Act Courageously: Our Core Values at Work

The next five CEO Blogs written by Curt Stutzman will focus on our core values. The first installment in this series addresses the core value described as “Act Courageously.”

Have you ever had to make a decision that you believed was right, but you knew it was not going to be well received by many? That is certainly not a comfortable activity, but is one that leaders responsible for organizational health sometimes need to make. Often, an unpopular action in the short term can yield positive results for the organization in the long term. Still, these decisions are very difficult and require the courage to take risks that many others, without all the background and perspectives that the leader has, will not understand. I recently made a decision like this, so I have first-hand experience in uncomfortable reactions from well-meaning stakeholders. I found myself consistently going back over my decision and then verifying that the process I used was appropriate and the decision, though difficult and unpopular, was right for the long term mission & health of the Messiah Lifeways.

In the devotional book, Bread for the Journey, Henri Nouwen writes “Courage is a spiritual virtue. The word courage comes from the Latin word cor, which means ‘heart.’ A courageous act is an act coming from the heart. The heart, however, is not just the place our emotions are located. The heart is the center of our being, the center of all thoughts, feelings, passions, and decisions. A courageous life, therefore, is a life lived from the center. It is a deeply rooted life, the opposite of a superficial life. ‘Have courage’ therefore means ‘Let your center speak’.”

In this way, to Act Courageously means responding from the core of our being, from a heartfelt sense of what is the right thing to do, regardless of what others may think, because it is the best decision for all in the long term. In Messiah Lifeways’ Core Values document, we show an icon of a turtle whose neck is stretched forward. We often show this icon with the caption, “Behold the turtle: He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out.” (James Bryant Conant). Other attributes of one who demonstrates this core value are shown in the list below.


  1. Strives to do one’s best and serve as an example to others
  2. Tries new approaches and remains positive during times of change
  3. Finds ways to overcome obstacles to quality, service, productivity and/or teamwork
  4. Seeks and takes advantage of opportunities to learn and improve
  5. Consistently chooses to do the right thing and demonstrate ethical behavior

Regardless of how you choose to act courageously, think beyond any short term discomfort you may experience. When done for the right purposes and from the heart, long lasting values will result. Remember to “let your center speak.”

Labor Day 2017 Musings

The Labor Day holiday has had special significance to me all my life—I was born on Labor Day!  It’s considered one of the major holidays in the U.S., and is considered by many to be the unofficial end to the summer season.  The holiday was established in great part to recognize the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws and well-being of the country.  This year, I am especially appreciative of the work being done for the benefit of the older adults who are part of the Messiah Lifeways family.  Very recently, we opened two new nursing neighborhoods (Engle and Greenwood) in one of the buildings just constructed on our Messiah Village campus.  Here are some of my observations during the two days that residents moved into their new homes.  It is encouraging to see our team working together across departmental lines.

  • A gifted Certified Nursing Assistant bending down to speak words of comfort and encouragement to a resident anxiously waiting to get on the elevator to his new home.
  • Environmental Services team members moving furnishings and personal effects to new resident rooms to provide a sense of familiarity.
  • A Pastoral Ministries team member lovingly decorating with personal items so a new room will immediately feel like home.
  • A nurse emotionally sharing about the positive ways residents and family members were able to interact in the new dining rooms in the Engle neighborhood.
  • A laundry team member helping fill in for an open Security position overnight, because of his commitment to service and the team.
  • A Construction Services team member dusting shelves following a minor installation project.
  • An Information Technology team member working after hours to make certain systems were functioning in the new neighborhoods
  • An Enhanced Living leader pitching in to help move resident furnishings.
  • Campus Services members working to balance air temperatures in common areas and rooms to the comfort of our residents.
  • Members of the Organizational Council volunteering to do final walk-throughs of new apartments, assuring that everything was working well.

I’m greatly encouraged when people come together from various backgrounds to work toward a common purpose.  There is an intrinsic benefit we receive when giving of ourselves to help others, expecting nothing in return.  It is a sense of warmth and satisfaction and “rightness” in knowing that what we are doing helps another in need.  Certainly, we need more of this kind of behavior in the world today.  At Messiah Lifeways, our mission statement says that we “responsibly enhance the lives of older adults with Christ-like love.”  Regardless of your faith perspective, the concept of Christ-like love carries with it the expression of heartfelt and others-centered compassion.  I’ve been reading some of the writings of author and theologian Henri Nouwen recently.  In A Spirituality of Caregiving, he writes that the words of Jesus call us to “Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate” (Luke 6:36), and that this “is offered in the deep conviction that through compassion we grow to fullness as God’s beloved children” (p 29).  Let’s all commit to living lives of compassion in this mixed up world today.  It starts with doing simple acts of service for others like are expressed in the stories above.  In doing so, we can make each day our “Labor Day” of love.


