Tag Archive: conference

Stay in Step with the Spirit

Think back on a recent struggle.  What helped you remain full of faith? How did you know you were walking in the middle of God’s will when circumstances were hard?


Steve Douglass, Cru Global President

Steve Douglass (right), Cru Global President, challenged us while in Ft. Collins, CO, for Cru’s biennial US Staff Conference, to reflect on the previous two years of life and ministry through an Ephesians grid.  His encouragement to us is a classic Christian truth: walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. 

But how do you do that when life is confusing, challenging, dull, and/or overwhelming? What about when others are promoted or achieve milestones you aren’t able to?  Douglass said Ephesians offers a metric for keeping in step with the Spirit:  Are you still rejoicing, still thanking and still submitting?

Sometimes I (Sarah) think I’m rejoicing, thanking and submitting to God but not  to other people. But if I’m not rejoicing in and celebrating others’ successes, if I withhold my gratitude to others (including to Mike) and if I criticize people, then how am I living out Christ-like character?  Where am I outwardly exhibiting spiritual maturity and transformation? And to that point, if inner transformation isn’t worked outwardly, is it really transformation?

As we kick off another fall in New York, will you pray for me? I want to remain full of joy, thankfulness and submission to the Lord and other people.  I want to joyfully and obediently follow God, even when it means following God down unexpected pathways.

Conference PIE

“This is a new phase in my life in ministry,” I thought as I noticed the VP of Cru’s US Leadership Development walk by while chuckling at us.  I was in the middle of leading a feedback session with one of the City Directors for Here’s Life Inner City, affirming what I’d seen in his character, competency and capacity over the last six months of coaching his Action Learning Team, and offering ideas for further growth, development and stretch opportunities.

But what made this chuckle-worthy over other feedback sessions I’ve been part of was that I had PIE strapped to my chest and falling asleep in the Ergo carrier and I was wearing a dress and heels.

It’s been a busy month in family and ministry, stretching me when it comes to planning, preparation and walking in step with the Holy Spirit.

Seminar on Walking with God for a Lifetime

Last week I spoke twice at “Unmasked,” the south western PA/Jersey Cru student fall retreat, once in a seminar to equip students to walk with God for a lifetime and then later that day during their Women’s Night.  It was a tremendous time, the students were really receptive to God’s words on Hebrews 12:1-3 and fixing our eyes on Jesus, and the staff women pulled off one of the best overall programs I’ve been part of for a women’s night in 15+ years of campus ministry.  It was fantastic, gut-level honest, honoring to Jesus, and overflowing with mercy and grace.  It exemplified the kind of open, caring, passionate community that I long to be part of on a regular basis.

The next day I met Mike and Phoebe at the Newark airport where we flew to Orlando for the third module of SLI4 (Senior Leadership Initiative, Cycle 4), a 2-year intensive leadership development program designed by Cru to help senior ministry leaders from Cru’s ministries across the country (like The Military Ministry, Here’s Life Inner City, The Campus Ministry, Cru High School, Athletes in Action, The JESUS Film Project, and The Office of the President, among others) increase their capacity and competency while growing in Christ-like character.  I was a participant in SLI1, and Mike and I have helped lead aspects of SLI3 and SLI4.

Developing current leaders and helping people stretch to reach their potential is vital in the life of any organization.  According to a recent Fast Company article:

U.S. companies spent an estimated $67 billion on training in 2011. Some have been more creative about it than others. P&G CEO Bob McDonald, for instance, says he invites 150 leaders each year to a training center like West Point or the Center for Creative Leadership. General Electric spends about $1 billion annually on training through its corporate university in Crotonville, N.Y. PepsiCo enrolls its high-potential leaders in a program that includes a week at Wharton Business School and an immersion experience in an emerging market. General Mills has described one of its leadership courses as “a combination of mindfulness meditation, yoga and dialogue.”

Cru’s intentional leadership development program for senior employees is one of the places where I (Sarah) feel like I’ve been able to make my best contribution to the Kingdom of God so far.  We haven’t spent $35million like Starbucks recently did to create a passionate experience to turn their employees into Starbucks evangelists, but our 2-year long program which meets every six months for a week of training, challenge, stretch experiences and spiritual input also includes bi-weekly one-on-one coaching with business leaders who are friends of the ministry.

Whether in her stroller, sitting on the floor or a new friend’s lap, or enjoying a nap in the Ergo, PIE attended a good bit of Cru’s Leadership Conference.  When she became more vocal, Mike and I took turns going for walks or finding a dark conference room where she could settle down for a snooze.

As I embrace my new role as PIE’s Mom, there are still opportunities to contribute to the mission and ministry I love so much.  Naturally I can’t dive into everything; a good bit of flexibility is required, especially as her needs change and as (we pray…) God adds to our family.

