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”!

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!

A New Coaching Perspective

This morning on The Today Show, Tom Brokaw shared a video segment on the latest workplace trend, WeWork, a communal office space, which, not surprisingly, is a trend that is being driven by Millennials.

The Four minute video can be seen here on Yahoo, but it was something Brokaw said in the post-piece discussion with the other Today Show hosts that caught my attention.

He said that “this [Millennial] generation is changing everything that we have taken for granted over the years. Often they change jobs. Between the ages of 20 and 31, they’ll change jobs SIX times. They don’t want a permanent [work] place.”

In our limited experience in meeting with Millennials, we’ve found this to be true. The Millennials I know are very transient and seem to be changing jobs or moving frequently.

I can’t say for sure what’s driving this need and desire for frequent change, but one thing that I can say, is that Millennials are concerned with and often confused about their calling, which may contribute to frequent job changes.

In just the past few weeks, Jen and I have met with several Millennials who’ve all asked similar questions, such as, “how did you know you wanted to do what you do?” Or, “how do you determine your calling in life?” Or, “how do I know if this career is right for me?”

Brendan Porter moved to Southern California to start a LaCrosse business. God had other plans. Brendan now serves as the South County Director for Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) and is working to impact the lives of high school students like my own twins, Jacob and Joshua.
Brendan Porter moved to Southern California to start a LaCrosse business. God had other plans. Brendan now serves as the South County Director for Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) and is working to impact the lives of high school students like my own twins, Jacob and Joshua.

These life questions are rooted in a deep-seated desire to make a difference in the world. Millennials want to make a positive impact on others yet they often don’t see how their job is directly contributing to any positive change.

Part of our vision in working with Millennials is to help them integrate their faith and work, understand God’s calling on their life, and learn how to advance God’s Kingdom purposes by serving in their community.

A big role we have is that of a coach. But my understanding of what it means to coach others is being challenged through some of the professional learning we’ve been pursuing.

You see, when I think of a coach, I tend to think of my Little League Coach or my high school wrestling coach. When I think about those coaches, there was a lot of instruction and teaching, which makes sense because those coaching scenarios largely involved skill acquisition.
When I think about coaching Millennials, I tend to think about imparting my wisdom, experience and expertise to those who are less experienced. My tendency, then, is to give advice and suggestions to help others move forward and make decisions.

Jen and I are reading a book that has challenged that thinking somewhat. The book, The Coach Model, suggests that the role of a coach (a life coach) is NOT to give advice or make suggestions. Instead, the coach’s role is to listen, ask questions and empower others to be equipped to think through and handle situations on their own.

The author makes the case that God is already at work in the life of all believers. Though all believers have the Holy Spirit, not all believers listen to His voice and know how to respond well. Coaching integrates a discernment process that empowers others to learn to seek and listen to God’s voice in their own discernment process.

In a sense, our job is to help Young Professionals mature spiritually in such a way that they become more and more reflective and dependent on the Holy Spirit as they seek to overcome obstacles and meet the demands of life.

It’s a different coaching perspective, but in the end, Young Professionals will be empowered to discern GOD’s calling on their life, instead of simply adopting the desires and calling that others may have for them.

Once a person understands their calling and their passion, lives are impacted and communities are transformed. This is our hope and prayer for Orange County.

Please pray with us and for us as we learn new skills and coaching paradigms that will enable us to more effectively minister to Millennials in Orange County and release them to advance God’s Kingdom purposes throughout our community!

A Month of Milestones

This last month has been full of milestones and new steps forward for us.

You might remember that a few months ago, Jen had cataract surgery on her right eye. One of the side effects to being on Prednisone for an extended period of time is that it can cause cataracts to develop. Jen’s vision in her right eye was so obscured by an enlarging cataract that her ophthalmologist recommended that she get the surgery.

The surgery was a success but at a follow up appointment about 6 weeks later, her doctor recommended that she get cataract surgery in her left eye because that cataract had continued to grow. So in mid-November, Jen had cataract surgery on her left eye as well.

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Jen and Dave celebrated with dessert at the Cheesecake Factory when Jen took her last Prednisone pill.

Not long after that, on November 19th to be exact, Jen took her last Prednisone pill. Jen has been slowly tapering down on her Prednisone dosage since February and finally, she had reached the point where she could eliminate this medication from her daily pharmaceutical regimen. It was an exciting moment for sure.

Last week we experienced another milestone in our continuing recovery. For the first time in 20 months, Jen and I traveled together for a conference related to our work. It’s not often that we get excited about traveling out of town for a bunch of meetings, but I admit that I was looking forward to a change of pace and connecting with our colleagues from other cities.

Our meetings in Austin were an opportunity for us to rub shoulders with about 20 other Cru staff around the country who are ministering to Millennials in their respective city locations. it was great to be with like-minded people who have a passion for the Lord and are trying innovative approaches to connecting with and ministering to the 20-somethings in their cities. We came away inspired and full of new ideas.

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Jen provides some training on coaching others to about 20 Cru staff who are ministering to Millennials.

And in a strange twist of irony, Jen was asked to do some training on coaching that she has learned because the original presenter, a Cru staff mentor of Jen’s, had to back out due to some personal health issues.

About a week before our trip, Jen was asked if she could step in and provide the coaching training to our group since she has received extensive training through the Leadership Development program of which she’s been a part for the last 4 years. It was not an ideal situation, given that Jen’s only prep time was during Thanksgiving week, which we had already planned to take off, but Jen did a fantastic job helping us to learn coaching techniques that will help us immensely as we coach Millennials and train others to be mentors to Millennials.

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Jen demonstrates the training in a live coaching situation with one of our staff who works with Millennials in Chicago.

Thanks for your continued prayers and support as we continue to move forward in this crazy journey we’ve been on. We are amazed at the Lord’s goodness towards us and we’re extremely grateful for you!