Finding Your Ministry Sweet Spot

Last month I took an 8 day trip to visit some of our ministry partners throughout various parts of California. Though these trips are long and tiring, I love being able to connect with friends, many of whom I haven’t seen in years, to give ministry updates and share life stories with one another.

Dave with old San Jose room-mate Dave Reeves (and wife Heather) during my 8 day ministry trip to various parts of California.

Because I was traveling solo, the question people most asked me was how Jen is doing. The short answer is that she’s doing well.

It’s been 4 years now since her Vasculitis condition has been stabilized with medication. Recently, at her last visit with her Rheumatologist and her Pulmonologist, they suggested that they were considering taking her completely off her medication since she’s been in remission for more than 3 years. We really are grateful to the Lord for His provision and His care for us, His children.

Since Jen’s condition is stable, she is able to do all the things she had been doing with respect to our family life and work. There are no limitations or restrictions.

Jen (bottom row, 3rd from left) with other members of the SLI Design team. This is the team that is responsible for coordinating and executing Cru’s Senior Leadership Initiative, a 2 year coaching and development program for emerging and Executive leaders.

In fact, in many ways Jen is busier than I am. This is partly because in addition to co-leading our ministry to Young Professionals, Jen also has another role with Cru that takes about 25% of her time. She’s part of a team that coordinates a leadership development program for Cru staff called Senior Leadership Initiative (SLI). Jen was a participant in this program several years ago and after finishing, she was asked to join the leadership team that coordinates and implements the program for participants.

The SLI program is really an amazing opportunity for seasoned leaders to experience further development over the course of a 2 year commitment. Every 2 years a new round of SLI brings in about 25-30 participants, who are given personalized coaching and development in a cohort learning environment.

Jen (2nd from right) with a group of leaders who are currently going through Cru’s SLI program.

Being a part of this program really has allowed Jen to function within her ministry sweet spot.

I first heard the phrase “sweet spot” as a kid who was an avid baseball fan. The “sweet spot” referred to the spot on the bat that allowed the hitter to drive the ball with the greatest force. By making contact in just the right spot, the batter could maximize his swing and drive the ball the furthest, often hitting it out of the park.

In ministry, the sweet spot could be considered the situation in which you are able to leverage your talents and skills for maximum impact and effectiveness. Jen has been able to leverage and utilize her strengths of development and coaching to help Cru develop leaders who are able to serve in higher roles of ministry responsibility.

Jen speaking to a group of Cru leaders during a week-long SLI module.

As we interact and coach Young Professionals, our hope is to help them discover their unique talents and strengths so that they too may discover their ministry “sweet spot”. It’s a journey that takes time and reflection but the rewards are worth it.

We are continually grateful for you, our friends and ministry partners, for helping us to minister to Young Professionals and help them find their ministry “sweet spot”!

The Power of a New Year’s Resolution

Photo by Crazy nana on Unsplash

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who make New Year’s resolutions and those who don’t.

It’s not hard to figure out why some people hate New Year’s resolutions. Many people hate the idea of New Year’s resolutions because they’ve made them over and over again, only to fail miserably over and over again. Nobody likes the feeling of failure.

We resolve to lose weight and we actually gain weight. We resolve to get a handle on our finances and yet we go deeper into debt. We resolve to read more and watch TV less  and yet we find ourselves binge watching the latest Netflix series during our free time (when we should probably be exercising)!

Photo by Jamie Matociños on Unsplash

Have you ever wondered why so many New Year’s resolutions fail? It’s because for most of us, we try to change our outward behavior without changing the inner person. We fail to address the core issues that cause us to do the things that we say we don’t want to do but we end up doing anyway.

Photo from Pexels.com

In The Godfather III, there is a scene where Michael Corleone (played by Al Pacino), feeling remorseful for his sinful life, is at the Vatican City talking to a priest. The priest picks up a stone from the fountain next to him and says, “do you see this stone? It has been surrounded by water from this fountain for many years. But the water has never penetrated the inside.” He then smacks the stone onto the pavement and it breaks in two. “You see? The inside is completely dry. This is like Christianity. People have been surrounded by Christianity for thousands of years and yet it does not penetrate their hearts.”

