Diversity

Workplace Connections: The Blessings and Challenges of Being a Millennial and Working With One

By Rachel Morton & Rebekah Karolus

Generational studies are all the rage right now. Over the past five years in particular, people have spent a lot of time speculating about the differences between generations and what impact those differences have on social, economic, and religious levels. At the moment, one of the most talked-about generations—in both positive and negative ways—is the millennial generation (our generation). Millennials are defined as anyone born between the year 1980 and 1997 (give or take a year or two depending on the study). Most recently millennials made headline news as they officially surpassed the baby boomers as the largest (by population) living generation in the United States!

You may be asking yourself, “What does this information have to do with the workplace or with ‘workplace connections’?” Well, at some point in your life you will find yourself sitting across the interview table from a millennial. You might be the one hiring or you might be the one hoping to get a job. In either of those situations, it would be helpful to know a little bit about the generation you will be working with in order to create a more positive work environment.

The thought of working with millennials might actually be something that worries you. After all, we’ve all heard the stereotypes about them: they’ve been called the “me, me, me” generation, lazy, entitled, self-obsessed, and even narcissistic. Who would want to work with someone like that? However, they also have been given some positive stereotypes. People have called them open-minded, generous, self-expressive, upbeat, definitely tech-savvy, and passionate about social causes. We promise…they aren’t all as scary as you might think!

So let’s get real. Have you ever wondered if there is any truth behind the stereotypes about millennials? Have these stereotypes positively or negatively affected your desire to ever work with this generation? Do you think these stereotypes affect the millennials’ abilities to work with other generations and vice versa? Have you ever wondered what stereotypes about older generations might be affecting the millennials’ desire to work with them? And at the end of it all, what kind of example are we setting for future generations by letting different stereotypes affect how we all work together?

Regardless of whether or not any of the stereotypes are true, the fact that they exist has already affected the ability of different generations to work together. Each generation already has a pre-conceived idea about the other. In some instances that has helped workplace connections, and in others it has hurt them. Regardless of your generation, we can all benefit from the perspective of different generations in the workplace. Better perspective allows us to more effectively connect with and support one another, creating a healthier work environment. How do we gain this perspective? By talking together.

Rachel Morton is a graduate of Concordia University Wisconsin’s Master of Church Music program, serves as Assistant Worship Director at St. John’s Lutheran Church in West Bend, Wisconsin. She directs all traditional worship services and musical groups, serves as primary organist, collaborates in the writing of school chapel services, and oversees the Women’s Retreat Committee.

Rebekah Karolus is a graduate of Concordia University Wisconsin with a degree in both Theology and Lay Ministry. She currently serves as the Director of the Sr. High Youth Ministry, College Ministry, Young-Adult Ministry, and Women’s Ministry at St. John’s Lutheran Church in West Bend, Wisconsin. 

Come to their presentation, “Workplace Connections: The Challenges and Blessings of Being a Millennial and Working with One” at the Gifted to Influence Conference in Milwaukee, WI September 29 – October 1. There you will gain valuable perspective on generational differences as well as some practical tools that you can use right now within your various vocations to help strengthen your workplace connections.

How to Share Jesus with People of Other Cultures

By Marilyn McClure

Imagine wandering around in a foreign country on a rainy night, not knowing where you are going, not even knowing how to speak the local language.

This is exactly what happened in 1970 when my husband Garry and I were sent to learn Spanish in Cuernavaca, Mexico, so that we could serve as missionaries in Guatemala. Our plane landed in Mexico City, and a pastor was to pick us up and take us to Cuernavaca, which is about 50 miles away. There was a mix-up in schedules, so we were told to take a taxi. We had no Spanish language skills, and our cab driver had very limited English. By the time we arrived in Cuernavaca, it was dark and raining. Our cab driver, who was unfamiliar with the town, asked directions to the pensión where we were to stay. People consistently provided directions, but none of them were correct. After about two hours of searching, we ended up at the edge of a field where cows were grazing. Finally, my husband spotted a car with a Michigan license plate in front of a house. He asked the taxi driver to stop. Garry went to the door, and explained our dilemma in English to the visiting U.S. family. They communicated to their family members who got in their car, asked us to follow them, and guided us to the street and house for which we had been searching. What a relief!

