The Blueprint for a Culture of Purpose

The Blueprint for a Culture of Purpose

Recently, I attended GLI’s Leadership One Day and for the breakout session I decided to attend a speaker I hadn’t previously heard. Doug Bierer, owner of DBC, offered his thoughts during a session entitled “Biblical Blueprint for a Culture of Purpose”.  He began with the question, “How do we create a culture that fulfills God’s purpose?”  

This fits in beautifully with the Dream Disciple concept: Compassionate Storyteller, Savvy Follower, Intentional Friend, Embedded Influencer. At the intersection of all these concepts is a unified mission: integrating into and influencing our unique cultures.  

Not Culture with a capital C, but the micro culture where we all individually live and work and engage with people.  This is the place where my “good works” happen— where I live out the fruits of the spirit through the grace of God.  

As a business owner and employer, Doug addressed this prosaic life mission head-on with disarming humor and relatability.

Those You Lead Become Like You

And yet, my own spirit was provoked when I heard him say, “Those you lead become like you.” Regardless of my area of influence, from disciplining to parenting, my own mission has never been to cultivate people who look like me. The idea feels both prideful and sobering. But my perspective changed when I reversed the idea: as followers of Christ, we should become more Christ-like. It’s called sanctification, a big word for the bigger work of the Holy Spirit. 

Though I do not perceive myself as a capital “L” leader, I do embrace the influence I have on those in my circle. As a middle school teacher, it necessarily keeps me accountable for the daily interactions and even casual remarks I make to my students.  

Also, I’m fascinated by culture as a concept. Human culture writ large is a mirror of humanity’s unique quirks. For instance, trick-or-treating kids in St. Louis are expected to recite a joke before receiving their candy. In Hendersonville, NC one eats “supper” instead of “dinner”. And right here in Erie my husband and I were intrigued to find that people husk their corn right there in the grocery store! (Yes, Erie friends, I’ve lived in sixteen states and never seen that one before!) 

How do these fun quirks of culture come to be? Because culture is a living, breathing thing, reflecting the humans that comprise it. We all help to create it.

Culture is Determined by What You Follow

As Doug stated in his presentation, “Culture flows from who or what the leader follows.” I left that conversation encouraged to “step up, Savvy Follower”, choosing to regularly ask: How accurately does my daily life reflect biblical doctrine? Is my next step to build consistency in my daily quiet time?  Or learn better techniques for reading the Bible? (There’s a GLI class for that too.) Or to simply repent of my wrong attitude and allow Christ to change me?   

If culture is determined by what I follow, it necessarily follows that getting clarity on my identity is extremely important. I am inundated by a daily deluge of messages about my identity and few of them are holy, healthy, or accurate. Do I know whose I am? What does scripture say about my identity? By the way, GLI has a great six week class, Calling of a Leader, that addresses that topic well.

His second point (he had three main points, which is probably de rigeur since he is a former pastor) was that having a well-defined purpose will equip you to create an effective culture. This lesson was driven home during a recent visit from my newly-adult children. We were discussing how, several years ago, I was encouraged to write down and memorize my own spiritual purpose statement. I am well aware of how this discipline of purpose has helped me over the years. But I wasn’t aware of the impact it had made on my own children— until they recited my purpose statement back to me, word-for-word, in unison! Obviously, they were paying attention in ways I never could have predicted! This perfectly illustrates Doug’s point: a well-defined purpose absolutely drives a culture of influence. 

How does our calling align with God’s purposes? How am I investing in my culture? Look for the intersection of who you are, in fact who you were made to be, and how God is leading you to serve those around you. By deliberately engaging with our sphere of influence, with the leading and empowerment of the Holy Spirit, we really can help to forge a broader culture of growth, healing, and faith. 

How to Read and Interpret the Bible – Dr. Chris Ansberry – GLI Course Review

How to Read and Interpret the Bible – Dr. Chris Ansberry – GLI Course Review

Last week I finished a six-week course at Grace Leadership Institute entitled “How to Read and Interpret the Bible” taught by Dr. Chris Ansberry of Grove City College. It began as a whimsical suggestion to my church LifeGroup, what if we take a break from our typical weekly meetups and take a class instead? They were game. 

