that will be revealed!

Next week…Two LEADership Practices to Master: WHY and HOW

Stay Alert

Hope in the Holiday Season

by Pastor David Hansen, Director of Communication & Innovation

This is a busy time of year – for many of us, this is the busiest season of the whole year.

Christmas planning.




End of year reports.

Getting everything done in time.

Family gatherings.

Time with friends.

It all piles up in December.

The season of Advent reminds us to not let this busy-ness take over our lives. To carve out time to listen for God’s voice. To slow down, stay alert, and listen.

This month’s Toolbox is an invitation to experience Advent together, as a leadership time, in the midst of all of our obligations and the busy-ness of the season.

Give Leadership to make a difference in the world


There is an urgency in our call to grow leaders – expanding to intentionally focus on pastors and others under age 40, and leaders who serve in communities of poverty. These vital groups of leaders are under-resourced and at the same time, highly gifted and passionate about mission. Let’s be the kind of leadership community that invests in the future. Any size gift is appreciated.

You can invest in the future of your church and make a difference in the world by supporting LEAD’s goal of raising $20,000. These funds will go directly to:

  • Pastors in their first call
  • Pastors and lay leaders under age 40
  • Leaders of all ages serving in communities of poverty

Your gift means that these leaders can access resources that will change their lives, increase their confidence and skills for leadership, and offer the kind of support, mentoring, and coaching that will keep them leading into the future. It also means that LEAD has the great gift of learning from these leaders – a gift we will share across the whole church.

When people like yourself invest in other leaders, the benefits grow exponentially. Please join us in making a difference by giving leadership. Give online or mail your tax-deductible check to LEAD, 12941 I-45 North Freeway, Suite #210, Houston, TX 77060-1243.

Thanksgiving Prayer


Oh God – Creator, Savior, Helper

We thank you

for red soil, and black soil, and sandy soil and loamy soil


for rice, and corn, and wheat and cassava


for apples, and dates, and grapes and lychee


for salmon, and catfish, and walnuts and soy


For red, and yellow, and blue and green


You show your perfection not in one perfect thing

but in the unending diversity of your creation.

And so we gather

with all our languages and customs, all our heights and weights, all our genders and eye colors

at one table – made perfect in its almost infinite diversity

to sing to you our songs of





Print-ready bulletin inserts (1 per page PDF / Pub) / (2 per page PDF / Pub)

Urgent: Teach Love

urgent-picIt is not enough to vote. Regardless of how you feel about election outcomes, there is something even more important at stake. People of faith in the United States must take seriously our call to love our neighbor as ourselves. Our compassion and hope and love must take flight in public and passionate ways. God’s love for us demands it.

It is time for us all to come to terms with where people are in their own journeys. To love them enough to step inside their comfort zone and help them to expand it. Steady, focused outward movement. This is leadership.

Leadership requires knowing where you are starting – and having clear goals. As followers of Christ, our voices are used to speak against injustices including racism and gender discrimination. We speak for human rights and respect for diversity as we pour out love on our broken world.

As we love God with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, we are called to listen, center, explore, and connect with our neighbors. The noise around us means we need to organize for a stronger more aligned voice. The urgency is for a coalition of the faithful to create a counter movement of love.

Yesterday my daughter taught my 5-year old granddaughter this mantra, a paraphrased version of a John Wesley quote, “Do all the good you can, to all the people you can, as often as you can.” What else really matters?

O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrod, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Hope in Giving Thanks


Every November, our attention turns toward the 4th Thursday of the month – the American celebration of Thanksgiving.

Often this involves not just the meals and family gatherings, but some intentional thought about gratitude and giving thanks.

As leaders, sometimes we need to learn a new skill. It is important for us to tend to that continual learning (check out our Toolbox archives for some great practical skills).

But sometimes our focus needs to be less on skills, and more on developing a new habit.

This month’s Toolbox is a devotion and an invitation. What would it look like to re-center our leadership and our ministries on the habit of gratitude

Join us, and give thanks in all circumstances.

A personal reflection – Domestic Violence Awareness Month

by Peggy Hahn, Executive Director

I stopped breathing when my son, who was in third grade at that time, said, “Mom, today we talked about abuse at school and we are.”

Gulp. He had said it out loud.

So I asked, “What do you mean?”

He said, “We are abused. By Dad.”

Of course he was right. Of course I knew that. As a professional leader in the church I had worked through this with many families. But this was my family and it was harder. Would the church still want me as a leader if they knew how broken we were as a family? It felt like everything was at stake.

