Fall 2019

Leaders are Readers

by Jim Pingel

Here are the best books of 2019 that I’ve read so far and think would benefit each of you greatly in your ministry. Any one of them would make for a terrific book club group too.

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The title of this book is provocative all by itself in an age of specialization. Epstein starts out with a chapter comparing Tiger Woods to Roger Federer and makes a case for one’s upbringing and training over the other. Which one are you—a Roger or Tiger?

Each chapter reads like its own book, but I really enjoyed the chapters which elaborated on how to create a culture of continuous improvement and innovation. There is rich research here and wonderful anecdotes and metaphors which are sticky for reflection and teaching. Every Lutheran high school administrator should read this book and reflect on its findings. After all, who doesn’t want to improve his or her leadership range? 


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Anything Marcus Buckingham writes is worth reading. A bit of a contrarian, Buckingham and his co-author, Goodall, take on such sacred cows and leadership mantras as “establishing a proper work-life balance,” “people need feedback,” and “the best plan wins.”

The book is worth purchasing for the first and last chapters alone. I found their research on the eight aspects of the highest-performing teams—precisely worded items based on their extensive research—riveting and immediately usable my own leadership positons. The last chapter of the book, “Leadership is not a Thing” is one of the most compelling chapters on leadership I’ve ever read. Are your bored or tired of hearing about cookie cutter approaches to leadership which spout out talk of BHAGS, mission, casting vision and the like? So are Buckingham and Goodall. They insist leadership is about you, emotion, and your spikes (you’ll have to read it to find out what spikes are). Their take on leadership—that it is much more an art than science—is refreshing to read and will resonate deeply with Lutheran administrators who serve a Creator God. 


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Every time I saw this book on the bestsellers shelf this year, I passed over it. Why would I want to read about someone else’s boring, educational journey, especially when this person is a no-name individual without any historical significance? Stuck in an airport longer than I wanted to be one day, I purchased the book. Two days later, after finding every available minute I could to read it, I finished it. Totally engrossing, this page-turner reads like a novel, but it is a true story of a young girl raised in a secluded Mormon household in Idaho who eventually breaks free and gets “educated” all the way to her PhD at Harvard.

As a Christian, the book challenged me because it presented a religious family, albeit a Mormon one, in a degrading light. Tara Westover’s family is uneducated, superstitious, malicious, backwards, old school, ignorant, intolerant—everything a zealous, urban, lefty today might accuse a hard right, rural, evangelical Christian in the political arena. The book also heavily implies that the more degrees and secular education you have, the more wisdom and spiritual peace you will have.

These holy discontents, however, are what made me engage so intimately with the book. I kept thinking to myself, how would I respond to this situation as a Christian? How do Christians show people that we are not close-minded, superstitious, anti-medicine, anti-all government agencies, and consumed with conspiracy theories? How do we, as Christians, live in the world but not of the world? How do we show others that true wisdom comes from God’s Word, but that we also believe it is okay to take medicines prescribed by doctors or that we can handle reading literature that is contrary to the teachings of Scripture?

Do yourself a favor: Pick up the book. Enjoy the read. Wrestle with the image that many others might have of “religious” people like yourself. Then reflect on the current platform God has given you. Think about how you can share and teach the Word of God, in truth and purity, without trying too hard to blend and adopt the ways of a pagan world or by refusing to engage and witness to those who do.  

 
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Jim Pingel

is the editor of the ALSS Journal and Dean of the School of Education at CUW and CUAA. He can be reached at james.pingel@cuw.edu.

 

Muck of the Moose

by Dr. Craig Ernstmeyer

I’m sitting here in my office as we start the 2019-2020 school year. Students are in their classes, teachers are their rooms, and we are off and running. It has been quite a journey to get to this point. Over the course of the last 90 days, our school building has gone through a massive renovation, the cost of which has eclipsed $1 million. My summer office was a science lab room with a roommate named “Jerry” (who is a snake). Over the course of the last four hundred or so days, we also have completed a building expansion project. All this to be able to serve more students. We also had to raise money to do both of these things which leads to the question, was there a summer 2019? There has just been so much muck.