I’ll confess to entering the experiment with lowish expectations. Because of my undergraduate training at a Christian university, I have just short of a minor in Bible. What I mean to say is, I was arrogant. I already knew how to read the bible, right? 

Firstly, the instructor is fantastic. He strikes the balance between informed and organized, open-minded and responsive. I enjoyed engaging in class each week. I also appreciated the once-a-week class format, but I imagine a weekend course has its benefits too.  

Secondly, wow, did I gain some perspective. One of my main takeaways amounts to the oft-quoted and variously attributed aphorism: “In essentials unity, in nonessentials liberty, and in all things charity.” Given the wide range of translations for even the most uncontroversial bit of scripture, it led me to conclude that an equally wide range of interpretations or applications is not only understandable but to be expected. Enter the opportunity to grow in Grace toward my fellow believers.  

Finally, taking this course has made me a savvier disciple. I have a deeper understanding of scripture, and my approach to influencing others for Christ has been enhanced. I am humbled at how much I learned and grateful for the opportunity to grow.  

Let me encourage you to build your personal disciple profile by taking one of the upcoming courses: The Story of the Bible, Old Testament, and The Story of the Bible, New Testament. You’ll be glad you did!

A Glimpse Inside GLI’s Christian Leadership Certificate Program

A Glimpse Inside GLI’s Christian Leadership Certificate Program

Interview at Grace Leadership Institute with Art Bartelson, a recent GLI Christian Leadership Certificate program graduate.

JL: Art, What prompted you to want to take the Leadership Certificate courses

AB: Well, being a leader in my church, I always like to learn and self-improve. 

When this course became available, I was in the hospital for the first round so I was unable to attend when he had his first 101 class. I started with the 102 class and did the 103 and came back and did the 101. So it was rather convenient not to have to follow them in order. 

JL: Tell me again the name of your church?

AB: Believers International Worship Center 

JL: How would you say you’ve grown from taking the Leadership Certificate course? 

AB: It gave me a better understanding of Biblical leadership as opposed to Business leadership. The course is rooted in scripture. Servant leadership has always been something that has fascinated me, and I try to study it as much as I can. The aspect of just becoming a better servant and helping those around me makes me happy. 

JL: I get that.

JL: If you were asked for your biggest takeaway, particularly from this last one, the Leadership 101 course, what would you say?

AB: The background of your name.

JL: I loved that part! 

AB: All throughout scripture, when God encountered Man, he always had a name for them. If that name wasn’t sufficient or the individual had to be reminded, God took care of that. In the 102 and 103, I think the biggest takeaway through that is the overall purpose of spiritual disciplines. So, the practicing of those on a daily basis is tantamount to Christian leadership. To have that relationship with God and be able to put your best foot forward in spite of yourself, but following the lead of God and his will not only in your life but in how you worship him and serve others. 

JL: I remember we were in the same Spiritual disciplines class. Was there anything you added to your repertoire? 

AB: I’d have to say that in my daily planner there is a section and I’ve tried to practice one or two spiritual disciplines per week. And then I’ve jotted down scripture that come to mind or setting aside a personal study time. During that personal time it’s just solitude with God. Not only is it convicting but it also puts me at ease. It give me insight into his will. 

JL: You mentioned the name thing, from Leadership 101. I loved that part, too. Will you tell me your whole name and what each part means?

AB: Well, my full name is Arthur Howard Bartelson. The first name of Arthur was in Roman times Arturios, which according to sources, is “rock”. The other (meaning) is “defender”. 

“Howard” I didn’t find much on. Bartelson is “Son of Bartel”, the closest thing I’ve come to was “an unwavering stand.” It originally started out as “Bark,” like the bark on a tree. So, having that in mind, the Jewish and Roman interpretations of that had unwavering roots. That’s what I liked about that. I never researched my name before.