It took me six more years before I would have the courage to end this marriage. For full transparency, I was not in a life-threatening situation, nor were my children. Yet today I feel that I waited too long. What finally motivated me was two things:

  • Role Models: I met women with very few resources on my first international immersion experience in El Salvador. They were taking a stand against violence in their homes. This was just the beginning of my life-lessons from global companions. If they could do it, so could I.
  • Truth: My coming to grips with the fact that I could be raising my sons to be abusers or my daughter to be abused. The family-systems workshops were screaming in my head. I didn’t want violence to be our family legacy, even if that violence was mostly anger issues resulting in yelling, waiting for the next explosion, worrying about what my husband might say to the kids or what he might do to hurt himself.

October is domestic violence awareness month. Domestic violence crosses socioeconomic, ethnic, and cultural boundaries. Victims are emotionally, mentally, and physically manipulated into thinking they deserve to be in pain. Even our faith can work against us. I remember hearing my pastor talking about the Christian life of “taking up our cross” as we follow Jesus and identifying my marriage as my personal “cross.” It took me a long time to realize that THIS is not what this text meant and that God did not expect me to stay in a marriage filled with fear and pain, regardless of how much I value the institution of marriage.  

Please talk about domestic violence. Please make your place of worship a sanctuary for people that are victimized to heal. Please share local resources so people can get help. And please, point to a loving God.

Finally, please deal with your own issues. If you have anger-management challenges, get help now. Even if you are the pastor. If you are living in an unhealthy environment, reach out to people you trust that can help you make a plan to change your life. I’m not an expert in this field, but there are resources available across the world to help women, men or children who are victims of abuse.

Today, I am grateful to have had six years of being single to work out my own healing before remarrying a man that couldn’t be more loving. I am grateful for a dynamic blended family with five adult children, their partners, and our six beautiful grandchildren. I see my former spouse, his new wife, and children at family occasions and I am grateful that they seem to have a healthier life together. We are all healing. And as great as my happy ending is, I recognize that this not everyone’s story. Yet, you will never fully know how God will bless you, if you keep living in the violence.

Did you know?

  • 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men in the United States have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner.
  • On a typical day, domestic violence hotlines receive approximately 21,000 calls, an average of close to 15 calls every minute.
  • Intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime.
  • The presence of a gun in the home during a domestic violence incident increases the risk of homicide by at least 500%.
  • 72% of all murder-suicides involved an intimate partner; 94% of the victims of these crimes are female.

(From the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence)

Domestic violence, often involving alcohol or drugs, sometimes lethal weapons, and almost always unresolved anger management issues, is a problem of epidemic proportions in many parts of the world. One in three women on the planet will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. In the United States, it is aggravated by the widespread availability of guns, making fatal what might otherwise have been events from which the victim might have recovered. (From People’s World)

If you are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1.

For anonymous, confidential help, 24/7, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).

Peru Pilgrimage

peru-pic-longby Cecie Suknaic

Join us for 2017 LEAD Pilgrimage to Peru, June 29 – July 8, 2017. Experience God in new ways with our companions in the Lutheran Church in Peru and through the natural beauty of God’s creation. The pilgrimage includes 3 days in Lima and 6 days in either Cusco & Machu Picchu or Iquitos & the Amazon.

My expectations for the pilgrimage were a bit too stereotypical, and I was surprised again and again by the presence of God in unexpected places and people.

As a part of the Peru pilgrimage, we visited with churches in Lima and Cusco, having the opportunity to hear their stories and interact first hand with the members of the congregations. Most of the churches were led by strong women of faith, women who were not afraid to take action in their community and listen to the call of Christ. With neighborhoods riddled with domestic violence, child abuse, drugs, alcohol, and gangs, one would think the people would be beaten down, broken, desperate, and unhappy – but, each time we turned up at a new congregation, we were welcomed as old friends returning home.

We were hugged and kissed, ushered inside, fed, taken care of, and most importantly: shown unconditional love that we did nothing to deserve. This love is the exact sort of radical love that God extends to us every day and that we are called to extend to all.

My privileged mind believed that because these people lived in poverty, that they would be encompassed in an aura of despair – so when I saw their joy and faith, I was shocked. Their lives were truly full, and they embodied Jesus’s command to love your neighbor as yourself.

God was there, God is still there, and God showed me what it truly means to be intentional and loving through the Lutherans I met in Peru.

We boast about how hospitable Lutherans are here in the United States, how there is always coffee and doughnuts in the parlor on Sunday mornings and a greeter at the door to shake your hand.

But, seeing the way that the Peruvian Lutherans treated complete strangers as family, by serving us meals when there most likely was a need elsewhere, being patient with our broken Spanish, laughing with us, crying with us, and loving us, I can say that doughnuts and coffee do not sufficiently fulfill the call to love one another as God has loved us.

