The wait is over!!!

April 11, 2008

Family, Ministry

Austin_Skyline_at_Dusk_01It’s been a long… long journey. Well, I guess it could have been longer. Well, yesterday I accepted a position and within a month I’ll be right back at doing what I do best! Woo hoo! God is so good. There is a story here that I’d like to tell.

Most of you who knew me well knew that I had been really struggling at my last job. Cross Timbers is a fantastic church doing an incredible thing in the Fort Worth area. CT is a multi-site church trying to figure out exactly how to do multi-site (they’re not alone… it’s still a very new concept in ministry). As CT was trying to figure out what multi-site looked for them, my role kept getting changed which brought frustration, disappointment among other issues. Literally, a week before I was let go, Sara and I sat on our couch and cried. We were stuck! I wasn’t happy in my work, Sara (as a new mom) didn’t want to work, and we really needed to get out from underneath our house (we bought it based on being DINKs). We decided that day that we were going to put our house on the market ASAP and I even sent my resume into a church I was interested in out in Las Vegas. Then, only one week later I Sara and I were released from Cross Timbers.

Throughout this process, we were looking for God’s hand in these events. Although this isn’t the path I would have chosen, getting let go actually did solve several of our problems. I was no longer unhappy at work. Ha! In addition, it was great motivation to get rid of our house. Again, not route I would have walked, but it worked.

Some of you who know me well knew the things going through my head at this time. I was feeling a little burnt and was considering taking a break from working in the local church. I saw this as maybe my opportunity to take a break, stretch some entrepreneurial muscles, do some ministry consulting, speaking and even some writing. I was really searching for what was next for our lives. However, many of my closest friends (in a supportive way) essentially gave me kick in the pants in the right direction, not to give up so early on the local church. Thanks… sometimes I need those kicks.

We ended up landing in Valdosta, GA where I grew up. My parents run two EXPRESSTAX franchises where I could help them with this year’s tax season while getting paid enough to cover my bills. I got to work right away for them by learning all I could about preparing taxes, attending two conferences with them all while putting together a marketing campaign that would launch only a few week later. From the onset, I was busy, busy busy… even picking ups some freelance design work for a couple other tax franchise owners. Once tax season started in January, we were working from 10 and 11 hour days virtually 6 days a week. It’s pretty brutal for those four months.

Then, in the middle of January, we took off for Las Vegas. We were being very open-minded as we already were having trouble getting our heads around living in Las Vegas. The whole trip was a roller coaster ride of getting really excited about working at Central and not being sure if we would enjoy living in Vegas. However, while there I was exposed to a completely new philosophy of ministry. I’d heard of it before, but never seen it in action. It was family ministry, an approach where student ministry and children’s ministry are brought together and ministries are more aligned… they work together and help serve families in a more unified way. It solved so many of the issues I had encountered in the past 11 years of ministry. I loved it. I wanted to do it! Just a few weeks later, we found out that I didn’t get the job at Vegas. Similar to Cross Timbers, Central had to layoff 15% of their staff due to finances and the position I was applying for simply went away. Wow! I had told God that it would make it easier for me if the decision was made for me. In this case… it was! However, now I know exactly why I went to Vegas in the first place. It wasn’t for the job… it was for me to learn more about family ministry.

Not too much longer I went ahead and registered for the Orange Conference in Atlanta. It was a conference I had been wanting to attend for over a year. I didn’t know much about it, other than the biggest names in children’s ministry and student ministry would be there. As of late, I have become pretty disappointed with some of the other children’s ministry conferences. So, even though I wasn’t in a church, I felt I was supposed to attend Orange. I decided to figure out what Orange was really all about. You’ll never believe it. It’s about student and children’s ministry in the context of a family ministry approach. Can you believe that? Was someone trying to tell me something???

Then, just a few weeks later I got a call from a Church Staffing Firm I registered with. The consultant called me to tell me he just picked up a new church client that was looking for someone with my level of experience. He said, “Kenny, this position has your name written all over it.” He started off by telling me about the church. It was Gateway Church in Austin, Texas. In my mind, I was a little disappointed. A few weeks earlier I had seen a posting from Gateway for an elementary director’s position. I was very intrigued by the church, but not really interested in being an elementary director. The consultant must have talked about Gateway for 5-6 minutes. What he said was definitely exciting as it seemed like an incredible ministry… but I was preparing for the elementary director let-down. Then he transitioned. “Let me tell you about the position.” He then preceded to tell me about the new position of Generations Pastor they were hoping to hire. They were looking for someone to oversee all ministry from Birth through College in the context of family ministry. In addition, this would all need to be done in a multi-site approach.

