By Tyler Graeff and Bryan Sampson
While reading through the gospels I can’t help but notice how intentional Jesus was with connecting with people. Time and time again in the word, we see Jesus interacting with one person in front of him, i.e. the demoniac, the woman at the well, the lame man, and countless more. Jesus was intentional and personable with the person in front of Him. I am challenged in my own walk to be the same. How often I have been guilty of being on my phone or checking emails when out to dinner with friends or in the presence of good company or even being inquired upon by an intern or student. Today it is all too common to be in an important conversation or meeting and being challenged to remain fully present and engaged with those in the room.
Witt (2018) emphasizes the need to embrace the skill of in-person (incarnational) conversation. This is what God did by becoming incarnate in Jesus Christ. We must be present with those we are in conversation with face-to-face. Focus on the person in the room, give them your full attention. And if you must take a text message or incoming call, apologize and ask permission to do so.
Texting and emails are a great blessing for communication; however, many times we can misread the delivery one uses to communicate. Many times I have read an email and thought that a person was being harsh with me, when the complete opposite was being communicated by the sender. When conflict needs resolving, it is best to do this in person (incarnational) rather than through technology.
Technology can be a blessing when it is used to glorify God, we just don’t want it to cause us to become so impersonal that people do not feel the love and connection from us and the God who lives within us. Let’s challenge ourselves to become more like Christ, so people experience the incarnational love of Christ through us. Jesus sets the example of what it looks like when another person is in our company. Are we giving that person the attention they need? Are we being intentional to create space and distance from technology, considering all of the ministering and training opportunities presented to us?
Let us pray today that God will give us the discernment and the power to use technology and build personal relationships in a way that brings him the most glory.
Name: Tony Henderson
Brief testimony: I was raised in a Christian home but rebelled against the word of God by falling into a life of sex and partying, but one day I became tired and asked God to CHANGE ME. It was at that point He picked me up and since that point, God has transformed my whole life and has awoken the city in my soul. I live now to do his will not my will.
What is the vision and calling that God has given you? To minister to the lost and help bring restoration to families.
How has the ELP Program impacted you? It has shed light on some issues to help change mindsets and mentalities.
Name: Vicky Syfrett
Hometown: I am a Mississippi girl but have lived in North West Florida for the past 26 years.
Teen Challenge Center: June 1st this year, I will have been at West Florida Teen Challenge in Bonifay for 20 years.
Brief Testimony: I was raised in a Christian home but rebelled as a teen. Life spiraled downward until the only place I had to look was up. After the death of a dear friend, and myself not expecting to live to see the age of 30, I realized God was my only hope. At age 29, on March 1, 1986, I allowed the Lord to take control of my heart. Not just my heart but my eyes, ears, mouth, feet and hands. To go where HE said go and do whatever HE said to do. From that day my life has been one amazing journey. And I thank God, that He saw fit to allow me to minister at Teen Challenge and that HE isn’t finished with me yet!
What do you enjoy most about your role? As many in TC ministry, I have several roles. I enjoy working one on one with Middle school boys as a Facilitator and Dean of Students in our Learning Center. I assumed the role of Training Facilitator several years ago while keeping up with student and staff PSNC’s, GSNC’s and CEU’s. I love photography, Crafts, Bible Journaling, reading and working with and encouraging all to pursue continued training.
Why do you feel that leadership and training are valuable? There is nothing worse than being given a task to do and not knowing why or how to accomplish it. Training is so important, not only to the staff but also for the student being ministered to. True Leadership is important. Those following can see that you are responsible for people and things under your care. Work unto the Lord.
By Tyler Graeff
Management has caught a bad “rap” overtime, especially in reference to micromanaging. When someone choses whether they want to be considered a leader or a manager, most people would want to be known as a leader. Leaders cast vision while a manager is a key person to execute this vision. A leader may be credited with a successful vision being casted, while a manger may be somebody working behind the scenes executing the vision and gaining organizational traction. Within the kingdom of God, good managers are a necessity. Within the ministry, it’s important to know what direction we are heading but also know how we are going to execute and move forward.
What can slow progress and cause your team to lose focus? Squirrels. Everyone jokes about chasing squirrels or rabbits but in all reality they can slowly derail progress on a project or shift our perspective off of what matters most, vision. Ministry can be fast-paced, demanding and rigorous work. Focusing on our priorities, empowering the right people and staying committed to the task at hand can be preventatives for the everyday squirrels that show up at some of the most inconvenient times.
