Lisa Slayton, former CEO of the Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation, has joined Denver Institute to help expand the 5280 Fellowship to new cities. The 5280 Fellowship is a nine month intensive program in spiritual formation, professional development, and civic leadership for early to mid-career professionals. The new initiative will be called CityGate, the Old Testament center for city life, including commerce, public affairs, and civic leadership.
After more than 20 years in sales, marketing, and senior management roles in the private sector, Lisa joined the Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation in 2005 to direct the organization’s leadership development program. With a focus on the common good of the city, biblical principles of spiritual formation and leadership, and the creation of a long-lasting community, Lisa and her colleagues developed a program to sustain positive organizational change from the inside out.
“Leadership begins with who you are, not what you do,” Lisa shared recently. “A lot of leaders build their identity around their job and the work that they do every day. We wanted to deconstruct that for them and help them understand what it means to have an identity rooted in who God made you to be as an image bearer, and how you bring that fully into the place where you spend 50, 60, or even 70 hours a week.”
After testing the core competencies of the program with different formats and participants, Lisa began working with Christians in the business and nonprofit community who wanted more out of their work. “We built a cohort-type program for leaders across the city of Pittsburgh who loved Jesus, who wanted to better understand how to live out their faith in a holistic way in the work that they did every day, and who were not finding the right kinds of communities for them to work that out,” Lisa said. “We wanted to create the conditions for real transformation to occur.”
While Lisa was working to create transformation in business leaders and their organizations across Pittsburgh, she was also working through her own transformation. Though an active member in her local church, Lisa felt a disconnect between church on Sundays and the places where she spent her working time throughout the week.
“The goals of the local church seemed to be to assimilate me into the life of the church and the programs of the church and not the places outside of the church where I had influence,” Lisa shared. “People spend a ton of time in their workplaces, so I went on a mission to learn more about the ways to support that.”
The first resource she stumbled on was a sermon from Tim Keller. “The message was talking about God's mission in the world and what an important part our work played in that,” Lisa shared. That sermon led her to writers and thinkers like Os Guiness, Ray Bakke, Paul Stevens, Steve Garber, and, eventually, Katherine Leary Alsdorf, who was starting the Center for Faith & Work at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York in the early 2000s. “I felt like what the Center for Faith and Work was doing was at the front end in the life of the city, because it had this city orientation to it, it was connected to a church and it cared deeply about people's work and vocational lives,” Lisa explained.
In light of both her own learning and her work in leadership development, Lisa wondered “What does it really take to disciple someone vocationally at the identity level?” This calling to vocational discipleship led Lisa to start Tamim Partners after leaving the Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation in 2018, where she continues to consult and coach business leaders on issues of identity, spiritual formation, and vocational discipleship.
“If leadership begins with who you are, then you have to do the deeper work around your own identity in Christ, and how you steward that,” Lisa shared. “The primary resource God has given us to steward is not what we have in our pockets, it's who He made us to be, and we suck at stewarding that. So how do we help people steward that more effectively? Helping people to find their lane vocationally is really important.”
Today, Lisa is using that background of helping people find their “vocational lane” by joining Denver Institute as the organization equips other leaders to begin Fellowship programs in their cities. “We’re really excited about sharing the expertise we’ve built running the 5280 Fellowship for 5 years with other city leaders,” said Jeff Haanen, founder and executive director of Denver Institute. “We believe this initiative could have a transformative impact on cities across Colorado and the U.S.”
“I want this Fellowship program to be everywhere, and there are like-minded organizations out there that are doing very good things,” Lisa explained. “We need to find those organizations and partner with them.”
“DIFW has created a transformational experience with the 5280 Fellowship,” Lisa said recently. “Part of the fun of thinking about expanding the Fellowship is living in the tension of what's core to what we do and what we're offering to others to contextualize in their own cities.”
As the team begins the work of expanding the Fellowship to new markets and customizing the program to local needs, Lisa is careful to remember what has made the 5280 Fellowship successful for the past four years: forming Christians to serve God, neighbor, and society through their work.
“These kinds of programs are seeding people back into their workplaces not only with good theology, but with transformed lives to say, ‘I have a call to this. Part of my calling as a follower of Jesus is to live this out in whatever my small corner is,’” Lisa shared. “You're not going to come out of it on the other side the same as you went in.”
Dustin previously served as the director of communications for Denver Institute of Faith & Work, with prior communications and marketing experience at the University of Colorado Boulder and Wycliffe Bible Translators. He holds an M.A. in Communication from the University of Colorado Denver and a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Florida. He and his family attend Storyline Church in Arvada.