Forty-five years ago, my parents made a New Year’s resolution that greatly impacted me. Though they had both grown up going to church, we were not a church-going family. My parents, after much reflection, resolved to recommit themselves to the Lord and begin taking their family to church on Sundays.

As an eight-year old boy, I suddenly found myself in church on Sundays instead of sleeping in or messing around the neighborhood. It was not my preference, but as the weeks and months went by, I learned about my sinfulness and my need for forgiveness. I also learned about the payment Jesus made on the cross for my sin. I learned that I could receive forgiveness and enter into a relationship with God simply by putting my faith in Jesus and His death for me. My life was changed because of a New Year’s resolution.

If only I could get someone to take me on a walk!

What are the things you are hoping to change as you enter this New Year? What are your resolutions? They are probably similar to mine. I’d like to exercise more and read more. I should probably walk my dog more. I’d like to be more kind and compassionate and less impatient with others.

More than anything, my hope for this year is that Christ would penetrate my heart more deeply and that I would experience greater internal transformation as a result. I don’t want to just try to act better but my hope is that by Christ’s strength and power, I might be better – that I might become one who more accurately reflects Christ’s character to the world around me.

We are so grateful for you, our friends and ministry partners, whose encouragement motivates us to continue to pursue Jesus and the spiritual transformation that only he can offer.

Let us know what your resolutions are for this year and how we can pray for you to experience transformation in 2019!

Happy New Year!

Time is on Our Side

I’ve been reflecting on the idea of time a lot lately. Several things have all conspired and converged to cause me to reflect on the idea of time.

Third Day’s third album was aptly named “Time”.

Earlier this week, I received an e-mail from one of my favorite bands, Third Day, announcing their Farewell Tour. This band has been together for 25 years (as long as we’ve been married) and they’ve decided their time is coming to an end.

On the one hand, it’s hard to believe this band has been around for 25 years! On the other hand, it’s sad to think that their time is coming to an end. I have fond memories of attending several of their concerts and I’ve been reminiscing lately by listening to all the Third Day music I own, including their 3rd CD, aptly named “Time.”

Last week, Jen and I traveled to UCLA for her 3 month appointment to see her Rheumatologist. She also saw her Pulmonologist, got her annual CT scan and her 6 month pulmonary function test. It was a very full day and I was reminded that it was 3 years ago almost exactly that we first visited UCLA. Three years seems like a long time but a lot can happen in just a couple of years.

January 2015 – just a few weeks before we finally began seeing experts at UCLA

A staff colleague e-mailed me yesterday, asking for contact information of a friend. I did a quick e-mail search for my friend to see what his current e-mail was and it pulled up an e-mail from 3 years ago that we had sent out when we were heading to UCLA for the first time. We were nervous about this initial visit and asking for prayer and my friend had responded to that e-mail telling us that he and his wife were praying for us.

In the body of that e-mail I had posted a picture of Jen with our twins just a few weeks earlier when she was in the hospital. She was smiling and upbeat but the effects of her condition were obvious. Seeing that picture was a stark reminder to me of just how much has changed in just 3 years.

Mother’s Day 2017 – a lot can change in just a few short years!

I’m not really much of a Rolling Stones fan but there is a popular song of theirs that says, “Time is on my side…yes it is.”

I don’t often think about time as being on my side. Like many people, I tend to be impatient and I want things to be the way I want them and I want it NOW! We live in a culture where everything is URGENT. But what we’ve learned about ministry and about people is that there are no shortcuts to maturity. You can’t microwave a person’s growth and development.

As we think about ministering to Young Professionals, our hope and desire is to develop leaders of depth who are unleashed to make an impact for Christ in their communities.

Jen meets with a group of Young Professional women in her Leadership Development Group.

We know that building anything of significance often takes time, and as my friend and mentor Jim Sylvester often likes to say, “Time is your friend.” It appears that time is on our side…yes it is!

Four and a half years ago, I started a neighborhood community through Nextdoor, a social media website that seeks to create community by connecting neighbors who live in established neighborhoods.