So here we are—day three—and it doesn’t feel like the beginning. I’m tired. I have phones that don’t work, HVAC units that aren’t cooling, and parents asking for more financial aid. Where did the routine “honeymoon stage” of the school year go? Year sixteen in administration should be easier than this! This is only the professional side and doesn’t touch on the personal side, where I have taken my two girls to college in the last month. I’m tired, and it’s only 8:30 in the morning. Then I get a surprise visitor.

She’s the mom of a sophomore boy. She wasn’t sold on Lutheran High last year but her husband was all in. They had two older kids go through the public schools. She is in my office today to say thank you. Her husband of nearly 32 years, the big time LHS fan, is on hospice. They found out about his cancer in February. She is in to say thank you. She doesn’t know what kind of a response her son would have gotten in a public school. She knows that her son has been surrounded by love and prayers in a Lutheran school. Even as his dad was diagnosed, her son was diligent in his studies during his freshman year and even now. He is getting books and assignments today for the rest of the week (it’s Tuesday). His dad may not make through the week. More muck.

When I was going through leadership training, we read the book Gung Ho! by Ken Blanchard. Our group added to the author’s themes of the spirit of the squirrel, the way of the beaver, and the gift of the goose. We added the “Muck of the Moose.” It started as a joke, but to me, this theme has come to remind me that ministry is messy and we can get bogged down. I share the story above as a reminder. Muck will happen my friends, but God, in His mercy, in His timing, shows His Son through it all. My visitor today reminded me of that! All the muck mentioned is just that, muck. As Paul mentioned in his book to Rome (5:3-5, 8:28), and as the author of Hebrews shared in chapter twelve, to “throw off everything that hinders us.”

You are each doing powerful ministry! Whether you believe it or not, you are! Continue to run the race! God has put you right where He needs you. Your muck may be different, but we serve the same powerful God. The next time you think about the size of the muck (yes, you will have it this year), replace that with thoughts of the size of our God. The muck won’t go away, but it will be easier to deal with knowing we have teammates, both here and in heaven, to help us through it. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others and reach up to Him!

 
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Dr. Craig Ernstmeyer

is the Head of School at Lutheran High School of St. Charles County. He can be reached at ernstmeyer@lhssc.org.

 

Ministry by Movie

by LUCAS FITZGERALD

I enjoy movies. Films which contain unnecessary and/or over the top explosions, a training montage where the protagonist prepares himself for his 6’6 Russian opponent, and perhaps most importantly, limited development of characters’ inner feelings are generally quite appealing to me in a movie. If I were to spend some time reclined on a couch with someone holding a clipboard asking me why I like these types of movies, I suppose I’d say it’s because I want good guys to win against physically superior opponents after a period of self-doubt and adversity. (It could also be because I know I’m safe with these movies and will not repeat the mistake I made in my late teens while on a date. The movie we watched was Brad Pitt’s “Legends of the Fall” with his numerous shirtless scenes....ughhhh.) 

It might be helpful at this time to consider our school year’s commencement along these movie-related motifs found above. Unfortunately, we will certainly face explosions this year. Some schools will have a cherished member of their school community go home to Jesus in a tragic fashion. A major incident will probably occur at one of our schools this year where an official press release is needed to help stem the bleeding and limit damage to the school’s future reputation. A school wide lockdown/lockout/earthquake/campus emergency will happen where an entire school community is under threat. These explosions and many others will rock our schools this year. 

To all of these explosions we might experience this year it is both my hope and my encouragement to you to share: “From where does my help come from?  It comes from the Lord.” (Psalm 121) and “Though He slay me, yet I will trust in Him” (Job 13:15).