Upon reflection on chapters 11and 12 in High Impact Teams, we can receive a few key takeaways. Management does not have to have a bad “rap”. Within an organization with vision and purpose, having those on your team to execute said vision is crucial. Managers are important. Squirrels cause us to lose focus. Having priorities in the forefront of our vision helps us not get distracted by squirrels and having the right people in place to tend to squirrels when they show up help us stay focused.
Let us pray today for the ability to stay focused and execute the vision that the Lord has given us as we put hope within reach!
Name: Tyler Graeff
Age: 28 years old
Hometown: Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Teen Challenge Center: Orlando, January 2017
Brief Testimony: I entered the doors of teen challenge lost, broken and hopeless, living a life of addiction and depression. After trying multiple rehabs, medications, counselors, arrests, and different recovery programs, I had exhausted all my options in the world. I cried out to Jesus and asked him into my heart the second week of my program. At that moment my life shifted, from darkness to light. I encountered Jesus and everything in my life changed. He set me free from addiction, depression, diagnosed PTSD and has called me to preach the gospel and stand in the gap for the lost.
What do you enjoy most about your role? I enjoy watching the Lord develop leaders around me. Seeing our guys grow in their leadership roles and responsibilities is a joy as God raises up the next generation of leadership. It’s an honor to serve God as the TF in Orlando.
Why do you feel that leadership and training are valuable? God needs soldiers for His army and kingdom. Training is essential to be equipped to pursue the higher calling each one of us has in the Lord. Without training or a plan, we can be rendered ineffective as ministers.
Name: Joshua Kreacic
Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio.
Age: 28 years old
Teen Challenge Program: Orlando, 2018
Testimony: I have experienced the unfailing love, and mercy of God that I can only attempt to put in words. Drug addiction and the devastating ripple effect it has on those around seemed to be the norm of my reality growing up. My biological father had deceased from an overdose and was never given an opportunity to meet him and eventually was told the truth in high school that my Dad was not my biological father. Betrayal, abandonment, and identity issues were deep issues I couldn’t seem to cover up. Overdoses, jails, and multiple rehabs were all apart of my story with God’s grace and love disguised in everyone. My life was taken back by the love of Jesus when God pursued me after the two recent tragic losses of my mother and brother from both drug-related incidents. Today, I walk in the forgiveness, and freedom from the tormenting lies I receive through Christ with no shame of what I have done because he has used to it help bring others the same forgiveness and new beginnings by being places others have been.
Vision and Calling: God has given me the vision to continue with Teen Challenge and to further my education, better equipping me with experience and tools to bring those shackled in sin to the freedom of a new life.
How has ELP Impacted you? The ELP program has brought ample awareness to characteristics of myself, good and bad, that can be sharpened to bring forth effective discipleship. From identifying other’s character traits, confronting potential failures, to establishing necessary boundaries are all essential to be the most effective leader here at Teen Challenge, as well as one of my God-given heart desires of being the most efficient leader of my household I can be.
Name: Samantha White
Hometown: Bristol, Connecticut
Teen Challenge Center: Jacksonville Women’s Center
Brief Testimony (3-5 sentences): I was saved when I was a young girl and surrendered my life to full time Christian ministry as a teenager after returning from a missions trip to Central America. Since then I’ve not looked back from the call to serve the Lord with my life. I now have the immense privilege to be the Director of the Women’s Center here in Jacksonville and am currently serving as the Training Facilitator as well, raising up the next generation of leaders.
What do you enjoy most about your role? Seeing women answer the call that the Lord has put on their hearts and seeing them be stretched as they take on more responsibility and in turn grow through the stretching. Women who walk through ELP become such strong women of God!
Why do you feel that leadership and training are valuable? There are so many tools available for individuals to grow in their leadership, whether someone is at Teen Challenge or not. But if we at Teen Challenge fail to provide the training that is readily available we aren’t doing our very best to steward the lives of those who feel a call to ministry. At Teen Challenge we have the opportunity to first and foremost offer hope when a student walks through our doors, then to guide them to recognize their significance in Christ, and then we have the honor to be able to raise them up to be the men and women God is calling them to be. ELP is such an important piece in the process of life transformation for those who feel called to ministry!
By: Bryan Sampson
Why is it such a battle to be who God has called us to be? I remember the transition from being a student into an intern with Teen Challenge Orlando like it was yesterday. A fierce conflict between being a friend and being a leader to the student body ensued in me. I was met with many internal and external challenges as I tried to maintain my friendships but also lead with boldness and courage. Needless to say, I was not enjoying being an intern as my need for approval from both the students and the staff was negatively impacting my work. I soon realized that it is impossible to please everyone and do my job with integrity and excellence, so which do I choose? Please the students or please the staff? To my surprise the answer was neither.
The solution was to find my identity, acceptance, and value in my relationship with Christ first and foremost. Trying to be who everyone else wanted me to be was robbing me from being who God created me to be. E.E. Cummings writes, “To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody but yourself—means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight—and never stop fighting.” (Witt, 2018, p. 68).
I don’t know if you share in my struggle of people pleasing, but I know that we all live in a world that wants to block us from walking in our true identity with Christ and tempt us to chase after illusionary idols to find value and meaning from people and things that do not satisfy and only discourage. This is the battle we must fight against everyday if we are to become the men and women God is calling us to be. Think of the impact of a team where each member is solidified in their true identity where peace, courage, and God’s glory reign supreme and self-centered struggles and ambitions cease to exists!
Meditate on the truth that Christ came to remove the burden of legalistic, people pleasing pursuits where our “being has become our doing” and He wants us to enjoy the reality that “there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). Once we identify with our son-ship in Christ, then we can fill every earthly role for His glory and watch Him bring transformation to our teams and in through our programs.
Witt, L. (2018). High Impact Teams: where healthy meets high performance. Grand Rapids: Baker Books.
Name: CJ Hutto
Hometown: Eufaula, AL
Teen Challenge Center: Jacksonville women’s center, graduated January 2019
Brief Testimony: My Grandparents raised me because my Mother and Father cared about drugs and alcohol more than me. That caused me to feel like I was not good enough to be loved. At a young age I was molested by a family member and I quickly turned to food. Food was my comfort for a while and then something in me changed and food became my worst enemy. I found myself bound by an eating disorder. I just wanted something to fill the void inside of me so I started looking for love in all the wrong places. I got involved with a guy and he introduced me to drugs and I then understood why my Father was so caught up in that lifestyle. Soon later I was sitting in jail all by myself thinking of all the mistakes I did to get myself there. God showed me mercy. I deserved to sit in jail but God had a plan for me. I came to Teen Challenge and my life has done a complete 180. God has delivered me from my chains and has set me free!!
What is the vision and calling that God has given you? God has been speaking to me about becoming staff at Teen Challenge. I know I want to help people become what God has called them to be. Wherever God leads me, I’ll go.
How has the ELP Program impacted you? Since being in ELP I have grown so much. I am growing as a leader and women of God. I am so grateful for this program!
Name: Kevin Campos
Hometown: Satellite Beach, FL
Teen Challenge Center: Graduated Central Florida Teen Challenge in 2015, Working at Tallahassee Teen Challenge since 2017
Brief Testimony: I was raised with a loving family and going to church, although never had a true relationship with God. When my dreams to receive a college scholarship for football were crushed, I turned to drugs, stealing and bad relationships to find my purpose. After many arrests, moving from city to city and burning bridges between family and friends, I was left with no choice, but to change my life. Teen Challenge accepted me, regardless of my financial situation and that’s where I became a disciple of the faith. Since then, the Lord has blessed me with provisions, gifts, motivation, discipline, education, a purpose and most of all the priceless benefits of the best family and friends anyone could ask for.
What do you enjoy most about your role? What I enjoy most about my role are the moments I experience as a teacher and spiritual leader, to witness men and women choose to love God and live it out in the context of the Word of God.
Why do you feel that leadership and training are valuable? Leadership and the training that accompanies it are necessary and valuable because in order to fulfill the great commission and make disciples, there needs to be a sense of leadership and taking responsibility to influence others in the best way that promotes Christ-like change. And although someone can be naturally talented in qualities of a leader, much like a naturally talented athlete, we will never reach our full potential and have others grow in their level of potential without choosing to be trained well and training others along the way.