Covid-19 Photo Gallery

Two weeks ago, I attended the Q Virtual conference (qideas.org). Q is an organization started a few years ago by Gabe Lyons that seeks to “equip strategically positioned Christian influencers to renew the way they believe, think and act in regard to culture.”

Jen and I attended a live Q conference in Nashville 6 years ago and it was there that Jen first experienced issues that initially led to an overnight stay in the local ER, followed by an eventual diagnosis of vasculitis, a rare auto-immune disorder. We missed most of that conference and have not had an opportunity to return, until this year.

This was my view for two days attending the Q Virtual Conference

The speaker lineup this year was packed with a range of cultural and theological leaders, including Tim Keller, Andy Crouch and Francis Chan.

However, one presenter, Sissy Goff, a mental health professional, spoke about “The Psychological Impact of Social Distancing”.

One of the many salient points Goff made regarding our emotional well-being was that in this time of sheltering in place and social distancing, we need to do one brave thing each day. She then asked, “what is one thing you’ve done in COVID that has required bravery?”

For me, I’ve been trying to be more intentional about slowing down, reflecting, and noticing things around me and capturing those moments with my camera. I’ve taken some steps to stretch myself and grow in my photography skills, including taking an online course and submitting some of my photos on unsplash.com. What follows are a number of images that give a glimpse into what we’ve been experiencing these past 7 weeks of the Covid-19 crisis…

When the shutdown first occurred, I was surprised to show up at our local Wal-mart just after 6:00 in the morning, only to be greeted by a long line of people ahead of me, waiting to get in.

The first time I went shopping during the Covid-19 crisis, I thought I would outsmart everyone by getting up early and getting in and out before the rush. Turns out, everyone else had the same idea and I was greeted to a long line just to get into the store.

In addition to long lines, I found the store to be quite barren of products. Most of the fruits and vegetable bins were completely empty as well as pretty much all dried goods (beans, pasta, rice, etc.) as well as meats, bread and dairy products. I found myself grabbing the most random items as substitutes for the items we really needed. In the end, I had to go to three stores just to get some semblance of groceries for the week.

Training never stops for those in the military!

Did I mention that our boys are home? They are still training and they are still eating…A LOT. That has magnified the grocery issues. After the Wal-Mart incident, Jen decided to start ordering stuff online, but that was hit and miss. Then she started using a grocery service, which worked well for about a week, maybe two, at which point, it became harder and harder to find time slots to get groceries delivered.

We finally got a grocery slot one week but we were told that groceries could be delivered any day between Tuesday and Sunday (which was Easter). No groceries came on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday or Saturday. Finally, on Easter Sunday we were expecting our food to be delivered and boy did we need it. We had gone nearly 2 weeks without shopping.

Have I mentioned that my boys are home during this crisis? Have I mentioned how much they eat?

About mid-day, we got a message from the shopper saying that the store we had ordered food from was closed. They canceled our order and we were left with nothing substantial in the house for Easter dinner. It felt a lot like one of those cooking shows where they give each chef 6 random food items and ask them to make a gourmet meal out of it. Hmmm…what can we make with a can of sardines, a box of gluten-free spaghetti, a lemon from the tree outside, two eggs, a box of granola and a jar of salsa? GO!

This dirt track has been the only place locally that works for a timed workout. Hopefully, high school tracks will open soon!

Speaking of training, Jacob is a member of the Naval Academy Cross Country and Track teams. Though the season has been canceled, the athletes are all expected to keep working out in order to maintain their conditioning and long-term training cycle. There really is no break for distance runners.

It has been increasingly harder for Jacob to find places to do his workouts. He needs a track about once or twice a week in order to time his workouts. Other days are casual runs anywhere. Most local high schools are shut down with security keeping people from using the facilities. We were fortunate to find this dirt track locally that is not too crowded and has enabled Jacob to continue his training.

Local park playground structures have been closed off with this caution tape, even though parks in general are open

Initially we thought the lockdown might last just a few weeks or maybe a month. Our boys’ return to their academies was delayed by two weeks but then became indefinite.

As things progressed, businesses began to close and park playgrounds were shut down. We were told masks didn’t work and then a few weeks later, we were told we should wear masks. At first, we were told that social distancing was the primary step to curb the virus, but then the lockdown came and people whose jobs were not considered “essential” were urged to stay at home.