Opponents will ebb and flow into your lives this year: adversarial school board members working negatively behind the scenes; a highly irritated school parent making life miserable for all she encounters; an unmotivated and less than thankful staff member hurting team morale; lower than expected budget income; self-doubt; a school culture emerging that distances itself from Lutheran-Christian truths in the name of student enrollment or other simplistic rationalizations.

It is both my hope and my encouragement to you to share: “What shall we say then about these things. If God be for us, then who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). Moreover, “Heaven and Earth may fall away, but my Word will never fall away” (Matthew 24:35).

Finally we come to the concept of inner feelings. Throughout this school year we will experience the full gamut of emotions with their highs, lows and every other emotion in-between. There will be long days and nights ahead in the coming months and many items will emerge that you alone can handle—this is assured. During periods of mental and/or physical fatigue you may begin to wrestle with your thoughts and questions like the following may emerge, “Why am I the only one here right now?” “Why am I doing this and not ______?” “How can I be strong, yet loving here?”  “Is it time for this person to go?”  “Is it time for me to go?”

It is both my hope and my encouragement to you to share: “Whenever our hearts condemn us...God is greater than our hearts and knows all things” (1 John 3:20). The Bible also says, “Let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

Whatever your year may look like for you from now until the end, may our good God and merciful Savior Jesus Christ equip you, protect you, and guide you as you serve Him in our Lutheran secondary schools. May He give you the power and strength that is only His to give as you have the mighty and glorious task of serving Him with all of your heart, soul and mind.  “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice.”

To God alone be the glory.

Lucas Fitzgerald is the Executive Director of Pacific Lutheran Middle School and High School in Gardena, CA. He can be reached at lfitzgerald@paclutheran.com.

Big Shoes

by PAUL LOOKER

Gene Bartow—John Wooden, Jay Leno—Johnny Carson, Tim Floyd—Phil Jackson, Harry S. Truman—Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Most likely, you have arrived at the significance of these pairs of names; they are legends in their respective worlds preceded by the people that followed them, the ones who were asked to “fill the shoes” of a legend.

Filling “big shoes” can be an incredibly daunting task. When Truman assumed the presidency after the death of FDR, he is said to have told a group of reporters, “Boys, if you pray, pray for me now. I don’t know if you fellows ever had a load of hay fall on you, but when they told me yesterday what had happened, I felt like the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me.”

To be sure, Truman’s circumstances are vastly different from a transition in our ministry. Nevertheless, president or principal, if you’re the individual taking over for the “legend,” chances are you have wondered, “How can I fill these shoes?” and, perhaps, even felt like a load of hay was falling on you.

As a person who has experienced this challenge through various roles over my years in Lutheran high schools, I offer some simple thoughts to anyone who shares this path:

It is vitally important to constantly remind yourself that it is all about the Mission--GOD’S MISSION, not yours! 

There is no better time for that reminder than when you assume the leadership role, especially when you have “big shoes to fill.” The focus should always be on God and His purpose. During my first year as principal, in fact the first few months, I was asked by an NHS student from my former school if I would speak at their Fall Induction. “I must be in high demand as a speaker now that I’m a principal,” I thought.  As I talked to the student on the phone, I paused, as if to check my busy speaking schedule. Finally, I answered yes, I was pretty sure that I could arrange my schedule to fit in a presentation at their ceremony. The student answered innocently enough and as only a bluntly honest teenager could: “Oh thank you sooo much, because you’re like the fifth person we’ve asked!” Her response took me down a peg or two and was a great reminder that it’s not about me! 

It’s also important to come to terms with the fact that your gifts may be vastly different from those of the person whose place you are taking.

God can and will use your strengths in different ways and that service can shine through your unique gifts. It can be tempting to simply roll forward, never taking the time to clarify the personal strengths that will be used to accomplish His mission. It’s important to consider that there are most likely very good reasons that you have been placed in the position you are assuming. You can move into your new role with confidence that God has a plan to use your set of gifts in moving HIS mission forward.

