Thomaida Hudanish, Director of Missions and Evangelism for the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco, explores keychain leadership - a concept developed in Growing Young by Kara Powell, et al.
Read the full episode transcript.
Hollie Benton 0:05
You're listening to Doulos: a podcast of the Ephesus School Network. Doulos explores servant leadership as an Orthodox Christian, I'm Hollie Benton, your host and executive director of the Orthodox Christian Leadership Initiative. I'm so happy to introduce my guest today Thomaida Hudanish, Director of the Missions and Evangelism Ministry of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco. Thomaida worked for eight years in parish ministry before joining the metropolis missions and evangelism ministry in 2014. In addition to her work in the American mission field, she's volunteered with Orthodox programs in India, Israel and Palestine, Mexico and she's served on short-term mission teams to Mongolia and Kenya with the Orthodox Christian Mission Center. She's also the co-founder of Beauty First Films, publishers have a unique liturgical seasons wall calendar and creators of a forthcoming documentary about Saint Amphilochios of Patmos. Thomaida lives and works in Portland, Oregon. Welcome my friend Thomaida.
Thomaida Hudanish 1:08
Thank you, Hollie, I'm so glad to be here.
Hollie Benton 1:10
And I'm so excited to let our listeners know that you are going to be one of the panelists featured at our upcoming fifth annual National Orthodox Leadership Conference this September, 17 and 18th at St. Vladimir's Seminary. This year's theme is "Generously Investing in Emerging Leaders", something that really relates to your work, Thomaida in missions and evangelism.
Thomaida Hudanish 1:33
Yes, training great leadership is definitely important to us in every organization and ministry and striving to grow as leaders is actually kind of a path to repentance. Right? We know that looking at healthy organizations that they can all point to good leadership. Thankfully, in the church we have Christ as our ultimate leader and prototype, and so we're always striving to be like him.
Hollie Benton 1:57
That's right. And you are currently hosting through your ministry an online book study to the Department of missions and evangelism. I was honored to join you at your first event a few weeks ago, the book that you're working through is called "Growing Young: Six Essential Strategies to Help Young People Discover, and Love Your Church" by Kara Powell, Jake Mulder and Brad Griffin.
Thomaida Hudanish 2:20
Yes, it's a great book and I'm so glad that you were able to come and kick off the book study for us since we read the book together initially, we do this book study every year after paska we choose different books to discuss, and we get participation from all over the metropolis and beyond. Plus, I think it's really important that we're doing this lifelong learning and we're modeling that and sharing and not together because I think that's an important component of being a good leader. The reason we chose Growing Young, which is really jam-packed book I really like it because it says in the title, it's about attracting, like, helping young people discover and love your church but as I was reading it I just continually was looking at through the lens of missions and evangelism. And I was thinking about how everything that they're saying about young people and what young people need is the same as we would say, like, this is what we do for newcomers, this is what we do for guests right, this is how we onboard anybody to something new like joining a new parish or a new faith. I think that every single principle is really applicable to evangelism. It's a really powerful book and one of the reasons that I like it so much is that there's a lot of ideas in each chapter like here's the concept here's why we think it's important, here's the research, but then they give you at least a dozen ideas per chapter about how to apply it.
Hollie Benton 3:42
Yeah, that's right. At your book study we discussed "unlocking keychain leadership." It's a mindset and strategy the authors of the book suggest in working with youth and young adult and as you say it's really a concept that can be applied to integrating any newcomer into the parish. It's a little quiz time tell us what is meant by key chain leadership?
Thomaida Hudanish 4:02
Right so they describe how certain people hold the keys, which may be a physical set of keys or a metaphorical one, in essence, a leader in the church is someone who has access or authority or physical keys. They have to be a trusted person to hold those things or another thing they might have is credibility and persuasion of other people. There's somebody that everybody really respects and listens to. So there's lots of different keys when they say it's important to unlock keychain leadership, they're encouraging the person with access to empower others, or give them keychains with multiple keys on them. It's also important to prepare these people for those roles and responsibilities they're taking on, so they are not just like, "Oh, here's the keys. Good luck with that." But they are mentoring them and talking about how do you prepare somebody to bear this responsibility or to grow gradually into it. Just like when we teach someone to drive we teach them in stages and we help them to increase their skills and independence over time, but we definitely don't leave them to drive on their own. Classic examples: throwing somebody into the deep end of the pool to learn to swim right. They're not suggesting that they're suggesting, "I do, we do, you do" mentoring, I really thought that was great. I do it, then I show you, you know, you watch me. And then we do it together. And then, okay now you're in charge and you do it, and then we process that.
