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

Professional Development for Congregational Leaders

January 8th, 2015 by Beth A. Lewis

Happy New Year!  I gave up New Year’s resolutions a number of years ago.  But, that doesn’t mean that I don’t set goals for myself each year!  And, at Augsburg Fortress, one of the four key measures on our annual Balanced Scorecard focuses on required professional development accomplishments for each and every employee.

Does your congregation have a professional development standard for staff and other key leaders?  If not, I’d encourage you to strongly consider this. And, the first of the year is a great time to start!

Having done a lot of speaking and teaching on leadership development all across the Church, I know that as soon as I propose investing in professional development I’ll hear the “scarce resources” argument.

I’m going to push back, however, and state that with carefully planned activities, you will get more in return than you spend in time or money on development of the people serving in leadership roles!  And, while certainly time and effort need to be applied, there are many low cost and even free options for professional development for church leaders.

  • Look to your local public school system for evening classes on effective speaking, accounting basics, meeting management, or small group dynamics.
  • Invite gifted lay leaders from your congregation who would be delighted to join your staff and lead a “brown bag lunch” on business skills that apply to church environments.
  • Select a book to read together and discuss as a staff.  For pastoral staff, maybe Mike Foss’s new book Reviving the Congregation: Pastoral Leadership in a Changing Context or for faith formation teachers and leaders, Michael Novelli’s Shaped by the Story: Discover the Art of Bible Storytelling
  • Network with ecumenical or interfaith communities in your area.  What do they know that you don’t and vice versa.  Trade expertise!
  • Watch an interesting TED talk as a staff during your weekly staff meeting.
  • Check out the website for your synod or other middle judicatory for workshops and conferences.
  • Explore your denomination’s colleges, universities and seminaries for both in-person and web-based teaching and learning events.
  • Last, but far from least, look to Augsburg Fortress and sparkhouse!  We host 400+ free webinars each year on a wide range of topics to assist congregational leaders. While some are tied to specific resources we publish, many are broader in their scope.  For example, in just the next two weeks, we are hosting 22 free webinars! In addition to product-specific webinars, we’ll have free webinars on these general interest topics for church leaders:
    • Leading Adult Bible Studies
    • Using Video to Engage Kids through Adults in Faith Formation
    • Everyone on the Same Page: Energize Your Church Using the Revised Common Lectionary
    • Building Biblical Literacy with Children

To learn more about these webinars and our rotating free offerings, bookmark and check it throughout the year!   Invite your colleagues to do the same as they work on their professional development plans.

Professional development is up to each of us as individuals; we need to proactively find ways to incorporate life-long learning into our busy days.  But, it is also up to us as organizational leaders to encourage and nurture this initiatives around growth so that as our world continues to evolve, our staff members have the skills to adapt.






Beth A. Lewis, President & CEO Augsburg Fortress

Web Store Maintenance Jan 3 or 4

December 29th, 2014 by Beth A. Lewis

Our web stores for Augsburg Fortress, AF Canada, sparkhouse and Fortress Press will be down for scheduled maintenance for approximately 2 hours on either January 3 or January 4. 

Technology provides the underpinnings for our ministry and business of publishing.

  • We use technology to create new faith formation, music and worship resources for congregations.
  • We use technology to communicate with social media-based communities.
  • We use technology to teach via webinars and videos.
  • We use technology to create ink-on-paper and eBooks to convey scholarly research for academic inquiry.
  • We use technology to process orders for both physical and digital content.
  • We use technology streamline our internal processes to help us lower our costs, which in turn keeps our prices as low as possible for our customers.

And, all of these different uses of technology need to be interconnected! In many ways, Augsburg Fortress, AF Canada, sparkhouse and Fortress Press have moved well beyond being a publishing  ministry and business into the realm of being a technology ministry and business.