Our initial reaction to this experience was one of anger and frustration. However, later in analyzing why people had given us directions if they didn’t know where the place was, we were told that it would have been impolite for them to say that they didn’t know. In their culture, that would have been interpreted as not caring, especially on a rainy night when someone was asking them for help. So they gave us directions to the best of their abilities, even though they themselves were not quite sure of the location. They wanted to show us that they cared.

People who are from different cultures, but are now living in the United States, have similar experiences every day. In the past, multicultural populations were primarily found in border towns, coastal cities, or in pockets of large cities in our country. However, over the past few years we find people of different cultures scattered throughout the nation. Some are refugees; others may be from families that have immigrated to the U.S. to find a better life. Some may have been here over a generation, but they still identify with people from their own country or those who follow their cultural practices and speak their language.

The question is: How do we relate to people of other ethnicities and cultures and share the love of Jesus with them, especially if they don’t speak our language?

We need to be honest and accept that there are challenges when we try to communicate and work with people cross-culturally. Sometimes the cultural differences impede our ability to understand each other and work together. Because of the differences in our backgrounds, we cannot take for granted that we understand their behavior nor that they understand ours. Most of all, it is important not to judge other people’s words and actions until we understand the motivation behind them.

I could give a whole series of lectures on intercultural learning, awareness, and effectiveness, beginning with the importance of being aware and understanding our own culture first and how others see us. I could also talk about the danger of attributing stereotypes to people who come from a specific country or cultural group. All of that is important, and very helpful if we hope to be effective in interacting with people of another culture. Knowing their language adds to our ability to communicate with them, but sometimes God puts them in our lives before we have had a chance to do any preparatory study about culture and language.

When that happens, here are some simple tips:

BE SINCERE

When you want to befriend someone from another culture, be willing to invest the time and energy it takes to get to know each other. If you invite the person to join you in an activity at church, offer to pick her up and accompany her when you arrive at the event.

Introduce her to your friends, sit by her, so that she knows your intention is to be her friend.

PLAN ACTIVITIES THAT ARE NOT LANGUAGE-BOUND

If you are planning an event to which you will be inviting an ethnic group, it is a good idea to arrange activities that are not dependent on understanding the language. For instance, it will be easier for your ethnic friends to pack health kits for the homeless, which they can do alongside of you, than to expect them to go to a workshop or lecture that would require that they understand English well. If you are planning some time alone with your “friend,” a visit to the zoo where you can take your children along with you would be more desirable than going to a mystery movie.

HAVE CONVERSATION STARTERS IN MIND

If you are going to invite ethnic women to an event at your church, like a Mother’s Day tea, some good conversation starters might be talk about your childhood homes. You might talk about favorite holidays or celebrations in your respective countries. Ask questions like, “What makes you feel most proud when you think about your community or your country?” or “What were some of your favorite foods as a child?” Choose topics that allow everyone to contribute, regardless of where they grew up.

LEARN A LITTLE ABOUT THE CULTURE

Sometimes cultural stereotyping can be useful. For example, if you know that German people generally are punctual, you would want to make sure that you are on time when meeting a German friend. In Latino culture, that may not be the case, so you might need to be prepared to wait while your Latino friend finishes getting ready to go with you. However, whatever the culture, people are individuals, so it is important never to assume that an individual is exactly like the stereotype of her culture.

DON’T FORGET PRAYER

Always remember to pray for your new friend and ask God to bless your time together. If you sense there is confusion about something that is said or an activity taking place, ask the person if there is a problem, and assure her that you care about how she feels.

Each person, regardless of her ethnicity or culture, is a redeemed child of God. May your world be expanded, and may you find blessing in getting to know new friends from around the world!

