Casting Away 2019

A few nights ago, while channel surfing, I stumbled across the Golden Globes broadcast. Tom Hanks was being honored with the Cecil B. DeMille award for his lasting impact on the movie industry.

During the monologue outlining Mr. Hanks’ long and illustrious career, there were short clips of the many noteworthy films he has starred in, including Saving Private Ryan, Forrest Gump, Apollo 13 and Cast Away.

The short clip of Cast Away showed a scene where Hanks is talking to a face-painted Volleyball he has named Wilson.

Tom Hanks, paints “Wilson” the volleyball, in the movie Cast Away

If you’re not familiar with the movie, the following may be considered a spoiler alert. In the movie, Hanks is the lone survivor of a FedEx plane crash where he finds himself stranded on a deserted island with only a few salvageable packages, one of which is a volleyball.

Hanks paints a face on the volleyball and since it is a Wilson branded ball, he begins calling it Wilson. Throughout the movie, Hanks talks to the ball as if it’s a real person, even responding to the ball as if it has talked back to him.

Jen and Jacob share an embrace in August at the beginning of Plebe Parent Weekend at the U.S. Naval Academy.

This strange dialogue might lead the viewer to conclude that Hanks, being alone on a small deserted island with no human contact, is going mad. But as the movie progresses, it becomes clear that Hanks’ dialogue with Wilson doesn’t indicate a step into insanity, but instead it’s a step to prevent insanity.

Hanks becomes so connected to Wilson that the movie-viewer can feel the anguish as Wilson begins to drift away beyond reach during Hanks’ attempted island escape.

As weird as this may seem, I can relate a bit to that feeling of anguish as the ball floats away. Numerous times this past year, we’ve had to say goodbye to our boys, and they have had to say goodbye to each other. Each time, there is a profound sense of sadness as we go our separate ways.

Jacob (left) and Joshua are all smiles after seeing each other right before Thanksgiving for the first time in months.

Even with amazing technological advancements such as texting and video chat, there still exists a deep longing and profound desire to to be with the people you love.

It appears that as humans we’ve been created with a deep need for human connection; our souls long for the physical presence of others.

In our ministry to Young Professionals, we know that this need and longing for connection IS the biggest need and challenge that they face. All of the most recent research and our own experience affirms that this is the case. Young Adults are desperately seeking meaningful connections with people who are in their life-stage.

Pray for Jacob (left) and Joshua as they enter the 2nd semester of their frosh year apart from each other.

In the past few years, we’ve positioned ourselves well to minister to Young Professionals by providing Leadership Development, Vocational Discipleship and professional level coaching. Yet a primary need and problem is helping Young Professionals develop significant connections with others.

As we reflect back on the lessons of 2019 and look forward to 2020, we would appreciate your prayers in these areas:

  1. Pray for Jen and me to pursue and maintain significant relationships that would feed our souls and encourage us to press on as we face new challenges.
  2. Pray for our boys to develop deep relational connections with others at their respective academies. 
  3. Pray for us to help the Young Professionals we encounter forge solid friendships with others that will spur them to continue to walk with Jesus and serve Him wherever they are.

We are grateful for you and your ministry to us. May you be richly blessed in 2020!

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”!

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!

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!

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!

Gaining Insights on Endurance

Last week, Jen and I attended a parent mixer for our boys’ Cross Country team. Because I’ve somehow become the team photo/video guy, I was asked to bring Cross Country videos that could be shown on a big screen TV, creating some background ambience for the event.

As I scoured my hard drives to look for videos I could show, I found a few videos that were shown at the last two Cross Country banquets. These were almost entirely photos of runners who ran during the course of the season with pictures zooming and and out to popular music.

I was particularly interested in the video from 2 years ago (see video below), when Jacob and Joshua were freshmen. I was surprised at how many kids in the video I didn’t recognize at all. I wondered who these kids were.

There must have been 50 freshman boys who were on the Cross Country team that year and most of them are no longer around.

Even this summer, it was almost a daily occurrence for Jacob and Joshua to come home from running and announce another kid from their class who had decided to quit the team.

This year’s team has a total of 6 seniors and only about 16 juniors.

Several of the kids who have recently hung up their running shoes were quite good as freshmen, and yet, for some reason, they did not have the desire or the determination to stick with it.

Cross Country runners must be disciplined, determined and mentally tough.