Welcoming New Neighbors

I have great neighbors!  Almost four years ago, Kathy and I moved into a home in a quiet cul-de-sac in a planned residential development near Messiah Lifeways at Messiah Village in Mechanicsburg.  It was not long before we were visited by almost everyone around us to welcome us to the community.  Since that time, we have developed friendships of various types, learning the names and daily habits of these folks, since we interact regularly as we come and go, and as we work and play around our homes.  For several winters, when the snow blows and piles on our driveway and sidewalks, there are neighbors with snowblowers who come help clear us out.  I am especially appreciative of this given that I am often at work during these times, and Kathy is left to snow removal duties.  What a blessing!

Messiah Lifeways President & CEO, Curt Ctutzman and wife Kathy

I believe that community life is important.  John Donne wrote, “No man is an island.”  Lord Tennyson said, “I am a part of all that I have met.”  Dr. Patch Adams shares that “We can never get a re-creation of community and heal our society without giving our citizens a sense of belonging.”  This is a major reason that I think it’s so beneficial to live in a Life Plan Community like Messiah Village or an active adult community like Mount Joy Country Homes.  Participation in the life of the community and being good neighbors helps build relationships and move our perspective beyond ourselves alone.  Inviting others into relationship with us not only gives us new acquaintances, it also builds community.  And that can be a very good thing.

In several months here at Messiah Village, we will begin to invite new neighbors to join our friendly community.  We will have opportunities to welcome our new neighbors, learn about them as they learn about us, and share our lives with each other in meaningful ways.  I invite you to join in reaching out to draw our new friends into our circle.  If you are reading this blog as one of our new neighbors, I welcome you to engage wholeheartedly into life as part of our community, at whatever level you feel is appropriate.  We’re glad you’re coming!  Blessings to all of you as you make this transition.

The Emily Post Institute, Inc. has written a great blog about tips for welcoming new neighbors.  Feel free to click here to read more if you’re interested!


The Times They Are a-Changin’

Back in the turbulent 1960’s, folksy troubadour and recent Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan wrote a song entitled “The Times They are a-Changin’.” While Mr. Dylan wasn’t referring to the scope of services available for older adults, this thought holds true for Messiah Lifeways as well. Construction is in full swing on the Messiah Village campus as we enter the autumn season.

VSQ renderingWhere small cottages serving 16 resident families once stood, a four-story building is rising that will serve as 84 resident homes, a Wellness Center, Enrichment Center, and two more dining environments. At the same time, the Hopewell Enhanced Living apartments are rising up containing 26 resident homes, and a third building providing 32 private nursing rooms is taking form. These changes are important for us as we address the wants and needs of the market we serve now and in the future. They help us better achieve our mission as a ministry to responsibly enhance the lives of older adults with Christ-like love.

Paxton-Street-front“With Christ-like love.” I believe that is the one thing that will never change here, amidst all the changes listed above. From our beginnings 120 years ago, the inspiration for serving older adults came not just because it is a nice thing to do, but because the love of Christ compelled a number of people to create something better for a population in need.

It is what still binds us together and gives us purpose for our work. I believe our leaders and our board of directors take this mission-charge seriously. It gives us a reason for looking to do things better and for wanting to reach more people—to express the love of Christ. This is the constant for Messiah Lifeways and for many reasons. Here are some scriptures which provide instructions about how and why to do the business of caring out of Christ’s love within us.

This first one (Ephesians 3:17-19) gives us a picture of the vastness of Christ’s love for us, which is why we want to share it in all we think, say and do as His representatives in the world. “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

From I Thessalonians 1:3, we see further reason for our service. “We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

And how we should walk out this way of doing things can be seen in the “love chapter,” from I Corinthians 13, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

II Corinthians 5:14 says that “for Christ’s love compels us…” “Compels us” can also be read as forces us, or requires us, or obliges us, or constrains us. I get the feeling that expressing Christ’s love is something that just naturally comes out in our relationships because of a deep need to express itself. I believe this way of serving older adults has been part of who we are at Messiah Lifeways for 120 years. And I am committed to continuing to provide our stakeholders opportunities to express this kind of love as we walk out our mission together.