About the author: Marilyn McClure is an educator by profession and, since 1969, has worked alongside her husband in Hispanic ministry in Guatemala and the US. In recent years, Marilyn worked with the Gospel Outreach Committee of Lutheran Women’s Missionary League (LWML) to help establish the Heart to Heart Sisters program, that intentionally reaches out to women of all cultures to assure their participation in the mission of the LWML and the church-at-large. The McClure’s have three loving adult children and six wonderful grandchildren. Marilyn says that she is truly blessed to serve at this time on the Education Committee of WLI.

For more great articles like the one you just read, explore the EQUIP page of our website. Get inspired to lead by reading through the ENCOURAGE page, then visit one of our campus EVENTS near you. Stay connected by following us on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.

Adult Learning Styles: What Do They Mean For Bible Study Leadership?

How do you learn best? By listening to others speak? By reading and writing? Through a hands-on activity? Each of us has a preferred method of learning (notice that it’s a preferred method and not the correct method) and that can create a paradox for us as Bible study leaders. You see, the way that is most comfortable and most effective for you as a learner is probably the way that you tend to teach. But not everyone learns that way. When you lead a Bible study, you may need to step outside of your comfort zone and deliberately look for ways to engage and reach those who learn differently than you do.

Think about how Jesus taught. He lectured in the Sermon on the Mount, first using conceptual ideas in the Beatitudes and then following that with some practical application. He told parables or stories that allowed others to find themselves in the story. He asked questions; He answered questions. He took people aside and explained things to them. He used teachable moments and familiar objects. Jesus definitely used a variety of teaching strategies! Not all good teachers use the same strategies and techniques, but good teachers – and Jesus was the perfect teacher – will always find a way to include a variety of teaching strategies.

There are several ways of categorizing learning styles, one of which recognizes four learning styles: Verbal, Auditory, Visual, and Kinesthetic. Let’s think briefly about each one.

THE VERBAL LEARNER

The verbal learner is one who prefers reading, writing, and speaking. Asking good questions is one way to appeal to these learners. By ‘good’ I mean questions that are not necessarily yes/no questions or fill-in-the-blank questions. Ask questions that allow the learner to interpret or apply or discuss or share. For example, Jonah’s eventual sermon to Nineveh consisted of 5 Hebrew words. If you were asked to give a 5-8 word sermon, what would it be? Discussing a question in a small group can also engage the auditory learner as he listens to the discussion. Another strategy is to review the meaning of words used in the Bible and then look for how those words are used in a passage. There are three terms used to refer to God, for example, and each has a slightly different meaning. The book of Jonah uses all three terms so looking for when a different term is used can say something about the passage.

THE AUDITORY LEARNER

Another learning style is auditory – learning by hearing or by sound. Having something read aloud is good for this type of learner. Also, auditory learners tend to like to have things repeated so find a way to stress important points in a study in different ways. Another strategy is to have people tell the story or a section of Scripture to a partner in their own words. While this gets at auditory learning, it has another effect in helping people feel comfortable sharing the Bible in their own words. Music is another powerful strategy for some auditory learners – use music to set the mood, sing a song related to the study, ask someone to write a song. For a study of the book of Jonah, I found a Jonah song on the web with a seafarer kind of lilt that I played at the beginning of one class and by the end of the song, most of the class was singing along on the chorus and having a good time.

THE VISUAL LEARNER

Clearly the visual learner needs to be able to see something – a map, a picture, a chart, etc. I like to use photos I find on the web, especially when it gives the class an opportunity to point out how the photo is inconsistent with the Bible story itself.  Another way to reach the visual learner is to ask the class to close their eyes and picture the story or setting in their minds. Visual learners also tend to like to draw as they are learning so you could ask them to draw something about the lesson. In teaching Jonah, I asked the class to use a Venn diagram (two circles that partially overlap) to describe how the sailors and Jonah differed (the two non-overlapping parts of the circles) and how they were alike (the overlapping part). In another class, I asked the class to work in small groups and design a banner that depicted Jesus as healer.

