The Lakelands Institute is a team of visionary worship leaders, pastors, online content creators, videographers, and community builders who come together to offer our wisdom, experience, and practical know-how to church leaders who are ready to help guide the church through the transitions taking place.
Rev. Steven D. Martin
Rev. Steven D. Martin has served United Methodist Churches as pastor for twenty years and is a graduate of Candler School of Theology. He brings his expertise in theology, the intersection of faith and politics, and media production to bear upon today’s most challenging problems.
He has produced several films for public television; his writing has appeared in America’s top national media outlets including the Washington Post and USA Today. Steven has served as the Director of Communications and Development for the National Council of Churches in Washington, DC. He speaks frequently at churches, seminaries, and conventions across the US.
In 2007 Rev. Martin was honored at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum for his work with “Theologians Under Hitler.” Steven worked with the Obama Administration on an important policy and social media campaign, “Know Your Neighbor,” aimed at reducing religious-based bigotry in the US. Steven serves as the secretary of the Board of Governors for the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute, the advisory board for Shoulder-to-Shoulder, and is a member of the National Press Club.
- Strategic communications
- Media training
- Social media strategies
- Digital ministry
- Press conferences & engagement
Instructor and Coach
Rev. Annette Flynn
Rev. Annette Flynn holds her ACC Coach Certification from the International Coach Federation (ICF) and is an Organization Development (OD) Practitioner, specializing in training clergy to lead planned change. She is an active change agent and is an ordained clergy in the Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church.
In addition to her work as a Coach and OD consultant, Annette has been a pastor of churches for over 20 years. She also served as the Director for the Wesley Institute (Knoxville, TN), where she led a start-up to deliver a regional continuing education program. Annette has designed and delivered several of the education events including the design, execution and facilitation of the Innovative Leaders Forum, and a regional learning event for clergy.
Annette received her Master of Science in Organization Development from Pepperdine University (Malibu, CA); and, her Master of Divinity from Duke University’s Divinity School (Durham, NC). Her Bachelor of Arts in Economics is from Hobart & William Smith College (Geneva, NY).
Consultant and Instructor
Rev. Neal Christie
Neal is a seasoned non-profit leader, faith-based strategic actor, experienced social justice trainer, and facilitator. He is an expert in building cross-cultural and multi-ethnic relationships for social change and civic engagement.
Rev. Neal Christie served as Assistant General Secretary for Special Projects, Assistant General Secretary for Education and Leadership Formation, and as Director with the Seminar Program on National and International Affairs with the General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church. Church and Society is the international social justice and public policy agency of the United Methodist Church with offices on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC and at the United Nations in New York City.
Neal’s parents immigrated from India and Pakistan.
Neal is an ordained Elder in the Greater New Jersey Conference of the United Methodist Church and served as a local church pastor in rural and urban settings. He has served as a hospital trauma chaplain at Robert Woods Johnson Medical Center and as an educator/facilitator designing workshops and trainings on issues addressed in the United Methodist Social Principles.
His work has included building relationships in countries across Africa, Philippines, Eurasia, Northern Europe, as well the United States. Neal has a passion for prevention of violence and building cross-cultural and interfaith dialogue. He was the lead staff person for the global revision of the UM Social Principles (2012-2020) and the UM Social Creed (2004-2008). His work includes resourcing and advising the racial and ethnic caucuses of the church, and mentoring theological and university students.
Neal has authored several books and articles on United Methodist social teaching.
Neal serves on the boards of the American University Chaplaincy, the Native American International Caucus, and as an advisor to the New Federation of Asian American United Methodists. Previously he served as Vice President of the Yale University Divinity School Alumni Board, and on the boards of the Just Peace Center for Mediation and Conflict Resolution, and the National Plan for Hispanic and Latino Ministries.
Neal studied philosophy at Columbia University, holds degrees from the New School for Social Research, Yale university Divinity School, Princeton Theological Seminary and has pursued additional graduate work at the American University, School of International Service and Wesley Theological Seminary.
Neal lives in Washington, DC and is married to Lois Clinton, a clinical social worker in private practice and their two children, Calia and Kai. Together they attend the Dumbarton United Methodist Church, the mother church of United Methodism in Washington, DC.
Examples of Neal’s work:
- “Reclaiming and Living Covenant, A Lenten Experience of Scripture, UMC Social Principles and Antiracist Action to Build Beloved Community”, January 21, 2021 Baltimore Washington Conference, United Methodist Church.
- “May is Mental Health Awareness Month—The Church Should Lead the Way”, May 28, 2020 Faith in Action, Church and Society, United Methodist Church.
- “Domestic Violence Awareness Month Around the World: Moscow, Russia”, October 31, 2019, Faith in Action, Church and Society, United Methodist Church.
Instructor and Coach
Rev. Jake Morrill
Since 2003, Jake Morrill has served as Lead Minister of the Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee; he’s also the Executive Director of the UU Christian Fellowship and now joins the team at the Lakelands Institute.
A former Chaplain in the U.S. Army Reserve, he has served on numerous non-profit boards, with a particular interest in fundraising. A long-time student of Bowen Family Systems Theory, he studied for six years in the Post-Graduate Program at The Bowen Center for the Study of the Family (Georgetown, DC) and serves on the Faculty of the Bowen Theory Education Center (Chattanooga).
Licensed as a Marital and Family Therapist, his coaching practice focuses on high-performing leaders who seek greater ease and impact; his organizational and congregational consulting aims at helping chart a new course amidst turbulent times. He’s the author of The Christian Art of Forgiveness and a forthcoming book of devotions for Christian couples, both from Rockridge Press, as well as two works of fiction.
