Nollau Leadership Institute a Life-Changing Experience for Participants

The 2023-2024 Nollau class during a light moment at the CHHSM Annual Gathering.

Following the application deadline of April 30, a new class in CHHSM’s Nollau Leadership Institute will begin its year-long exploration of personal and professional leadership growth. For recent graduates of the program, one word sums up the experience: transformational.

“‘With head and heart’ are words that penetrated my thoughts after joining the Nollau Leadership Institute,” said the Rev. Jasmine C. Quinerly, board member of Settegast Heights Village in Houston. “I am not sure whether it was something we read or something that was said, but those words explain the benefit of the leadership program. The year provided an examination of the human interactions for leaders and those being led.”

Leaders must bring more than just the advancement of causes, goals, and results to an organization: they must also bring compassion, said Quinerly. “The fellowship of learning this connection of head and heart with such a talented staff and wonderful classmates has transformed me tremendously, as new skills, resources, and an open spirit provide opportunities for growth. I am grateful for the experience.”

The Nollau program helps class members discern their call as Diakonal Ministers. A special vocation for health and human service leaders within CHHSM members and the wider United Church of Christ, Diakonal Ministers advance the health and service ministry of Jesus Christ. Since 1996, some 275 CHHSM leaders have been consecrated as Diakonal Ministers, part of the more than 300 consecrated across several denomination.

2023-2024 classmates Melinda Love and Nicole Starr during the Annual Gathering opening reception.

“Nollau is a leadership program that asks each participant to show up and be authentic, flawed, beautiful, and curious,” said Nicole Starr, J.D., a judge in the Minnesota Second Judicial District and seminarian at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities in St. Paul. “It is about learning skills and learning how to integrate those skills into a holy practice.”

Through in-person retreats, online interactions, and peer mentoring, Nollau provides leadership formation through a variety of learning modalities and within a community of practice. Small group work, journaling, art, embodiment, and spiritual practices all are part of the program, alongside interactive didactic sessions. The program culminates with a capstone project and consecration as a Diakonal Minister during a special service at the CHHSM Annual Gathering. 

“When I think about transformation through Nollau, it was a gift of self-reflection and one that offered ‘think time,’” said Kim Kilday, chief marketing officer for EveryAge, based in Newton, N.C. 

During planning for her capstone project, Kilday wanted to focus on EveryAge’s brand of working with and supporting people of all ages. “In senior living, there are a variety of ages involved, whether it’s the residents, the staff, or the family and friends of residents,” she said. “This melting pot of ages offered reflection on the impact of ageism for any age, young or old. Nollau offered a chance to look at things through different eyes, to have a different perspective using the leadership teachings from Nollau and my independent literature reading about ageism as another component to diversity.”

The outdoor fire pit at Bellwether Farm is the perfect place for end-of-day reflection.

Each year, two retreats take place at Bellwether Farm — a camp, retreat, and education center close to Cleveland. For the 2024-2025 class, the dates are May 20-24, 2024, and Oct. 7-11, 2024. Each of the two retreats focuses on specific aspects of leadership. The first retreat is devoted to exploring the personal realm of leadership as participants reflect on their own leadership experiences and understanding, and what other practices can expand their leadership now. The second retreat focuses on organizational awareness and the ecosystem in which leadership exists. Participants learn and practice skills that support their ability to lead through connection, courage, and change.

“Nollau is a perfect balance of active work, reflection, and self-care so needed in today’s world of leadership development,” said George Davis-Williams, R.N., B.S.N., school health supervisor for Michigan’s District Health Department #10 and a seminarian at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. “Too many leadership trainings just talk at you, but Nollau is completely different. You are active in this journey of growth through retreats and online gatherings.”

The 2023-2024 group photo at Bellwether Farm.

“This ongoing connection model takes shape internally as a type of identity through the intentional fostering of the staff and the intentional presence of the participants,” Davis-Williams added. “Just as I was safe to be authentic during this experience, I feel much more prepared to be authentic in my own leadership roles and relationships.”

The 2024-2025 program also will include an additional day of programming during CHHSM’s 87th Annual Gathering, March 10-14, 2025, in Boston/Cambridge. During the gathering, participants’ final capstone projects are displayed. 

“The Nollau Institute has been a transformational journey for me,” said Reylene Robinson, MPA, CFRE, chief community officer and equity, diversity & inclusion officer for Seven Counties Services in Louisville, Ky. “The unique perspective, along with creating a very strong bond with like-minded individuals, has provided me with a renewed excitement and perspective.”

The Institute is named after the Rev. Louis Edward Nollau, a 19th-century minister and founder of several St. Louis-area CHHSM organizations. In 1856 he also established Good Samaritan Hospital, which cared for patients of any religious or racial background — a rarity for the time. The healing work CHHSM organizations provide today continues to be rooted in a conviction of inherent worth and dignity, and it is this kind of integrated leadership that guides the Nollau program.

The year-long Nollau experience is transformational.

“Overall, the greatest gift I received from Nollau was introspection that will be a life-long experience,” Kilday added. “The learning doesn’t stop at the end of Nollau, and neither do the professional relationships. I was looking for more enrichment and certainly wanted to feel a greater connection to the UCC, and have been blessed with both. I highly recommend Nollau — it is transformative!”

Davis-Williams concurred. “The Nollau experience arrived at just the right point in my faith journey and development into healthcare ministry,” he said. “Prior to Nollau, I found myself in a season of uncertainty regarding the direction of my call as a nurse and seminarian. After the experience of learning from amazing CHHSM staff and fellow Nollau participants, I am re-energized to step into the space of health and human service ministries. While my ultimate call is still in discernment, I am walking alongside many inspirational Nollau leaders. 

“None of us are on this journey of growth alone. Our siblings and Spirit are present!”

Space is limited: Apply now for the 2024-2025 class of CHHSM’s Nollau Leadership Institute.

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