I was speechless. What’s going on here? Don’t tease me!!!

I let him know that I was way beyond interested. This was perfect! Is God doing something here? Has he been preparing me for this?

Well, a few weeks later I was back in Texas closing on our home. I had my first phone interview with the Director of Operations. We spoke for a little over 2 hours. He felt good enough about our conversation that he wanted us to come down for a quick visit that weekend. We attended one service, walked around the next service and had lunch with the Director of Operations during their third service. It went really well and while on site, he asked us if we were interested in going to the next level. Of course we were!

The next week I spent hours and hours putting together several documents for him. Some were about my philosophy of ministry, others on my strategy for family ministry (most of it was so new as I was really learning about it) and several on methods for training, directing and leading volunteers and staff. We talked some more on the phone and finally set up a date for us to come back for the full interview process. That’s what we did last week. Two months after our initial visit, we were back in Austin.

I must say, it was the most intense interview process I’ve ever been a part of. It was a brutal gantlet. From Tuesday through Thursday I was in meetings, interviews or sharing meals with people from 9:00 AM until 9:00 PM. We had two days off where we only had dinner with one staff member and spent the next day with realtors. Then the week concluded with a totally packed Sunday where I attended three services (participating in one and walking around and experiencing the other two). We ate a quick lunch and rested for a few hours before I came back and spoke to a group of Children’s Ministry leaders for a little over an hour. So, even in my downtime over this week, I was preparing for my talk with these leaders. However, after it was all over, I felt good… totally spent… like I’d left it all out on the field.

We came home on Monday and began the waiting process. I had been told that I’d hear back at the end of the week. I assumed that it would probably be Thursday. They had a few more questions for me by email on Tuesday, but at this point I was just waiting. At about 3:00 PM on Thursday, I got the call. Gateway was officially offering me the position of Generations Pastor. They were excited and I was on cloud nine!

Here’s what I love most about all of this. The past 5 months have not been easy. Even to this day, I hate that I was let go… that was like a punch to my gut, a blow to my pride. From the moment it happened, I knew that it would be a lot harder explaining the circumstances as I was looking for my next gig. But God had a journey for us. He knew we were stuck. He knew I wasn’t happy. He knew what I had in me and he had a plan for me. In a few weeks we’ll have gotten a fresh start. We’ll be in a house appropriate for being a single income family. We’ll be in a very fun and eclectic city filled with things to do and places to see. We’ll be at a church that Sara and I are 100% behind… we love what they’re doing! I’ll be in a new frontier of ministry, able to do the things I’m really good at as well as facing new challenges that will make my work challenging and rewarding. In addition, we were able to spend several months with my family here in Georgia, especially to be here after the loss of my grandmother. I’ll probably be leaving just days after tax season ends. It certainly is interesting how things just seem to all work together like that. I’m so thankful for the journey God has had us on. We’re so happy!

Stay tuned, I’ll tell you more about Gateway in a few days.


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8 Responses to “The wait is over!!!”

  1. suitman79 Says:

    Congrats man! I knew God would lead you to the right place! We are so happy for you!

    Josh and Lizzie


  2. rcadle Says:

    Congratualtions Kenny and Sara! I’m really excited for you both (and Titus). We’ll be praying for this season of transition and new beginning!


  3. Shelby Says:

    you guys are born again texans!! hehe. congrats! we love you guys sooooooooooo much!


  4. DadR Says:

    Nice story of God’s grace. We certainly wish all of you well.


  5. UWalt Says:

    It’s great how God is giving you your heart’s desires – even to stay in TX. (I do have some concerns about you guys in that regard) Anyways, we’re really happy for you and pray God’s blessing on this new adventure for your family!


  6. melanie Says:

    Congratulations you guys!! We just heard the news! Welcome back to TEXAS!


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