Augsburg Fortress
One Mission Blog - reflections on the ministry of publishing

Transformational Leadership & Learning

February 6th, 2007 by Beth A. Lewis

As I write this, I’m on another airplane. This time leaving frigid Minnesota for Delray Beach, FL. (I know, tough life!) My travels this week take me to the Duncan Center, an Episcopal Retreat Center for the ELCA’s Head of Staff training conference, where I have had the privilege of teaching for the past 3 years. This conference is a two-year, long-weekend program for pastors who are relatively new at heading a staff. Our focus is to provide information to help these leaders become more effective in these new, and often more complex than their previous experiences, roles. Led by Dick Bruesehoff from the Vocation & Education Unit of the ELCA, this program gets rave reviews each year from attendees. While it’s a two-year program, several have come back for more than two years because they find both the teaching and the time for sabbath and worship energizing. The hope for this gathering? That we will learn how to be transformational leaders.

It is my privilege to provide information to this group on subjects ranging from “how to recruit and hire effective staff members” to “how to build collaborative teams of staff and congregational member leaders” and from “congregational hospitality” to “strategic planning.” Because of the high level of interest in these topics, we are publishing more and more practical books for congregational leaders to assist them in their professional growth. For example, one very popular series filled with practical tips and techniques is our Congregational Leader Series. In April, we will publish a new book by Michael Cooper-White and Bob Bacher, CHURCH ADMINISTRATION: PROGRAMS, PROCESS & PURPOSE. The hope for this book? That we will learn how to be stronger leaders within the church.

Last week, I spent two days at the Western Mission Network meeting. This was my fourth time at this gathering of leaders from ELCA Regions 1, 2 & 3 who focus their ministries around life-long learning. The attendees range from Luther Seminary and PLTS to PLU and Gustavus Adolphus College. They include ELCA campus ministry pastors and leaders from the Montana Synod’s Northern Rockies Institute of Theology, staff members from Pacifica Synod and local teaching congregations, such as Community Church of Joy. I had the privilege of leading a teaching session on “Marketing for Mission” at this year’s event. While the range of marketing expertise and resources was quite varied across the group, there was a common theme in the questions and concerns of “we are doing good work, but how do we get the word out in this information-overloaded world?” While we continue to learn how to more effectively market the ministry resources that we produce every day, it made me proud of my Augsburg Fortress marketing colleagues as I was able to share things like our Akaloo webinars, our free eNewsletters, and our Here We Stand Confirmation webisodes. This group meets each year for 2 1/2 days at the Spirit in the Desert Retreat Center in Carefree, Arizona. And, each year the attendance grows because of the word of mouth communication that the networking opportunities are worthwhile as we share ways to proclaim the gospel for people of all ages and stages of faith formation, both within congregations and through a myriad of other settings. Next year, the group will also gather in late January for a few days at the same very welcoming retreat center. The hope for this gathering? That we will learn how to be transformational leaders within the church.

Earlier in the week, I was delighted to attend the Abiding Hope Leadership Academy in Littleton, Colorado for a couple of days. Pastor Rick Barger is an inspiring leader who brings his years of global business expertise, combined with his seminary training, and charismatic delivery of the gospel, to challenge and guide not only the members of Abiding Hope Lutheran Church, but others from across the church, including seminarians from Wartburg Seminary and Trinity Lutheran Seminary. I learned a great deal from him over those two days and we are now talking about ways that their Academy and Augsburg Fortress might partner to extend the reach of their work via both print and electronic resources. The hope for this academy gathering? That we will learn how to be transformational leaders within the church.

On Sunday, I enjoyed hosting a 20-something year-old couple at the adult forum and at worship at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, where my husband, Rick Rouse, is the senior pastor. Being a shameless evangelizer (yes, I know, not very Lutheran of me), I had met the young man on an airplane heading to Phoenix shortly before Christmas. As we chatted, he told me that his girlfriend was raised Lutheran, but hadn’t been involved with a congregation for a long time and was interested in finding somewhere to worship for Christmas. He was, essentially, unchurched. I invited them to join us at Prince of Peace for Christmas Eve and/or Christmas Day services. Because of some confusion in the communication about times, we didn’t see them over Christmas. But, I kept in touch with them via e-mail and invited them again. They expressed interest in the adult forum series that Rick was coordinating on Christians, Muslims and Jews in the Middle East. It was also fun to see them engage with both the “current events” of the wall that is being built in Palestine and to guide them through the new Evangelical Lutheran Worship hymnal. It was fun to watch them as they signed up to join our Habitat for Humanity team. I think that they’ll be back. It is clear that they are like so many young adults in our society. Hungry for a word of grace. Hungry for a word of peace. Hungry for the joy that comes with knowing that we are a community of faith, loved by God. I have heard it said that we Lutherans only invite someone to worship with us once every 27 years. I don’t know if that’s real data or just made up by someone trying to make a point in a speech (or a blog), but the point is well-taken that most of us aren’t as welcoming as we would like to think we are. Are we shy or just selfish (keeping the Good News to ourselves)? We talk about being “missional” as a church. We talk about reclaiming the word “Evangelical” that starts our names (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada). But, most of us aren’t really very good about saying these 10 little words: “Would you like to join me at worship on Sunday?” If you’ve read this far in my blog, I invite you to help me start a conversation about evangelism. Please reply to this question…..when was the last time you (yes, you personally) invited someone to church, either to a worship service or a fellowship or service event? What did you learn from the experience? If being a an evangelist doesn’t come naturally to you, I would invite you to read THE EVANGELIZING CHURCH: A LUTHERAN CONTRIBUTION, edited by my friend and President of Luther Seminary, Rick Bliese with contributions by many leaders from throughout the ELCA. The hope for this book? That we will learn how to be transformational leaders within the church.

So, back to that invitation….please share via this blog, your evangelical leadership stories! Let’s transform this church! Let’s help one another share the Good News…one person at a time.
Let us learn, together, how to be transformational leaders within this church and the world.

Blessings to you,

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Beth A. Lewis, President & CEO Augsburg Fortress

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