One day, while outside getting exercise, I found this sign laying on the ground in our neighborhood. Im not sure if it fell over on its own or if it was removed by someone protesting the lockdown.
One day while walking the dog, I spotted this small action figure lying on the sidewalk. It turns out that during Covid-19, even Action figures are wearing masks!

One of the things we have tried to do regularly to maintain some kind of routine is walk the dog. Most every day, Jen and I will try to get out in the afternoon to take the dog out. We pretty much walk the same route every day. One day while walking the dog, I spotted this small action figure lying on the sidewalk. It turns out that during Covid-19, even action figures are wearing masks!

It’s been interesting to slow down and try to notice things that I never noticed before. It’s amazing how much beauty and creativity is around us that we don’t pay attention to.  Now that it’s spring time, we’re starting to see flowers blooming and plants coming alive.

As I’ve ventured out daily with the dog and my camera, I’m trying to notice the things around me that demonstrate life and bring hope during this challenging season.

Flowers are in bloom, the air is clear and the mountains are majestic.

A few weeks ago, in order to avoid an oncoming dog walker and maintain our distance, we darted to the other side of the street. I was walking down the same street but on the other side, and this gave me a slightly different perspective. Had I not gone to the other side, I would have missed the sidewalk chalk message – “Always Stop and smell the Flowers.” Our dog Scout decided to take the advice!

The chalk message says “Always Stop and smell the Flowers.” Our dog is so smart, he complied with the message!

Attending church activities has been different. We are still able to attend our home group and men’s and women’s groups but everything is online now through Zoom and other video platforms.

All small groups and the weekly worship service are all meeting online for the forseeable future

We’re able to worship as a family by watching the sermon online every Saturday beginning at 4:00 p.m. at Saddleback.org. The worship team records all of their parts separately and the worship is edited and spliced together to give the feeling of a full live worship set. It’s pretty amazing what technology is enabling us to do. Pastor Rick Warren then gives his sermon online as well.

Signs like this, commemorating major milestones, can be found throughout our neighborhood.

There is so much loss during this crisis. I think about all the high school seniors who have missed out on prom as well as all their other senior traditions, including commencement.

College seniors are also missing one of the biggest days in their lives. We know of weddings that have been postponed or canceled, vacation trips that have been delayed or lost altogether.

In addition, I think about all of the spring sports that have been canceled and all of the athletes who had no idea that their seasons were going to be cut short.

What have you lost as a result of this crisis? What are you grieving?

I think about my friends Jim and Charlotte Van Steenbergen, whom I’ve known for many years. Jim has been in declining health in recent months and I just learned that he passed away peacefully on Cinco de Mayo. Normally, I would have loved to visit and honor my friend in his last days. Unfortunately, that was not possible in this current environment. I grieve that lost opportunity to say goodbye and to thank him for the ministry he’s had in my life over the years.

What have you learned from this crisis? What have you found?

Being forced to slow down has its advantages. All those things you wished for in the past that you never had time for are suddenly available. And yet, I’ve learned that I am not always taking advantage of the extra time to do the things I’ve said I would do IF there was more time. I’ve learned that my heart is not always intentional and honest about my true desires and motivations.

While cleaning out our office closet, I found this box that was the container for my Samsung watch.

I’ve learned to see more of the hidden treasures in life.

Recently, Jen undertook the long desired task of cleaning out the office. There’s a lot of stuff that we don’t use but is taking up space. Interestingly, as we’ve cleared out cabinets and purged the overstocked closet, we’ve actually “found” things we didn’t remember we had.

One of the things I “found” was the box to my Samsung smartwatch that I bought a few years ago. About 6 months ago, the band on the watch broke and I had to buy a new one online. I was planning to throw the box away, thinking I really didn’t need it anymore. But I decided to open it to see if there was anything inside. Low and behold, there was a spare watch band. I had the spare watch band all along but I didn’t realize it was there, so I needlessly bought a new band from an online seller.

I had completely forgotten that when I purchased my watch it came with a replacement band. It was a hidden treasure in my closet

We found many more of these kinds of hidden “treasures” while cleaning out our office. It’s a reminder to me that there are hidden treasures everywhere around us, evidence of God’s creation, power and beauty. I just need to slow down and look around to notice.

