Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Templating Works Best With Lemons…Salt Optional

Written by: on November 4, 2021

Lemons, huh, yeah. What are they good for? Absolutely nothin! Say it again y’all.  The last 24 hours of my life has been one big life box of lemons. However, as the narrator in Jane, The Virgin in the television show says, “but we’re not there yet.”

The small blessing is that I read Leadersmithing: Revealing The Trade Secrets of Leadership by Eve Poole before the arrival of the lemons.  Poole’s practical business management book is part theory based on research, and part how-to with “crafty essentials”.   She invites leaders on an apprenticeship journey to hone their craft of leadersmithing through simulation experiences to create “muscle memory” in decision making.  Poole also provides a practical process to engage in honest self-evaluation and practice through “crafty essentials” with the metaphor of a deck of cards.

My initial thought was that it was fortuitous to read Leadersmithing this week.  Currently, the church I serve is suffering from a “one-two” punch trauma. I recognize that my task to lead them through to the other side is requiring helpful partners – not unlike those who held Moses’ arms up so the Hebrews could cross the Reed Sea.  I saw clearly that Poole is one of those partners for me. Her approach to templating practice reminded me of Jesus instituting the Communion; “every time you do this, do it in remembrance of me.” As I was planning the discernment process to guide the Session through their PTSD, I began thinking of other scriptural connections to templating to find entry points for having the Session engage in muscle memory. Poole’s 4 pathways to learning also include self-regulation, reflective judgement, and learning to learn[1]. All of these tethered me back to Friedman and Kahneman which in turn reminded me of other pieces to keep in mind as I planned my planning, namely self-differentiation and effortful thinking.  I also was prompted that, “leadersmithing is a masterclass in figuring out when to wait and when to press on”[2]. Discerning this balance, especially now, is a growing edge for me.  I found several of the exercises she presented to be helpful such as the Ballroom Dance and the Nine-Dot Puzzle, as well as the writing a eulogy for the church. As I read on through the book, Poole encouraged me to be self-differentiated enough to understand and know the timing of timing: to not rush the timing of what session must process. With Poole as a partner, I was developing a thoughtfully planned and timed process to lead the Session into the Reed Sea.

Then, the delivery of lemons. What are they good for?  Our monthly Session meeting was last night and part of the update for our preschool included the news that our teachers are fragile.  Staff is stressed to their breaking point. We still are short staffed of teachers and there is a severe lack of applicants to fill positions.  Because of this, the Elder informed us that she may not be able to keep rooms open because of the shortage.  This Elder is also the Director of the preschool, who has been planning on retiring at the end of the year, advised us that the search process has been stalled because of such uncertainty.  You might ask, “so what?”  Well, the financial viability of the church is dependent on the revenue from the preschool. Big pile of lemons! Unfortunately, more lemons dropped later in the meeting when four of our six Elders decided they were too tired and busy for them to continue serving as Elders next year.

Disappointingly, all my joy while reading Leadersmithing was pummeled to death by lemons.  Basking in the lemon pool this morning has me very cynical about the future of the church I serve and as well as my personal future.  Lemons, what are they good for? Oh wait, I have a great Margarita recipe:

8 Limes

2 ½-3 Oranges

2 ½ – 3 Lemons

1 Cup of Sugar

4 Cups of Ice Water

1 ½ Cups of Tequila

¾ Cup of Cointreau

Squeeze all citrus, add the other liquids. Shake well, serve over ice.

[1] Leadersmithing, Poole pg 12-13

[2] Ibid, pg 17

About the Author


Nicole Richardson

PC(USA) pastor serving a church in Kansas City. In my spare time I teach yoga and scuba diving

12 responses to “Templating Works Best With Lemons…Salt Optional”

  1. mm Roy Gruber says:

    Nicole, I am so sorry to hear all the challenges you currently face. I am glad to hear that the book helped you in real time. I also appreciate how you have internalized Friedman. I wish I had as firm a grasp on that material as you do. I look to you as our cohort’s Friedman expert. May you embody differentiated leadership in your season of lemons! Perhaps you given a new twist to an old saying, “When the world gives you lemons, make margaritas!”

  2. mm Troy Rappold says:

    Nicole: thank you for the inspiring post! Your experience in your church working with PTSD and the timing of this book was fortuitous. The same is true for most of the books we are reading, they are all immediately relevant to what we are doing in our ministries and lives right now. I’m thankful for Jason putting together this reading list and choosing so wisely.

  3. Kayli Hillebrand says:

    Nicole: what a challenging season for educators and administrators alike. I feel for the overwhelm that this is causing you, the staff, and elders. Praying that the fruit of this reading and the others continue to be resources for you as you lead into uncertainty. Know that you have others willing to help hold your arms up in this time.

  4. mm Eric Basye says:

    Can I just say, I get a feeling of excitement and anticipating opening your blog! Always a surprise, delight, a good for a laugh.

    This blog, lemons, was really powerful. First off, I am so sorry to hear of these struggles. These sound challenging and VERY refining on so many fronts. Perhaps this is part of the apprenticeship for YOU… and not only for you, but those you lead? I thank you for your wit and humor, but I also imagine there is lament and sadness by this experience. May He give you ALL you need, not just you but the whole Church, to talk in faithful obedience unto Him. There is great hope, promise, and blessing in the path of faithfulness and obedience, especially when it seems most difficult.

    • mm Nicole Richardson says:

      Eric your words are like balm to my spirit…thank you! In the midst of our very full educational schedule, our ministry and personal lives continue. I am thankful and blessed by being connected to you and the others in this cohort!

  5. mm Denise Johnson says:

    Nicole, I love your ability to bring in humor amidst the challenges. I’m so sorry to hear about the avalanche of “lemons” in your world. You have had so much loss in the last month already. Your post touched my heartstrings of empathy. Hugs! When I’m in these situations I have to dig deep and remind myself that Jesus is not surprised by this. He knows the keys to get me outside the dots of the Nine-Dot-Puzzle. Hang in there.

    • mm Nicole Richardson says:

      Denise I figure it’s more healing to laugh 🙂
      I thank you so much for your words of consolation! Yes…leaning on and into Jesus is my refuge.

  6. Elmarie Parker says:

    Wow, Nicole…what a huge meeting for you all…trauma upon trauma. I hear your lament as you grieve this latest pieces of bad news and ask the question of what this all means for not only the congregation’s future but you own. It’s a lot to take in for you and for your fellow session members. I’m wondering how Friedman, in particular, is resourcing you for this period of discouragement? What of the cynicism you are feeling may also be cynicism echoed in the hearts and minds of others on session and even in the congregation? What resources in the past have helped you to journey through periods of cynicism and the experience of lostness in the wilderness of congregational dead-ends? How has Christ’s Spirit surprised you in the past? I’m with you in spirit.

  7. mm Nicole Richardson says:

    Elmarie, For me Freidman’s reminder that in the midst of stuff going on I must not take it personal and get sucked into what could turn into enmeshment. Working to stay self-differentiated is hard but helping me to not have knee jerk reactions. My first thought when elders said they were not returning was to take it as a referendum on my leadership. I have stepped away from that cliff! I know for sure that session and myself are sharing the disappointment of where we find ourselves. However I am being careful to make sure I am communicating what I think is a healthy balance of owning my frustration with the reality that we must not get stuck…we must be intentional about moving forward. You ask about resources in the past…..well…………I have done a lot of reading of the Psalms that do a lot of complaining and asking for fire to rain down on enemies 🙂 🙂 I also do a lot of praying. I think Jesus continues to surprise me by keeping me in ministry, I often think Jesus just has misunderstood my abilities…..why am I still in ministry?

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