JL: What was your response to learning what your name meant? 

AB: I really didn’t have a response to what my name meant but looking at the aspects of my life that I’ve taken for granted, I see that actions and thoughts and characteristics kind of met what my name means whether I knew it or not.  

JL: That’s insightful. 

JL: Who would you recommend this class to? 

AB: I’d have to say any individual who is looking for a good foundation for Christian leadership. Who may be thinking of a role in a local church or a local organization. Some of the characteristics and such that were brought forth in all of the classes were interchangeable between business and church. So, having a well-rounded foundation before going on to more in-depth classes, I think this would be a good stepping stone.  

JL: What was a personal challenge to you when you took the class? 

AB: Outside of taking a closer look inward, the characteristics of a leader and then the competencies of some of the subjects that were brought forward, as well as some of the homework assignments, made me look at myself and my approach to different things, but I didn’t view it as a struggle or as an issue. 

JL: What new relationships have you developed from going through the classes? 

AB: Well, the two individuals who started with me, Hyder and Miguel, were my recent mentees for ministerial training. I was entrusted with their training, and they were both granted their ministerial license. And since then, I have two more. Having the zeal for learning and sharing what I’ve learned, I’ve been entrusted with that, as well as a church leader myself, to be able to share what I know and (to share) my study habits with others. I find that very satisfying.

JL: How would you describe the courses to someone who said, “Well, I’m not really a leader.”?

AB: Whether they view themselves that way or not, everyone has that potential. Whether it’s helping someone cross the road or helping someone in a grocery store get an item they can’t reach, there are underlying characteristics in everyone that could make them a leader. The individual may not see those attributes at first, but classes like this let them know you are a unique individual, blessed by God, and whether you understand it or not, every one of us has a calling. Not necessarily to uphold it, it may not be active participation in the church. You can be active in your community, you can be active at school, you can be active in your community. If you are a parent, you are a leader whether you want to believe it or not. Because your children follow your lead, your family follows your lead. 

AB: One of the key things with this class was hearing from authors and some of the videos where those questions were answered, maybe in a different manner than I just did. Even in the workplace, at any time, you could be called on at any time, you know?. “Hey, I need you to do this. I need you to do that.” So, just having that skill set could make you further your career or your calling.

JL: What’s next for you? 

AB: Well, the skies the limit. There are additional classes here which I am taking. Right now, I’m taking the TCL 104 course, which is “Key Skills for Today’s Church Leaders.” In the Spring, I will be taking the TCL 109 class, which is on mental health.

It’s an easy place to learn. The staff is wonderful. That’s a plug. 

I’m impressed with how they are able to get college professors to come in here to teach. The TCL 101 course with Seulgi. It was an Old Testament course called “How to Read and Interpret the Bible.” His knowledge and interpretation of scripture and having been to the places that are in the Bible. He was able to reflect on that.  

He’s going to be teaching it again (in the spring).

AB: I’d like to see a class done on the writings of Paul. I like his writing. It’s blunt and to the point.  

JL: I want to personally say thank you because you do a lot of “heavy lifting” as they say, with the technology. 

AB: You’re welcome. I find being able to use the technology is easy.  

JL: Thanks for being willing to go outside of your comfort zone to do this interview. 

AB: You’re welcome.

Enroll in an Upcoming Course at Grace Leadership Institute

Are you interested in any of the courses mentioned in this interview? See our upcoming course offerings of these and other upcoming leadership and ministry-related courses here!

Leveling Up Your Self-Awareness [With Examples]

Leveling Up Your Self-Awareness [With Examples]

Most of us think we are pretty self-aware. And by thinking that, most of us prove we are wrong. 

Grace Leadership Institute recently hosted Dr. Tyler Cook at their Leadership One Day event. Dr. Cook spoke on the topic of “Leading from Within”, sharing concepts from his recently published book, Building Authenticity. Of all the challenging ideas he shared – and there were many – the one I particularly want to highlight in this post is self-awareness.