Like many of you, we are still able to work from our home. We have been working from home for a number of years so the shift wasn’t too radical for us. However, we were used to meeting people at various places throughout Orange County and beyond. In addition, we have conferences and other events we would typically travel to. All of those things have been either canceled or suspended and the bulk of what we are doing now is finding ways to minister to people online.

Dave connecting with the UCLA Cru director and two of their seniors to talk about the benefits of coaching. Dave was able to coach each senior in a short 15 minute preview session.

We continue to coach folks but we do it virtually instead of in person. We continue to lead groups and host groups online. Training and development conferences we are a part of have been converted to webinars and Zoom discussion groups. We’ve pivoted in a number of ways already but we’re actively seeking new ways to minister to people online in this current environment.

We are grateful for you, our friends, family and partners who have supported and encouraged us to press on, especially as Jen has been immuno-compromised due to a vasculitis flare she’s been experiencing.

We would greatly appreciate your continued prayers for Jen and her health and for us as we continue to navigate life and ministry in this new climate of social distancing, working from home and sheltering in place.

Just as I’ve been more intentional about seeking to recognize the things around us that may easily go unnoticed, please pray that we would “recognize” the ministry opportunities God is placing before us.

 

How do we Disciple in Digital Babylon?

Over the summer I attended a breakfast at our National Cru Conference that featured a speaker who was talking about the value of coaching. He made an interesting statement that stuck with me. He said, “Growing up in the church I was discipled by events.” He followed by saying he wasn’t against events but that event-oriented discipleship wears out the leaders AND the participants.

Recently, I’ve been reading Faith For Exiles by David Kinnaman. It’s a fascinating peek into current research regarding Young Adults and their relationship to the church. One of the main points of the book, which we highlighted in last month’s Lowedown, is that we’re living in “Digital Babylon.” The idea of Digital Babylon is that people are so connected to their screens that we’re slowly being indoctrinated to the culture’s values by the content we’re immersed in through our phones and other digital devices. I was particularly struck by the statement that “Screens demand our attention. Screens disciple.”

Four Kinds of Exiles, from Barna Research …. Prodigals – those who no longer claim to be Christian …. Nomads – those who still claim to be Christian but are not engaged with a church community …. Habitual Churchgoers – those who attend church regularly but not engaged at church …. Resilient Disciples – those who attend AND are engaged in church and desire to see their community transformed as a result of their faith.

The question we’ve been trying to answer as we seek to resource and equip Young Professionals is how do we disciple this generation in this cultural environment? Kinnaman seeks to answer this question as well, pointing out that “in a previous era, we had some semblance of success mass-producing disciples.”

Our focus in the church has traditionally been on using events to reach and disciple people, just as the speaker at my summer breakfast had mentioned. But the dropout rate of Young Adults who have left the church demonstrates that this method and approach doesn’t work in today’s culture. We need a different approach if we’re going to develop disciples in “Digital Babylon.”

My experience with Young Professionals over the past few years has led me to the conclusion that most Young Adults have been so immersed in event-oriented discipleship through Youth groups and campus ministries that they cannot envision another way to grow in their faith and be connected to a Christ community.

It seems to me that many Young adults bounce around from place to place looking for an event-oriented community experience for people in their life stage. Finding this kind of community has proven to be as elusive for many Young adults as spotting a unicorn. As a result, many Young Adults we know get discouraged and some give up on church altogether.

Jen and I are working with a group of Young Professionals who desire to create Christ Communities among Young Adults where they currently do not exist.

But what if Young Professionals learned to lead themselves, instead of looking for the elusive event-oriented Young Adult community that doesn’t exist?

Kinnaman’s research shows that only 10% of Young Adults who grew up in a church are what he refers to as Resilient Disciples. People in this category are engaged with their church and have a strong desire to see communities transformed as a result of their faith.

Our hope is to work with these resilient disciples and unleash them to create Christ communities among their peers where they currently don’t exist. We can provide “discipleship”, not through highly organized events, but through Coaching, Leadership Development opportunities and connecting them to other like-minded, missionally-driven individuals.

