Column Entry, “Faithful Focus on Shalom,” by Chris Hamstra

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Column Title: Leadership Life Stories: Communicating and Leading through Your Story

Column Entry: “Faithful Focus on Shalom”

By Chris Hamstra, PhD, Davenport University

Description: There is a power when people come together to share stories. As people of faith, the practice and process of storytelling helps us understand ourselves, our communities, and our organizations. When combined with leadership, stories provide examples of how to serve authentically. This column brings people around the virtual campfire to explore the concept of leadership life stories and how to learn to engage people in the classroom and boardroom with wit and wisdom.

May 2024 |April 2024 | March 2024


Faithful Focus on Shalom

I’m finishing up my academic year and reflecting on the highs and lows. With many of my first-year learners still reeling as COVID causalities, I’m struck by the new normal as a faithful communicator.

A memory I continue to reflect on are two students who sat just feet away from each other, yet never talked face-to-face. At the beginning of the semester, I pair individuals up to interview and develop a short Introduction speech about their partner. Over the next three class periods they “learned” about each other by thumbing text messages and reviewing social media posts. Not once during the development of the presentation did, they face each other and talk; even though they were just an arm length away.

As I reflect on this situation and read through the end of the year Student Evaluations, I’m challenged to consider my role in the learning environment specifically around our call to shalom. My hope in this column is to provide a space, hopefully a breath of shalom, to think about faithful communication in our leadership life stories.

Faithful Communicators – Embracing Shalom

Let me be honest for a few seconds. I’m tired. A faculty colleague of mine posted earlier that she is “just weary.” I see the changing personal reality of students who hurt in so many ways. I heard a speech this semester of an individual rejected by his family, couch surfing from one house to the next and finally finding some stability in college because of consistent food in the dining hall.

I’m anxious about my professional reality in the shifting landscape of higher education. Last week, I cleaned out my office, again, because of rumors about another “involuntary layoff.” My walk to the car on the last day of classes with a paper box full of folders is now routine for me. While I try to stay true to the shalom found in Christ, there are times I lose focus.

Shalom – A Staring Point

Shalom are the moments of life that we get a taste and feel of the perfect goodness of heaven. At the core of leadership life stories are the opportunities to engage in the good and challenging moments of life that then point us back to the redeeming work of Jesus Christ. These moments surround us, if we only look for them. For example, last week we had a surprise rain storm. Seeing the lightening crack across the sky, hearing the thunder and then smelling the rain was a small moment of heaven for me.

Shalom is the reason that we engage others to hear and share moments of leadership. I’m deep in the editing process on a book about leadership life stories. I write in the book that we live in a world that daily seems to break us down and tear us away from the relationships that are important. Shalom provides the moments in leadership that we see and can point others to the goodness of Jesus Christ. Lisa Sharon Harper in her book The Very Good Gospel breaks down the different aspects of shalom and concludes that “There is more than the brokenness, the destruction, and the despair that threaten to wash over us like the waters of the deep. There is a vision of a world where God cuts through the chaos, where God speaks and there is light” (205)[i]

Walter Brueggemann separates shalom into two aspects. Starting from the book of Ezekiel, he suggests that shalom can be a cry out for deliverance. As individuals, we share in this shalom when we search for the help and hope of the perfect goodness of heaven (28). The second idea of shalom appears to be an opposite understanding. This sense of shalom is solid, a faith and confidence of the good to come even though it is not here yet. Brueggemann says: “The focus is not an urgent petition for instruction into human affairs, but a settled, serene affirmation about the way the world is ordered”[ii] (31). Leadership life stories share these moments of crying out. Leadership life stories also proclaim the moments of solid confidence and perfect unity of heaven.

Shalom – Your Action Steps

Let me encourage you to take a moment to take a breath and reflect on your leadership life stories in the classroom or boardroom.

What is one moment where you experienced the desperate call of shalom for help? One of my final classes this semester a freshman student announced an unexpected pregnancy. Before she left class, we got her connected to the resources. I said a quick prayer for her health and next steps. As a leader in the classroom this was a desperate call for help in a broken world. I do believe in the power of prayer and my hope is that she is able to see the light of heaven in a tough time.

What is a moment that you observed a solid affirmation of the goodness of shalom to come? I love working with the student-athletes in class. There is a beauty watching the athletics and academics come together. This semester I watched a group of six football players from different backgrounds and personalities come together around the common value of the brotherhood in their speeches. To me, this was a small taste of the community to come.

Over the next few columns, I will continue to share different aspects of faithful communication through leadership life stories. Now more than ever, I believe it is our responsibility to encourage sharing and listening to stories from the online and in person classroom experiences. Each interaction provides a wonderful opportunity to point back to the shalom found in the perfect goodness found through Jesus Christ.



[i] Lisa Sharon Harper. The Very Good Gospel: How Everything Wrong Can Be Made Right. (New York: Waterbrook Press).

[ii] Walter Brueggemann. Living Towards A Vision: Biblical Reflections of Shalom. (Philadelphia: United Church Press).


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