Leading Lutheran Schools in 2018

by Bill Hinz

It is May, and you’re supposed to be tired. When people are weary there are greater possibilities for meltdowns (parents, students, teachers), but there are also opportunities for new growth during stress-filled times.

Leading these days is exhilarating, exhausting, complex, and ever-changing. The wind and the waves can be pretty severe at times. Leaders keep their eyes on Jesus. Peter couldn’t walk on the water by his power, but he did make the choice to get out of the boat. How does that happen for you? It is not about a checklist or reaching up to grab the grace God so freely gives. It is about humbly receiving what He has already done and being open to the ways He desires to equip you. It is not accidental. Leaders, guided by the Holy Spirit, intentionally keep their eyes on Jesus. I am guessing that for you it involves being in the Word, using the great gift of prayer, worship, fellowshipping with other Christ-followers. For many, it is part of the start of our day. For some, journaling is a blessing. Luke 11:1-13, James 1:5-6, Ephesians 3:20-21 all speak to leaders. Leaders must shut out the noise of our current age to find time for solitary connection to the God of the Universe—Jesus is our model. I invite you to get out of the boat.

Leaders grow weary even as they attempt to keep their eyes on Jesus. Leading can often be lonely. The great prophet Elijah in I Kings 19 (right after a great victory) thought he was all alone. He was spent. He wasn’t alone as God revealed to him. You will get spent at times. But you won’t be alone. Often in the spent times God reveals Himself in a very special and unique way. Find ways to connect in our Lutheran circles and beyond. I believe our ALSS conference is a great blessing to many. In the Texas District many of our spouses have also joined us at the ALSS annual conference. Perhaps your spouse will be blessed by joining you at ALSS or another conference.

Leaders find ways to learn and grow beyond our Lutheran circles. Van Lunen, Vistage, joining a local civic organization, hiring an executive coach, finding a mentor from business, and learning from other leaders beyond educational circles can be powerful. Great leaders never stop growing. Touch base with a great leader and pick his/her brain as to how they are learning and growing.

Leaders seek out mentors and they help to serve as mentors to others. In the Texas District we are blessed to have a Mentor Program—Proverbs 27:17—Iron sharpens iron. It is not a perfect program, but it has helped us develop some powerful partnerships. Phone prayer is a great gift. Praying with and for others in their presence is a blessing.

Picking up the phone and connecting with a fellow administrator can be a great fellowship connection. Micah Parker was serving as the Head of School at LSA, Houston several years ago. One of his fellow administrators took the time to give him a call one day just to check in on him. It was a particularly difficult week for Micah. Among other things, a parent actually suggested that there was a connection between Micah Parker and the Parker uniform company, which LSA had just adopted as its uniform supplier. Chris Hahn was led to pick up the phone and call. Chris’s prayer with Micah came at just the right moment. Be part of God’s timing, reach out to another leader.

It is said that Leaders see the future. What worked in 2011 or 2014 may not work very well in 2018. I know of no magic formula outside of James 1:5-6. I do know that collaboration— no one of us is as smart as all of us—can be an important process in continuing to reinvent our schools and ourselves as leaders. It can be exhausting to even consider the future and the tasks before us. Take a deep breath, keep your eyes focused on Jesus, and know that we have a power source beyond this world. Access that power source!

Leaders take their calling (ministry) seriously, but not themselves. (You will probably be gone in 100 years or less, get over yourself including temporary ups and downs in enrollment.) But what a great calling you and I have. What a great calling our schools, faculty and staff, have to students and families. That is something to hold up to members of your team. Our calling, to share Christ and help students develop their God-given gifts and abilities, means we are about something much bigger than ourselves. Leaders get their teams excited about our great calling!

Leaders don’t blame circumstances, situations, or others for the results. Leaders own the results and when results are great, leaders point to the team around them. Leaders are not complainers, whiners, and do not continue to focus on the past. Leaders look forward and involve others in praying together, planning together and dreaming together.

The Margin for Error is very thin. Peter Drucker says, Who Does What, is the most important leadership decision we will make. Leaders hire well. Leaders sometimes make mistakes in hiring because hiring is not an exact science. People change, and all fits cannot be predicted. David Sommermeyer says in Lutheran Schools we hire too quickly and fire too slowly. Great hiring involves seeking God’s guidance throughout the process, networking, collaboration, doing your homework, and vetting well. Don’t compound the damage to ministry when a teacher or staff member is not adding to the mission. We are not a social employment agency. We are a ministry to students and families, (and to each other on our teams.) You don’t want your brake guy to be employed because his repair shop couldn’t figure out a way to release his “talents” to the competition or to some other field. Leadership takes courage. Collaborate with someone who has walked that path before. There are quite a few dos and don’ts in the process.

Astronaut Jeff Williams when asked if the Americans and the Russians worked well on the International Space Station said, “Yes. Our lives depended on it.” Well, lives depend on what we do. AND yes, our work, our mission, is way more important than the International Space Station. (As cool as the space station is.)

At the Alliance gathering in Orlando, were you surprised that Mark Miller, Vice-President of High Performance, at Chick-fil-A, gave us his cell phone number? I was. I mean, this guy is a VP at a major nationwide corporation.

Well, our work is more important. Here is my cell number 512-769-6791. I may not have all the answers or sometimes even many of the answers. But I am certain I will listen and pray with you, AND I am also very certain I can direct you to someone in addition to the Lord—but that is the place to start—to someone who does have some great insights to the situation you are facing.

Celebrate! We Win! We know how the story ends.

I Corinthians 15:54-58 - Where, O death, is your victory?

II Corinthians 5:14-21 - Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation….We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors.

I Thessalonians 5:16-18 - Rejoice always. Pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Leaders set the tone.

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Bill Hinz is the Execution Executive of the Texas District and can be reached at wvhinz@gmail.com.