We continue to learn and trust God for this next generation. We are so thankful for you and your part in helping us to disciple Young Professionals in this “Digital Babylon.”

Living and Ministering in Digital Babylon

Based on recent Barna research, Faith For Exiles is the latest book by David Kinnaman.

As I read the words on the very first page, I was hooked. David Kinnaman, in his latest book, Faith For Exiles, was describing what it was like to drop his oldest daughter off at college, with all of the emotions that you would expect. Having just dropped our twins off at schools that are 3000 miles away, I could relate to Kinnaman’s fears and anxieties concerning the question of how your child will fare spiritually in this new and secular environment without our guidance. Is their faith strong enough? Have we built the right character into them? Did we do a good job of preparing them spiritually for what lies ahead?

TOP LEFT: Jacob (left) waits in line to get on a bus to enter summer training for the Naval Academy
TOP RIGHT: Joshua waits in line to enter summer training for West Point
BOTTOM: Sign at West Point directing new students where to go

Kinnaman’s 2011 book, You Lost Me, argued that the church has a dropout problem. Research at the time showed that 59% of Young Adults who claimed a faith upbringing had left the church. New research shows the problem has gotten worse, with 64% of Young Adults abandoning the faith of their youth.     

What accounts for such a mass exodus? Kinnaman, and his co-author Mark Matlock, argue that our culture is “especially and insidiously faith repellant.” The biggest culprit, they contend, is our smart devices, which have created a digital culture that actually works against us. As a result, believers are swimming upstream, fighting to maintain their values and their faith beliefs in a culture that is becoming increasingly opposed and in some cases hostile to these values and beliefs.

Click on the image to watch this short video from thebibleproject.com, which explains what exile is and how the theme of “exile” is woven throughout the Bible

The Old Testament highlights God’s promise that if His people followed Him and worshiped Him alone, they would prosper. But He warned them that if they were disobedient, He would bring judgment in the form of invading armies who would conquer them and take them into captivity. Much of the Old Testament is story after story of the nation of Israel forsaking God to pursue false gods. God continually sends prophets to warn them of impending doom but His message inevitably falls on deaf ears.

Click on the image to watch this short video from thebibleproject.com, which highlights what it was supposed to look like for the Israelites who were living in exile in Babylon and what it means for us as believers “living in exile.”

God finally hands his people over to the Babylonians, who take the Israelites into exile, where they live for 70 years in a foreign land, amidst a foreign culture that serves foreign gods and does not share their religious and cultural values. In fact, one of the goals of taking a conquered people into captivity was the systematic dismantling and eradication of their culture and the assimilation and adoption of the invading empire’s culture and values.

Imagine what it was like to be a Jew living in Babylon. How hard would it be to resist adopting the culture in which you’re thoroughly steeped, while trying to keep your own faith and religious views alive?

Young Adults spend an enormous time on their phones and the content is not always helpful to to maintaining a vibrant faith. Photo by KAL VISUALS on Unsplash

We haven’t been taken into captivity and we’re not living in a foreign land, as the Israelites did, but the authors make the case that the internet age in which we’re living has created what they refer to as “Digital Babylon.” A sobering graphic shows that the average 15-23 year old spends nearly 2800 hours in a typical year engaging with media on their phone. For the average 15-23 year old who is not a Christian, only 153 of those 2800 hours contain ANY kind of spiritual or biblical content. The Christian Young Adult fares only slightly better, with 291 hours of biblical content to offset the nearly 2800 hours of input they’re getting.

Our “smart” devices have created a digital environment that is slowly indoctrinating us to views and values that are contrary to our faith. This is what it means to live in “Digital Babylon”.

It’s not all bad news though. There is a segment of Young Adults, identified as “resilient disciples” who are thriving spiritually even in this current cultural context. The book is really about the practices of this group that enable them to maintain a vibrant faith. It turns out that we’ve already identified many of these practices as critical to thriving spiritually and as a result, we’ve already implemented many of these practices in our own ministry to Young Adults.

Our prayer is that our influence would increase and the Lord would show us new ways and avenues to impact Young Adults, who are seeking to live as resilient disciples in “Digital Babylon.”

We greatly appreciate your partnership and your prayers as we strive to this end!

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”!