The Golden Ticket to Personal Breakthrough

Why, you ask? I’ve been hearing from multiple sources for the last year or so how self-awareness is the golden ticket to personal breakthrough.  Without it, you’ll apparently never level up, achieve your full potential, or be the best friend, spouse, sibling, employee, etc. that you could possibly be. 

4 Ways to Level Up Your Self Awareness

Maybe you, like me, aren’t sure about your level of self-awareness. What’s a plan for how to level up?

1. Invite two or three close friends or family members to answer the question: “What’s it like to be on the other side of me?” and/or “What have you noticed tends to trigger me, and how do I tend to react?”

2. Be on the lookout for asymmetrical responses. These are likely when you are being triggered. At first, just notice them.

3. Do the same with any responses to how others experience you. Take a perspective of curiosity, watch for the dynamic to happen, and just notice it.

4. Once triggers are identified, make a plan for how to self-soothe or deescalate the reaction.  For behaviors, ask “Is this how I want to be showing up right now?”  Maybe it is, if not, adjust accordingly.

Putting It Into Practice: Examples of Self Awareness

What might this look like in practice? Well, I had the “opportunity” to reflect on my angry and asymmetrical reaction to a situation for which I’d been given ample warning. 

Here’s the thing about self-awareness, once you become aware of something, in this instance a trigger, you can no longer be blissfully ignorant. Now you own it, you are responsible for predicting events or interactions that might trigger you, for thinking about how to stay calm or to minimize the impact of your response.  I’ve discovered that once I get beyond my initial reaction, which is always anger, I discover more subtle emotions lurking which require me to be more honest and vulnerable, if at least with myself. Ah for the days of hiding behind anger as a handy emotional go-to. 

Recognizing that and digging a little deeper, I see that my anger, or your fear, or her sadness are the first reactions, ok. Then I realize I’m actually feeling overwhelmed, you conclude you are feeling insecure, and she realizes she is feeling shame.  

Now it’s time we explore why. That’s a quiet, solitary, reflective activity we must initiate individually. 

    The Importance of Self-Awareness and Shrinking Our Blind Spots

    Some of us don’t explore self-awareness because it exposes us. We stand emotionally naked before the crowd. Also, it’s a ton of work excavating our thoughts and emotions. 

    But if we don’t work on shrinking our blind spots, we are choosing to be less than fully authentic with ourselves and by default all those around us. On the other hand, by being more self-aware we make the world a better place for both ourselves and our community. It’s a classic win-win.  

    During a recent weekend visit with friends I haven’t seen in years, I had the opportunity to ask the question again “What’s it like to be on the other side of me?”  The response was helpful and also just a teensy bit hard to digest.  

    So, I took a metaphorical Tums and reflected on the significance of their feedback. See, if we ask for feedback, we’ve got to believe what we are told. Then our job is to reflect on it, accept it, and then grow from there.

    Moving Forward with a Greater Awareness of Who You Really Are

    Now, having this greater awareness of ourselves, how then will we continue being? What adjustments might be wanting in our attitudes, actions, or attention? By becoming more self-aware, we learn to lead ourselves better and everyone around us benefits as well. Go ask the question, “What’s it like being on the other side of me?” Let’s level up!

    Join an Upcoming Leadership One Day

    If you enjoyed the takeaways from this post, you’ll absolutely love our Leadership One Day events at Grace Leadership Institute!

    Grace Leadership Institute is located in Erie, Pennsylvania, and is one of the region’s best resources for leadership development and forming connections with other local leaders. Consider joining us at an upcoming Leadership One Day! We’d love to see you there.

    What Happened When I Obeyed God Without Knowing Why

    What Happened When I Obeyed God Without Knowing Why

    Kneeling, face against the floor, I wept tears of brokenness – physically, emotionally, and psychologically – for both myself and my family. It was March 2019 and my world was a mess. Hardly an area of life was functioning well. And all of this on the heels of a second round of cancer treatment.

    Still face down, I suddenly had an internal vision through my tears. God was doing a new thing and it would touch each person and every area of petition. Hallelujah! Afterwards, I remember telling everyone in my circle.