As a new leader, change is critical; so is recognizing, appreciating and maintaining the momentum created by those “big shoes” you are filling.

With all the waves of administrative challenges now breaking toward you, don’t forget that you are now overseeing a successful landscape attributable in many ways to your predecessor.  Change, of course, is critical as the new leader. But the successful ministry you now find yourself leading is due to great decisions and tireless efforts of the person whose place you are taking. It’s okay, in fact it’s wise to take advantage of the solid and thriving foundation already established by the “legendary leader.” It’s a wise new leader who can identify aspects that need change and how to apply their unique gifts to help facilitate that change. A wise leader also recognizes aspects that should not change.

Ultimately, the “legend” and the new leader share a common joy in the ministry: To know the joy of playing a part in God’s plan for our youth.

I John 1:4 says, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”

 
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Paul Looker

is the new Superintendent of the Lutheran High School Association of Greater Detroit. He can be reached at PLooker@lhsa.com.

 

Merge Your Fundraising Efforts with Recruitment Practices

by Jim Pingel

Christian leaders have a good sense of timing. They know that time is a gift from God, that God’s timing is always perfect, and that the Bible talks a lot to say about time and timing. Indeed God tells us to make “the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16). He also encourages us to make the most of our time because “you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14). We are to “not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9). The Bible is clear: You are to make the most of your time. Most importantly, God knew the right time to send His Son to rescue us from our sins. As the Scriptures teach, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law” to save us from our sins (Galatians 4:4). If timing is such a big deal to God, perhaps we need to reflect more on the timing of our initiatives in ministry too.

When I served as the Executive Director of two smaller Lutheran High schools in the Midwest, I never had enough time. I’m sure you cannot relate. Seriously, though, when you are in charge of advancement, recruitment, strategic planning, the budget, congregational relationships, professional development, curriculum, teacher supervision, and can’t seem to find anyone to run your concession stand, you learn very quickly how to kill many birds with few stones.

One thing I learned over the years, after much trial and error, is that we could enhance our fundraising efforts through many of our recruitment practices. The irony of it all is that what started out as an inspiration to consolidate and manage a busy workload turned out to be a very fruitful endeavor all by itself. Indeed, I discovered that we could use our fundraising ideas and “double dip,” or use many of these creations, to enhance our recruiting efforts and vice versa. Let me give you a few examples of what worked for us.

FALL

The fall is a terrific time to fundraise—people are happy and excited about school in general. They are not spending money on vocations and travel since the summer has ended. Your snowbird donors have not flown off to Florida or Arizona yet. They weather is still pleasant. So here are some things we did linking our fundraising and recruitment endeavors:

  • Our fall benefit banquet (doesn’t everyone have one?) raised funds for student scholarships and endowments for financial assistance. One of the unique things we did at these events is have a few students, who received scholarships, speak to the larger group and publicly thank them for their support while telling their own Lutheran high story. Second, we also invited and assigned students, who received some kind of financial aid or scholarship assistance, to each of the dinner tables of our guests. If we had twenty-five tables of eight guests, then we had twenty-five students sitting throughout the banquet hall visiting with our contributors at each individual table. In short, we wanted our donors to interact with the very students whom they directly helped and made a Christian education possible. Our donors loved sitting next to and conversing with our students throughout the banquet.

  • We sent out annual fund appeals three times a year—early fall, early December (Christmas appeal), and in April. Our fall annual appeal usually contained more data than our other two annual fund appeals—the number of students enrolled at our school, the yearly cost to educate a student (we also included the daily cost because some donors loved to pay for “one day” of school), and our fundraising goals for the school year. We discovered that our donors liked to know this information. They wanted to see if their giving had “worked” or helped with our recruitment efforts. Again, we wanted our donors to see the link between fundraising and student enrollment. 

