Uncharted Waters / Canoeing in the Mountains

Published on December 16th, 2018

When the institutional bedrock of American culture erodes, what fills the gaping chasm?  What is replacing the rule of law, the role of formal education, and the message of the church in these anxious times? And, how prepared are you, your church, youth groups, family ministries, and school to respond?

At this year’s Conference of LCMS Education Executives (CONFEDEX), Rev Tod Bolsinger led the 39 District executives, Concordia University System placement directors, and spouses to explore this uncharted premise.  Seizing upon the historic realities confronting the Corps of Discovery led by the famed Lewis and Clark, Bolsinger highlighted the observation of futurist Eric Hoffner that the learned are beautifully equipped for a future which no longer exists.  The corpsmen were trained, expert keelboat operators, when confronted with narrower and narrower passages, took to canoes, only to discover that the route to the Pacific would necessitate a trek overland, and over the precipitous Rocky Mountains.

When confronted with looming obstacles, the bewildered keelboaters could have:

  • Scurried to find a water route the Native Americans told them did not exist
  • Charted a new course of action based upon their past experiences
  • Cowered and backtrack without accomplishing the mission
  • Questioned their leaders, insisting on certain outcomes for which there were no guarantees

Instead, the leaders rallied the steadfast crew to:

  • Recognize that trying harder with their expert skills would not accomplish the mission
  • Learn to accept the reality of a different course of action beckoning and the new skills required for the expedition
  • Reconfirm the values that launched the expedition at the outset
  • Trust those who had experience with upcoming challenges

Sacajawea was chosen to bring the expedition to her homeland across the Rockies, and so much more was discovered than a route to the Pacific. The rest, as they say, is history.  What is your recent history?

As a group, leaders attending Confedex were challenged to move these leadership dynamics into the 21st century, and into the contexts of our Districts, churches and schools:

  • What new relationships are required (in Indiana, a new educational partner is the state department of education, for one)
  • What new skills and habits are necessary?
  • What are new standards to which you will hold your organization?
  • Where are you as a learner (not as a leader)?
  • What values will never change?
  • What new ways of thinking beckon your quest?
  • What radical changes await, and how do you avoid recklessness when confronted with such changes?
  • What must be reframed?
  • What is to be preserved?
  • What do you want to do well?
  • What must you stop doing?
  • What has been lost?
  • What is urgent?
  • What forces sabotage efforts and progress?
  • What resistance is felt?
  • When confronted, how do I respond?
  • How do you resist the urge for a “quick fix”?
  • What is required of leaders? Followers?
  • What is necessary for your own transformation?
  • Are we addressing problems or symptoms of problems?
  • How does it feel to talk about all of this?
  • What are the points of pain you are experiencing? Sources of joy?
  • What moves you? Troubles you? Comforts you?
  • Where is God in the midst of all of this?
  • What are some questions you want to generate?

If you feel like there are mountains to overcome, or need to re-equip, I look forward to sharing this adventure with you!  Remember the advent of Christ is to make the crooked straight and the rough places plain! (Luke 3.5)

Desire to know more?  Check out the resources from the Faith & Leadership website from Duke Divinity:  https://www.faithandleadership.com/tod-bolsinger-what-does-it-mean-stop-canoeing-mountains