Surprises are always at the forefront when UCC Council for Health and Human Service Ministries faculty lead Nollau To You seminars. Two recent versions of the one-day, serving leadership training sessions were no exception, particularly because both included new ways of bringing the event to UCC-related constituencies.
From July 31 to Aug. 2, CHHSM held three seminars at UCC-related Unleashing Potential (UP), based in St. Louis, geared toward introducing serving leadership concepts and reflection to the entire UP staff; and on Aug. 22, Nollau To You branched out beyond CHHSM members to hold a Nollau To You session at the UCC Northwest Ohio Association in Tiffin that included CHHSM members, conference and association staff, and local church pastors.
“We are excited to bring Nollau To You to an ever-expanding list of participants,” says Michael J. Readinger, CHHSM president and CEO. “Introducing — or in some cases, re-introducing — concepts of serving leaders to our wider UCC family provides much needed reflection and realization, and helps strengthen our bonds with each other.”
Unleashing Potential — formerly known as Neighborhood Houses — works to unleash the “magnificent potential in children, families and neighborhoods that leads to a just community for all,” says Darlene Sowell, UP president and CEO. She found that the Nollau To You sessions — which some 90 percent of UP staff attended — gave everyone an opportunity “to connect more intentionally as to ‘why we do what we do.’ It gave all of us a chance to breathe and reflect on our reason for serving the community for over 100 years.”
Nollau To You seminars are one-day overviews of the more extensive, year-long Nollau Leadership Institute. The primary objective is to introduce the concept of serving leadership to participants and encourage them to consider ways of incorporating those ideas into their day-to-day work. The day includes opportunities for dialogue, small group conversations and reflective writing.
During the event, Sowell found the dedication of her staff inspirational. “They truly do see this as important work, and an opportunity to shape and form the lives of our community’s young people,” she says. “They really care about our children.”
For Sowell, the most meaningful part of the day were participants’ individual purpose statements. “One staff member wrote that her purpose was ‘to be the light that attracts children to the love of lifelong learning,’ she adds. “I got a lump in my throat when I heard her read it!”
In Tiffin, Ohio, the lay CHHSM members and local church pastors found the Nollau To You experience new and unique, a sentiment also expressed by faculty member Peggy Mullan. “The Northwest Ohio Association Nollau To You session was definitely different — in a good way,” Mullan says. “The mix of ordained clergy serving congregations, administrative staff from the association and conference levels, and professionals from health and human service institutions made for a rich conversation and an enlightening day.”
Margaret R. Mills, pastor of Elmore (Ohio) UCC, found “questions about our gifts and how we feed people” the most useful. “The reflections on serving leadership rather than servant leadership — that was probably the most helpful thought to bring back,” says Mills, “and the questions about what stirs my heart at work, and are there things I can’t NOT do.”
While she would have enjoyed an overnight “to process all the information . . . before we leave and life crashes back in,” Mills says the overall day was worthwhile. “There were snippets of each part of the day that will be useful,” she says, adding that she plans to go back over the concepts and materials from the seminar.
The difference between Nollau To You for CHHSM members vs. local church pastors also was felt by Mullan. “Like always, the faculty had to work hard to keep up with the exchange of ideas, and it was a challenge to apply the leadership practices we teach to the art of leading a congregation,” she says. “Happily, the feedback we’ve received since the workshop was positive and encouraging, so we look forward to working with more such diverse groups in the future.”
For the Rev. Dave Long-Higgins, transitional conference minister of the United Church of Christ in Ohio, West Virginia and Northern Kentucky, Nollau To You was a needed time for attendees. “We live in a time of rapid change both inside and outside the church,” he says. “The Nollau To You event offered a remarkable blend of systems and change theory instruction, historical framing of the Nollau legacy, and a great opportunity to discuss across varying settings of ministry and mission how one’s clarity of purpose can be a springboard of energy for ministry engagement.”
Long-Higgins adds, “I highly recommend this opportunity for any who are seeking time and space for personal reflection around vocation, informed by some of the great thinkers of our day.”