Lunch with Pres Gillham

I had lunch with Pres Gillham today. This photo is of he and his wife, Dianne. (Just like John and I, they got to go someplace tropical this month!) Pres leads the organization at Lifetime Guarantee ( I worked with his ministry summers during college. It was fun to see how it has grown and become.

Besides the fun of catching up with a friend I haven’t seen in far too many years to mention, it was also cool to speak with someone else who works in counseling with churches. Pres and I spent a great deal of time talking about Strategic Dimensions work in facilities consulting. He shared his work in organizational consulting with both churches and businesses.

Peter Senge makes the distinction between viewing organizations as mechanical things that can be taken apart and fixed and viewing them as living organisms which need certain things to be healthy. Pres is taking the latter approach in helping organizations translate their theology (personal convictions and spiritual relationships) into their organizational strategies. Healthy organizations and healthy people grow.

Pres also talked about his personal spiritual discipline of taking a week long retreat each year simply to listen to God. He said he clears his mental desk and from the moment he leaves the gate at the airport he does nothing but listen. Concerns, planning, busyness... All put on hold.

There is an art to this. If you’ve ever tried to be quiet and listen for even 20 minutes, you will find it is a daunting exercise. I can’t imagine seven days…and yet…

What if people in positions of spiritual leadership began to adopt this practice? What if we took our pastors off the Sunday-to-Sunday treadmill and allowed them to breathe…to grow…to listen? Wouldn’t that “leak out” (to use a Ron Martoia phrase) into the organization? Wouldn’t we have healthier ministers and healthier churches?

Pres mentioned the high number of people who leave the ministry never to return. Burn out. Moral failures. Financial irresponsibility. Ousts by committees or elder boards...yada, yada... There are multiple scenarios that result in casualties among people who started their careers with a bright and burning passion to minister to others.

I was excited to hear about Pres’ investment in the spiritual lives of leadership and to find out how his coaching is having impact. Even more excited to hear that his latest book is about the value of the personal retreat.

As for me, my annual personal retreat is usually one day--typically my birthday--and I'm afraid I do an awful lot of talking. Maybe one day, I'll be able to listen for seven, but for now I’m still working on the 20 minutes…

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Maira Gall