Colossian Blog

Displaying all posts tagged "Staff".
Culture: The Beautiful Things We Hope For
November 22, 2017 | Jennifer Vander Molen
Culture: The Beautiful Things We Hope For
Each Colossian Way small group session opens with the group remembering why they're here and acknowledging God's presence. Messy situations, difficult subjects, polarizing conversations, and paralyzing conflict can all draw us into lives of deeper faithfulness to God. Success in the small groups can be measured by if we grew in love of God and love of neighbor through the course of the ten weeks together. These important tenets are also key parts of the internal culture at The Colossian Forum. We practice opening the day with morning prayer as a staff team, which helps us remember why we're here and acknowledge God's presence together. But prayer and meetings aren't the only components of a strong organizational culture. Here's a peek inside the curtain of what makes TCF tick in our organizational culture. Intentionally strengthening the organizational culture is an important priority as The Colossian Forum continues to grow. We developed the TCF Attitude to touch on the key aspects of our culture: a hungry spirit, humble heart, and being people of joy. We want to be a team that embodies a sensitive, efficient, innovative, and enjoyable workplace. Hungry Spirit Exhibiting a hungry spirit indicates the desire to grow more deeply into the image of Christ by pursuing excellence and a strong commitment to our mission of conflict as opportunity. We see the divisive issues we engage in as places where the church can do better and we're hungry to make that happen. A hungry spirit also involves displaying an urgent desire to manifest Christ's peace in the world. We actively seek to be the best in what we do and engage in responsible risk-taking. TCF is hungry to do more, learn more, and broaden the scope of our mission. The shadow side of that hunger is the high pressure and toll on relationships. It can be easy to become discouraged, be hungry for things we haven't been given, and demanding God to do things that fit in our agenda. Humble Heart Alongside a hungry spirit lies a humble heart, which means that at TCF embodies Mark 12:30-31 by exhibiting a love of God and love of neighbor. We delight in the different gifts and desires God's put on our team, and work hard to embody our mission of conflict as opportunity. A humble heart is also respectful, disciplined, and respectful. We genuinely care for one another and humbly submit to the mission of The Colossian Forum. We also recognize that we don't have all the answers and happily connect with partners who can help us broaden and implement our thoughts, worldview, and mission. Sometimes it's hard to have a humble heart when pursuing excellence and having a fear of failure. Often it's easy to rely on pride and control instead of submitting to the Lord in humility. People of Joy Underlying the hungry spirit and humble heart is that at our core, we are people of joy who truly delight in God and each other. We embrace the staff team family and have great hope that we can live into our remarkable mission. We do our best to not take ourselves too seriously--after all, it's God's world, not ours. Our team also works to maintain perspective and engage in healthy spiritual practices. It's a true joy to celebrate God's work in us through both successes and failures. Even the most joyful among us can struggle with fear of failure and the pressures of overwork, and it's no different at TCF. It's hard to accommodate the time for celebration and joy with the expectation of task completion. It's a balance to incorporate joy into our work life, but one we're committed to integrating better. It's easy to forget that how we act comes under our service to Christ and that we are living this out as Christians. We hope this glimpse into the hopes and fears behind how we work at The Colossian Forum helps point to the beautiful things we hope for.
Deeper Discipleship Needs an Effective Toolbox: An Interview with TCF’s Rob Barrett
July 26, 2017 | Jennifer Vander Molen
Deeper Discipleship Needs an Effective Toolbox: An Interview with TCF’s Rob Barrett
When we onboard new staff and interns, they are tasked to spend time with everyone on the TCF team and get to know them both personally and professionally. Our intern Rebecca Murdock saw her time with Rob Barrett, our Director of Forums and Scholarship, through her writers' lens. We think (and hope) you'll enjoy this insight into Rob and his work here at TCF. It’s late afternoon on a Monday, and I’ve snagged some time with Rob Barrett between his responsibilities editing curriculum and working on a video shoot for the next Colossian Way training session. Despite being surrounded by paperwork, he seems upbeat, making occasional quips about the hurdles he’s facing. When I ask him why he’s here at The Colossian Forum, he smiles. “For some reason, I’m drawn to projects that others see as impossible,” he says chuckling. His work history shows that to be more than a good-natured joke. From working as a research scientist for IBM in Silicon Valley, to teaching Old Testament and Hebrew in England, to his work as a postdoctoral researcher in Göttingen, Germany, he relishes tackling difficult questions and teaching others to do the same. He first heard of The Colossian Forum when his friend sent him a job advertisement in Germany and encouraged him to apply. “Why in the world he thought of me, I wasn’t sure initially,” Rob says, explaining that he was content with his research job at the time. But his friend insisted that since Rob was involved in both communities of faith and science, he would be ideal for The Colossian Forum’s training on human origins. Out of curiosity, Rob contacted Michael Gulker, the president of TCF, and quickly found a great conversation partner regarding topics of theology, philosophy, and the future of the church. “I had always been interested in discipleship and helping build up the laity to do the work of ministry,” Rob says. “The Colossian Forum provided some of the much-needed tools for laity to be able to do that and I was intrigued.” From his younger days in church, Rob remembers being impressed by a quiet man who used to sit in the next pew over. He was active in church and, though he didn’t say much, had a lot of influence in the church community. Sometimes, the man wasn’t sure how to lead, and didn’t have any formal training, but Rob was impressed by his commitment to live faithfully and continue to serve in his corner. “When I think about the curriculum we build at The Colossian Forum, that’s the kind of person I picture us helping,” Rob says. “Lay people who are willing to serve and influence the community, but who just could use some more tools to do so.” When asked what his dream would be for the future of TCF, Rob stops to think a minute. “I think the best future would be that we are not needed anymore. That scholars and church members would naturally take up this mode of discipleship when discussing difficult things without needing our framework. “While I think we can be useful to providing the identity and vision needed in the short term, I hope that one day, a community of practice can form in Christian churches and do this better than we ever imagined.”