  • As we geared up for a new year of student recruitment (it’s never ending), we created new student recruitment brochures, newsletters, posters, and postcards which we planned to give to prospective students and their families during our upcoming open houses, grade school visits, and direct mail appeal efforts. This is not unusual practice. Almost every Lutheran high school creates or purchases their recruitment materials and swag.

    But here’s the really fun part: I mailed these recruitment brochures, newsletters, posters, and postcards to our donors who had supported our endowments and student scholarship funds and included a handwritten, personal “thank you” note to them. In other words, our donors received all of the student recruitment materials with a note from me saying “thank you for making this possible.” I often included the names of students “who would not be here without your generosity and scholarship funding” in my letter.

    This opportunity provided me an easy, non-money ask and touch point with many of our top donors only a few months before I would be asking them for a Christmas gift/donation. More importantly, our donors saw, on these brochures and posters, a lot of smiling faces and the impact of that their donations had on the mission of the school. How easy was that? I disciplined myself to write about five personal letters a day for the months of September and October and inserted the letter with recruitment materials in a packet. Months later when I would visit some of these donors in their homes, they would have the recruitment materials sitting on their coffee tables. “So tell me a little bit more about this program,” they would ask me pointing to a brochure.

WINTER

  • The Christmas annual fund appeal, of course, remained one of our more lucrative fundraising endeavors. Moved by the love of Christ and the Babe of Bethlehem, many donors give their “one-time” gift between Thanksgiving and Christmas. In this appeal, we did not focus so much on data but on the mission. In these appeals, we would often tell student stories and particularly of those whose lives had been touched in special ways by the love of Jesus.

    Many of your schools do the same, but here is where we tied or linked fundraising to our recruitment efforts: In January, after our annual fund totals could be tallied the tax year, we sent a specially-designed thank you note to our Top 100 annual fund donors. I would write a personal message on each of these letters specifically thanking them for the uniqueness and the generosity of their gifting. They loved receiving a letter identifying them as a Top 100 donor to the school (many were surprised to be in the Top 100). Once again, however, we would include a new recruitment piece in the mailing. Perhaps it would be a poster sheet of the events we held during the first semester at our school for prospective families and students—open houses, youth gatherings, lock-ins, shadow visits, junior high dances, etc. Again the message to our donors remained: Thank you for all that you do to make this possible. Thank you for helping us recruit and raise up the next generation of Christian leaders. This was yet another advancement “touchpoint” which was easy to do and extremely well-received for the time we committed to it.

SPRING

  • In addition to our spring appeal and spring auction, the highlight of our school year remained graduation. After graduation, I sent key donors, or prospective donors, a “celebration update” on our graduating class. Much of this material would be going into our summer newsletters for our prospective students and families anyway, but I sent it to our donors who would not otherwise receive this material. It had pictures of our graduates, scholarship dollars they received, universities they planned to attend and programs they planned to study, and all kinds of school updates and information and student biographies and stories. In addition to sending these recruitment newsletters to our donors, I included yet another personal note written on school stationary thanking them once again for their support. If I had not had lunch or breakfast with this donor recently, I might suggest that I would be calling them soon to get together.

    Again, the point is that we took recruitment materials and sent them to our donors. We did not have to recreate the wheel. Furthermore, and this point cannot be overstated, the recruitment calendar kept me focused on the fundraising calendar too. As much as we worked to recruit new students and prospective families to our school, we were constantly re-recruiting and re-thanking our donors.

These were activities that were fruitful for the schools I served, and they worked well for my busy schedule too. I truly enjoyed making regular contact with my donors and sharing recruitment news with them. It made them feel young again and made them feel they were “on the inside” of the school’s strategy and planning efforts.

I’m sure many of you, especially those of you who run one-man or one-woman shops, do the same type of merging and alignment in your advancement and recruitment efforts. Perhaps you would be willing to share some other ways you consolidate your efforts to create better and bigger margins for your ministry for a future issue of the ALSS Journal.

Until then, remember that time is moving fast. Do more with less, and have fun doing it!