THE KINESTHETIC LEARNER

The last type is the kinesthetic learner or physical learner. These are the ones who learn through experience or by doing things. They tend to learn best by role playing or playing games or touching and feeling objects. In fact, statistics tell us that we learn 15% of what we hear, 35% of what we read, 50% of what we see, and 90% of what we do. You can include objects related to the lesson that allow the students to do something – touch, smell, taste. Be aware, though, that objects lessons can be overused so less is more. You might find that some adults might feel a little silly with object lessons, depending on what you ask them to do or if they are new to the group. So you might want to wait until you sense the group is comfortable before you include an object. If there is a word or symbol that will capture the teaching point, you could have the class make something, even if it’s with clay or a pipe cleaner. Another example is if the lesson is about casting stones, like the story of the woman caught in adultery. Ask each person to hold a stone while the story is read.

Remember that not everyone learns the way you do. Follow Jesus’ example–take the risk—and use a variety of teaching strategies to reach the greatest number of students so they can apply the text to their lives. God will bless your efforts!

Karen Soeken is a wife, mother of two, and grandmother of 6. She retired in 2008 after a career teaching research and statistics courses at the University of Maryland School of Nursing and is now Professor Emeritus. In her congregation, she teaches adult Bible study classes. Karen is also involved in LWML, having served as District President and Planner at the national level. Currently she serves on the Lutheran Hour Ministries Foundation Board and the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia Board of Directors. In her spare time, Karen enjoys working on her family history.

For more great articles like the one you just read, explore the EQUIP page of our website. Get inspired to lead by reading through the ENCOURAGE page, then visit one of our campus EVENTS near you. Stay connected by following us on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.

Christian Leadership: Start and End with Service

By Nancy Stoehr, Pharm.D.

“Come, O living Christ, renew us

As of old in wind and flame;

With the Spirit’s power endue us,

Servants of Your saving name:

Christ the Savior,

Christ the Servant,

Christ whose kingdom we proclaim.”

~ Lutheran Service Book, Christ, Our Human Likeness Sharing Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House

As Christians, we are privileged to be followers of the greatest Leader the world has ever known.  We are blessed with scripture to teach, guide and remind us how to lead like our Teacher.  But what was it that made Christ such an effective leader?  How can we use His model to become better leaders ourselves?

In this article I hope to pass along some of what I’ve learned about Christian leadership through my spiritual journey and walk with Christ.

Mark 10: 42-45 gives us a clear picture into how Jesus viewed leadership.

“Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.  Not so with you.  Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be a slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'”  (NIV)

True leadership stems from service to others.  To become great, to be a leader, you must first take on a life and attitude of service.

GIVING THOSE WE SERVE WHAT THEY NEED

The world has a bad habit of associating service with being meek, mild mannered, a person who can be walked over.  According to worldly views of leadership, these are not characteristics of greatness.  Though, service to others is not simply giving others what they want.  It is giving others what they need.  Sometimes, what people believe they need is really a want.  It is our job as the leader to make these distinctions and convey what is best for those we serve.  I see this exemplified while parenting my five-year-old.  She wants to eat candy with every meal and snack in-between. However, this is clearly not what she needs.  She thinks my withholding of her peanut butter cup is authoritarian, a demonstration of power.  Often I hear, “I can’t wait to be a grown up so I can do whatever I want”.  What she currently lacks is not the age she desires, it’s the perspective I have on nutrition and making good life choices.  We as leaders have perspective on what is needed to move our children, family, group, organization, or church forward.  We have the perspective to help them make good life choices, good Christian choices.  We as Christian leaders have the servant attitude to successfully and sustainably give those we serve what they need to succeed.

LOVING THOSE WE SERVE

James C. Hunter (1998) wrote the book titled, The Servant: A Simple Story About the True Essence of Leadership New York: Random House, Inc.  In this book he links the qualities of a good leader, or characteristics of a true servant, to love.  Hunter (1998) goes on to discuss that the “love” he is referring to was originally written as the Greek word “agape”.  This isn’t the “feeling” kind of love one might have for a spouse or family member, this is a sacrificial love, a love exemplified by commitment.