Young Professionals unwinding at a beach meet-up

When we first launched our Nextdoor community, it seemed like a struggle just to get 10 verified members to join within the allotted time frame. And now, almost 5 years later, there are nearly 600 members in our community, with over 40% of our neighborhood participating. At some point, this neighborhood network took on a life of its own and growth exploded.

Our hope and prayer is that our ministry to Young Professionals will take a similar path. Growth may seem slow at times but we know that time is on our side…yes it is!

Thanks for journeying with us!

A “Healthy” Look at Thanksgiving

Last Thursday, Jen battled the Southern California traffic to make the day-long trip to see her Rheumatologist at UCLA. In the nearly three years she’s been seeing specialists in Westwood, this was the first time that I didn’t make the trip with her.

My absence was primarily because of a volunteer commitment that could not be changed.

Jen poses with Jacob and Joshua after the OC Champs Cross Country Race in mid October

Earlier in the fall, Jen and I committed to be volunteer coaches for a group of high school students in Santa Ana. Our group meets every Thursday and it just so happened that Jen’s Rheumatology appointment was scheduled for the same day as our coaching group. Changing the appointment to a different day without delay would almost take an act of Congress so it seemed prudent for Jen to keep the appointment and make the trip without me.

To be honest, when we first started making the trips to West Los Angeles, there was a sense of urgency and unknown because of Jen’s health condition at the time. I went to be a moral support and to gather as much information as possible about the condition we were dealing with.

A side benefit of the trip was being able to use the carpool lane, which could cut our travel time down by as much as an hour each way!

So how is Jen’s health? I get this question frequently and I realized that it’s been a while since we’ve updated you through our newsletters. As we reflected on Thanksgiving this year, one of the things we are extremely grateful for is our health. The boys are both healthy and not in the midst of any runner’s injuries and my health has been pretty good for the most part.

Jen shares with a group of Cru Leaders during a Leadership Development Conference in October 2017

For Jen, the good news is that her health is stable. For about two and half years now, she’s been taking an immunosuppressant  that has kept her immune system at bay, eliminating the flares that put her in the hospital 5 times in a 9 month period. As a result, she was able to get off Prednisone along with all the nasty side effects that it brings.

Jen has returned to a somewhat normal routine, including being a mom to our twins and working full-time with me in reaching and ministering to Young Professionals in Orange County. In addition, Jen has been able to resume her part-time role with Cru in helping to develop and shape leaders through the Senior Leadership Initiative Program, which is influencing and preparing some of the best emerging leaders within our organization.

Life isn’t perfect, however, and though the health outlook for Jen is much better than 3 years ago, there are still challenges. For one, the medicine Jen takes has some undesirable side effects, including a continued loss of appetite and general upset stomach.

Jen (2nd from right) poses with her Process Group – a group of leaders who meet regularly to process and discuss the things they’re learning and implementing

Additionally, Jen has been dealing with an issue of Frozen shoulder that requires multiple visits to physical therapy a week at times. And of course there’s the ongoing diabetes management that requires constant attention.

Maintaining good health requires attention and discipline for anyone but for a diabetic with a long-term auto-immune disorder, it adds to the complexity of life. All things considered though, we are extremely grateful for the Lord’s goodness and provision. We have much for which to be grateful!

We’re especially thankful for you, our friends and partners who have encouraged us and shared with us in our burdens and struggles! Thank you for continuing to journey with us as we navigate the challenges of ministry, parenthood and life. We would greatly appreciate your continued prayers for us and our family!

Growing our Leadership Capacity

Dave addressing 400+ students at the 2017 West Coast Epic Conference.

In January, I had the opportunity to share with students at our Epic Student Winter Conference about our ministry to Young Professionals in Orange County. While I was there, I connected with several of our former UC Davis students who are serving Christ in various capacities, some as full-time vocational missionaries and some as lay leaders. It was so fun to see how they are all still engaged in ministry in some way and how God is using them.

One of the things we’re passionate about is developing leaders who can significantly impact others for Christ.