Leaving the churches, the friendships we had formed and the sacred places we had encountered the Holy Spirit, was heart breaking. With tears in my eyes and a heart full to bursting with love, I walked away day after day not knowing when I would return. Not knowing whom the kids I met would grow into. Not knowing how I would return home to the normal routine of what I can now say is distorted with superficial privilege.

But, we are called to put our faith in God, so even if I left Peru feeling as if I am unfinished, I know that God is not. God has placed exceptional men and women into the communities throughout Peru to show people how to love, to raise up the next generation with a desire for Christ, and to care for all whom come through their doors.

God works in mysterious ways, and as I embarked on this pilgrimage, I thought I would be helping with change more so than changing myself. But, once again, my naivety clouded me from realizing that God had other plans. The friendships I held with those accompanying me from Texas A&M deepened, the relationships I made with strangers, both those a part of our trip and those in Peru, flourished, and through constant challenges and intentional relationships, God began to open up my heart.

Trekking through the Andes Mountains and visiting sacred, historical places such as Pachacamac, Machu Picchu, and other Inca ruins allowed our group to reconnect with God in the quiet, in the beauty of the earth, and in the mystical. And on our last day together, as we sang out the words to “How Great Thou Art” in the lobby of the hotel, I couldn’t stop my tears from falling.

This trip was far from easy, it was unlike any “mission” trip I have ever been on before, and I’m not sure that I have changed so much in such a short period of time, but I wouldn’t trade my experience in Peru for anything in the world.

And this pilgrimage will live on even as I return home and am once again swept up in the busyness of college life, because God isn’t finished with us. God’s work is far from over in my life, in your life, and in the lives of the people in Peru.

Our little trip was not the start of the relationship between Lutherans in the United States and those in Peru; we were only a small part of the story. There were people before us and there will be people who come along in the future, but God has been a constant. And now, my heart is torn: I have obligations to fulfill here, but my mind is still set on Peru.

Thinking it over again and again, I am brought back to Psalm chapter 46, verse 10: “Be still, and know that I am God!”

God is in the stillness, God is in the present, God is up to amazing things throughout the world, and God calls us to be a part of the story. Hear the call and take the journey, and do not be afraid because God is already there. Amen.




Cecie Suknaic is a sophomore at Texas A&M University. She and 24 others travelled on the cross-generational LEAD Peru Pilgrimage in June 2016.

The Secret-Sauce for Ministry with Youth and Children


by Peggy Hahn, Executive Director

Are you ready for the one-word answer to the heartfelt question:
“How can we get young people to come to church?”

Drum-roll, please….

The answer is: 


Okay, so maybe it is a little more than just one word because student leadership needs to include a few key commitments on the part of those already in congregational leadership. Things like:

  • Making safe space for students, and the adults who support them, to take risks, learn, and make decisions
  • Equipping students with leadership skills and mentoring them as they practice leadership
  • Preparing for the unexpected as youth lead differently than adults with amazing results
  • Learning from the students as the adults shift into the student role

No organization does this better than Camp Hope Day Camp Ministries. This day camp is hosted at a congregation or public space, led by trained high school and college students, mentored by faithful, caring adults, and supported financially by camper fees and congregational investment.

Now is the time to make a plan for next summer.

This could be the most important decision your congregation makes if they are serious about having young people in the church.

Camp Hope is a fantastic way to add value to your neighborhood, to launch young leaders, and to build Biblically literate families.

Who Is My Neighbor?


By Pastor David Hansen, Director of Communication and Innovation

One of the tasks that LEAD asks congregations to undertake is to connect with their neighborhood in a meaningful way. Whether you are working with our Tune In Process or another method, this is a key step for every congregation that is seeking revitalization and a renewed ministry.

Inevitably at every seminar that LEAD is a part of, we get asked some variation on the same question: “What is our neighborhood?”

It is a real question – often rooted in the disconnect many congregations have with the people who live around them. Sometimes the neighborhood has changed, while the congregation hasn’t. Sometimes it feels like our community is too spread out to really talk about a neighborhood. And still other times we spend so much time focused on what happens inside our buildings that we don’t notice the people who live and work just outside our walls.

We have lots of techniques to help congregations answer this question.

But it always begins with the time that Jesus was asked the same question: “Who is my neighbor?”

In this month’s Toolbox, we invite you to spend some time with Jesus’ answer.

A Move from Head to Heart: Cultivating Emotional Intelligence

white-6By: Rozella H. White, M.A.R.

