by Christephor Gilbert
ELM Communications and Development Coordinator
Last week I had the privilege of representing ELM at the Annual ALDE Conference, held this year in beautiful and friendly Norfolk, Virginia. ALDE is the Association of Lutheran Development Executives, and their IGNITE conference is an opportunity to gather fundraising officers and development staff from a multitude of Lutheran organizations – and across the three major Lutheran bodies (ELCA, LCMS, and WELS) – to share stories and best practices from the field.
As a newbie to the conference, I was instantly surrounded by warm welcomes from existing members willing and able to help me navigate the rooms and connect with other members of who were “in the know” about all things development and ALDE. And, I felt instantly at ease knowing that ELM supporters, like Aubrey and Jennifer pictured above, as well as Proclaimer Aaron Decker (who was at the conference for a corollary event, the Evangelical Lutheran Education Association) were around as friendly and familiar faces.
Outside of the six breakout sessions I attended which offered both theoretical and practical development info, I was invigorated by the two keynote presentations. The first, by Donna Schumell, asked us to consider our values and virtues, and how you can engage emotional intelligence to become more effective communicators, leaders, and overall good people. The second, by Leslie Crutchfield, leaned on data gleaned from her non-profit leadership guide, Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits, which studied organizations that went from zero to impactful in the last fifty years. Crutchfield offered up a paradigm that affirmed that the best organizations understand they can advocate and serve, work with for-profit business, the market, and other non-profits to create movements, not just organizations.
The core of this message—which was the underlying theme of the conference—was that in-person, genuine, communication that is matched with relationships is the most impactful at building community across organizations. As we gather and connect, telling our stories to one another, we create bonds that lead to new connections—forging a groundswell of inter-dependence that is committed to togetherness and yet supportive of unique identities.
This theme came into action for me during lunch on the second day, when an ALDE member offered up a story about one of her daughter’s friends who is in the middle of discerning their identity. I offered up some ideas about how to move forward—to be supportive, loving, and present for this young person who is not in a position to reveal their identity to their parents. But then I was able to refer this member to other LGBTQ organizations that might help. And because these people are involved in Lutheran religious life, it brought home the continued importance of what you, our supporters, help to achieve at ELM—supporting upcoming, new, and existing rostered leaders who represent the breadth and depth of identity in the church.
I recently re-read Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, wherein he says to the community, “Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing” (1 Th. 5:11). It was wonderful experiencing encouragement from my colleagues at ALDE, a spur to action to continue to “build up” our community of supporters, seminarians, rostered leaders, and congregations.
Christephor Gilbert is the Communications and Development Coordinator for ELM, and is celebrating his one year anniversary with the organzation this month! When he is not working on his MDiv studies at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, he is dreaming of the time he can wear his fedora’s and Hawaiian shirts.