By: Tania Hernandez-Andersen, VP of Marketing and Communications
"If you're not around the table, you're on the table."
These were words of wisdom imparted by Diakon's President and CEO Mark Pile at a recent LSA gathering in Carefree, Arizona, Jan. 31-Feb. 3. 55 leaders from within our national Lutheran social ministry network gathered for three days of networking, fellowship and learning around the issue of "Leading Through Innovation."
When I looked around the room at who was ‘around the table,' I was blown away by the incredible level of experience, expertise, faith and commitment in one place. I was humbled that these leaders, who run large and complicated health and human services organizations, see the value in making time to come together to focus on leadership development and making our network stronger.
LSA is blessed with an incredible network. Our leaders were candid in sharing their personal journeys, challenges faced and lessons learned, so that we could all develop and grow together, joined by our shared heritage and our calling to serve.
Along with Mark Pile's pearl of wisdom, some other takeaways for me from the event:
- Kurt Senske, the President and CEO of Upbring, shared with us that there are more children in the state of Texas than 37 other states combined. The impact of Lutheran social ministry on children and families is almost hard to quantify.
- Pastor Mark Huber, founding pastor of Sanctuary Church in Marshfield, Massachusetts, served as our Theologian in Residence for the time we were together. He opened a devotion with a rock exercise – not the type of music, but the type of rocks you find in a garden (or in this case, at Home Depot). He asked attendees to come to the front of the room, where a pile of rocks and Sharpies had been placed, and to write our burdens on the rocks with the markers – to unburden ourselves by putting in writing some of the things that weigh heavily on our minds.
- One of our presenters quoted Ben Franklin: "When you're finished changing you're finished." No shortage of changes in our nonprofit world.
- President and CEO Christie Hinrichs from Tabitha Health Care shared her inspiring story of Tabitha's evolution to change how they were perceived by their community, and how their Board Directors' perceptions changed as well – and how the story of the humble entryway to their facility had a profound impact on how they were seen, and how they changed it for the better.
- Dr. Oftelie from Harvard worked with attendees over the course of two days to challenge ourselves and help us to see leadership from different vantage points – and he surprised us at the end of the second day by sharing his personal journey and how his family's life has been touched by social ministry.
- It snows in Arizona. While we were there, the weather was cold, rainy and it even snowed one day – granted it was wimpy flurries that melted as soon as they touched the ground, but it was unexpected! As with life, you often get what you didn't plan for, and your attitude in how you approach change and the unexpected can dictate your outcomes in large part.
In answer to the question of "What do you get when you put 55 CEOs of social ministry organizations in a room together? " The answer is magic. Inspiration. Faith. Hope for the future.
Pastor Huber said: "We are called to err on the side of love. Our diversity is an asset. And we exist for the work of God in the world." Amen.