It’s hard to blame them, really. It’s a grueling sport that requires discipline, determination and mental toughness. There is no academic benefit to continuing beyond your second year as the graduation requirements only demand that students fulfill 2 years of Physical Education.

I realized how similar the Christian life is to distance running. Paul likens the Christian life to a race. He says in 1 Corinthians 9:24, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.”

The author of Hebrews also compares the Christian life to a race, but he qualifies it as a race of endurance, rather than a sprint. The author encourages us to, “lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…”

When I think about my twins’ Cross Country team, I wondered why some kids decide to stick with the sport while others quit.

Jen (middle) is helping Audrey and Hilary get connected to a larger community of Young Professional Christ-followers

You may have heard the statistic that Millennials make up the largest segment of our culture and yet they are the least churched. What is fascinating to me is to see the number of Millennials who were once really active in church and yet are now not involved.

Part of our task as we reach out to Young Professionals is to figure out why so many who once were quite active are now totally uninvolved.

I think the reasons Young Professionals give up on church may be similar to the reasons kids give up on sports like Cross Country. Some kids give up because of discouragement. Others are dealing with injuries and get weary of dealing with setbacks. Others don’t see themselves as really contributing. Still others leave because they don’t have close friends on the team. Finally, I think some kids quit because their interests and focus is somewhere else, whether on academics, another sport, or something else entirely different.

I think the reasons Millennials are leaving the church are likely the same. Our focus is on trying to create some systems and structures that will make it easier for Millennials to stay engaged in the race without giving up.

Athletes who feel they are directly contributing to the team’s goals and accomplishments may be more likely to persevere through hardship and barriers

We want to help create community so they feel like they belong. We also want to help them figure out their unique contribution to God’s Kingdom purposes. We don’t want to see anyone exiting the race because they don’t see themselves as being essential to the team.

Finally, we want to help Millennials develop a game plan that will help them stay engaged and make an impact. When you lose focus on what’s important, it’s very hard to stay in the race for a lifetime.

Thanks for your role in helping us stay engaged in the race and helping Millennials do the same!

Fishing For Friends!

Almost 20 years ago, Jen and I were officially challenged by our regional leaders to move to Davis and pioneer a new Cru ministry on the campus there. We excitedly said yes and moved to Davis the following summer of 1998. We were there for 10 years and it was an exciting time of tremendous fruit for us.

June, 1999a handful of students gather to celebrate our first year of Cru at UC Davis!

When we walked on campus that very first day, we had exactly ZERO students involved. By the end of the first year, we had 10 committed students involved. When we evaluated the makeup of those 10 students who were involved, we asked ourselves, “where did these students come from?” We wanted to know which of our events and activities were the most effective in attracting students.

What we realized is that our students came from everywhere. We met one student as the result of a spiritual interest questionnaire we conducted during orientation week. Another student came up to a table where we were passing out Freshman Survival Kits. Another student saw our info table during the first week of school. Two students saw a flier and came to a weekly meeting on campus later in the year. Another student was invited by a friend.

The reality for us in starting and building the ministry at UC Davis is that no one event drew all of the students who got connected to us. Each event & each activity yielded small results, which, when added together over time, developed into a growing core of committed student leaders.

When we transitioned to working with Young Professionals, we would often be asked, “How will you find Millennials?”

It’s a fair question and we wondered ourselves how things might develop.

One thing we learned from our campus days that we’ve applied to our current situation is that building anything of significance takes time. The work is long and hard and progress is often incremental. But after a while, when a solid core foundation is established, you eventually reach a point of critical mass, where things begin to take on a life of their own and you’re struggling just to keep up with all that’s happening.

Robert (left) connected with us through our website: ocamplified.com, while we met Tim (right) at the Epic Winter Conference.

For the last year or so, we’ve been working to build our foundational core group.

Just like our first year in Davis, we’re evaluating where our group members have come from. One guy is a former student from Davis who lives in the area. Another Young Professional contacted us through our website. We connected with one of the women in our group from a Cru conference last fall. Another gal was urged to contact us by her parents who are friends of our ministry.

The entry points are varied, but we know that at some point, our network will get to the point where things will begin to grow exponentially because of the combined relational networks of those involved.

Hundreds of people stopped by our booth at FishFest in order to spin the prize wheel!

Last month, we had the opportunity to host a booth at FishFest. FishFest is a large all day concert hosted by 95.9, The Fish – Southern California’s largest Christian radio station.

We thought an event like this might draw a lot of young people whom we might not encounter otherwise.