One of the things that I think is really crucial, they emphasize that Keychain Leaders are first aware of the keys that they hold. I realized that some of the most capable and influential people in our parishes may not realize that they're actually in a position to share access. They might just be doing what they're doing and they don't really see themselves in a leadership position. Another way that that's true is that a lot of us who are already in the Orthodox Church may not realize that the people who are just coming into the church for the first time, or have just joined the parish community, even moving from a different parish are looking at us and thinking "Wow they're the key holders", and we're just oblivious to this fact.
Hollie Benton 6:07
You know when I heard about this concept of keychain leadership, it reminded me of the story that we hear about in First Samuel chapter three. Let me read that right now: "At that time, Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see was lying down in his own place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out and Samuel was lying down within the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called "Samuel, Samuel" and he said, "Here I am." And he ran to Eli and said, "Here I am for you called me." But he said, "I did not call. Lie down again." So he went to lay down. And the Lord called again "Samuel!" and Samuel arose and went to Eli and said, "Here I am for you called me." But he said, "I did not call my son, lie down again." Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him and the Lord called Samuel again the third time and he rose and he went to Eli and he said, "Here I am for you called me." Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore, Eli said to him, "Go lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say 'speak Lord for Thy servant hears.'" So Samuel went and lay down in his place. Then we later learn through the story that the Lord, the message that the Lord has for Samuel, is really not good news for Eli, but what reminded me of this concept of keychain leadership from this passage is that, number one, Samuel and living in the household of Eli, had already been trained, when someone calls you go on attend and say, "Here I am, what do you need?" Clearly, it wasn't Eli calling him but the Lord God himself. What I really like about Eli is that he's not inserting himself and trying to control the situation he's really, in a way, passing the keys on to Samuel saying, "if you're called again, this is what you do." Eli is not trying to insert himself. He's really giving those keys to Samuel, saying, "This is how you respond to the Lord, as the Lord calls you say 'here I am your servant hears." And just thinking about, people in the parish who have the keys they hold the keys, a lot of times they hold on to them tightly and they don't want to give them up or they really want to control the situation in a way that can mitigate any kind of mess or whatever, but here, Eli understands that it's the Lord who's calling and he really passes those keys on to Samuel so that you can respond in the correct way.
Thomaida Hudanish 8:42
I think that story is really powerful. Eli is showing us how to be a leader like he's the person that initially trained Samuel, and yet he just learns that it's the Lord. Isn't that a beautiful example to of somebody who's your original mentor, learning how to point you and open your heart and open you up. They've trained you so that when another opportunity comes or another teacher comes can take you to another place or that they need to pass off your training to somebody else, he is also exemplifying that. As we know in church leadership, you might grew up with one youth director or one priest and then things change and you have a different... or you move and you go to college and you're working with another one and I think that when we've been given good training you know first by our parents, and then with other mentors, it's like we understand how to serve with any leader.
Hollie Benton 9:39
Yeah, that's right. So say a few more words about teaching leadership and how that mindset can be applied even through the lens of missions and evangelism and dealing with newcomers
Thomaida Hudanish 9:50
Yes. So in the book, it's set up for young adults and it's set up for that age range from 15 to 29, but it really applies beautifully to newcomers in the same way that you're training up a young adult to see like, "oh, do they have the capacity and the desire and the aptitude for taking on this position." And really trying to understand them and get to know them in the process. It's the same beautiful thing that can happen with a newcomer, whether that's somebody who's new to Orthodoxy or just new to the area. It's a really important way to think about that all the time of like when somebody new is at the parish to be looking and understanding what their gifts are, and then saying, "Okay, how do we engage them? How do we give them a place to share their gifts? Offer them ownership?" and then what happens over time is that they begin to really more strongly identify with the parish and then invest in the parish. It's a win-win. And of course, it seems really obvious but it's something we do have to talk about and encourage because most of us need help discerning who's the right fit, the timing, who's ready and who's really willing. So we kind of need to like continually be talking about engaging new people and bringing new people into certain responsibilities. And I'm thinking, everything from like serving in the altar, to the choir, to clean up, to serving meals, there are just so many different gifts. I know many stories where people like really connected over serving in the kitchen, and that's where they chose the godparents of their child.