He holds degrees from Harvard Divinity School and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He and his wife, Molly, are the proud parents of two teens. To explore a coaching or consulting relationship, leaders can book time to talk at www.jakemorrill.com.
After leading organizations to improve cities for more than three decades, Rick has focused on leading faith-based organizations for the past four years. Most recently he served as Executive Director of A Future With Hope, leading real-estate repurposing projects, connecting congregations to communities, and directing pandemic relief for the United Methodists of Greater New Jersey. He previously was Chief Administrative Officer for the UMC’s General Board of Church and Society, the church’s social-justice agency headquartered in its renowned headquarters building across the street from the Supreme Court and U.S. Capitol.
For 30 years, Rick led business improvement districts and other economic- and community-development organizations throughout North America and the United Kingdom, including Central Richmond Association, Buffalo Place Inc., Central Atlanta Progress, the Downtown DC Business Improvement District DC, and Ilex Urban Regeneration Company in Derry~Londonderry, Northern Ireland. He earned a reputation as a leader in how public-private partnerships can improve Downtowns and other commercial areas. Many of the initiatives Rick began in these cities continue to bear fruit today.
He served as chief of staff to the Mayor of Buffalo, instituting the Downtown and Neighborhood Summit process for community revitalizing and initiating a successful initiative to improve the City Charter for the first time in more than 50 years. As consultant to the Mayor, he created the transformative Buffalo-Niagara Medical Campus, the Number One economic-development initiative in Western New York, today responsible for more than $750 million in public and private funding on a 120-acre inner-city campus.
Rick was chief operating officer of a Toronto-based, private-sector, real-estate development corporation. He initiated the Public Infrastructure Initiative at the Urban Land Institute.
He began his career covering political-corruption probes and murder trials as a newspaper reporter in his hometown of Syracuse.
As adjunct faculty member, Rick has taught urban planning and public policy at five major research universities: University at Buffalo, Emory University, Georgia State University, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Tech, and the University of Ulster (Northern Ireland). He co-founded the Urban Design Project at the University at Buffalo, now part of the university’s Regional Institute.
Rick has participated on 20 advisory services panels for the Urban Land Institute, American Institute of Architects, and International Downtown Association, from Staten Island to Lubbock, Texas, to Manhattan Beach, California, to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from the College of William and Mary and a Master’s Degree in Business and Public Management from Rice University. He served for an academic year as a mid-career Loeb Fellow in Advanced Environmental Studies at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. He has completed the Strategic Perspectives in Non-profit Management course at the Harvard Business School and the Executive Program for Nonprofit Leaders at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
Rick and his family live in Rockville, Maryland, just outside Washington DC.
Rev. Brandan Robertson
Brandan Robertson is a noted author, activist, and theologian, working at the intersections of spirituality and social renewal.
A prolific writer, he is the author or contributing author to twelve books on spirituality, justice, and theology. He writes regularly for Patheos, and has bylines in TIME Magazine, San Diego Union Tribune, The Huffington Post, NBC, and The Washington Post. As a trusted voice on progressive faith and politics, Robertson is a regular commentator in national and global media outlets including National Public Radio, The Independent UK, The New York Times, and POLITICO.
Each year, Robertson speaks to thousands of people across the globe and has been an honored speaker at renowned institutions such as The White House, Oxford University, and The Parliament of the World’s Religions. He has taught seminars for San Francisco Theological Seminary, Disciples Seminary Foundation, and is a facilitator with Auburn Seminary. He is also a founding member of The Union of Affirming Christians, and has served on advisory committees for the Democratic National Convention, the U.S. Department of State, and The Humane Society. Robertson also currently serves as a fellow at the Salzburg Global Seminar.
Named by the Human Rights Campaign as one of the top faith-leaders leading the fight for human rights, Robertson has worked with political and social leaders around the world to end conversion therapy and promote LGBT+ rights. He has worked as a national organizer of people of faith on a wide array of social and political issues for respected organizations such as Interfaith Alliance of Colorado and Faith In Public Life, and is a respected convener of religious leaders from across the social and political spectrum. Most recently, Robertson served as the Lead Pastor of Missiongathering Christian Church in San Diego, CA from 2017-2021.
Robertson received his B.A. in Pastoral Ministry and Theology from Moody Bible Institute, his Masters of Theological Studies from Iliff School of Theology, and is completing his Masters in Political Science at Eastern Illinois University. He currently resides in Washington, D.C.
On March 12, 2020, I was in the offices of the National Council of Churches when things started to fall like dominoes. Conventions, meetings, sporting events, entertainment, all the things we built our lives around closed up. Churches closed too. It was a day of confusion and uncertainty, and we all seemed to know that things were going to be very different going forward.
What has emerged in the months following this date is a consensus that the pandemic sped up trends that have been in the works for more than fifty years. The church is in a wilderness, and with all wildernesses, a promised land awaits. But it’s very difficult to see it when you’re hungry, thirsty, and surrounded by those who long for the “good ole days.”
I’ve heard the same thing everywhere: “I’m weary,” and, “When I went to seminary I did not sign up to be a television producer!” We may long for the day when everything will go back to the way it was before March 12, but it’s becoming clearer every day: online ministry is here to stay, and if we don’t get on board, the ship will sail without us. It doesn’t, however, have to wear us out, and we’re here to help you work smarter, not harder.
Because we know church leaders enjoy learning with peers, we’ve created a social network here to help connect. Our courses are designed to be worked through in conversation with others: find thought partners to learn with either by doing our courses with colleagues or find some new ones here.
So please take a look around and see if you can find the help you need. New team members, courses, and other features are being added regularly. Let us know what we can do to improve.
-Rev. Steven D. Martin, Founder