When we were serving as campus leaders, our hope was to help each student become a life-long follower of Jesus. We wanted to develop leaders who were equipped with the tools and training necessary to make an impact for Christ wherever life might take them.

Former UC Davis Epic students connecting together at the Epic Winter Conference

We’ve been privileged to follow the journey of many of our former students who continue to walk with Christ and serve Him while making an impact for Him all over the world.

Some of our former students are serving as missionaries overseas in the Middle East, Europe and various parts of Asia while many are serving as missionaries with Cru on various campuses all over the country.

Some of our former students are serving as pastors in churches around the United States, while others are serving as lay leaders in their church and other non-profit ministries.

Still others are using their unique technical and administrative skills to serve the body of Christ on a global scale.

Cru’s Senior Leadership Initiative was started to fill the need to develop high level leaders to meet the global needs of the organization. Click the image to read the article from Outcomes Magazine.

What has drawn us to work with Millennials is the opportunity to have direct influence in the lives of Young Professionals, helping them to become unleashed to make the greatest impact they can make for Christ in their community and the world.

We’ve realized though that the job of developing leaders first starts with developing ourselves. Bill Hybels has said that “when a leader gets better, everyone wins.” When we grow as leaders, we grow in our ability to affect and impact others.

Jen and I are committed to developing as leaders so that we might develop other leaders who in turn impact others.

Jen poses for a picture with some of the women who help give leadership to the SLI leadership program

A few years ago, Jen was invited to participate in a two year Leadership Development program with Cru that we refer to as Senior Leadership Initiative (SLI). The program had a profound impact on Jen’s development as a person and as a leader and for the past four years Jen has been a part of the Leadership team that is implementing and executing this program for other participants (Click here to see our August 2013 Lowedown newsletter to read more about Jen’s experience as a participant of SLI).

Jim Williamson (left) is a former Cru staff member with the Impact ministry, Cru’s student ministry to students of African descent. Jim now works in the corporate world in Nashville and will be coaching me for the next 2 years.
Jim and Dave’s initial meeting over lunch at Cru’s Orlando Headquarters.

In February, I was invited to be a part of a leadership program Cru has just established called the Executive Coaching Cohort.

For the next 2 years, I’ll have access to a personal coach who is committed to helping me take the steps necessary to grow as a person and a leader.

In March, Jen spent a week in Dallas getting trained in Core Clarity, a program that utilizes the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment tool to help leaders understand how to maximize their talents and develop them into strengths for the greatest possible personal impact.

Jen attended the week-long Core Clarity Training which helps leaders unpack the Strengths Finder Assessment tool to learn more about their talents and understand their unique giftings.

We recognize there is more growth and development that is needed if we’re going to be truly effective in helping Young Professionals experience their full potential.

We hope to get more training in Coaching and other assessment tools that will enable us to minister to Young Professionals at a high level.

Thanks so much for the investment you’re making in our lives. The impact you’ve made is enabling us to impact the next generation of spiritual leaders!

5 Ingredients Necessary for Growth

When it comes to the spiritual dimension of life, why is it that some people thrive while others dive?

As we meet with Young Professionals, particularly those who identify as followers of Christ, almost without exception we hear them say, “I can’t find community.”

Robert is a Young Professional who, like many recent college grads, was looking for a spiritual community that matched the passion and commitment he experienced while being involved with Cru at Cal Poly, Pomona.

It’s a curious statement to make if you think about it because there are no shortage of good churches and small groups to connect with. How hard can it be to find community?

As we probe further, however, they often explain that they can’t find community like they had when they were involved with Cru in college. Or they can’t find community like they had in high school, or in a particular youth group.

Somehow, the opportunities for connection, growth and development after college aren’t exactly what they expected because they don’t mirror the environment and community that they had previously experienced.

For many Young Professionals, getting connected to a deep and meaningful spiritual community has been a frustrating and disappointing endeavor.

As we’ve thought about this issue of growth and development, we’ve concluded that there are 5 ingredients necessary to a person’s environment that make it substantially more likely they will thrive spiritually and live with purpose and meaning.

