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Ministry in Context

30,000 Feet: Tips and Tricks from Cohort Day 2014

The Fall is off and running and our Contextual Learning team has been delighted to be a part of Cohort Day 2014! At our Cohort Day workshop, a number of valuable insights were shared by our team, and so I would like to take the opportunity to share the “tips and tricks” I shared in my portion of the afternoon workshops. I hope that you find these ideas generative, regardless of the kind of context you are immersed in (CPE, Internship, Christian Public Leader, or something else)!

First, four lenses to look at one’s context with from thirty thousand feet.

Vision: "Without vision, the people perish." You’ve heard it before, no doubt. So, how is the vision being communicated in your particular setting? Is it clear? Is it articulated regularly and embodied by those who are a part of the non-profit or congregation in which you serve? I love the approach of First Lutheran in St. Paul, Minnesota. Rather than a mission statement, they have been guided by a mission question. Namely, “does love grow here?” This question, which is for everyone in their community, seems to consistently sprout new life in ways that are consistent with Gospel. When people are compelled by a vision, things happen.

Engage the people. Do you see leaders engaging or mobilizing others for ministry in your setting? What does delegation look like? How is it done? When organizations are deep and wide, truly living out their vision and mission, you will see layers of involvement from a variety of people. The best leaders know that they cannot do this ministry alone, nor should they. So, how are people being engaged in meaningful ministry moments where you are at?

Make Gatherings Memorable. Every non-profit or congregation has a number of communal moments in which to engage people around a theme, a program, or a worship experience. As a leader in context, are you seeing the behind the scenes and recognizing the steps that go into making gatherings memorable. For starters, it is helpful to think in terms of preparation, execution, and evaluation. How might your awareness of these three steps enhance your experience in context? Can you see other leaders who are exhibiting these important patterns regularly? What have you learned from them?

Pace yourself for the long haul. The best leaders are healthy leaders. So, how do they do it? As a student in context, you are going to have multiple models of leaders who are trying to live the work/life/ family balance with grace and purpose. We speak of the ELCA wellness wheel regularly at Luther Seminary. How is the wellness wheel being embodied in the practices of those leading in your context, yourself included? As you journey throughout this semester, keep your eyes and ears open to need for shalom. Where will you build in time to breathe, to listen, and to enliven your own spirit? Your seminary pastor and worship community is here to pay attention to “pace” with you. Let us find ways to walk the road of leadership, service, and learning together!

Second, my tips and tricks ended with some helpful reminders to all seminary students:

  • Remember to visit us in the Contextual Learning Office with questions (NW Building, third floor)!
  • Please visit the Contextual Learning website for valuable information:
  • Register for Contextual Learning (FE) courses each Fall and Spring if you desire credit for it on your transcript!
  • I look forward to accompanying you on the journey ahead, as we join in the important work of “equip the saints for the work of ministry" (Ephesians 4:12)


Tim Coltvet

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