Paul tells us in Galatians 5: 13 “You, my brothers, were called be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love” (NIV).

He goes on to give us a definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7:

“Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (NIV)

I personally never liked the verses given to us in Corinthians.  The ideal they were embracing was so far away from my reach I could never read them without feeling completely hopeless in my attempt to walk the faith.  Patience?  Don’t have it.  Self-Seeking?  That, I can do.  Slow to anger?  Forget it.  So, I ignored these verses.  I ignored them to the point of omitting this very traditional wedding verse from my wedding ceremony!

It’s true. We will never achieve the ideal of self-sacrificing love while we are here on earth. We will never master all of Paul’s definitions of love.  But God understands our faults and our sinful nature.  He simply wants us to be committed to practice these actions and attitudes throughout our journey with Him.

In talking to a student group about this verse, one of the students shared that his church suggests substituting the word love with Jesus.  When done, what a great model for leadership!  When we espouse to be like Jesus and follow these characteristics of love in our leadership style, we become true servants to those we lead.  When we put our frame of mind into one of patience, kindness, trust and perseverance we can see that those we touch will be built up.  They become more confident, more willing to take on responsibilities, more willing to follow our strategies.  The organization or group we are leading will prosper because we are leading as Christian leaders; dedicated to service and love for those we serve.

MAINTAINING OUR DEDICATION TO THOSE WE SERVE

1 Peter 4: 11 tells us how we are provided with the strength to serve.

“If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God.  If anyone serves, he should do it with strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.  To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” (NIV)

We must remember that we can’t serve on our own. We need the strength that God provides.  God provides us with this strength through the Holy Spirit.  First and foremost we must ask God to give us strength, discernment and wisdom through the Holy Spirit to allow us to successfully and completely model our Teacher.  This needs to be done not once, not twice, but continually along our journey to be great Christian leaders.

I’m a pharmacist, and in the pharmacy world we talk about the “half-life” of drugs.  The half-life is how long it takes for the drug to divide in half, be half as strong as it should be or be half as effective as it should be.  Drugs that have a short half-life don’t stick around very long.  We need to take these drugs often throughout the day to keep them at the levels they need to be to work in our bodies like they should.  On our own, commitment to serve has a short “half-life.” We continually need to ask the Holy Spirit for His assistance to maintain the strength, the perseverance, the servant attitude we need to succeed in our leadership roles.

As we move forward with our dedication to being servant leaders in whatever area of Christ’s church we serve, I encourage you to pray.  Sit quietly with the Lord and give Him your concerns.  Listen to His responses and follow His calls.  Below is a prayer that may get you started on this journey to become a great servant leader.

Dear Father in heaven,

Thank You for the opportunity to be Your servant and for the guidance You give us through Your Word.  Thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus Christ, to model true servant leadership.  Help us to use Your teachings as we lead those around us.  Please send the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts and minds with Your grace and love so we can glorify Your name through our encounters with those we serve.  Bring discernment to our decisions, humbleness in our approach, and kindness in our words.  Help us to be slow to anger, patient with those around us and practice forgiveness to those who may do us harm.  Help us to maintain our commitment of love for all people.  Forgive us when we fail.  Be with us as we serve and use us to bring all into your Holy Kingdom. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

About the author: Dr. Nancy Stoehr earned her Pharm.D. from the University of Wisconsin Madison School of Pharmacy in 2006 and is currently enrolled in the Master of Education – Teaching and Learning program at Concordia University Wisconsin. Dr. Stoehr is carrying out her vocation as an Assistant Professor at Concordia University Wisconsin School of Pharmacy where she primarily teaches in the pharmacy compounding laboratories. She is the chair of the WLI education committee.

For more great articles like the one you just read, explore the EQUIP page of our website. Get inspired to lead by reading through the ENCOURAGE page, then visit one of our campus EVENTS near you. Stay connected by following us on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.