Organizing Terminology: Leadership Training

By Lynn Buske, JONAH Organizer

Many of our followers, no matter how long they’ve been part of JONAH, aren’t familiar with our

organizing techniques and terminology simply because we don’t talk about them enough. A new

addition to our JONAH Journal will be short snippets to help you understand more about our

organizing model.

Hopefully you know that JONAH offers leadership training. But what is it and who is it

for? Those answers might not be so clear. This article is to help you! This is a good time to talk about training, because:

  • JONAH is offering a training locally July 30 on Building Relationships Through 1-to-1s
  • WISDOM will offer another 5-week series late this summer (Thursdays Aug 25-Sept 22 – email [email protected] to participate) 
  • Gamaliel’s next Weeklong is in JUNE in Mundelein, IL – which is within driving distance from us! 

I was hired as the Organizer for JONAH in March of 2018. Before I started, I had no idea what

organizing was or if I could do it. I was invited to attend Gamaliel training right away in March,

but my family and I couldn’t figure out how to make that work so quickly, and honestly, I wasn’t


I didn’t get to training until June of that year. So from March to June, I was given a quick 1-on-1 tutorial and set off to figure out organizing without tools. I can say that attending weeklong training changed everything for the better. And I remember thinking afterwards, “Man this would have been easier had I understood a lot of this sooner.”

I could talk here about what it was like to immerse myself in the material, away

from home, with others, and have that ability to focus on myself and my own barriers to power,

but, although it is open to everyone, weeklong training is not the most common way people encounter our material. I love the training material more and more, and more deeply understand it each time I look at it. I didn’t know right away if I was going to offer it confidently, but I knew it was impacting me. And that the more I gave myself to it and practiced it – the more it made


Hopefully all of you will at least consider accessing our training materials. The content itself doesn’t change (much), and no matter how you get your hands on it I encourage to you to get it and soak up what is meaningful for you. Please reach out to me for more information.

Our leadership material is a new way of thinking. The methods contain a lot of new ways of thinking – because that is what we are creating with it! Something different!

The following is what I learned my first go around with the material:

  • These were things/tools/ideas I had never known I needed because we just don’t typically talk in this way in society.
  • I was holding myself back from doing more in the community. And that could change.
  • Community, relationship was missing in my life. I am so grateful for how our organizing style has created those as the foundation of my life.
  • Being a loving person also means stepping into uncomfortable circumstances.
  • There exist actual useful tools to getting people or a community to do things differently.
  • It is important for me to be clear about what I want. I had never asked myself that, and it can be a very hard question to ask oneself. 
  • It is also important to allow myself to get something out of giving back.
  • Everyone has the capacity to be a leader, not just the ones who naturally lead. And that real leadership is not what many of us initially think.

Since that June, I have led several local trainings, gone back to weeklong, and assisted in Wisdom trainings. And I have expanded our local material a bit through collaboration with others who have taken the training.

What it continues to teach me is:

  • Shared leadership is a practice and is more important in building power than almost any other tool we have and is a more valuable goal – because it is a vital step to get to the other goals.
  • Returning to review the material, because it is outside of the normal ways of doing things out in the world, continues to be key – no matter how many times I’ve taken a 1-to-1 training, I always need to revisit it and when I do, I get something new out of it.
  • This material is as much about personal growth as it is about team growth and community growth.
  • I can either let my life happen to me or be conscious of what I’m putting out and doing and make it mine. That is part of Power. I can choose not to decide how I want power and just keep being helpful, or I can determine what I want to give and receive from the world.

I sum up my training story in this way: I know God blew the winds of my life in the

direction of JONAH, and part of that is because I needed this training material in my life.

And I am grateful for getting the training so I can help steer this ship and encourage others

to make a difference. Returning to the content of the training regularly is useful. There is

nothing wrong with needing some input from outside myself to think more clearly and have more capacity to act. It doesn’t mean I wasn’t valuable before, it just means I can make a bigger splash in the World. 

Lastly, I share some stories of JONAH folks who have received the Leadership Training.

“As a member of the Isaiah clergy group in the Twin Cities during my seminary days, I

availed myself of an opportunity to participate in a Gamaliel weeklong training session in San Diego. This was a formative and life-changing week for me. The training I received changed the way that I view God’s justice work in the world and my participation in that effort. It also provided me with the tools needed to learn how that work may fit into the lives of others and ways to encourage them to join in God’s efforts in our community.” – Patrick Patterson, Pastor at Trinity Lutheran

“One of the high points of my life was my participation in a week-long Gamaliel Leadership Training. I was new to social justice activism in the public sphere, so the experience was quite intense. However, what I learned there was worth all the effort. I now view power as an expansive, positive force that everyone has and can use. I awakened to beliefs that held me in a state of powerlessness. I now understand on a gut level the value of creating one-on-one relationships, identifying my own values and self-interest and that of others in order to find the common ground necessary to base effective and long-lasting community and social change. I know in my heart that we must work together in community. Social justice is work that no one person can do alone. I now see money as a tool to transform our values into the kind of society and world that we envision, and fund-raising as a way to put our treasure where our heart is. During the week-long training I was challenged to come out of myself and engage with others in

ways that I would never have thought I could do. But I did it! Like Jacob in the book of Genesis, I wrestled with the angel of God; I prevailed and was blessed with a new understanding of the world and my fellow human beings. I saw everything with new eyes. In a way I experienced a rebirth. That experience remains with me to this day and fuels my commitment and efforts to work for social justice in our local community and beyond.” – Martha Nieman, County Board Supervisor

“Impactful, empowering, and effective are just a few of the words that I have to describe a JONAH leadership training. From the professional and affective instructors of the state

(WISDOM) and local (JONAH) levels to the diverse and passionate attendees, a JONAH

leadership training is a powerful event. I have benefitted in all aspects of my personal and community relationships thanks to a JONAH training. One of the biggest benefits is learning how to be a better listener. Other takeaways from a JONAH training are discovering what “our individual stories” are; our commonalities, our self-interests, and what we are passionate about. These are just a few ways that a JONAH training has impacted my life. – Ray Koch, Board Member from Immanuel Lutheran

“One Sunday, speaking from the pulpit, I said, “We are all leaders.” One person from the congregation shouted out—“We’re not all leaders.” I responded—“We are all leaders; some of us just don’t know it yet.” That comment was included in a book written by Greg Raleigh, DON’T FORGET TO REMEMBER. That belief came to me from an exercise I was led through in the late 1980’s where we were to list 10 things; roles, attitudes,, things—we were NOT. The first item on my list—and it came fast—was “leader” (I was not a leader). It was a belief I held much like the congregant who shouted that out 25 years later. Of course, in my case, later education and life path experiences found me 25 years later in a leadership role in my church—a role I held for 13 years at Unity Christ Center in Eau Claire. The belief I was a leader has been validated by my own history (or her story). JONAH is about developing leaders.” – Sandra McKinney, Retired Unity Pastor and JONAH Past-President