    God gave me a verse to encourage me while he did this new thing. It was Psalm 27:13-14 “I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” Neat verse. In retrospect, I should have realized the implication of the repeated call to wait.

    Waiting and Doubting

    A year later, I was still waiting. I hadn’t observed much change.  I began to doubt. Had I misunderstood my experience?  Was I remembering it wrong? Two years later, then three years, it was pretty much the same.  I often found myself journaling my faith struggle and searching scripture for other circumstances of waiting on God’s promises. Finally, at four years in, real change began happening in my family. And yet my own personal situation hadn’t shifted.

    An Unexpected Opportunity

    In the fall of 2021 Grace Leadership Institute began promoting a leadership training series; three classes set to begin that winter. From the first time it was mentioned, I knew I was meant to attend. It was a knowing without any obvious reason. After all, in what way was I anyone’s leader? At the time I was teaching middle school English. While influencing others is part of the job of a classroom teacher, I was puzzled as to why or how I’d benefit from taking leadership classes.

    Having a bit of a geeky side, I enjoyed the role of student again. The instructor kept things relevant and interesting, and in each course I gained insights: clarifying my calling, realizing the reality of life rhythm over work-life balance, and assessing my assets and issues as a leader.

    But to what end? I kept asking myself, always with no solid answer. I could feel the weight of the wait.  When would it all make any sense? Was I building up expectations, or setting myself up for disappointment? After all, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick”.

    An Intriguing Job Posting

    One day I came across a job posting that completely intrigued me. The position sounded like it was written for me, using the exact language I’d used in my prayerful petitions for work more suited to my person and abilities.

    Significantly, the job would require the successful candidate to hire and build a team— to be a leader, in other words.

    I apparently put more talk than action into pursuing the job because when I finally got around to submitting my application, I got a notice stating that applicants were no longer being considered.

    Big, big bummer! I was pretty mad at myself for a good week.

    I went on with my life, chalking it up to yet one more dead end.

    A Surprising and Hopeful Change of Events

    Five weeks later I got an email out of the blue requesting an interview for the position I’d applied for. What?! Surprised and cautiously hopeful, I prepared for the interview.  It went extremely well, and in a matter of days I was scheduled for a second interview, this time with the hiring manager.

    I’ve been in a lot of interviews— on both sides due to being a former recruiter myself. When I sat down to with the hiring manager, I could feel it immediately: this was a “dream date” interview.

    They’d been looking for the right candidate for months, to no avail. There was always a very specific missing quality. And I had it! In fact, it was the exact same characteristic that seemingly prevented me from progressing in the multitude other positions I’d applied to over the last near-decade.

    I was incredulous. Could this be what God had been preparing me for— and preserving me for— this whole time?  Is God’s plan to answer both my needs and those of this organization at the exact same time.

    How God has been preparing me

    At the time of this writing, I don’t know for sure.  I await my third (and hopefully final) interview. I hope I get it. But whether I do or not, I see how God has been at work preparing me, equipping me, and molding me with the skills and mindset I’ll need to lead a team well— whatever and wherever that team may be.

    The art of obeying God even in the middle of uncertainty

    This is the work of trust, isn’t it?  To obey even in the middle of not knowing why.  Faith, after all, is the evidence of things yet unseen.  My obedience to take those leadership classes came not because I saw how they might benefit me in the moment.  The obedience came because I know the God who plans all things for good, even if that good rarely comes in a timeframe I myself might prefer.

    I do trust that it will all make sense.  Maybe after my next interview!  Or maybe not until heaven.  Either way, what I’ve learned through taking those GLI leadership classes was invaluable to me.

    Learning to trust and obey God’s direction —even when I don’t immediately understand the reasons— is simply a beautiful cherry on top.

    Interested in Trying out a Leadership Course?

    Grace Leadership Institute offers regular courses and intensive weekends on a variety of leadership and Biblical topics. You can learn more about our courses and check out upcoming offerings here!