With this, comes the constant need to upgrade and update the infrastructure that is the backbone of our organization.  While most of it can be done without interrupting our customers’ engagement with us, from time to time, we must go “off-line” for a short time for scheduled maintenance.  We try to do so during very low periods of access of our websites and digital subscription products.   One of those times will be an approximately 2 hour block of time on either January 3 or 4.  We apologize for any inconvenience this brief downtime causes.



Beth A. Lewis, President & CEO Augsburg Fortress

Creative Sharing of the Word with “Bread for the Day”

December 19th, 2014 by Beth A. Lewis

Several years ago Bishop Steve Ullestad of the ELCA’s Northeastern Iowa Synod encouraged us to publish a little book that has become a favorite in a wide variety of places in both print and eBook formats across the Church.  The annual daily devotional (and more!), Bread for the Day  is purchased by individuals for themselves and as gifts for others.  But, we’ve also noticed lately that more and more congregations, synods, and other institutions of the Church use our sliding scale bulk purchase discount schedule to purchase Bread for the Day in large quantities!  We’re delighted, of course, that this fine resource has found such a welcome reception in the lives of our partners in ministry.  But, I was curious about those large quantity purchases so asked a few people how they use them.


First from Linda Sue Hamilton, Secretary in the Northeastern Iowa Synod:

The Northeastern Iowa Synod provides the devotionals to all the councils and call committees in the call process in our synod.  We also send them as Christmas gifts to all rostered, lay committee members and network facilitators, and special people on our Christmas card list.  We also give them to anyone attending our Synod Assembly in June.

In addition,  this synod’s Director for Evangelical Mission, the Rev. Joelle Colville-Hanson just published a marvelous blog post about the history of Bread for the Day and its use in their synod.

The Rev. Nancy Ruckert of St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Secaucus, NJ shared this with me “Last year we switched to Bread for the Day after I had seen posts on Facebook.  The prayers that were shared spoke to me so we moved to Bread for the Day.  We sell them to members of the congregation and give them to our shut-ins.  I personally give them to colleagues and members of my family as Christmas gifts.  Nothing too creative — but spreading the Word nonetheless.”  Indeed, Nancy!  And, that is what Bread for the Day is all about…spreading the Word!

In response to my query about the Southwest California Synod’s large purchase of Bread for the Day, Bishop Guy Erwin replied,  “Yes, I gave four to each congregation to prime the pump, and issued an invitation to the whole synod to join me for a year of reading the daily lectionary texts.  I promised to tweet or post on some aspect of one of them every day of the year. I’ve also given them to conference deans and synod council members.  I know a few pastors picked up the idea and are giving books to their council members.”

While Bread for the Day is a handy size for putting in your briefcase or purse or having on the corner of your desk or bedside table, more and more people want it available in digital format.  For the past couple of years, we’ve made it available not only in the traditional ink-on-paper format, but also in a wide variety of eBook formats through your favorite eBook store, such as Amazon or Barnes & Noble or independent bookstores that offer eBooks for sale.

Last, but far from least is the innovative work being done by the Rev. Jared Carson who serves at Peace Lutheran Church in Las Cruces, NM.  He has launched two open to the public social media gatherings around the Bread for the Day daily readings.  There will be a variety of contributors assisting with writing reflections tied to the readings, including ELCA bishops Guy Erwin of the Southwest California Synod, Michael Rhyne of the Allegheny Synod, and Bill Gafkjen of the Indiana-Kentucky Synod.

You may participate in this social media community via Twitter @Bread_FTD or via Facebook at BreadFTD.  And, if you have a newsletter, website or social media site where you can share the links to these two Bread for the Day social media communities, we and Jared would be grateful for your assistance in expanding these networks!

Thanks to all who shared how they are using this wonderful little resource.  If you’d like to share your story, we’d love to hear from you, too!

Advent blessings,



P.S. Yes, because of the rapidly growing popularity of this resource, we are currently out of stock as I write this, but our Purchasing team has more on the way to our distribution center!

Beth A. Lewis, President & CEO Augsburg Fortress

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