30 Years and Counting

A few weeks ago, our boys had a rare weekday off of school so we decided to spend the day at the Happiest Place on earth, thinking it might be less crowded than normal.

A Family Fun Day at Disneyland – the Happiest Place on Earth!

Later in the day, we were waiting in line for the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, when a woman who was in line right behind us asked us if our boys were twins. We responded “yes”, to which she replied, “my daughters are twins too!” I looked down to see two cute twin girls who were probably about 9 or 10 years old.

1991 – Dave in Boston. Thanks to my friend Dan Barnard for the photo!

The mom began chatting with Jen about twindom while the girls and their cousin began telling me about all the rides they had been on and their exploits of the day.

After a few moments, one of the twins fearlessly asked me, “how old are you?” My response was to answer her question with a question, “how old do you think I am?”

The reality is, I’m old. Many of my friends from high school and college have kids who are married, and some are grandparents. Many of the students we’ve discipled over the years are married with kids, some of whom are high school age and beyond.

2000 – Dave in New England in one of our last vacation trips before kids!

What amazes me even more than the many lives we’ve been able to influence is the fact that the Lord has provided for every financial need for over 30 years. You probably know that one of the responsibilities of Cru staff members like us is that we raise all of the funds to cover our salaries, benefits and ministry expenses.

Last week, I received an e-mail from my employer (Cru) congratulating me on being on staff with Cru for 30 years. It’s hard to believe that it’s been that long, and yet, when I think about it, we’ve had the privilege of ministering to thousands of students and Young Professionals in many locations over the years.

2005 – Dave (center) at a Cru staff conference with former UC Davis students Tommy Forester (left) and Josh Payne (right).
2010 – Dave on a Paddle Boat at Lake Mission Viejo

Thirty years ago, when I joined Campus Crusade’s staff (now Cru), I received training in developing a Ministry Partnership team, a group of people who would commit to partnering with me financially to enable me to serve the Lord full-time. We are incredibly thankful for everyone who has partnered with us financially over the years, but as I reflect back on 30 years in full-time ministry, I’m especially grateful for the handful of ministry partners who have been supporting our ministry for the entire 30 years!

2019 – Dave (right) with Robert, a Young Professional living in Orange County!

Thank you for your continued partnership. Please know that you are an incredible blessing to us and we are extremely grateful for how the Lord continues to use you to demonstrate His faithfulness!

The Anchor of Hope

For the last year and half, Jen and I have been volunteering as coaches at an Orange County High School. Once a week, a group of students spend an hour with us going through a curriculum that teaches life skills and principles designed to help students experience greater success in pursuing their goals and ambitions.

Pedro was a student in Dave’s coaching group this last spring

To be honest, these groups are a real challenge. Many of these students are unmotivated and have been hardened by the circumstances of life.

Some have had close friends killed as a result of gang violence. Others have relatives who have been in and out of jail. Some have witnessed shootings. For many, there is a feeling of hopelessness.

Dictionary.com defines hope as “the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.” But what do you do when events don’t turn out the way you wanted or life delivers unexpected hardships?

Our twins are in the middle of their senior year and they’ve been thinking and dreaming about life after high school. Their hope is to attend a military academy and they’ve been working diligently for the last several years to put themselves in a position to achieve that goal. But obtaining an appointment to any of the service academies is incredibly competitive. It might not work out the way they’ve planned.

Joshua (left) and Jacob experienced a week at West Point over the summer and are hoping to gain acceptance to one of the service academies as their college choice.

There is a tremendous amount of hopelessness in our culture these days, especially among Millennials. Many are discouraged by the political system and by how polarized we seem to be on many issues. Others are discouraged by the high cost of education and the amount of indebtedness they’ve incurred. For some, the job market is not as promising as they had hoped and the American dream seems elusive.

The Bible has a lot to say about hope. The author of Hebrews says that “we have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” The hope being spoken of is that God cannot lie, and therefore we can trust in His promises. The author says that Jesus is our High Priest who has gone into the inner sanctuary to make atonement for our sin, and as a result, we can run to God and take refuge.

Dave speaks to the UCLA Cru students at their weekly meeting

In other words, we can know God and we can come into His presence. He will not deny us no matter what we’ve done or we might be feeling about ourselves.

