Servant Leadership: Nollau

Michael J. Readinger

Michael J. Readinger

During the last week of September, I was blessed to spend three days in St. Louis with the Nollau Institute class of 2017-2018 and my faculty teammates. It was an inspirational time of didactic and experiential learning, sharing of celebrations, opportunities and best practices. We dined, prayed, laughed and cried together. We encouraged, supported and challenged each other. We examined one fictional ministry case study as a group and we explored many of our own real life case studies in the course of our conversations. We learned in a vital and truthful way — by really listening to each other and holding each other accountable for our thoughts, words and actions. Like all of the groups before, a true sense of friendship and family is developing as the participants travel this journey together. I reflect on my experience as a participant in 2005-06 and still cherish the people I met then and continue to hold as my confidantes today.

For those of you who have been through the Nollau Institute, Faith Based Leadership Institute, or Transformational Leadership Program (more than 200 individuals) in the last 20-plus years, you know what I am talking about. For those who have not, I strongly encourage you to consider attending. Read about it on our website, ask a current or past attendee, or reach out to one of the faculty members or mentors to learn about the possibilities for your professional, personal and spiritual life. In fact, registration for the class of 2018-2019 is now open and we are limited to 21 participants, so this is a good time to look into the program.

As the CHHSM board and staff have assessed the impact of Nollau, we decided it was time to take the next steps in advancing our leadership formation work. Three important adaptations to our Diakonal Minister community have now taken shape. First, participants in this year’s class have been assigned a mentor from those who have been through the program. So far, the mentors have proven to be an effective resource for easing participants into this work, and are a vital resource as discernment, writing, reading and presenting experiences unfold.

Second, we launched “Nollau to You,” a one-day condensed version of the year-long program that is designed as an in-house training in servant leadership, organizational culture change theory, and tools for engaging in the work place and beyond. Nollau to You is not designed to replace participation in the full Nollau Institute experience. The target audience is the staff and board members who may not be able to participate in the year-long program but would still benefit from exposure to the principles of servant leadership, and gain a greater understanding of the important historical nature of the faith-based ministry where they are called to work. This didactic and experiential learning session has been shown to be productive and meaningful in the two events held this summer. Evaluations on six leadership topics showed a marked increase in understanding and embracing the topics presented. We will present out third session in December to a group of 25 employees from Retirement Housing Foundation, and plan to offer four sessions in 2018.

Finally, in December we will hold the first Diakonal Minister Reunion at the Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale, Ariz. This gathering of past graduates will be equal parts retreat and Sabbath, with the schedule and agenda largely determined by the participants in collaboration with the faculty. We hope this will become an annual event that will remind our Diakonal Ministers what they gained in the original experience, and of the power of the relationships servant leadership fosters.

I encourage you to consider the world of Nollau as a resource for your professional, spiritual and personal growth. It is also a wonderful experience for your own self-care, and the network of friends you will make will last a lifetime. Additionally, this program is a wonderful way to explore a connection to the Three Great Loves initiative of the United Church of Christ. Please contact us for further information.

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