Another thing that I've been thinking about is that for newcomers, for absolutely new to orthodoxy people, that sometimes the keys are things like, how do you even sing, or respond to "Christ is risen" in another language? Or it might be a keychain, like they realize that like other people know how to pronounce all the delicious cookies, you know like melomakarona and kourambiedes. And those are really hard polysyllabic words that people, you know, they don't know how to spell let alone say them. Those are things that we don't realize we're walking around with that capacity to say that word. Well, that's an opportunity to share and open that up so nobody feels mystified about what we're talking about, or they think "Wow, they seem to know everybody in the church, they're on a first name basis with that woman that I've only seen from afar." It's introductions are ways of passing on keys or I've noticed, knowing where things are stored. People are always asking me, Well where are the paper towels, and they ask it like with reverence. Oh you're so special because you know where the paper towels are like, you must know how to make the coffee." And they have this reverence for the person that they feel has that information and as the person with the information you're just thinking, "Of course I want to share this of course I want to bring you into the fold." In the book study, actually we had this great conversation where somebody was bringing up the story of their daughters who were middle school age, somehow, they were the ones that knew how to use the new dishwasher in the parish kitchen, and a bunch of the adults hadn't learned how to use it and it was like one of those industrial sterilizing dishwashers. What happened is these two young girls, whenever there was a cleanup party or some kind of function, they would always go seeking after these young ladies and ask them to come and run the dishwasher and instruct others on how to do it, and it gave these young girls, a really like beautiful way in to intergenerational relationships, but also it gave them like a sense of pride and purpose that they had knowledge to share. And I thought that was such a fabulous story because it's unexpected. It's such a great example of like, empowering, someone to be like both the keeper of a really special tasks, but also then the share of that task.
Hollie Benton 13:33
I really do love this keychain imagery, as you said, not all leaders, one: are aware that they hold the keys. And then number two: even if they're aware they're not always good at sharing those keys, getting people involved and trained and trusting those keys to other people. Many of us probably know of a few key hoarders. What are other attitudes around leadership as it relates to this keychain imagery?
Thomaida Hudanish 13:58
Right. So you mentioned key hoarders. They describe these people as leaders who run the show, they won't give up their keys and include others. I really think of these people as very faithful and hardworking servants. There are a lot of reasons they may not be sharing. They're not bad reasons, for example, they might feel a very grave sense of responsibility, like they know that this is a very important role that they fill and they want to do the job well. Another thing that happens is they don't think that other people are interested. For them it's a responsibility and, and maybe even a burden, in some sense, and so they don't want to presume that anyone else would want to take on that task. Or they don't even know it's their place to invite greater participation so they're just going along, assuming that somebody else will do that. And then another obstacle that I think of for them, the keyhoarder, is that they didn't necessarily sign up for training other people. They're doing their thing they're bringing their best to it, but it's not their gift to teach others. They didn't agree that they would invest time in that extra piece. So I think there's a lot of very understandable reasons why people might be key hoarders. But recognizing those reasons will help us.
And then they talked about keyless leaders, these are people without keys. And these are either inexperienced leaders who are young and it's the beginning of the journey of trying to prove their worthiness to be entrusted with keys, and trying to break into that responsibility. Or it might be older parishioners, or parishioners that for whatever reason feel like they've been sidelined and they've lost their keys and I thought that was a very interesting observation. And then finally, they talked about key loaning key loners are those people who they give out the keys but very tentatively and then they take them back if they feel someone's not trustworthy or didn't do a good job. They definitely tend to feel that to do a job, well you have to do it yourself. This makes sense as a behavior for anyone who has been let down by a not so great hand off.
Hollie Benton 16:04
It can be hard to overcome those but as you say, just even the awareness of what keys we have and why we might be clinging on to them, hoarding them, tentative to loan them out or to share them, bringing that awareness can often create some really great conversations so that we can start thinking about who are the next leaders who can we start training and getting more involved and engaged and participating in the life and responsibilities of the church. So what are some of the best examples you've encountered among keychain leaders and parishes that you're serving in your diocese, what are they doing right and how are they making an impact?