Jesus is the only one who can be an anchor of hope for our souls. Everything else will either let us down or is ultimately fleeting. We cannot put our hope in our job or in the political system or the college we want to attend. None of those things can provide ultimate meaning and purpose for our lives. Only Jesus can do that.

Thanks for your partnership with us in helping Young Professionals find meaning and purpose in Jesus, the hope of glory!

Frequently Asked Questions – Part 2

From the outset of our ministry a few years ago, the number one question we are asked is “How do you find the Young Professionals you will work with?” It’s a great question, because we’ve wondered that ourselves. When we worked with college students, we had no problem finding them. We just walked onto campus and there they were! We had proven methods and strategies for engaging with students and finding those who were interested spiritually.

But finding Young Professionals is more difficult. There is no central place, like a campus, where they congregate. We have to find different ways to locate them and engage with them.

One of the primary ways we’re meeting Young Professionals is through networking and referrals. Jen met with Rayna, a recent college grad who is living in Orange County, after we got her name from one of the local Cru campus ministry leaders.

It turns out that the way we’re finding Young Professionals is through networking. Like many other fields and industries, we are building our ministry by utilizing our existing network of relationships and seeking to expand our network through the people we meet and the relationships we are developing.

Let me share an example. Over the summer, I contacted one of our local Cru campus teams about meeting up to share with them who we are and what we do. (see our newsletter from last month – Frequently Asked Questions – Part 1).

We set a date to meet, but in the mean-time, I asked them to let us know if they had any recent grads who were living and/or working in Orange County with whom we could connect. I got an e-mail back with the name of a gal who had recently graduated and was living back at home in Orange County.

Jen arranged to meet with Rayna, who, as it turns out, lives very close to us. Jen explained what we’re doing and how we’re seeking to help Young Professionals stay connected to Jesus and live with purpose. Jen invited Rayna to be a part of a new Leadership Development Group that she is starting up. Rayna was excited to be a part of the group and began recruiting other women in the area whom she knows to be a part of the group with her.

Rayna invited some friends from her own local network to join her in being a part of Jen’s new Leadership Development Group

Rayna then told Jen about her college friend Chris who is a PhD student at UC Irvine.

I met with Chris and shared about what we’re doing, inviting Chris to be a part of my next Leadership Development group. Chris was not only interested but suggested I talk to his friend Arthur about the group.

Rayna connected Dave with Chris, a college friend who is a PhD student at UC Irvine.

The next week, I met with Arthur, heard his story, shared about our ministry and invited him to also be a part of my next group.

One simple e-mail and question ultimately led to us connecting with over half a dozen new people.

Chris introduced Dave to Arthur, a friend from a small group who is recent grad, living in South Orange County and working in Irvine.

While it may not be as easy to meet new people as it was when we were on campus, we’re starting to see the fruit of our networking efforts, as more and more Young Professionals are engaging with us and connecting us to their relational networks.

We are so grateful for your partnership which enables us to meet with people like Rayna, Chris and Arthur and others. Please continue to pray that we would connect with even more Young Professionals as our extended network continues to expand.

Frequently Asked Questions – Part 1

A few days ago, Jen and I drove to UCLA, but this time, it was not for Jen to see one of her many health specialists. Instead, we had scheduled to connect with the Cru leaders at UCLA to share our vision for Millennials and suggest ways we could help them prepare their seniors for life after college.

You might be surprised that even among some of our colleagues with Cru, one of the most frequently asked questions we get is “What do you do?”

Perhaps you’ve asked that question as well. The short answer is that we provide resources and services to help Young Professionals thrive spiritually and live missionally (live with purpose).

The longer answer deserves a bit of context.

Conditions in a greenhouse are optimized for growth. The greenhouse is often a picture of a student’s college spiritual experience
Photo by João Jesus from Pexels

Picture a greenhouse. Plants thrive in a greenhouse because growth conditions are optimized. They receive just the right amount of sun, water and nutrients, all meticulously measured and delivered at just the right time. Negative growth conditions are minimized because the environment is controlled.

A campus ministry experience is often much like a greenhouse, where all the necessary ingredients for growth are integrated into the fabric and culture of the group. Spiritual growth is optimized and the student often doesn’t even think about it. Indeed, many Young Professionals have communicated to us that their most significant spiritual growth and development occurred while they were involved in a campus ministry or a college group.