 
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Jim Pingel

is the editor of the ALSS Journal and the Dean of the CUWAA School of Education. He can be reached at james.pingel@cuw.edu.

 

Five Things I Learned as a Ministry Leader

by Todd Moritz

OK … a bit of honesty as I begin. There was LOTS I learned in ministry. And I am still learning.  And many of the things I have learned I am still relearning. I am far from perfect and have a LONG way to go. But here are a few nuggets that made a profound difference over the years.

1.  It is all about people. Duh. We analytically get that, but it is way too easy to get into production mode. Maybe it is the next teaching series, a new curriculum or the latest funding request. Many times in the midst of busyness, I missed the people right in front of my eyes.

Keep your door open unless you are in a very confidential meeting. Walk the halls during passing periods. Hang out with staff. Go to the parking lot and engage in the conversation.

Jesus did not die for ministry. He died for people. His mission was to seek and save that which was lost … and that should be our mission too (Luke 19:10).

2.  Challenge people to volunteer. God’s people are wired to serve. They are commanded to do so and in volunteering they meet great people and grow in their faith. Too many times we have a need, but fail to ask people to step up and help. “Leave it to the professionals” I hear all too often in high schools.

I once had a volunteer who provided expertise in a financial matter. He took the place of a consulting firm where we were ready to spend tens of thousands of dollars. He loved the experience and thanked me for the opportunity. Years later he became chairman of the congregation. 

I personally was asked to be on a budget committee of my congregation when I was just twenty-two years old. Sixteen years later I resigned my corporate position and went to work full time for the church. I often wonder what would happen if that one person didn’t encourage me to serve (1 John 3:18).

3.  Ask people for financial support. I think we often get it wrong. We try to engage people in our churches or schools. We hope they have a good experience and maybe we press them into some sort of light service. But when it comes to asking for a financial commitment (above and beyond the tithe), we hesitate. Jesus said “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt 6:21). In other words, get their financial commitment and the rest of them will be sure to follow. 

I will never forget the first large financial commitment I received. After making a not so specific ask for a capital campaign, the donor committed to $200,000. I was floored. When I picked up the check he said, “Isn’t it amazing that I have this much money and can actually give it away?”  It is in giving that we receive (Prov. 11:24-25). Don’t withhold that blessing from your people.  Ask them to support your ministry.

4.  Faithfully support your leader. Whoever we work “for,” whether it is a board or an individual, we will occasionally have disagreements. That is OK and natural. We are charged to give our best and greatest advice, but that doesn’t mean we are always right. If you and your leaders see things differently, that is okay. Remember that God put these individuals in charge. Express your opinion and unless their behavior is sinful, joyfully support their direction.

I will never forget the strong bond of friendship that I had with a ministry leader. We occasionally disagreed. I would go into his office, express my opinion, and argue through the details. But finally, he was the one God called to make the decision. Satan would love for leaders in ministry to publicly disagree (Psalm 133:1).  

5.  Let go of outcomes. I admit it. I am a control freak. This is no surprise to anyone who has worked with me. But controlling each and every detail is not productive or helpful. We want a bottom-up organization—one where everyone offers their best and greatest advice. Too often I would have my plans all figured out, and I spent most of my time trying to get others to support them.

When you let go of control, God will often allow something better than you ever thought of to emerge. I remember telling my team that I wanted our school to not only be college prep, but life prep. Over the years that concept morphed and changed through some really great thinking.  Today the school is known nationally for “redefining the high school experience.” 

You hired good people. Let them help in the leading. Follow Jesus’ example of being a servant leader (Matt. 20:25-28).

 
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Todd Moritz

is the Director of Strategy and Donor Engagement for PLI (www.plilieadership.org). Previously he spent ten years as the CEO of large high schools and eleven years as the Executive Director of a large church. He lives in Montana, spends lots of time with his kids and grandkids and travels extensively. He can be reached at todd.moritz@plileadership.org.