Increasingly, leadership development experts have found that the number one skill to be nurtured in people who are leading change is emotional intelligence. Daniel Goleman, in his seminal article for the Harvard Business Review, asserted the following:

“…the most effective leaders are alike in one crucial way: They all have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence. It’s not that IQ and technical skills are irrelevant. They do matter, but mainly as “threshold capabilities”; that is, they are the entry-level requirements for executive positions. But my research, along with other recent studies, clearly shows that emotional intelligence is the sine qua non of leadership. Without it, a person can have the best training in the world, an incisive, analytical mind, and an endless supply of smart ideas, but he still won’t make a great leader.”[1]

Emotional intelligence is defined as a group of five skills (self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill) that enable the best leaders to maximize their own and their followers’ performance.[2] It has been proven that leaders who spend time developing these skills not only excel in their roles but they also inspire those who follow them to strive for excellence.

It can be said that the focus on emotional intelligence helps leaders move from their head to the heart. Technical skills and one’s IQ deal with knowledge that is learned and gained over time. Much has been written and many courses have been developed to help leaders sharpen particular skills that get the job done. However, a focus on emotional intelligence taps into those feelings and ways of being that undergird healthy relationships and a healthy sense of self. Emotional intelligence is about how leaders show up in the world, which is different from what leaders do in the world.

Leaders cannot cultivate their emotional intelligence without dropping down into their emotional center. Each of the five skills require deep, personal introspection and have wide external implications. In order for leaders to achieve their highest potential, attention must be paid to their holistic development.

A person who wants to be a leader with the widest and deepest impact has to engage their own stories and experiences that have formed them. So many people live a compartmentalized life and lead in the same way. Parker Palmer calls this way of being a “divided life.” Leaders who do the work to engage their head and their heart move toward integration, which allows trust, compassion, authenticity, and clarity of vision to flourish. Not only is the leader’s life made better, they then provide a vision for what life and leadership could be for others.

Leaders, especially leaders of Christian faith, are called to a life of integration, one that is steeped in the tradition of Jesus. This tradition calls leaders into a new way of being, one that brings to bear all of the gifts, skills, and passions of leaders. One of the reasons I am passionate about the work that LEAD does is because it is an organization that attends to the WHOLE person. Not only are resources to enhance one’s technical skills provided, but LEAD also provides experiences, education, and personal development that attend to the emotional intelligence of leaders. Our communities, our churches, our nation, and our world need leaders who lead from their head and their hearts. If you are interested in developing your emotional intelligence and being an integrated leader, join us.

[1] Goleman, Daniel. “What Makes a Leader.” Harvard Business Review, 1998.

[2] IBID.

Rozella Haydée White Biography

Rozella Haydée White is a coach, creator, and consultant accompanying individuals, organizations and communities live meaningful lives by embracing the fullness of who they are.

Rozella currently serves as the Houston City Director for Mission Year, an organization committed to walking with young adults as they fall in love with Jesus and the city, come alive in their gifts and purpose, build beloved community across dividing lines and become advocates for God’s justice in our neighborhoods and world. She previously served as the Director for Young Adult Ministry for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), one of the largest protestant denominations in the United States.

As a writer, teacher, preacher and public theologian, Rozella is a known presence on social media boldly engaging issues of faith, justice, mental illness and the radical and transformative love of Jesus. Rozella is desperately seeking justice, mercy, humility and love. She believes that everyone is gifted and has the power to transform themselves, their communities and the world when they tap into their most authentic self.

Relationships – When a Good Idea Pops Up All Over

blue-zoneBy Lynn Willis, Spiritual Director

This is a tale about 3 books.

The first book is a National Geographic publication called Blue Zones: The Science of Living Longer. The Blue Zones are the places in the world with high concentrations of people who live past 100 and who also have grown old without health problems. While the slant the authors have chosen to emphasize is living longer, as I was reading it, it really hit me that these people are living better and more fulfilled lives, no matter how long that life may be. (I have to say I was impressed when Dan Buettner, the author said in his TED talk that these folks mostly die quickly, in bed, and frequently after sex — isn’t that we all want??)

They identified 9 traits that these communities had in common. The bedrock three of these traits were:

  • Purpose – a reason to get out of bed in the morning
  • Tribe – social circles which support healthy behaviors
  • Community – a trusted larger group which shares a common lifestyle (think churches)

The second book is one that Peggy Hahn has highly recommended: An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization. This book discusses companies that make it a priority to help every employee be their best self. (Footnote: I thought I was going to hate this book – I mean really – a look at a hedge fund investment company? Not for me! But, surprise! I really liked it!). They also have identified 3 traits that are important to adult development. They call them:

  • Edge (Blue Zones calls this purpose)
  • Home (Blue Zones calls this tribe)
  • Groove (Blue Zones calls this community)

These are amazingly similar results. The companies are trying to synthesize what the Blue Zone cultures have been practicing forever.