Yes, “The Times They Are a-Changin’,” but some things stay the same!

Start With Why (Book Review)

My wife Kathy and I are at the stage of family life where grandchildren have become a blessed addition. Jonah and Cooper (age 4 and 3) are a joy to be around and say many interesting and often humorous things. They have reached the stage of being inquisitive about the world and often ask questions including the word, “Why?” It’s an important question to ask! Gaining an understanding of the reasons for things helps give meaning and purpose to the things we do. It’s the same in organizations like Messiah Lifeways.

Start-With-Why-BookStart with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek. The author highlights the importance for leaders to be champions of the “why” as it is the “why” that inspires others to take action. Without an underlying sense of purpose in mind, it is difficult for the team to fully engage in what and how they do what they do. A major role for a CEO is to inspire others to do what inspires them. If the mission of an organization is understood by the members of the team, and is attractive to them, it is much easier to see their role as having intrinsic value beyond the paycheck.

Sinek says that “innovation happens around the edges.” I like what he writes relating to this:

The role of a leader is not to come up with all the great ideas. The role of a leader is to create an environment in which great ideas happen. It is the people inside the company, those on the front lines, who are best qualified to find new ways of doing things. (p 99)

I believe that when team members own the mission in their hearts and are then invited to participate in making things better, that good things will happen. Even in an environment as highly regulated as healthcare, there can be opportunities for front line team members who truly understand the purpose in what we do to use their creative minds to offer good ideas that haven’t been thought of before.

My hope for Messiah Lifeways is to present a clear sense of purpose in what we do, to invite people inspired by that purpose—the Why—to identify and communicate creative ways to walk out that purpose for the benefit of those we serve. I know this will likely require new ways to look at things or to reward this behavior. It may take some time, but we cheat our mission if we don’t use all means available to do the right things better.

So, should we take Sinek’s charge to start with why? Well, why not?!

Curt Stutzman


Why do we take time to celebrate anniversaries? Let me share from my recent personal experience.

Curt and Kathy anniversary picOn Monday, June 6, 2016 my wife Kathy and I celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary. We just returned from some time away reminiscing and enjoying each other’s company. She has been a blessing to me in many ways, including encourager, confidant and best friend, mother of our children, sounding board, and more. I believe it is important from time to time to step back and remember the journey which has brought us to the present. Doing this as a couple has been therapeutic and has encouraged us to continue the next 35 years building on and strengthening the foundations which brought us together many years ago. It helps clarify our sense of purpose as we move forward into the future together.

Messiah Lifeways celebrates an even more significant anniversary this year—120 years! It is appropriate to spend some time reminiscing and to commemorate where we’ve come from. It helps us to understand what brought us to where we are today, and this background is important as we plan for carrying our mission forward into the future. This week there have been historical photographs in the hallway by Compass Pointe Place at the Messiah Village campus. These show people helping people in various ways throughout our history on Mt. Allen Drive. It is interesting to see that, while we may do things a bit differently now than in the past, we are still finding ways to enhance the lives of older adults with Christ-like love.

I am grateful for the dedicated service many have provided to older adults in this ministry in the past 120 years. As we look to the future at Messiah Lifeways, we do so with the underlying sense of purpose established from our origins. We also seek creative ways to carry our mission forward with excellence and an eye toward better ways to serve senior adults. For instance, the expansion of our Messiah Village campus will bring improvements to resident experiences in many areas through state-of-the-art additions of Village Square apartment homes, Enrichment Center, Wellness Center, Café 100, Kathryn’s on the Square, the Hopewell neighborhood, and new nursing neighborhoods with private rooms. We continue to expand our offerings at Mount Joy Country Homes, and we carry our mission to the greater community through a variety of impactful community-based services.

As you can see, there are important reasons to recognize and celebrate anniversaries. It is not just to remember the past and our origins, but to establish a foundation upon which to build our lives and mission for the future. For this reason, we can gladly say, “Happy Anniversary!”

Curt Stutzman