by Deacon Peggy Hahn (she/her), Executive Director of LEAD
Warning: This is personal.
Throughout my life, my call to ministry has been a series of invitations into leadership that were beyond my training, experience, or ability. This is no exaggeration. For some reason people took a chance on me. And by the power of the Holy Spirit, most of my ministry has worked out okay.
Every one of these invitations has been extended by people I respected. In most cases my first answer to the invitation was, “Thanks for thinking of me, but I don’t think that I am the right person for this.” In fact, I rejected the invitations that have been the most meaningful and impactful more than once. For some reason, the invitation continued to be extended. The call was persistent! To this point, if you are the one extending the invitation and you know in your heart this is the right person, don’t take the first no as the answer. Sometimes we have to wrap our heads around a new call before we can feel it in our hearts.
It is hard to imagine my life without people inviting me in…
- 5th grade: Will you help with preschool VBS? Will you be a friend to the kids others ignore?
- 6th grade: Will you teach preschool Sunday School? Yes, teach. No adult, 5 little ones.
- High school: Will you run for class officer? Art Club President? Design the homecoming float? Be my girlfriend?
- College: Will you find your own identity in the faith with all the religions and choices around you?
- Early marriage: Will you start a youth group in this new church? Will you work out all the family dynamics? Will you be on our call committee?
- Young mother: Will you move to Texas? Will you join our church staff to develop ministry in the neighborhood and our global ministry? Will you go to El Salvador even if your entire family says, “Don’t go.”?
- Mother of middle schoolers: Will you be open to a call as a Deacon (at that time an AiM)? Will you serve our church as our youth minister?
- Mother of high school youth: Will you lead a synod-wide youth ministry? Will you live through being divorced? Will you get healthy?
- Mother of college students and young adults: Will you serve on the ELCA Youth Gathering Staff? Support the ELCA Youth Ministry Network? Lead people on cross cultural immersions in Peru? Will you work on weekends to support tuition for your kids? Will you courageously remarry?
- New grandmother: Will you go to the Central African Republic? Will you start a nonprofit on leadership? Will you accompany your children as they become parents?
- Spouse of retiree: Will you sort out the pandemic and the new world?
- Losing parents: Will we stay close even if they are no longer holding us together?
See what I mean? Life has been one invitation after another. Quite shocking if you realize I have had very little training for these remarkable invitations that have led to life-changing realities! Did I see a sign-up sheet? An announcement, email, text, or Facebook ask? Of course not! Someone made the effort to reach out to ME.
True invitation is personal.
Person to person. Always.
Jesus came to earth as a human invitation.
It is up to us to shape a culture of invitation.
We have an incarnational faith.
Who will you invite?
This issue of Visionaries is about who, how, when, where, and why it is our time to create a culture of invitation. We can do this.
The yellow flag:
Inviting people will change us, our church, and our world. Spoiler alert: It’s changing anyway, so why not lead? We will have to share and, in return, we will have the privilege of mentoring. Please move into this call to invite others, don’t back away. Circling the wagons to protect the past is a losing reality. Take a moment to ask yourself: What are we most afraid of? Giving up power? Changing our own comfort level with practices at church? Or even our church disappearing altogether?
It is so personal. Who invited you in?
My list of people I am grateful for is so long it would fill this entire magazine. I realize I owe the universe a ridiculous number of thank you notes! Please join us as we envision a world that truly welcomes others into a diverse faith community where all are welcome. These are not just words we say. A true welcome requires hard work to build and it doesn’t come without pain. We will have to do this together. It is not too late. God’s people have always done hard things.
From Jerusalem, to Judea, to Samaria, to the ends of the earth. Acts 1:8 gives us a game plan.