It was a fun event to do together. It was long and very busy at times, with a lot of people approaching our table to take a spin of our prize wheel.

In the end, we met a few Young Professionals, but not nearly as many as we had hoped we might. But that seems to be how things work. No one event is the silver bullet that magically transforms the ministry into a massive movement.

Please pray that Young Professionals like these would get connected to our network as a result of our time at FishFest.

Our hope though is that next year, when we’re evaluating our group’s makeup, we’ll have a few people connected to us whom we met through FishFest.

In the mean-time, we’ll continue to press forward in meeting Young Professionals in any way we can and seeking to connect them to our network, while helping them to thrive spiritually and live missionally.

Thanks for your continued prayers for us and for being a part of our building process.

And as a reminder, if you know a Young Professional who is living and/or working in Orange County or the surrounding area, let us know. We’d love to meet them for coffee or lunch, tell them about who we are and what we’re doing and see what happens!

 

P.S. Check out this One minute video highlighting some of the action at our FishFest 2017 booth!

Nacho Libre and Stones of Remembrance

I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. If you’re like me, it’s easy to get sucked into scrolling through your Facebook feed to see what’s happening with everyone you know (and everyone you DON’T know). But sometimes, I end up spending way too much time perusing when I really should be doing something else.

Facebook reminded us of a Halloween shopping trip where Jacob donned this Nacho Libre mask.

One thing that is fun about Facebook though, is the “Memory” feature. Occasionally, Facebook will show you a photo that you posted several years ago to remind you of a memory. Often, it’s something trivial, but sometimes, it brings to mind a special event or activity that has long been buried in the recesses of your brain.

May was a crazy month for us, with track finals, Mother’s Day and the twins’ birthday (on the same day), the boys’ driving test and our anniversary (also on the same day) as well as our nephew’s graduation in Fresno. It was a perfect opportunity to create more “memories.”

One of the things I love about Jen is that she takes great care to preserve the memories in our family. Whether it’s scrapbooking or making sure to get cards for special events and occasions, she does an amazing job of helping us “remember” the things that are important in our family.

In particular, Jen always tries to make sure Jacob and Joshua feel special on their birthday. She often does this by decorating the house with confetti, banners, balloons and other Happy birthday paraphernalia on their special day.

This year, Jen got a banner that had a clothespin attached to each letter of the phrase “Happy 16th birthday!” Since I’m the photographer in the family, Jen tasked me with the job of finding photos from the past year to attach to each clothespin on the banner.

The idea was to celebrate memorable moments of the past year while looking forward to the next year.

Jen poses for a photo with Jacob (left) and Joshua in front of their 16th birthday banner.

It was interesting to look back through photos from the past year because I realized how easy it is to forget about things that happened even such a short time ago.

I think God knows that we tend to be forgetful, which is why He commanded the Israelites so many times in the Old Testament to “Remember.” (The word “remember” occurs more than 130 times in the Old Testament alone)

In Joshua 4, right after the Israelites had crossed the Jordan River to enter the promised land, the Lord told Joshua to have representatives from each of the 12 tribes to take a stone from the middle of the Jordan River and to stack it in the place where they lodged that first night in the Promised Land.

This simple mound of rocks was to serve as a reminder to the Israelites for generations to come that the Lord had stopped the flow of the Jordan River long enough to allow the people to cross into the Promised Land. It was a Stone of Remembrance.

If you think about it, the many Jewish feasts and festivals scattered throughout the year served a similar purpose. Each was initiated as a way to remember something special the Lord had done to deliver or preserve His chosen people. Celebrating the feasts on an annual basis ensured a greater probability of remembering God and His extreme goodness and lovingkindness.

I find that I forget all kinds of things these days. I sometimes forget about appointments I scheduled. Sometimes I forget things that Jen has told me (she might say this is a frequent occurrence). And just like the Israelites, I can forget the many ways in which God has worked in my life and how He’s blessed our family.

I want to create more tangible ways of helping me remember what God has done in our lives and ministry. One way I have done that is occasionally taking time to look back through our old newsletters, which is a history (of sorts) of what God has done.

How about you? What have you done to help yourself remember how the Lord has blessed you? Perhaps you keep a journal that you thumb through regularly, or maybe you keep a detailed list of answered prayers.

Please share with us your ideas. Perhaps we’ll adopt some of them for ourselves!

Thank you for being a part of our story and our journey. We are extremely grateful for you!