These 5 ingredients are:

  • Kingdom Vision – in order for a person to thrive spiritually over the long-term AND make an impact for Christ, they have to have a vision for God’s kingdom and be motivated to be a part of it.
  • Team – Most of us tend to take on the level of commitment and passion that exists in the people around us. So by surrounding ourselves with other like-minded people who really want to make a difference for God, we’re more likely to step up our level of passion and commitment.
  • Plan – if we have no plan for what we’re going to do to serve the Lord and make an impact, then nothing will happen.
  • Coach – numerous studies have shown the value of a coach in helping a person realize a goal or fulfill a vision.
  • Ongoing equipping and Development – people who are growing in character and personal development often have more to give.

For those who’ve been a part of a campus ministry like Cru or InterVarsity, these 5 ingredients were probably embedded within their community without them even being aware of it. The environment was tailor made for spiritual growth and development.

But after college, a community where these ingredients are readily present may be harder to find.

We want to help provide these key ingredients for Young Professionals so that they might get connected to a vibrant community and begin to thrive spiritually and live missionally.

We’ve recently launched something we’re calling Leadership Development Groups. These groups are not a Bible study but more like a professional cohort environment where Young Professionals meet monthly to process key biblical and life concepts together in a small group context.

Currently, Jen and I are each leading a group and we’re in our second month. So far, the response has been extremely positive as most of the Young Professionals we’re connecting with seem to agree that this is addressing a need that they’ve been seeking to meet for some time.

We’re pretty excited about the potential and we’re hoping to get new groups started in the coming months.

Would you pray for us and the current groups we’re leading as well as for the formation of new groups in the months to come?

Also, please pray for us to continue to think creatively about how we can provide these 5 key ingredients for Young Professionals in Orange County so that they might thrive spiritually and live missionally.

We are grateful for your prayers and your partnership with us!

The Impact of Passion in a Leader

How does a leader maintain his passion?

This was just one of the questions that was presented at the Global Leadership Summit (GLS), an annual 2 day leadership forum sponsored by Willow Creek Church in Chicago, where some of the greatest leadership minds in the world present their thoughts and experiences on what makes an effective leader.

This year, Jen and I attended a satellite location in Costa Mesa to listen to speakers such as John Maxwell, Alan Mulally (former CEO of Boeing and Ford), Patrick Lencioni, Chris McChesney, Bishop TD Jakes, Henry Cloud, Melinda Gates and others.

Bill Hybels is the pastor of Willow Creek Church and the founder of the Global Leadership Summit
Bill Hybels is the pastor of Willow Creek Church and the founder of the Global Leadership Summit

My favorite talk was the opening talk by Bill Hybels, in which he talked about the Lenses of Leadership.

Hybels’ opening line is that when a leader gets better, everyone wins. A leader moves people from here to there (a preferred future). But how does he do that?

Studies have shown that a motivated worker will outperform an unmotivated worker by as much as 40%. So clearly, motivation is a factor. But how do we motivate people. Hybels said that the highest factor in motivation is to work in and around a passion-filled leader.

So the question remains, how does a leader get and maintain their passion?

Pastor Hybels said that passion is usually derived from the mountain top of a beautiful dream or from the valley of frustration with something that completely outrages you.

Dr. Henry Cloud demonstrates the importance for a leader to have real connections with others.
Dr. Henry Cloud demonstrates the importance for a leader to have real connections with others.

Hybels said that there are three ways a leader gains and maintains passion: First, read passionate authors. Second, be around passionate people. And third, go to places that fill your soul.

Over the course of the two days, I found that my own soul was getting filled as we heard from passionate leaders who shared wisdom from their years of experience.

Dr. Travis Bradberry is the author of the best selling book “Emotional Intelligence 2.0”

Jen and I hope to continue to fill our passion bucket through some of the books we picked up from Global Leadership Summit keynote speakers. Jen will be reading a book by Erin Meyer entitled the “Culture Map” while I picked up “Emotional Intelligence” by Travis Bradberry.

Please pray that we would be leaders who are passionate and able to motivate those around us to move toward our preferred future – one where Millennials throughout Orange County are connected to and experiencing Jesus fully and who are mobilized to make a difference for Him at work, at home and throughout their community!