Leadership is In You

The 7 basic elements of leadership in God’s Kingdom are in every Jesus-follower, and God’s idea of successful leadership may be different from our own.   

As a church, we’ve been examining what it means to be a leader – how God calls us each to influence and make a difference. In Higher Ground, we have the unique privilege of seeing how students lead in their own settings on a regular basis. Higher Ground exists to equip students with the skills they need to be life-long followers of Jesus, and included in that is the ability to lead well. It is so exciting to see students use their God-given talents to influence others and serve the Lord in their unique ways. Often we think that, in order to lead, we need to have a wealth of knowledge, a level of maturity, self-discipline, and a fully developed sense of confidence. As I work with students, I have found that to be untrue. In fact, it is when students are placed into leadership and mentored well that they develop the aforementioned skills. The act of leading others is a powerful, hands-on way for students to learn to trust God and understand how God uniquely made them.


This school year, students will have a multitude of ways to live out the idea of 1more Leader. We believe each student is able to lead well, as long as we don’t put leadership in a box. We give them space to serve and be creative and influence others according to their own gifts and talents. Here are some simple examples:

  • One student has a passion for reaching out to other students and encouraging them to engage in our community. She asked if she could send out postcards and notes to students when they aren’t able to come to Higher Ground or if they need encouragement. Absolutely!

  • On retreats and large group nights, we often do 2:2:2 partners (2 Timothy 2:2). Older students are matched with younger students for discussion, prayer, debrief, and mentoring.

  • Last year, our high school students organized and led the middle school girls’ Christmas Party and Spring Tea Party.

  • This fall, one of our students will be helping to facilitate FaithBuilders on Sunday mornings.


One of the most exciting things that we have going on is a Student Leadership Team that was started last fall. This group is open to any interested junior or senior in high school. Students meet once a month to talk about leadership skills and then to discuss and plan different aspects of Higher Ground. They lead Bible studies and worship times, plan service projects, have lead roles in their lifeGroups, and work to set an example for the younger students in Higher Ground. We have given them full freedom to use their creativity and influence to make Higher Ground a place where teens can fully experience the love of Jesus.


Lately I’ve been reflecting on what I have learned about leadership as I equip students to lead well.  Below are some lessons that God and our teens have been teaching me over the years.

  • Leadership is about being willing to experiment. The outcome isn’t always known, but if you don’t try, you won’t know the impact. I love this about kids! With a little encouragement, they love to take a risk and try something new.

  • My idea of success often isn’t God’s idea of success. I have seen plenty of ideas “flop” – or not measure up to what we hoped would happen. However,  the real success in those times is in how students work together, trust God, and grow in character. When we learn to notice the God moments in each thing we try, we begin to notice the things that God considers successful.

  • There is no one personality type that is better at leading than others. Each of us is part of a body and each part is useful. There is a spot, and a need, in God’s Kingdom for each person and their unique talents and gifts.

  • My expectations are often too low. I don’t expect enough from students, from myself, and from God. Great leadership happens when we are able to believe in what God can do in ourselves and in others.

  • God made us to work together, not in isolation.


I am sure there are plenty of other lessons, and I am certain God will continue to teach those to me this year as watch our young people follow Jesus.  What is your passion? What is your dream? What risk is God asking you to take? My prayer is that you adopt the attitude of a teenager as you explore those things this month – dream, be willing to take a risk, find a friend to help, and trust God for the outcome.


Kingdom Leadership









At some point over the past several years, you may have heard Pastor Jeff or me talk about our involvement with The Pastoral Leadership Institute (PLI).  PLI began in 1999, and Jeff and I were a part of the first class that went through the four-year learning journey.  Since then we have participated on several different levels with PLI: we attended Board and Executive Development training, have been a part of the training team for PLI-International, and Jeff has served on the Board of Directors of PLI for seven years.  Our most recent involvement has been developing and creating a new curriculum for PLI-Missional Leader, a two-year learning community for pastors and their wives as well as lay leaders.  Emily Powers has been a key contributor to this new endeavor as well.  The cohort consists of 16 couples from around the US and Canada. The final time that this cohort will be together is October 14-17, 2014, and the Church will be hosting them. What an exciting opportunity to have these brothers and sisters in our midst!  

Would you join us as we pray for the gathering and for each participant?  We celebrate what God has done in their lives, their neighborhoods, and their ministries across the country. We look forward to what God has in store in the days ahead as we all continue to join Him in the work He is already doing.


Dave and Marilyn Bottorff -- Darien, IL

Jeff and Cindy Corder -- West Unity, OH

Michael and Kristy Grannis -- Belleville, MI

Corey and Stephanie Grunklee -- Lubbock, TX

Bernie and Gretchen Huesmann -- Grafton, WI

Kelly and Katie Huet -- Milwaukee, WI

Luke and Courtney Jacob -- Racine, WI

Eric and Lisa Johnson -- Slidell, LA

Gene and Ann Johnson -- Port St. Lucie, FL

Tony and Lisa Kobak -- Jackson, MO

John and Cathy Koczman -- Santa Clarita, CA

Wayne and Cindy Lunderby -- Chilliwack, Canada

Cash and Tammy Myers -- Racine, WI

Phil and Heather Robarge -- Urbandale, IA

Eric and Sara Trickey -- San Marcos, CA

Tom and Sara Vanderbilt -- Whitehouse, TN


Dave and Diane Bahn -- Houston, TX

Ben and Kate Griffin -- Cottage Grove, MN

Jock and Gail Ficken -- Aurora, IL (Executive leaders of PLI)

Jeff and Amy Meyer -- Madison, WI


Leading the Way

Leading the way in preparing for your death is one of the biggest gifts you can give your family.  It is also a gift to yourself as the process naturally involves spiritual growth, and will allow you to follow Jesus’ example of responding in faith to God’s promptings.  Please know that discussing your wishes with family members is more important than any form you complete.  Without the conversation, the legal document could turn out to be worthless!