TCF Welcomes Student Intern Rebecca Murdock
July 5, 2017 | Jennifer Vander Molen
TCF Welcomes Student Intern Rebecca Murdock
TCF welcomes Rebecca Murdock to a one-year student internship, which begins this summer. Rebecca is studying The Colossian Way for her master’s thesis, and also participating in research projects for The Colossian Forum. She is originally from Loma Linda, CA, but grew up in Puerto Rico, Michigan, and Massachusetts as a pastor/professor’s kid. Fed up with snowy winters in Massachusetts, she returned to her old California neighborhood and completed a bachelor’s degree in Communication, Public Relations & Advertising from La Sierra University in Riverside, CA. After graduation, she spent several years doing marketing and recruiting for her alma mater before her interest in theology began to take center stage. Around the same time, she and her fiancée, J. (James) Murdock, were married and moved to Boulder, CO. J. began work as an associate pastor for the Seventh-day Adventist church in Boulder and Rebecca focused on the formation of young adult church groups in the area. After one year getting settled in Boulder, J. was sponsored to complete his Master of Divinity at Andrews University's Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs, MI, and the couple transferred to cooler climates. Rebecca also began her master’s at Andrews Seminary, and is currently completing a Master of Arts in Theological Studies. Some of her passions include listening to eclectic music, traveling, learning languages, talking about gender communication, and dreaming up what church looks like for the next generation. She is currently part of a student group to better Christian-Muslim relations in Michigan, and is interested in helping those on seemingly opposite ends of a spectrum find common ground. She and J. hope to start a family one day, but currently might adopt a kitten in the near future. Welcome, Rebecca!
TCF Welcomes Chris De Vos as our Manager of Church Partnerships and Care
June 21, 2017 | Jennifer Vander Molen
TCF Welcomes Chris De Vos as our Manager of Church Partnerships and Care
The Colossian Forum is very pleased to welcome Chris De Vos as our Manager of Church Partnerships and Care. This position will help expand our network of church partners, provide leadership of Colossian Way leaders, and develop our Community of Practice. Chris graduated from Calvin College and Calvin Seminary and completed a Doctor of Ministry degree at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, Illinois. He worked as a pastor in the Christian Reformed Church at the University of Colorado, Boulder; in Dunwoody, Georgia; Kingston, Ontario; and, most recently, in Holland, Michigan. The threads of reconciliation and unity were woven into his life by his musician parents, who moved easily between churches of different denominations. Chris grew up assuming it was possible to collaborate across differences. That spirit continued to characterize his time at Pillar Church, leading to the church's decision to become a dual-affiliation congregation of the Christian Reformed Church in North America and the Reformed Church in America (CRC and RCA). Pillar has become a laboratory of collaborative work with Hope College, Western Theological Seminary and other churches and agencies.  In 2015, he moved to lead the Ridder Church Renewal initiative at Western Theological Seminary. Chris and his wife Barb are celebrating 39 years of marriage this year, and have three grown children and two grandchildren. He enjoys playing guitar, running, reading and travel. Chris begins his work at TCF on Monday, July 3. You can reach him at cdevos@colossianforum.org. Welcome, Chris!
