March 15,  2018
Thinking About Leadership

by Rev. Dr. SanDawna Gaulman Ashley, EP Minnesota Valleys Presbytery

Many years ago, the following question crossed my mind: What makes some churches grow by leaps and bounds while others decline? The obvious answers to this question lie in a clear sense of mission, spiritual health, resources, location, and leadership. This is the short and simplified list; included in each of these categories are a web of multi-layered complexities of what ifs and maybes. Nonetheless, there is one area that I believe is key for church growth...effective leaders.

Pastors' effectiveness is measured by their ability to orchestrate change. What I learned is that leaders must have a strong call to the work in which they are engaged. Also, leaders serve best when they are authentically themselves. Today's church is no place for lone-rangers.

My biblical model of an effective leader is Nehemiah. This prophet was the prototype of one who could lead transformation. Read Nehemiah through the lens of a strategist and you will discover a prayerful leader who marshals support, enlists new leaders, overcomes obstacles and accomplishes his assigned task. Leaders today come from all ethnic groups, cultures, genders, and social places in life. Effective leaders today empower others, share power, advocate for justice, provide vision, inspire, and collaborate. Margaret Heffern calls us out to recheck our thinking about leadership. Heffern states: "We no longer need superstars; rather we need to embrace a new definition of leadership. Leadership is an activity in which conditions are created in which everyone can do their most courageous thinking together."

Good leaders make space for leadership succession. They are permission-giving. They grant autonomy so that creativity can freely flow. These leaders have the capacity to create an environment of excitement and anticipation. As authentic leaders, they can work from their areas of strength and be honest about their own growing edges. More than just working to build a team, effective leaders practice "teaming", a concept of distributed leadership, blending related people, listening to other points of view, coordinating actions, making shared decisions, and calling for the development of both affective (feelings) and cognitive (thinking) skills within groups. The growth of the church is dependent upon both the spiritual and professional growth of leaders. 

Pastors should lead knowing that they are equipped through baptism to fulfill their calls. May you find strength through these words: "May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this." 
(1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)

Explore Good Reads 

Click to Image above to Order 

C.S. Lewis has long been recognized as a beloved author of children's literature and an apologist for Christian belief to a skeptical modern world. In this new volume, Gregory S. Cootsona shows us how Lewis can also serve as a guide to the ups and downs of the Christian journey. Like many of us, Lewis suffered from a variety of crises of faith and personal experience. Like us, he came to faith in a world that no longer respects Christian commitment or offers much room for belief in God. Like us, he felt the absence of God when those closest to him died. Like us, he wrestled with doubt, wondering if God is real, or simply the projection of his own wishes onto the screen of the universe. Like us, he knew the kinds of temptations he described with such poignancy and humor in The Screwtape Letters.

PDA Update
by Rev. Dr. Laurie Kraus, Director PDA

This past fall, three hurricanes battered parts of the Caribbean and Gulf Coast regions. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria brought violent winds and severe flooding, and their rapid succession left many people and relief organizations overwhelmed. Your faithful and generous support, however, allowed the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to respond with the light of hope in the midst of chaos, through the work of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA). Thank you for you support. 

Your gifts provided emergency funding in Texas, Florida, Cuba and Puerto Rico. In the days after each storm, PDA was on the ground, assessing damage, providing expert support, partnership, consultation and coordination. Impacted congregations received urgent assistance to continue in ministry to their affected neighbors. PDA's response is widening, providing resources for long-term recovery, working with partners to set up volunteer rebuilding opportunities, supporting capacity building and providing support and training for leaders in Compassion Fatigue and Resiliency. Fatigue and hopelessness often cause a second crisis long after the winds subside and the waters recede.

Christian "Funnies"

Keep Thinking...

"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."- Friedrich Nietzsche

Pictures from the Presbytery

Pictures from Palmyra