God led me to an increased role with Youth For Christ (YFC) USA as an answer to my prayer for relevance after I sold my business. I joined the YFC USA board in 2013. It has been an enriching experience, for sure.
In recent years, YFC USA was heading toward a presidential transition. Sherri Haushalter had aptly chaired the board for a number of years, and the nominations committee determined to appoint a new chair before that happened, so the new chair would journey with the new president.
In September 2019, I was elected to serve as board chair. Prior to this time, Holly Culhane, who was leading the trustee development committee, shared a book with Sherri, The Council: A Biblical Perspective on Board Governance. Sherri loved it and agreed to send a copy to each board member!
I appreciate the biblical and practical nature of this book. So, one of the first things I did as board chair was to use “The Council Model” – Scripture, Silence, Sharing, and Supplication – in our meetings. The first time we did it was with the Scripture of the anointing of David.
The exercise was powerful. We related what we read to our then president, Dan Wolgemuth. It also challenged us to think about what gifts God wanted us to look for in the next president of YFC USA. Right off the bat, it shaped and unified our approach to the selection process.
Soon, we launched the search for a new president. We hired external consultants, came up with a clear job description, and began to accept applications. Together, we asked many questions: What does group discernment look like? How does the board lead a search but hold it loosely in order to let the Lord guide the process? On top of that, we were all living in challenging times with the pandemic, and great social and racial unrest.
For YFC USA, it meant that we had to cancel camps and other programs. The uncertainty of the impact on giving also added stress to our situation. Even the way we did board meetings changed. Dan had said, “The first 15 years of my presidency prepared me for this last year.” It was hard.
At this point, we actually paused the search. Then, in God’s timing, Dr. Gary Hoag met with our board and taught from The Council and led the YFC USA board through three different Scriptures using the model: Isaiah 43, Luke 10:1-20, and 2 Corinthians 1:3-9.
This experience gave us eyes to see and hearts to trust God more deeply. This led us to spend more time in prayer together as a group. We relaunched the search in the fall of 2020 after we reviewed the job description and updated some of the language to reflect our values.
When 230 applicants were narrowed down to only a few candidates, the consultants asked us, “What if there’s a split? How would you decide?” While we still did the work of building build a matrix, we believed it was going to be unanimous, so we decided to spend more time in prayer. During the interview season, there was an open call in Zoom for search committee members to pray. Eight candidates were narrowed to two and in-depth interviews were held.
We took a day to pray without sharing our preferences. Then, I asked each board member to email the name to me whom they discerned was the right candidate. It was indeed unanimous: Jake Bland would be the 10th YFC USA president.
Through prayer and Scripture reading, the Spirit led our search process. As in the story of David, we discerned the person God anointed for service. When the board met in person for the first time since the pandemic started in June 2021, Dan as outgoing president, lead the first day.
Prayer and the reading of Scripture would be central to the installation of Jake as president. On the second day, we the board stood with Jake and read 2 Kings 2, the story of Elijah and Elisha, verse by verse. It was a rich time together, standing, listening, and sharing with one another.
As Kingdom diversity is one of YFC USA’s values, we experienced it afresh when each person shared how the Spirit spoke to them through the reading of the text. While unique themes resonated with each person, the Spirit united us and showed us the way forward in this time of transition.
After going through The Council together, I can see change in the board, especially with us business types. Light bulbs have gone on, letting each of us see that when we adopt this mindset and this model, we get ourselves out of the way and really watch God work. We want this for all our chapter boards!
YFC USA has 130 chapters who have now been exposed to The Council thanks to online trainings facilitated by GTP. Early reports from chapter board members say that, in similar fashion, this mindset and model has given them unity and clarity to discern direction and to make decisions.
We hope all board members everywhere who are reading this story will read the book and see for themselves the impact it can have. And I hope each YFC USA chapter board depends on God as we are learning to do, to guide them to play their part in reaching kids with the gospel of Jesus Christ.