Reflections on Unity
May 24, 2017 | Trey Tirpak
Reflections on Unity
As a soon-to-be college graduate who is looking forward to heading out into the world, I’ve realized that I’m inheriting an American society that is more polarized than ever. Republicans hate Democrats, Democrats hate Republicans, and all of us are suspicious of those Independents. As I think about where I may find my next church home, I often read the statements of faith that many churches now publish on their websites. I ask myself if it’s a liberal church or a conservative church. I wonder what position their members and leadership take on gay marriage or evolution. Sometimes, from just a simple glance at a church web page, I uncharitably conclude that, “These aren’t the type of Christians I want to worship with”. I assume that I am not alone in this. Yet are we not one church? Do we not eat at one table, kneel at one cross, praise but one name? Across political, socioeconomic, and geographic divides, all Christians claim the same good news: that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us and was resurrected. How, then, do we account for the incredible differences in opinion among Christians today and what exactly do we do about it? The Apostle Paul compares the church to a human body. Like a human body, the body of Christ is made up of many parts. In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul writes, “Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit”. Each part of the body brings a different perspective, a different understanding, and has a different role to play. But no part can function on its own and all must work together to survive. Even in the tremendous diversity of the body, by God's power there is unity. This unity in Christ has been hard to see in recent times. Christians of differing theological understandings have resorted to schism and isolation rather than attempting the hard work of confronting conflict. And while it may seem easier for rival factions to simply go their separate ways, where is the Christian witness in running from difficult situations? Is our belief in God's power so small that we cannot fathom the bridging of our differences? Is our commitment to Jesus' command to love one another really so weak? Paul's words admonish our actions: "The eye can never say to the hand, 'I don’t need you.' The head can’t say to the feet, 'I don’t need you.'" Our Christian witness is not found in our ability to agree on all things. We are not called to be a church of mindless clones. That is the witness of human culture, which forces individuals to choose between agreement or exclusion. Instead, our Christian witness is found in the fact that we are one body of many disagreeing parts. Our witness is found in our diversity, in our humility, in our graciousness, in our love for God, and in our love for one another. This is something the world cannot offer, for only God can hold together such a messy, marvelous body. As it is written in Colossians 1:17-18 (TCF’s namesake verse), “in Christ all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church ….” Even with Christ as the head, disagreements will still exist among believers. But Christians have a choice when it comes to conflict in their churches. And when we choose to let Christ hold us together, we choose to receive the blessing of his saving grace and the power of his resurrection. The spiritual death that is enmity, division, and suspicion can be turned into a renewed life of love, unity, and understanding. I've seen it happen in my own life. I work at a church whose theological and political leanings differ from mine. Over the years, I've found myself becoming more critical and less gracious in my thoughts toward my church. But God has been working on my heart, and while I still don't agree with some of my church family, I've started loving them in a new way. Instead of loving my church family despite our disagreements, I've somehow come to love them because of those disagreements. I'm beginning to realize that my brothers and sisters who disagree with me are not some sort of trial or hardship, but an example of God's grace in my life. How else are we to experience God's grace and power if not through his ability to renew our lives in the midst of conflict and disagreement? I have been blessed with the time I've had as an intern at The Colossian Forum. My experience here has helped me come to a new understanding of what it means to be a part of the body of Christ. As I move forward into this next chapter of my life, I pray for opportunities to put this new perspective into practice, trusting that all things truly will hold together in Christ.
TCF Welcomes Jan Stump as our new Director of Development
April 19, 2017 | Jennifer Vander Molen
TCF Welcomes Jan Stump as our new Director of Development
The Colossian Forum is thrilled to welcome Jan Stump to our staff as our new Director of Development. Jan is continuing a 30-year vocation of advancing the missions of nonprofit organizations through fund development. Most recently she served as Executive Director of the ACSI Education Foundation, a supporting organization for the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI), Colorado Springs, CO. Prior to that she served for ten years as ACSI’s Director of Development and Public Relations and for twelve years as Director of Development at Grace Christian School in Anchorage, AK. Over the years, she has had the privilege of training and mentoring hundreds of school leaders worldwide in fund development and student enrollment. Fueling her work is a passion to better understand what it means to educate students with the mind of Christ, embodying the love of Christ within their classroom experience and beyond. The mission of The Colossian Forum resonated deeply with her desire to see Christian schools increasingly adopt a winsome posture in the world—a posture of generosity, curiosity, and grace. In 2016 Jan joined TCF’s Board of Directors and was soon drawn to this exciting opportunity of partnering with the team in furthering TCF’s transformative vision. Jan received her bachelor’s degree from Seattle Pacific University before moving to a remote Indian village in Alaska where her husband, Don, taught all elementary grades in a one-room school. She earned a master’s degree in literature from the University of Alaska Anchorage, focusing on postmodern contemporary fiction. She has maintained continuous recognition as a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) since 2001. Don and Jan have three sons, three daughters-in-law, and four grandchildren. She reads widely, enjoys long walks and treasures the blessed and beautiful monotony of hand quilting. Jan will be based in Colorado Springs, with significant time spent with TCF staff both virtually and in person. You can reach her at jstump@colossianforum.org. Welcome, Jan!