Now I’d like to point us toward the third book — a book which hasn’t even been released yet.

Richard Rohr’s new book, Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation, is about relationships. God as relationship. Not even IN relationship – AS relationship. He says that we know now that no part of creation has energy by itself. It only has energy in relation to other particles. And we find God between. In relationship. Even in relationship to God’s own self in a divine dance.

3 books. 3 fields of study – anthropology, business management, and theology – all pointing to the same conclusion.

If we are to be healthy, if we are to be fully developed, if we are to live faithfully with God, then we must push back against the American stereotype of self-made, autonomous person.

We, in the West, live more and more isolated lives – bigger houses with fewer people per house, fewer and fewer friends reported each year and we congratulate ourselves on our own achievements. The church can and should be pivotal in nudging our culture back into community with each other.

LEAD is starting to make a big difference. LEAD is pointing the way. What we are doing is critical to the lives and health of God’s people. We wish to make this trusted community bigger and more diverse than it has ever been before –and it all comes down to creating and maintaining relationships.

Let’s pray:

Lord God, we give thanks and praise that we have the honor to be in relationship with you. We ask for help and wisdom to nudge the church away from smallness, narrowness and isolation and toward trustworthy relationships with each other. Give us all a reason to get up in the morning, a group of friends that we can count on, and a community that supports our efforts to love you and serve each other. In the name of the blessed Trinity we pray, Amen.

Point of View starts with YOU

Point of View-long

The assumption that we hear or remember what others say, when we actually hear or remember what we think about what others say, is a major blind spot. According to Judith Glaser, author of Conversational Intelligences, researchers have found that:

  • We drop out of conversations every twelve to eighteen seconds to process what people are saying.
  • We often remember what we think about what another person is saying because it has such a strong internal process and chemical signal. In other words, our internal listening and dialogue trumps the other person’s speech.

Even if we are trying to be open to others’ perspectives, there’s a good chance we may have missed the point. While we invariably THINK we know what was said, we are still hearing ourselves. Even the most self-aware on the planet struggle with this.

So what can we do to increase our capacity to listen to someone else’s point of view?

Point of View (POV) starts with YOU:

  1. Recognize that there is a reality gap. Your reality and mine are not the same. You and I have different experiences, we know different people, we come from different parts of the world, and we use different language to label our world. Even those of us who are in the same room at the same time will take away different impressions of our time together. Not convinced? Read the four Gospels, all first-hand accounts of Jesus, and notice the different agendas, angles of vision, and how the stories are told. All are valid, by the way.
  2. Celebrate diversity of opinion, perspective, and culture. Men and women have notoriously managed problem-solving in different ways, yet they may even reach the same conclusion. People from different cultures, even those as subtle as growing up in two different families in the same neighborhood, look at life through different lenses. Getting hung up on the “right” answer, “right” response or “right” way reduces the richness of God’s world to a black and white mono-culture that denies the beauty of creation and each person’s unique fingerprints on the planet.
  3. Be a POV advocate. Stop ignoring stereotyping, gross generalizations, bad jokes, and assumptions in yourself and in others. Literally stop being okay with pointing fingers at others before you have a conversation to understand their perspectives. Listening is the only real cure to recognizing our own ignorance. We don’t know what we don’t know. That doesn’t mean it is wrong or bad, it just means that we don’t know.

We live in a time that demands that people of faith listen more than they talk and when they do talk, it is with a sensitivity and affirmation of the diversity of POV. Jesus modeled this over and over as he gave dignity to Zacchaeus, a despised thief who used the guise of collecting taxes to steal. Jesus asked pointed questions of and listened carefully to the woman at the well, a nobody who was so shunned by her peers that she came to the well at midday to avoid the gossip and ridicule.

We are called to be people who bless POV as a gift from God to be celebrated, not reduced to them and us. There is more than one “right” POV to embrace. Thanks be to God

Happy 100 Days til Christmas! (well actually 108)

by Lynn Willis, LEAD Spiritual Guide

LEAD’s “2016 Advent Resources”, suitable for use by both congregations and individuals, will be available November 1st. Using texts from the Revised Common Lectionary, the resources will include weekly print-ready bulletins with liturgy and prayers, images for coloring, and prayer prompts for praying with prayer beads.
New this year, LEAD will be offering an option for using Protestant prayer beads as part of your Advent experience. This “how-to” video demonstrates how simple it is for people of all ages (including multi-generational groups) to create their own prayer beads.