I’m motivated to help people take their next step in their faith journey to live out their God-given calling.  Sometimes that means taking a back-scenes approach by caring for PIE and our NYC apartment enabling Mike to offer his best and minister without distraction.  At other times it means taking a more visible role to reach out to people.  Finding that balance at each of PIE’s developmental stages is the goal, and my heart wants to be grateful for each day as I live out what God has for me… Even if it invites more chuckling.


NOTE: To prepare for the trip I read a ton of parenting blogs and asked lots of moms for tips on traveling with a baby.  One of the best tips: pack blue painters tape.

It serves some very practical uses like taping the hotel room curtains closed so sun light doesn’t stream into the room, securing toys to the seat-back in front of you on the plane to entertain your young one, taping shopping bags or light blankets to the car windows as a sun shield so the Sunshine State doesn’t blind your baby in the car, covering the sides of the pack-and-play or crib with towels to create a dark, cozy place for Baby to sleep, and it also becomes a great toy when rolled into big balls.

2010 Women’s Spring Fling!

I’d never heard of a “salad buffet” before.  “Salad bar,” yes.  But “salad buffet”?  No.  A surprising array and tasty display awaited me at NCMC’s 2010 Women’s Spring Fling.

That’s the event which brought me from hot Orlando (we’ve been in the 90s already!) to surprisingly chilly Wauseon, OH.  As we were packing for the trip, I asked Mike, “What do the 50s and 60s feel like?  Do I need a winter jacket, or a light wrap?”  Living in Orlando’s tropic-like climate spoils you for any weather requiring layers!

Photo by Laura Rupp

The Women’s Committee at NCMC asked me to consider coming north for a few days to speak at their annual spring event.  As Mike’s home church, they’ve been so supportive of God’s call in his life to full time ministry.  I knew I’d go out of my way to make sure I could say “yes” to their request.

When I walked into the church on Thursday night, I couldn’t believe my eyes!  I wish I had a pic to show you.  There were two long tables, standing parallel to each other, completely filled with different sized bowls and casserole pans.  The contents of those containers made a gorgeous and mouth-watering display.  In my mind I imagined a bowl of romaine lettuce and a plate of sliced tomatoes.  But this was every picnic salad I’d ever heard of, plus more!

They had macaroni salad, potato salad, taco salad, Ramen noodle salad, jello salad, fruit salad, broccoli salad, and salads I’d never seen before!  Who knew there were so many different kinds of salads?  I sure didn’t!

Photo by Laura Rupp

After an ample dinner, we moved into the sanctuary where I talked about pulling the weeds from your heart so you can live a fruitful life.  God is the one responsible for the fruit, but we can cultivate the soil.  We talked about the different kinds of weeds that threaten to choke out the Gospel, like the weeds of worries and the cares of this world, and illusions about getting more and wanting everything under the sun.

As the evening closed, we talked about five things that can help you connect to God’s heart for a lifetime, and then I reminded all of us that when you walk with Jesus, the best is yet to come.

As the women left the church and returned home, they picked up their empty bowls and casserole dishes.  Some of the men of the church washed the empty bowls during the evening talk, and had served coffee, tea and water during the dinner event.

For me, it was wonderful to be in a room full of such a strong sense of community, connection and care.  Those men seemed delighted to serve the women so they could enjoy the evening.  And the women seemed to relish (haha!) the opportunity to be together.

My thanks to Melissa and the Women’s Committee for inviting me to participate in the 2010 Women’s Spring Fling.  What a blessing to me!

Big Break

For some reason, God often uses conferences and events to draw students to a deeper commitment.  That’s why I’ve always been a fan of retreats, get-aways, and conferences.  I have friends who don’t care for these events, but I love them.  I love what God does in people’s lives when they pull away from their regular schedule and focus on what He has for them.

We’re on our way to Panama City Beach, FL for Big Break.  Big Break is a student spring break conference with the aim of encouraging students in their relationship with Christ and equipping them with the skills, experience and practice of sharing their faith.  It’s a week of faith steps and faith risks, of stepping out of a comfort zone and trusting God in big ways.

I’m giving three devotionals next week at Big Break, so I’d love your prayers. I have too much content for my timeframe, and I feel rusty. But more than that, I feel a great honor at getting time in front of 1200 students and I want to be a good steward of that time.

I know.  Realistically, how many people remember a conference talk 5 years later (ha, 5 minutes later?)? I don’t put that kind of pressure on myself. It’s more of a weight of responsibility to use the time well, and honor God with the preparation AND the presentation!

Next week the Big Break staff expect about 1200 students, with more than 2500 students cycling through the conference throughout the month of March (one spring break after another!).

Click here to see Big Break’s website.