Now picture a wild field. In the wild field, conditions are harsher and not optimized. The ingredients necessary for growth aren’t delivered in measured, timely intervals. The wild field has weeds, which choke out water and nutrients, bugs that eat your leaves and animals who eat your fruit or chew on your root system.

The wild field is a harsher environment, with weeds, bugs & animals that can impede the growth process. (Photo on pexels.com)

The wild field is a picture of life after college. Growth can happen but one must be exponentially more intentional about seeking out and providing their own growth resources than they were in the greenhouse.

After college, many Young Professionals are feverishly searching for a new greenhouse but are continually disappointed at the futility of their efforts. For many, finding the post-college greenhouse is like seeing a leprechaun riding a unicorn while being chased by Sasquatch. It’s so rare that it can almost be categorized as a myth or urban legend.

When we share these two word pictures with Young Professionals and even other Cru staff, a light bulb often goes off. It just makes sense.

So what is it that we do?

One dandelion can produce hundreds of other dandelions often even miles away. Millennials who are unleashed to fulfill their potential have the same capacity to impact their communities and the world!

We come alongside Young Professionals who are navigating through the wild field of life and help to provide some of those growth ingredients that will make it easier for them to thrive spiritually and live missionally. We don’t create another greenhouse community. Instead, our hope is to help them navigate through the weeds (distractions) and predators that make it harder to experience fruitfulness.

Essentially, our desire is to help them learn how to live out their faith and their purpose as adults in the real world, just like everyone else.

Thanks for joining with us in helping Young Professionals connect to opportunities for leadership development, coaching and vocational discipleship, so that they can be unleashed to fulfill their unique potential and make a significant impact on their communities and the world!

Seeing Work as Meaningful

It was 1991 and I was tasked to spend the summer in Colorado working as part of the Summer Cru conference team. It was NOT my first choice for a summer mission but as luck would have it, I was assigned to work as a Teacher’s Assistant for Dr. John Sailhamer, who was teaching a two-week survey course on the Old Testament.

One of my duties was picking up Dr. Sailhamer in the morning and bringing him to campus so he could eat breakfast in the dining hall before class. This provided me the opportunity to get to know him in a casual environment. I found out he was a baseball fan and surprisingly very down to earth. When he found out that a group of us young, single, Cru staff guys were all going to see the new Terminator 2 movie that had just come out, he joined the group and enjoyed the movie as much as the rest of us.

The Pentateuch as Narrative by John Sailhamer was published in 1995.

At the time, Dr. Sailhamer was working on a book entitled “The Pentateuch as Narrative”. It was more of a scholarly work that wasn’t quite completed but it was fascinating to hear him share his thoughts, particularly his perspective on work. He contended that God had given Adam work to do BEFORE the fall and therefore work was good and meaningful. This challenged my perspective, which had always associated work with labor and toil and more of a penalty that resulted from the Fall.

A few months ago, while I was in the Sacramento area visiting friends and ministry partners, I had lunch with my friend Scott Agee, who has worked as a Civil Engineer for many years. I was interested in learning more about his job and what he does since my twins have shown interest in pursuing engineering as a possible major in college.

Scott Agee owns his own Civil Engineering firm, where he serves his customers, and the Lord by designing industrial laundries. To read Scott’s thoughts and guiding principles on the Theology of Work go to: http://bit.ly/SAgeeWork

As we talked, Scott made a comment that stuck with me. He said, “my job might not seem interesting to a lot of people…I design industrial laundry facilities…but I like to think I’m really providing a service to people…after all, everyone needs clean laundry.”

Scott, to me, is a great example of someone who loves what he does and through his work, finds tangible ways to meet people’s needs, while looking for opportunities to minister to them as God provides.

As we work with Young Professionals, one of our challenges is to help them to see their work as valuable. Sometimes, we can fall into the trap of believing that only those who are in full-time ministry, directly helping to meet other’s spiritual needs, are doing significant work.

Part of our role is what we call Vocational Discipleship – to help others to see that their work is important and meaningful and can be used by God to advance His kingdom purposes just as much, and perhaps even more, than those who are in full-time vocational ministry.