Thomaida Hudanish 16:42
Well this is a challenging area I mean it's challenging sometimes just to get in and collect those stories. As you can imagine a lot of these events, these keychain passing off events are happening in a very like intimate and quiet way and so we don't always know exactly what's happening but I will give a recent example that comes to mind. I was able to go to Roseburg, Oregon for Holy Week and Pascha this year and it was super special because it's a mission parish that doesn't have a full time priest assigned, and it was their first Holy Week and Pascha. Being able to do it in Roseburg, glory to God, because Father Martin Ritsy and presbytera Renee Ritsy came out to serve from the Orthodox Christian Mission Center and that was a huge blessing that they offered their time to come out. They've been to Holy Week other places they know what needs to happen, they made a huge list of all of the activities and to find the tasks, and the leadership definitely led that charge but what I learned over the course of the week is that every single family or household in the parish contributed, and I thought that was so powerful that this Holy Week was really a creation of their own hands. There was a young man that went out into the woods and got the crown and he made the crown of thorns out of a local thorn bush. There was another gentleman who we discovered in the course of the week that he happened to have experienced as a florist and so he helped us decorate the kouvouklion. People were making food, different people were taking turns helping with cleanup or with meals. Throughout the week, people brought eggs from their chickens, and dyed them red and contributed those. There was such a feeling through the entire week of these were offerings that really came really from the hands of the people and I was so encouraged. But the other part of it, same week, same place, is in addition to all those physical offerings, we were also seeing that the priest was encouraging us to go around to the congregation and say, "Hey, would you like to read this reading, this one's coming up next, and are you comfortable reading?" So you had the whole parish contributing the worship and offering the service together and creating that service together and I think that this is an example of prioritizing engagement over expertise. I can't even number how many times someone has shared how moved they were when they were asked to read during a service, whether they were very new to the church, or young, a young person being asked or they thought "oh no that's something the priest does and the choir does." And so so many people have shared stories about how powerful it was for them to read part of a service and to help create that moment. There are several priests that I really admire that I've seen them do that where they discern that there are certain times when it'll be more powerful to have each person present participate in reading than it will be to sing the hymns in an expert way. It's a really tough adjustment, but I think that invitation really makes an impact.
Hollie Benton 19:37
Yeah, and then all of those things the Lord is the one who provides every offering it's just the hands that are the vessels to offer unto God what he's already provided. That's really beautiful. I know in our parish, many of young adult and children get involved in the reading and it really does make an impact because the words are landing in a way that's a little bit different when it's just a passive activity and it's only the ordained reader who is doing that work. So, if people want to hear more about missions and evangelism in the Diocese of San Francisco, where can they go to find more and maybe learn a little bit more about your annual book study that you do.
Thomaida Hudanish 20:15
Sure, thank you for our website for the Missions and Evangelism Ministry of the metropolis of San Francisco. We have a website called Groworthodoxy.org. G R O W for grow and then orthodoxy.org We do try to collect different resources from different places. Currently on the homepage, you'll see that we're promoting the book study. That's something we do after passing every year so if you would like to be on the mailing list for next year's book study go ahead and click that link and you can register and you'll be on the mailing list, and when we choose our book next spring. And then we also have a really special thing that's live as well is this share your story link where you can click there and you can actually interview a friend, kind of like Storycorp style. Something about the Orthodox life or the journey and faith, there's different prompts on there to kind of help you think through what you might want to record, we really do want to collect more stories of things that have really helped people in their journey to faith or people that have helped them so I really encourage your listeners that if they have the chance, and they would like to share a story about a journey to Orthodoxy or within orthodoxy that they go to our page, groworthodoxy.org and click the "Share your story" link. And there's a bunch of other resources on our website so really encourage people to poke around and look at resources and let me know if there's something that you would like to share via the website.
Hollie Benton 21:41
Wonderful. Well thanks so much Thomaida for joining me today. It's a lovely conversation as usual and again I'm so excited to have you participate in the upcoming national conference "Generously Investing in Emerging Leaders" where keychain leadership will be one among many things that I'm sure we'll be discussing as it relates to mentoring and investing in our emerging Leaders youth and young adults in the parish and how that really creates a sense of meaning and purpose even for the seasoned leaders who are able to pour in to our young adults. And as you say in your ministry and to newcomers as well. So, thank God for your ministry.
Thomaida Hudanish 22:18
Thank you, you too. I look forward to the conference.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai