A time to stay, a time to leave. [June 2021]

jayson Misc 18 Comments

The Last 10 Years

Fia, 10 years ago.

Ten years ago this month, we welcomed Fia into the world, celebrated my first Father’s Day as a dad, we wrapped up our working-sabbatical in Orlando by moving back to PA for 9 months, and I joined the Jesus Film Project joining a newly formed digital department.

This year, we’re finally (hopefully!) emerging from a pandemic, with a complete handful of kids. I’ve lived in this zip code longer than any in my life. My job has transformed into a UX (User Experience) Design Lead in the Digital Solutions team within what is now a 10 team department with more than 60 members that is provide tools, films, and experiences that allow millions of people around the world to respond to the Gospel each year.

And this week, almost 10 years to the day that I joined this team officially, I announced that I’m stepping away from my role and the Solutions team. (Though, not Jesus Film Project.)

The Jesus Film Digital Team in 2015

The Last 21 Months

In October of 2019, I was asked to lead a 3-person UX Design team. I had never lead a team before, and I’d never really even been a part of a design team to see how to do the job. One of the contractors on my new team was assigned to train me up in the role for six months. Three months later, our department director left his position unexpectedly, and my then-boss was placed into his position and another coworker into my previous boss’ role. Less than two months later, COVID changed everything again. 

As we got into April, and I took the design team’s reigns with both hands, we were headed in a pretty good direction. Then that same contractor was rear-ended and experienced “light” traumatic brain injury, preventing him from looking at a screen for more than a few minutes without getting a migraine that would put him down for hours. This was just before the peak of a budget crunch due to decreased giving rooted in COVID’s economic impacts. Some deep cuts had to be made, and a couple of months later, it was decided that Cru would have to terminate the large percentage of its contractors to stay afloat until the end of the year – including this specific contractor. I didn’t know until after the decision was made. It pulled the rug out from under my design team.

Working on our real-world tour project from home during lockdown.

I have to admit, I have struggled a lot since then, trying to lead this small team and producing designs and experiences that tell people about Jesus. We’ve done some overhauls of the Jesus Film Project app, designed two interactive experiences for a renovated Jesus Film tour (when our headquarters opens up again), improved our self-guided web-based user journeys that move people from watching YouTube videos to engaging with the Gospel directly and connecting them to local bodies of believers. We’ve also participated in numerous projects that haven’t gone live yet or were just parts of bigger initiatives.

This whole time, I was struggling under the weight of leading a team while feeling like I had to set my direction on my own because I wasn’t getting any clarity from my direct leadership. I didn’t even have a specific job description to know if I was doing the right things.

Realistically, my boss got placed into his position without enough preparation – he’s admitted as much. The swiftness with which our department restructured and then COVID hit led to a lot of confusion and unclear direction. My boss was also dealing with one thing after another with family, health, housing, work, car accidents, etc. – none of which were his fault – and he has walked through these challenges in ways that prove out his faith and perseverance. Yet, it affected his ability to lead effectively – which has gutted my confidence in this position over the last ten months.

After a tough meeting one Tuesday two weeks ago, where I felt like my boss hadn’t been entirely honest and truthful with me, I hit what felt like a tipping point of “it’s time.” I spent the next few days and then an entire day that Friday asking the Lord what I could do, and it has seemed like the Lord has prepared me to move on from this team and this role. This past Friday, I told my boss and then the rest of the Solutions team my decision. Yesterday, he and I sat down with some people from HR, and I was able to lay out all of my reasons for doing so. I prayed at the beginning of the meeting and made sure to tell him that – despite the hard things I had to say about his leadership – I have been encouraged and inspired by seeing his walk with the Lord over the past year. It was important to me to say what I’ve experienced out loud to his face. The meeting was constructive, and I think it was encouraging to both of us – even if it was VERY difficult. 

The Next [Number] of [Time Period]

My most likely plan in the short-to-medium term is to stay in the same Digital Department within Jesus Film and work within another design team as a Project Coordinator. I would create a project process for them, a piece of my previous role that I needed desperately, but didn’t have the capacity in my schedule to create it. 

God calls us to faithfulness over fruitfulness

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll work to prepare all of the projects that I’ve worked on to hand off to whoever will fill my role – there’s already a process in motion to find that person. I’m making sure that the vacuum that my departure will create is as minimal as possible by trying to create a well-organized cache of my working files and plans. I’m also trying to finish my projects for the app, web journeys, and an updated website and blog. 

In the coming months, my soon-to-be-former team is launching into the next phase of Jesus Film Project’s digital product suite, and I honestly think that they’re headed in a fantastic direction. I know it seems odd that I would be leaving at this moment. Sometimes it seems like I’m stepping away just as the return on my work might be the most fruitful. I remember something that a friend once told me about the Christian life that can be hard for us, especially those in ministry to remember – God calls us to faithfulness over fruitfulness.

Some potential

I delivered a proposal a few weeks ago to create a team to specifically focus on coordinating the user experience design of our whole suite of tools and products. That is still being considered as a possibility; this decision does not directly affect that.

We’ll keep you updated on all of this, pray that the Lord would lead clearly, and that we’d see His purpose for all of this!

Lots of Love!

This was a long, kinda dense one, so as a reward, here are some family photos!

Pursue What Makes for Peace

jayson Misc 11 Comments

This image was originally posted to Flickr by Tyler Merbler.

A week ago – during the breach of the US Capitol building – I had to tell one of my best friends that we absolutely could not have a text conversation that day about it. We tend to approach politics from different angles, and when we can talk face-to-face things are contentious but we can hammer through our differences in a bond of deep brotherly love for each other. But when we have those conversations through texting it’s pretty much guaranteed to end up in a fight. My friend and his wife moved to another state about two years ago, so our face-to-face conversations have to happen virtually (as so many do these days). We’ve talked since then – we’re still friends 🙂

Last week we also got a message from a former financial supporter disapproving of some personal choices we’ve made, and it got me thinking about you, and how diverse and different you y’all are.

Attain to the Unity

I’ve taken some time to look at all of the people who have been God’s hand of provision to us over the years. Here’s a little picture of who you are. 

Simon the Zealot
  • You are families, couples, and individuals. 
  • You are churches of over 5,000 and churches who struggle to have enough people to keep the lights on. 
  • You are in your 20s, your, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. (Hi, grandma!)
  • You are Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Brethren (at least 3 kinds), Catholics, “Merely Christians”, Pentecostals, Calvinists, Evangelicals, Open Theists, Ex-Vangelicals, doubters, and no-longer-Christians. 
  • You are Republican candidates, convicted non-voters, Democratic Socialist community organizers, progressive advocates, staunch Constitutionalists, and jaded “political agnostics.” 
  • You are committed teetotalers, professional brewers, recovering alcoholics, and bartenders.
  • You are professional tattoo artists and you scowl when you see body art. 
  • You are vegetarians and hunters.
  • You are insurance agents, teachers, counselors, nurses, programmers, designers, librarians, pastors, cashiers, architects, accountants, artists, realtors, home-makers, filmmakers, farmers, soldiers, landscapers, missionaries, professors, COOs, CEOs, screenwriters, HVAC techs, youth pastors, campaign managers, tour managers, and more. 
  • You’re in Kansas, Florida, Germany, Australia, South Dakota, Colorado, California, Mississippi, Virginia, DC, Washington, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, Maryland, Michigan, Iowa, Kentucky, Alaska, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, REDACTED, and more.
  • We’ve never met you, and we’ve known you our whole lives. (Hi again, grandma!)

The Bond of Peace

the Tax Collector

Some of your differences are significant, others are commonplace. Carrie and I fight to not hide who we are, but we’re circumspect (Eph 5:15) about how we carry ourselves. To whatever degree we are silent on the contentious topics, it’s not because we don’t have opinions. (Feel free to ask us.) Nor are we saying that everyone’s opinion or conviction is equally right or valid. We can’t possibly agree with all of you.

But, as you read the list, did you cringe or scowl at someone or something there?

I did as I wrote some. It’s sin.

Nothing in that list is allowed to be the thing of ultimate value in our lives. None of them are grounds for division among followers of Jesus. With a single possible exception, every person represented on that list is a brother or sister in Christ as far as I know. It does not mean that we need to forfeit our opinions, or that we should shut down dialogue about these things. But we are called to unity and mutual love with no exceptions given.

…walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 

Ephesians 4:1-6

Each of you is a part of a team, working together, praying, giving, and supporting our work to get the powerful message of the Gospel of Jesus which welcomes all who will confess and believe, regardless of their ethnic, political, or whatever baggage they bring with them. 

More importantly, each of you is part of a family, part of a body, part of The Church of the one God and Father of all. Let’s all remember that, and value that above all the lesser things that our enemy so easily uses to divide us.

Thank you for being part of our team, and part of our Family! (Even if we may have to shut down a text message conversation sometimes.)

LOTS of love,

We Have a New President

jayson Misc 1 Comment

Steve & Christy Sellers. 
Steve is Campus Crusade for Christ, International’s new president

We have a new president…

…of Campus Crusade for Christ, International.

What did you think I was talking about?

In July of 2001, as a student on a Cru Summer Project in Florida, I was offered the opportunity to visit Cru’s biennial staff conference in Colorado for a recruiting event. Needless to say, it worked! That weekend at the 50th-anniversary celebration, Cru’s visionary founders, Bill and Vonette Bright, passed the mantle of leadership to Steve and Judy Douglass in an empowering act of humility, vision, and trust. Last week Steve Douglass again passed the baton to Steve Sellers.

President and Friend

I was commissioned to Cru’s staff two years later, less than 24 hours before Bill Bright died of pulmonary fibrosis. While I’ve always held the Douglasses in high regard, attending a small church together for nearly a decade allowed us to know them up close. They’ve played with our kids, eaten dinner in our home, and blessed us with prayer and good counsel. Over that time, my respect for Steve and Judy has grown from theoretical to personal. With a style very different from the Brights, Steve’s practical “can do” optimism and Judy’s tenacious loyalty have blessed our organization, staff, and partners immensely! 