Since only God knows the circumstances of our deaths, we cannot foresee every decision that will come up.  However, we can prepare to the best of our abilities.  Here is a guide for families making ethical decisions at life’s end, written by Rev. Dr. Richard Eyer of The Concordia Bioethics Institute.


“If approached by a medical staff person about initiating or continuing life support measures, always ask to talk to the patient’s physician.  Asking the following questions may be helpful in making decisions compatible with the patient’s and the Christian decision-maker’s faith.


1.     What is the medical condition of the patient at this time?  You are asking for an objective medical evaluation, not a philosophical opinion.

2.    What is the prognosis?  You are asking whether the patient is expected to recover or not.

3.    Is the patient dying at this time?   If the patient is not dying it would be morally wrong to intend to cause death.

4.    Is the patient awake?  If so, you will want to discuss his or her condition with the patient and offer to pray for guidance before a decision is made.

5.    Is the patient in any pain at this time?   You are asking whether pain gives urgency to your decision.

6.    If a decision is needed immediately, err on the side of life, not death.  If a decision is not needed momentarily, say, “I need time to talk with my family and/or pastor and I will call you within ________ length of time.”

7.    If the situation allows, leave the hospital and meet with your family and pastor or trusted friends in a prayerful environment.  The distance from the hospital environment sometimes helps you think more clearly.  Make sure you tell the nurse you are leaving.”


Living life connected to Jesus sets us apart from the world.  When our decisions reflect the value God places on life and the belief that heaven is waiting, even our dying can point others to Christ.


What would you like your family members to know before they are asked to make an end-of-earthly-life decision for you?


Follow the Leader: Bringing Kids to Worship

Thank you. Parents, let me be the first to thank you. What for, you ask? For simply bringing your child to worship. I know – it is often a less than simple task! Sometimes it can be a little chaotic. Other times, you spend an hour with a restless toddler and leave feeling like you have missed out. Or, maybe your 5th grader is a little less than excited to get in the car with you on Sunday morning? However, there are also those moments when you hear your 4 year old singing along with a song or you see your toddler run up to a trusted adult after church, and you are reminded of the importance of worshiping with your child.

If you haven’t heard it before, let me be the first to tell you – it mattered. The act of coming to church is noticed by your child. Watching you participate in worship is the most important sermon for your child. Seeing that you prioritize that hour of the week, every week, is an important step in training your child to love the Lord.

How then, can you as a parent help make that hour on Sunday mornings meaningful for your child? In the September-October Good News, you can check out my full article filled with tips on how you can help to make Sunday morning worship more accessible for your child. 

Here are some specific things you can try out this week as you and your family prepare to worship together this coming Sunday.

  • Over the last several weeks we have been talking about being a leader at church. At home this week, play Follow the Leader with your children. Talk about what it means to influence others and be a leader. For older children, you could have them lead the family in prayer before a meal or in a discussion about a Bible Story.
  • Download one of the songs we will be singing this week in worship. Play it for your children this week as you drive them to school or before bed after story time. Help them be familiar with the song so they can participate on Sunday. For older children, print out the lyrics and talk about them together. In Fitchburg this week we'll be singing Spirit of Heaven by Keith and Kristyn Getty and Stuart Townend at the early service and and at Exalt we'll be singing Rejoice by Dustin Kensrue/Stuart Townend and Glorify Your Name by David Glenn
  • Help your child decide on an amount of money that they would like to bring this week for an offering. Place it in an envelope and decorate the envelope as an act of worship and praise for God.
  • Pick a night this week to have a prayer time as a family. Have each person name one prayer request. Write those down and, on Sunday, transfer them to prayer scroll together.
  • Have your child list 1-3 people from church who they trust and enjoy being with. Help your child write notes/cards to those people this week and deliver them on Sunday at worship.

How do you help to engage your children in worship? I’d love to know what has worked for you! Or, check out the article in the good news and let us know which idea you are trying out.


Moved to Action

This week, as we think about how we can be compassionate leaders, we have a great opportunity to follow Christ’s example in going beyond sympathizing to reaching out to relieve the suffering of others.  

At the Preschool, the other teachers and I are privileged to help young children learn what it means to be children of God.  Since the tragic death of our fellow Preschool teacher Ashlee Steele and her sister, Kacee Tollefsbol, last month, many of you have shared our suffering and reached out to support us as well as the affected families. Now I’d like to share another way we can demonstrate compassion to Ashlee’s children: Preschool families will gather on our playground in Fitchburg tonight for a Back to School fundraiser, all of the proceeds from which will go to the Ashlee Steele Memorial Fund.  If you’re moved to donate, please visit or call or any Wells Fargo location and refer to account # 658 421 6003.  

I’d also really like to hear from you: will you share a time when you saw compassion in action?  What did that mean to you?