With the first of three retreats completed, CHHSM’s 2018-2019 Nollau Institute participants are well on their way to discerning what servant leadership means to them in their lives and careers. Already, this year’s class has come away with new insights and several surprises.
For Linda Dailey, executive director of United Church Homes’ Glenwood Retirement Community in Marietta, Ohio, the opportunity to participate in the year-long class is an “opportunity to capitalize on the faith that has blessed my life, while sharpening my ability to lead others in service to our community.”
Dailey, who has served in a variety of health and human service roles in her career, counts joining United Church homes a little over a year ago “among one of my greatest blessings,” adding that she was honored to be asked to participate in Nollau.
Jessica Meyer, director of Success Matters at Beatitudes Campus — a senior living community in Phoenix — says the best part of the class so far “has been getting to know and being inspired by lay people who view their careers as callings, and their work as mission-centered.”
Tomi Cimarosti agrees. Cimarosti, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, is director of residential services for Charles Hall Youth Services in Bismarck, N.D. She says that learning from a new lens has been the most beneficial experience. “Not just a business, human service or other stand-alone lens,” she says, “but a truly holistic lens of learning what it is to be a servant leader, and building on the strengths we already possess with God’s help and guidance.”
The Nollau Institute was created to help leaders from CHHSM ministries, United Church of Christ-related ministries, and partner organizations discern their call to servant leadership.
Emily Howard, the current CHHSM Scholar, finds the Institute has expanded her vision. “Learning the broader scope of practice in the entire denomination is important for me,” she says, “because my specific network is mostly focused on older adult ministry in retirement communities.”
“The best part,” says Greg Watson, director of plant operations for Embrace Living Communities — for older adults and persons with disabilities — based in Oak Brook, Ill., “is not only beginning the process of clarifying your calling; but also, understanding and accepting one’s personal strengths. Recognition of one’s ‘true’ self enables us to serve from a place of wholeness.”
Surprises Abound During Nollau
Nollau Institute classmates come from a variety of health and human service backgrounds, and different faith experiences. Often the variety of career and life experiences changes long-held beliefs or understandings.
Says Fern Kanitz, LPC, a counselor and quality improvement manager for Orion Family Services in Madison, Wis., “What has surprised me so far is that it can actually be useful to take the time to sit down and create a mission statement and articulate a vision. That, and that there are some pretty cool people attached to the UCC!”
Mary Whiting, associate director of youth development services at UCAN in Chicago — an organization that works with traumatized and neglected youth — says that she had viewed UCAN as separate from other faith-based groups, but the class changed her view. “I understand the deeper connection of UCAN … and other faith-based organizations as a whole,” she says. “I was surprised at the long history of the UCC, and it really made me prouder to be a part of UCAN.”
Learning new leadership perspectives is important to See See Young, internal audit manager at Retirement Housing Foundation in Long Beach, Calif. “I was surprised by the openness of the Nollau participants and instructors,” Young says. “We have a great class.”
Kenney Washington, director of client services at Back Bay Mission in Biloxi, Miss., agrees. “The best part so far is meeting people from other walks of life and the openness of those people about some of the vulnerabilities in their lives,” he says. “They did this to total strangers as part of one of the class assignments. I’m surprised how quickly the class has connected.”
Nollau Participants Gain Both Professional and Personal Insights
The Nollau Institute includes class retreats, regular online dialogue, and peer mentoring. The class helps fashion its own program to discern the vocation of servant leadership. Participants are commissioned as Diakonal Ministers at the end of the program.
Sometimes, Nollau Institute participants find that learning more about themselves helps them take the next steps in identifying as servant leaders. Says Washington, “I think that in order to be the best that you can be, you must be willing to learn about your faith and yourself, and understand that our beliefs play a part in our thought processes and our actions. This course will assist me in being less judgmental with the people I have daily contact with — whether they are colleagues, family, or friends.”
For William Meert, west coast registered nurse consultant for Retirement Housing Foundation, one of the class exercises — writing a personal mission statement — was a challenge.
“I had always had an unwritten mission statement that I tried to live by,” he says, “but putting it into writing meant I needed to be better about living what I believe. … I have become more focused on my personal mission, and believe that will make me a better person in all aspects of my life.”
Perhaps Nollau Institute classmate Kristin Monks sums it up best. For Monk, the director of private child care programs at Uspiritus — a child services agency based in Louisville, Ky. —personal and professional growth are linked.
“I have learned a lot about myself in just the short time I have been participating in the Institute,” she says. “For example, there are times that I have been afraid to allow myself to shine, for varied reasons. I have learned that I should always shine, as that will allow others to shine.
“I have been doing the same work for a long time. I think this course will allow me some opportunities to have fresh perspectives, to be reminded of why I do what I do, and to grow as a servant leader in both my personal and professional life.”
Learn more about the Nollau Institute.