When I was a young mom, my friends and I would exchange a small token and a smile every year on September 16th. It was our oh-my-gosh-wake-up-it’s-100-days-til-Christmas holiday. It was time to start any crafts, plan the baking, and look at airfare prices if we were traveling. Those 100 days go quickly!

So here we are nearing that 100-day mark. And Advent is only 79 days away! LEAD would like to help with some Advent resources and ideas.

Advent is a time for thinking about new things – new year and new energy – as we wait and hope for the coming of Jesus who brought us a new way to see the world. This is cradled in old traditions and old stories which have been handed down through generations. Traditions like the Advent wreath.

Have you ever looked up “Advent wreath” on Wikipedia?

The concept of the Advent wreath originated among German Lutherans in the 16th Century. However, it was not until three centuries later that the modern Advent wreath took shape.


Advent Wreath as designed by Wichern

Research by Prof. Haemig of Luther Seminary, St. Paul MN, points to Johann Hinrich Wichern (1808–1881), a Protestant pastor in Germany and a pioneer in urban mission work among the poor as the inventor of the modern Advent wreath in the 19th century During Advent, children at the mission school Rauhes Haus, founded by Wichern in Hamburg, would ask daily if Christmas had arrived. In 1839, he built a large wooden ring (made out of an old cartwheel) with 20 small red and 4 large white candles. A small candle was lit successively every weekday and Saturday during Advent. On Sundays, a large white candle was lit. The custom gained ground among Protestant churches in Germany and evolved into the smaller wreath with four or five candles known today. Roman Catholics in Germany began to adopt the custom in the 1920s, and in the 1930s it spread to North America. Professor Haemig’s research also indicates that the custom did not reach the United States until the 1930s, even among German Lutheran immigrants.

Who knew?!

This year, LEAD will be taking yet another turn on the Advent wreath.

We will be translating the wreath into Protestant prayer beads. The prayer beads are organized into 4 “weeks” of seven beads each separated by larger Cruciform beads.

The Advent devotions will encourage prayer with the beads. Using prayer beads is an ancient practice that helps bring focus to your conversation with God. It also gives something solid to hold on to, since we can’t hold God’s physical hand.

Our friend Vonda Drees will be illustrating the beads each week, so no actual beads will be needed. An illustration will be in each week’s bulletin to write on or color as you pray. But if you and your community would like to have beads ready for Advent, watch this video for a short demonstration on how it could be done.

The devotions will include readings from the common lectionary and an invocation, confession, and prayers as well as time to color and pray.

Next Friday try greeting some friends with “Happy 100 days!” And start to turn your face toward the new church year and the hope and joy we share as a Christian community as we wait for the coming of Christ.




by David Hansen

Fall is here – and it brings with it changes in our schedules and routines.

As we begin a new school year, this is the perfect chance to start a new habit that will help you to grow in faith and to grow as a leader.

Think about your current faith practices: your habits and routines of prayer, worship, and study. What could you add to the routine this Fall?

What book could you read?
What new Bible study could you be a part of?
At what point during your day could you pause for prayer?

The LEAD team is right there with you. We are shaking up our routines and habits – helping our team to grow in faith.

As part of this change in routine, the Toolbox will look a little different this Fall. You can still access two and a half years of 10 Minute Toolboxes that provide practical tips, suggestions, and how-to guides on our website.

This Fall’s Toolbox, Hope in New Habits, will challenge us all to grow in faith and to grow as leaders. Our goal is to provide a mix of education and devotion in a highly accessible format. Whether you watch it with your leadership team in a conference room or on your phone during a break in your day, we hope you will use the LEAD Toolbox to help you grow closer to God – who calls us as leaders.

Book Recommendations

book cover 1     book cover 2      book cover 3

by Peggy Hahn, Executive Director

I remember the first time I heard a leader say, “There is no room in the church for racism.”

My response? “Where is that church?”

Growing up in New Orleans in the ‘60s, I saw numerous examples of racism and just this past Sunday, right here in Houston, Pastor Ashley Dellagiacoma posted this on Facebook:

Leading worship with one of our historically black congregations, we prayed for peace but walked out to a white lives matter protest with Confederate flags and AR’s and body armor across the street at the NAACP office. ‪#‎LordHaveMercy

When I started reading scripture intentionally through the lens of “love your neighbor as yourself,” it was a little bit of a shock to meet Jesus again, calling us into a radical community where all people are welcomed.

All people.

Into the same community.

Four years ago, I traveled to the Central African Republic, a country in the midst of an ongoing civil war. I saw for myself what happens to God’s people when we say some people matter more than others. It is a trip I am still unpacking as part of my life’s pilgrimage of faith.