Passing the Torch 

Like the best leaders, Steve Douglass sensed the Lord calling him to end his time leading CCCI and pass the torch again. Through a fairly lengthy process, the board appointed Steve Sellers (former Executive VP and US National Director).

Carrie and I recall years ago, Steve Sellers sharing of a formative season when the Lord called him to repent of his “smugness.” Another time, Steve shared how Spirit used an immobilizing “flat on his back” injury to deliver him from frenetic activity and self-reliance. Indeed, Steve Sellers has been one of the most humble leaders I’ve ever experienced; his care for people and willingness to listen and empower others is sure to be boon to Cru and the broader church in the complicated season ahead. 

During his commissioning, he affirmed Cru’s unchanging calling, “We will continue to go with a commitment to the Great Commission being our direction, and the Great Commandment being our passion.” Pray with us for Steve and Christy as they follow the Lord in this new role.

Update: I found out after hitting “publish” on this that Judy’s book When You Love a Prodigal is currently on sale on Amazon for $1.99 this month on Kindle. She’s an incredibly gifted writer. I would 100% recommend picking it up, or her other recent book, Shaped by God-Words for Life, which is $6 in the Cru store.

What month is it?

jayson Misc 7 Comments

The experience of COVID-Pandemic life has been nothing if not disorientating. Somehow it feels like we sent out the last update just a week or two ago, but it also feels like we haven’t written in three years. (It’s been more like 3 months, sorry about that.) Despite the fact that I have been working exclusively from home and that we have nowhere else to go, it feels like we have less time in our day, not more.

Since March, we’ve participated in social-distancing versions of: a wedding, a funeral, a 9-year-old birthday party, field trips, discipling, Pinochle, Battleship, Clue, Guess Who, design meetings, Bible studies, a bachelor party, and on and on. We’ve had roof leaks, we got rabbits to raise for meat, we built a bunk bed, released 4 new updates of the Jesus Film app, trying new hobbies, and so many other totally-normal things. 

It’s all been a blur. But somehow a blur that felt like it has taken forever. And with the positive-test rate on the rise in Florida, it doesn’t look like we’re even close to finished with this weird fog-life.

A Trudge to Glory

Through all of it, my work has mostly continued on business-as-usual – just without a commute. I bounce back and forth between meetings, and heads-down times of “pixel-pushing,” user research, and exploring new possibilities in how people interact with our tools. All pursuing opportunities to update, fix, improve, and expand Jesus Film’s impact for the Gospel around the world.

I’ve spent time interacting with leaders of national movements of evangelists and disciple-makers, but sometimes I’m getting the pixel-spacing just right on an icon to communicate the difference between “download on wifi only” and “download on mobile data and wifi” even if the user isn’t able to read the labels in our app. (An important setting in places where 1 GB of mobile data might cost 15% or more of your monthly income.)

BUT! In this time of social-distancing, intense politics, and social change there have continues to be a lot of opportunities to get the Gospel in front of people that the Jesus Film Digital department and our partners have taken advantage of.

His arm is not too short to save.

One night in late May is known in one specific major religion as the “Night of Power.” It’s a night where they celebrate the supposed delivery of their scriptures from heaven to their prophet. Evangelists and missionaries in areas where this religion is prevalent find that people tend to have “visions” and dreams of Jesus leading up to that night. Many begin to seek out information about Jesus, and about the Gospel each year, and many respond to Jesus as the Lord that can give freedom, forgiveness, and power. Leading up to it this year, one of our partners – Jon Ralls of Kavanah Media – coordinated with Jesus Film’s Next Steps strategy to create a conversations using social media ad “recipes” to drive people who have had visions or dreams toward a short video from our platform, through chat-bot technology, and on to interactions with real people. 

Take a listen to his podcast episode at: kavanahmedia.com/resources/19834

Here’s one story that came out of it (I’ve edited for spelling, brevity, and privacy):

So this [Central Asian] guy moved here to [EDITED] last October, God had been working in his life for a while, he has a 20-year-old son and an ex-wife who became Christians about 4 years ago but he wasn’t having it til more recently his son really pushed him to study more of the Bible.

He went to a local church to get answers but the older priest there wasn’t very helpful for him, and then he couldn’t even do that once COVID shutdown hit.

Until 2 weeks ago, he saw our “Dreams” Facebook ad in his language and using [his own religion’s] terms for Jesus, and it caught his attention. He sent a message and actually chose “I want to study the Bible with a follower of Jesus” from our chat tree, so we connected him pretty quickly with a multiplier [from his ethnolinguistic group], ended up talking with several of our connected [people from his ethnolinguistic group], and received Christ and then got baptized Sunday in a small gathering in a backyard here. THANK YOU, TEAM! AND PRAISE GOD!

Partnering Around the World

We’ve also seen “Next Steps” campaigns being run in: Indonesia, Tunisia, India, Australia, the UK, the Philippines, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and around the Middle East.

Voke Story

In our last update we talked about Voke, the other app that is produced out of Jesus Film’s Digital Solutions Team. I wanted to share one quick story from Desmond in Australia about how Voke is being used by Youth Group leaders there.