New leadership development director brings wealth of church, consulting experience

October 25, 2016
Jody Thone in Stillwater, where she lives.

By: Christa Meland

Jody Thone, who has extensive experience designing and managing leadership development systems within the church, has been selected as the Minnesota Conference’s director of leadership development—a new position.

Thone, who will join the conference Nov. 1, describes her leadership style as “creative, collaborative, and empowering”—and she says she looks forward to working with Minnesota United Methodists.

“I’m passionate about the opportunity both for lay leaders and clergy to really look at stepping into who they are and how they can make a difference by unleashing their potential,” she said. “Sometimes that involves giving permission, sometimes it’s setting expectations, sometimes it’s making other shifts…Cultivating spiritual leadership is about recognizing that we’re all spiritual leaders and ordaining everyone in their own way.”

Thone will be responsible for creating and delivering a comprehensive system of leadership development from recruitment to deployment—and increasing the number of potential candidates for ministry by enhancing the culture of call within churches, building a robust leadership track through the conference camping program, and expanding the ELI Project internship program. She will also oversee the Clergy Leadership Academy and clergy peer groups, and she’ll help design and deliver the conference’s transformational processes (the Healthy Church Initiative and the Missional Church Consultation Initiative).

“Jody brings a wealth of gifts and experience,” said Director of Ministries Cindy Gregorson. “She has worked in the corporate world and as an executive coach. She brings experience working on lay leadership development and mobilization in a large-membership church. She is a designer of systems and an astute listener who is deeply grounded spiritually. We believe Jody coming on our staff is an answer to prayer and know we are blessed to have her level of talent and experience on our team.”

For the past year and a half, the Minnesota Conference has been working with the Financial Advisory Consulting Team (FACT) to gain a holistic financial picture and to learn about specific steps to take in an effort to achieve vitality and sustainability. The FACT report named effective leadership recruitment and development as a key recommendation—and developing missional leaders is also one of the four missional pathways in our Journey Toward Vitality strategic plan. With the hiring of Thone, the conference is now fully staffed toward its plan.

Vast experience

Jody Thone (second from right) with her family in the BWCA.

For the past four years, Thone has been a self-employed leadership consultant. She’s coached churches, leaders, and nonprofits from across the Midwest, and her clients have included Wilderness Inquiry and The Ann Bancroft Foundation. She also designed and facilitated a community leadership development program for the New Richmond Area Community Foundation; a diverse group of leaders from across the Wisconsin city came together to develop a shared vision that eventually led to results ranging from the creation of a dog park to community literacy campaigns.

Thone has extensive leadership experience at her own 4,000-person congregation—Trinity Lutheran (ELCA) in Stillwater—where she co-led the organization during two pastoral transitions. She also designed and led “On Purpose Ministries,” a comprehensive lay leadership development process through which people of all ages found and claimed their unique gifts and explored how they’re called to use those gifts to make a difference in the world. Another program she co-designed, “Building Your Personal Theology,” helped church members explore and articulate their faith.

Thone’s other previous positions have included vice president at LeaderSource, a leadership development consulting company, and human resource manager at the St. Paul Companies, an insurance business now known as The Travelers Companies. In her free time, Thone leads TEDxStillwater, which organizes independent TED Talks events.

Thone has been trained in facilitating the StrengthsFinder assessment, the Enneagram personality-typing system, and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality assessment. She sees these as important tools in helping people discover their gifts.

Looking ahead

Thone said her first task will be learning about the core leadership programs that already exist within the conference—including the ELI Project, the Clergy Leadership Academy, and Soul Leaders. After getting a sense for these cornerstone pieces, she will do some listening with various stakeholders to find out what’s working well, what they dream of, and what the current challenges are. Sketching a whole new system will involve lots of collaboration, she said.

Ultimately, she wants to build a system that creates alignment across all of the leadership development programs and processes—existing ones and new ones that she’ll design. She’ll be looking for some short-term wins as she works on a long-term plan.

“My hope is that we raise up the next generation of leaders and have vibrant leaders all over—that we have a treasure trove of leaders that are on fire and unleashed around the state,” she said.

Family: Married and has two adult children and two adult step-children
Pets: English cream golden retriever named Kinnickinnic (her dogs are always named after bodies of water)
Hobbies: Kayaking, gardening, spending time outdoors (she loves the Boundary Waters and national parks), and painting.
Favorite Bible verses:  1 Corinthians 13 and Ephesians 4
How colleagues describe her: Peaceful soul leader, wise, passionate, deep, big heart, creative, artistic
Next book she plans to read: The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation by Richard Rohr
Favorite movies: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, The Mission, and Spotlight
Something most people don’t know: She sold cars right after college.
Favorite types of food: Indian and Thai
Favorite trip: Attending a TED Global event in Geneva, Switzerland

Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

122 West Franklin Avenue, Suite 400 Minneapolis, MN 55404

(612) 870-0058