Then in 2015, on a LEAD pilgrimage to Turkey and Greece, I discovered that first-century Christians wrestled with and ultimately confronted racism by working to build an inclusive church outside of the official faith community; a church that welcomed:

The God-fearers (Gentiles).

The slaves.

The women and children, regardless of race.

Racism is not exclusively a foreign or a domestic issue; it is an issue that effects all of us, everywhere. We are trying to be church in a very interesting, challenging time in our country and in our world. Leaders need knowledge and resources in order to enter into the hard conversations going on around us or to start them when others are unwilling or unable to.

Here are three books and a number of helpful downloadable PDFs from the Women of the ELCA (WELCA) that I recommend. Take a look around your own community. Seek out those people and organizations addressing the racism in your own backyard. Or join us for LEAD’s webinar Crucial Conversations.


book cover 1     book cover 2     book cover 3

Downloadable WELCA Resources:

Then engage your leaders in this conversation. We are called to walk alongside our neighbors and to create healthy spaces for conversation.

 Lazy racism is the worst kind because it means we don’t care enough to understand how we are all complicit.

We must care about the way people are treated. Certainly all lives matter, but in a time when it is Black people being targeted, we can say with confidence that Black Lives Matter. We can move, even incrementally, to being the church where there is no room for racism. How can we call ourselves Jesus-followers without this effort?

We’re All In This Together

Click the photo for a special message from this year’s Disciple Project participants!

Save the Date to join us for the next
Disciple Project

Revolutionary: Radicals, Rebels, Rogues, Rejects
June 19-23, 2017

Music used with permission from Gold Village Entertainment

Short-Term Wins Change the Game

Short Term

The athletes already know this. The spectators may not.

As the world watches the Olympic Games it is easy to be caught up in the passion for competition, incredible skill, and over-the-top commitment that it takes to become a world-class winner without recognizing that every one of these amazing people started with a few small efforts – a few short-term wins. One little win leads to another, and another, and… you get the idea. AND there are many amazing athletes, who are just as dedicated yet did not make it to the games, who know this intimately. It all starts with a few short-term wins.

One reason change efforts fail in a congregation is a lack of short-term wins. Either because small efforts are not attempted for fear of upsetting the status quo or worse, they are attempted poorly.

Successful short-term wins take at least these five things:

  1. A clear vision that grows out of listening to those you hope to impact,
  2. A reasonable and timely plan that involves others (people support what they help create),
  3. A pre-mortem (exploring what could go wrong before the plan is launched),
  4. A commitment to using at least seven forms of communication to shape expectations about this pilot experience (a few to get you started: Facebook, newsletters, from the pulpit, website, adult forums), and
  5. A post-mortem (evaluating what did happen before repeating the action).

Congregational leadership that wants to change the game can use short-term wins to incrementally move people from where they are to where they believe God’s mission is moving. Think about this as one win at a time.

Hope in Change

Hope in Change

Hope in Change

Churches are not known for their embrace of change.  Very often, change within a congregation is a source of conflict and challenge.

But for some ministries, “change” is at the heart of who they are. In the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the language of “redevelopment” or “restart” is used to talk about ministries that are in the process of significant change.

Ultimately, the change in these ministries is not a threat, but a new birth – a sign of God’s resurrection power in the midst of our community.

In this month’s Toolbox, we sit down with a pastor leading one of these “restart” ministries to learn about the hope that she finds in the change that her community is experiencing.

Learn with us from Pastor Ashley Dellagiacoma of Kindred.

Unleash the power of REFLECTION

Unleash long

by Peggy Hahn, Executive Director

Let’s say you’re the pastor sitting in a church council meeting, listening to several people present their views on a decision. After the decision is made, you say, “That was good.”

What if, instead, you said: “Let me tell you the five things I’m taking away from the way we made this decision.”

Which do you think has more impact?

Unleashing the value of what was accomplished together by reflecting on the conversation and action may be more important than the accomplishment itself. This is one of the most powerful acknowledgment and appreciation tools. People rarely state the value created by a conversation and therefore lose a wonderful opportunity to validate both the conversation and the individuals in it.

Or let’s say you’re the youth minister or adult who accompanies students on a summer trip. After the shared experience, you say, “That was meaningful.”

What if, instead, you said: “Here are the three most meaningful things that happened to me this summer. What were yours?”

Which do you think will help the young people find talking points to share their own reflections, help the parents understand what kind of questions to ask to deepen their conversations with their youth or help congregational leaders to understand the value of their financial investment?

