An Interview with Diane Bahn
Diane Bahn wraps up an incredible run leading with integrity on the PLI team as she retires this month. I recently sat down with her and asked her to reflect upon her journey and life in PLI. If Diane has touched your life, would you send her a note of thanks here?
Diane, let’s go back to when you and your husband Dave first joined PLI as participants 21 years ago. What was that like for you?
It’s a vivid memory.
- It was the first time in our ministry that I was treated as an equal with my husband. PLI assumed I had something valuable to contribute.
- We were in a smaller church at the time and I couldn’t believe the women and men that were willing to invest in us.
- The Mission of God was front and center. We were learning to become better leaders so our ministries could better “connect people to Jesus.”
- I remember being affirmed with my unique gifts. I didn’t need to try to become what someone else expected me to be.
Diane, what’s different about leadership and ministry today compared to 10 or 15 years ago?
Leadership was connected more to a position or title then. Leading from a place of influence was not as common. It was much more hierarchical.
Leading with integrity has always been important but never more important than it is today. We are constantly reminding leaders of the importance of living your life and leading with integrity.
You lead the Leadership Essentials learning community and the post-seminary coaching for women and men. Leadership Essentials puts into place the core building blocks of leadership that are often overlooked. What’s so difficult about being a pastor today?
That’s easy. Pastors—none of us—were ever trained for the world we’re in today. Not for a pandemic, certainly! But the distrust of the church in the U.S. today is so different. It’s taking on a whole new learning curve to discover new ways to do mission and ministry in this culture. For newer pastors, it’s figuring out how to be a leader AND taking on the culture. For older pastors, there’s an honest question: Do I really want to start on a whole new learning curve? It’s worth it, but it’s a difficult reality.
What’s the most fun thing you do in PLI?
It’s being with people. Hearing their stories. Teaching. Seeing the light bulbs go on in a learning community or a coaching huddle. To see leaders really “get it.” And to hear that the people they lead benefit from them “getting it.”
PLI places such huge value on what women have to bring to the table. Women have been too often overlooked and undervalued. The more we have encouraged and challenged women to be the best of who they are, the more we’ve seen their impact. It’s a joy to see them released to be who God has designed them to be and not doing what someone is telling them they should do.
As you wrap up your leadership tenure at PLI, what surprises you the most?
Simple: That I am where I’m at, doing what I’ve been doing. Jackie Oesch, PLI cofounder, was an incredible mentor for me. I had this strong feeling that I would love to be able to impact others like she impacted me. And, PLI has continued to open up doors for me to do exactly that! That’s the surprise. God puts dreams on our hearts and God brings things together that we would never imagine.
What was it like stepping out of the crowd, as a participant, and stepping up to be a leader on the PLI team?
PLI is such a supportive community in encouraging leaders to risk and try. I never cease to be amazed at what leaders in PLI do when they have hope and gain courage. That’s what PLI did for me! The mentors helped and encouraged. Jackie coached me.
Diane, when you look at PLI, can you explain what God has done?
20+ years ago, LCEF President Art Haake noted the difference leadership played in congregational vitality. He challenged one of the original board members: What are you going to do about it…to provide a solution? God had a plan. Originally, PLI was going to teach 16 “skills” and bypass the development of the leader and his/her character. God intervened. PLI keeps asking the question: “What is God doing? Where is God leading?” God has a plan. Gail has brought such strong vision and influence across what PLI is doing today. God keeps working. If PLI ever thinks it has it all figured out, then it will start on a downward cycle.
Why is PLI’s coaching so transformative?
Transformation happens when it’s not just intellectual ascent or comprehension. Transformation happens when a leader starts to live it. It’s put into practice. It has to involve a change in living. The coaching does that.
What would you like to say to the PLI family?
It’s an incredible thing to be a part of the PLI family. The PLI family has given me courage to stretch and take next steps. It reminds leaders that they are not alone. It gives courage. There’s a bond I dearly love. Stick together. Stay together. You are not alone. It’s what Jesus prayed for. You can do a lot more with the support of each other.
You plan to stay involved in PLI after you retire. What would give you joy?
I hope my husband, Dave, and I can still be on a learning community training team without the organizational responsibilities I’ve carried. We enjoy teaching and leading together. We’re excited about being on a PLI team in Tanzania next year. I hope I can still see people I’ve coached stepping forward in PLI or all kinds of other places. I love seeing people coming to faith because leaders are leading better.