We’re still learning the best ways to impart these values and ideas to Young Professionals so we would greatly appreciate your prayers as we continue to dream and create the kind of environment that would help Young Professionals to thrive spiritually and live with purpose.

Thank you for your prayers and your partnership as we seek to ensure that Christ is exalted among this current generation of Young Professionals!


To see more of Scott’s thoughts on work and guiding business principles, go to:  http://bit.ly/SAgeeWork

Feeling Disconnected in an Interconnected World

(10:00 p.m. on a School Night)

“Is the internet down? I can’t get online!”

“I’m not sure. Try refreshing  your browser.”

“I did that. I still can’t get online.”

“Have you tried rebooting your computer? Let me know if that fixes the problem.”

The internet has put endless amounts of information at our fingertips, but for most people, has complicated the process of developing deep, meaningful relationships.

(Minutes later)

“I rebooted my computer and I still can’t get online. I think there’s something wrong with the network.”

“Alright (sigh), let me check. Why do you need to get online anyway? It’s late!”

“I’m working on a class assignment and need to access my document in the cloud.”

“Is it urgent? Is it due tomorrow? Does it have to be done tonight?”

“No. But I have 3 tests and another major assignment due this week and if I don’t work ahead now, I’m going to get slammed later in the week. That’s why I need to get online.”

(Yelling from another room): “I just rebooted the modem. Did that work?”

“No. I still can’t connect to the network.”

“Arrrggghhhhhh!!!!!” (shaking fist in the air)

Perhaps you can relate to this scenario (which happened in our home a few weeks ago). We’ve become so integrated with the internet via our computers, tablets and phones that when the network goes down, we’re not sure how to function. Panic can set in when we try easy troubleshooting tactics and still can’t fix the issue.

AT&T had a whole ad campaign a few years ago connected to this theme. Their ads showed humorous responses a family had after being disconnected from the internet at home for 4 minutes, 6 minutes, 9 minutes and so forth. The ads always concluded by saying, “Keep Calm, your internet is on.” AT&T then touted their 99% reliability rating in providing consistent and uninterrupted internet service to their customers. (See YouTube video at: https://youtu.be/zYys_Jg9xz4 )

The internet is an amazing tool that has allowed people to be instantly connected to information. Whatever you want or need, it’s all there at the click of a button.

As helpful as this information may be, it can make meaningful relational connection more difficult.

The internet has enabled us to have access to seemingly endless information about our friends. We see what they’re doing on Facebook. We see their photos on Instagram. We know what they’re thinking by the tweets they post. And yet ironically, we feel even more disconnected!

Almost universally, as we meet with Millennials, they tell us of their desire to have deeper relational connections and the challenges they face in experiencing those kinds of relationships in today’s digital culture. Sadly, for many Young Professionals, the struggle to find meaningful community extends to their church.

I sat across a table recently with a Young Professional who told me very directly of his frustration to find real community within his church. He’d been in several Bible Studies that didn’t last and after attending church regularly for several years, he found that his closest friends were all outside of the church. He’s been struggling lately to understand the purpose and relevance of church in his life, which has given birth to a seed of disillusionment.

Unfortunately, we’ve found that this is not an isolated occurrence with this generation of Young Professionals.

Our challenge is to help Young Professionals connect with Jesus, who is the only legitimate source of life, and to learn to form deep, meaningful relationships with others in our current cultural environment. We’re trying a number of things to help foster meaningful connections.

Jen’s lunch-time book club has created meaningful conversations related to the topic of faith and work.

Jen has incorporated a work-lunch book study to bring Young Professional women together around a certain topic that helps create meaningful conversations and deepen relationships.

We’ve also created Leadership Development groups to bring Young Professionals together in a cohort-like environment to process life with other Young Adults and talk about core faith issues that are relevant in today’s cultural and professional environment.

We’re seeing signs of success but we’ve learned that building effective community always takes work and it always takes time. That’s a challenge because in today’s internet environment, it’s often easier to entertain ourselves with digital alternatives than to invest the time and work necessary to create the kind of real connections that our souls really crave and need.

Please pray with us as we seek to find effective ways of helping Young Professionals connect with others. And please pray for us as well, as we need those same kinds of life-giving relationships in our own lives.

Thanks for journeying with us!