Service Learning strategies have been around for a long time, teaching us that 80% of the learning is in the reflection. We can maximize the opportunity to make meaning, to make space for healing, or to encourage others to wonder about their own thoughts when we take time to reflect ourselves.

Let’s say you are thinking, “Sure, but who has time for this?”

What if, instead, you said: “I’m scheduling time to reflect because it may be more vital than the experience itself.”

By opening up space for reflection we are more likely to notice how God is moving and more likely to be able to unleash the power of the Holy Spirit already active beyond our busyness. Christian leadership is built on faith that this is most certainly true.

Push Pause

PAUSE-button_-_Macro_photography_of_a_remote_controlHave you ever had the urge to pause for a brief moment to get organized (consolidate all your to-do lists into one maybe?) before moving forward again? Sometimes just looking at things in new ways helps you get unstuck. That’s what we’re doing for you this week.

We’ve gone back through the year so far and grouped the feature articles from our newsletters into broad categories so you can revisit your favorites or catch up on ones you may have missed. Of course, you can always find ALL our posts (dating back to 2013 when LEAD first began) on the LEAD website.

We hope you find this helpful!

Christian Leadership articles by Peggy Hahn, Executive Director of LEAD

10 Minute Toolbox videos

Book Reviews

Reflections by Lynn Willis, Spiritual Guide – LEAD

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

Lord in your mercy

Oh God, we have had the wind knocked out of us. We have been knocked to our knees by violence. We are mourning.

How can we take another step without you?


God give us patience. We know that non-violent changes take time.

Are we listening to all the voices at the table – even those that oppose us?  


God give us wisdom. People have always gotten scared and angry. People have always lashed out.   

Are we open to change?


God give us compassion. Violence is timeless.   

Are we giving solace to the victims and finding a way of justice for those who are marginalized?


God give us courage. Giving birth to change is scary.

Are we standing together against the ways that need to be changed?


God give us perseverance. Over and over and over again. Oh please God, give us the strength to keep on going.

Are we tending to our minds, bodies, and souls so we have the strength to keep running this marathon?

God give us – as impossible as it might seem – love for all our siblings. Amen.

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35 (NRSV)

Prayer by Lynn Willis, Spiritual Guide – LEAD
Image by Vonda Drees, Co-director – Grunewald Guild



Hope in Mentoring

Hope in Mentoring

by Pastor David Hansen

Pick an athlete at the top of their field – any athlete, any sport – and they will all have one thing in common. No matter how different the sport, how different the athlete, there is a common thread that runs through their excellence.

They all have coaches and mentors.

People who can guide them, point out their weaknesses, and help them to improve.

Sometimes this relationship is formal and professional (coaches who are employed to help us improve) and sometimes it is more personal and informal (the various mentors who shape us).

You will find that those who excel have this common trait in other fields as well.

At LEAD, we believe in the importance of coaching and mentoring for those who are in ministry. In this month’s 10 Minute Toolbox we talk to two different leaders about how mentor relationships bring hope to their ministry.

(Learn more about LEAD’s coaching resources)

Good for the Soul



Night Blooming Cereus triptych

by Peggy Hahn, Executive Director

As I sat in our backyard, enjoying a glass of wine with my husband, waiting for my Night Blooming Cereus to open, I felt myself relax. The anticipation of the beauty of this spectacular flower that blooms only once is part of our summer faith practice.

We have learned to know “it’s tonight” but the timing depends on the flower so we have to wait. Sadly, I often come home from travel to discover I missed the moment because the flower doesn’t care if we are watching. We covet those evenings where we join the rest of the garden in just waiting for her to gradually open. She won’t open in the light and even begins to withdraw the moment we shine the flashlight to take a photo.

These times of rest are essential for all of us. Healthy leaders find rhythms of daily prayer, weekly Sabbath, monthly reflection, annual vacation, and an occasional sabbatical. This never happens without great effort as the pressure to produce, perform, and partner is endless. Yet the benefits of checking out once in a while is exactly what it takes to be creative, loving, and whole. God made us to need the garden.

What practices are good for your soul?

Holy moments are all around us and the summer is a good time to push pause on “busy” to breathe in a little of the sacred. Rest, Biblically known as Sabbath, is a spiritual practice that the strongest leaders take seriously.

When the morning comes, the flower is spent. It has drooped down, with all the glory of the evening gone. There’s just one chance to enjoy her gifts.

So many things are like that. Time with children. Conversations with a youth. Alone time with a spouse or partner. Laughter with a neighbor. Sharing a meal with a friend. Our soul is aching for these moments of being present. Last night we prayed that you find that space in your own life—and just breathe.