Looking Ahead with 30/30 Vision

Looking Ahead with 30/30 Vision

Introducing Young Leaders Who Are Developing Their Call in the Covenant

by Erin Chan Ding | July 3, 2019

Inside a church in Sacramento, California, a group of four young pastors spread out hundreds of pieces of candy over aluminum foil.

Bounded by a triangle of Twix, the Rice Krispies reign, towering over a palette of Jelly Bellys. Outside the Twix triangle, goldfish crackers swim.

“In our traditional model of leadership at most organizations,” Caitlyn Stenerson, connections pastor at Emmanuel Covenant Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, says, “leaders are at the top, giving instructions. You get to be the Rice Krispies that are running the show.”

A few feet away, Danielle Kilgore, associate pastor of outreach at Marin Covenant Church in San Rafael, California, jumps in to continue the thought. She invites the group gathered around the table to adjust their perspective,
so they view the candy upside down.

“Another way to look at the model is as an inverted triangle where the leaders are at the bottom,” she says, “and our goal is to support a diverse community of leaders at our church in their efforts to fish for people.”

Kilgore and Stenerson constitute part of a cohort of young men and women who arrived in the capital of California, coming from Mississippi and Michigan, Alaska and Vancouver, Boston and Chicago and from all over North America. They’re black, white, Asian, Latinx, mixed-race, and Native American. They’re connected by their youth—all are in their 20s and 30s—their call to ministry, and the Covenant. And they’re participants in “30 for 30.”

The 30 for 30 initiative comes out of Covenant president John Wenrich’s office. He says he has been dreaming for years of gathering a group of young leaders in the denomination who can immerse themselves in leadership growth. The goal is for their development to manifest in their local church contexts and to serve as a potential pipeline to future leadership positions in the ECC.

“What’s the most important thing a leader does?” Wenrich asked the group. “Some people might say leaders define reality. Or cast vision. Or set strategy. Others may say they change culture.”

He continued, “Certainly, those are important leadership tasks and behaviors. But in my opinion, the most important thing a leader can ever do is to develop other leaders. From a leadership perspective, this is exactly what Jesus did when he poured into his disciples. Strong discipleship leads to strong leadership.”

The cohort (which is currently at 28 participants because of scheduling conflicts) represents a deep investment in the future of the Covenant. The participants come from all 11 regional conferences. Each was recommended by a Covenant or conference leader, and they all wrote extensive essays and submitted references as part of the application process.

“We are so excited about this vision,” says Angela Yee, executive director of ministry development, who worked with Wenrich to create the initiative. “Churches are stepping forward to say, ‘We believe in this.’”

Each 30 for 30 cohort lasts two years, with three retreats per year to provide participants exposure to different contexts. The next retreat will take place at Covenant Offices in Chicago in August.

The cohort is divided into seven smaller learning groups, or mini-cohorts, intentionally grouped by geography so participants can gather in person for monthly meetings.

Each participant has also been paired with a mentor in the Covenant, whom they check in with by phone at least once a month. And each member of the cohort forms a discipleship group in their church or ministry context where they practice what they’re learning.

At their first retreat, the cohort spent three days in April at the Midtown campus of Bayside Covenant Church in Sacramento, where campus co-pastors Bob Balian and Efrem Smith shared how their church does ministry and led discussions on leadership, reconciliation, character development, and disciple-making.

“What I am hoping is the future church finds solidarity with the ancient church,” Smith told the group. “They were a persecuted, oppressed, suffering, marginalized people. But this oppressed, suffering, marginalized people were a part of a movement that could not be stopped. I hope we will find solidarity with the church of the marginalized and the oppressed and the broken who had an unstoppable passion in evangelism, discipleship, and mission.”

Bayside Midtown’s staff, from hospitality to children’s ministries to worship, spoke to the cohort. The 30 for 30 participants attended an all-staff meeting, worshiping with hundreds of Bayside staff, celebrating God’s work in the church, and listening to insights on areas where leaders cannot delegate, such as their walks with God, integrity, and family.

To witness how Bayside Midtown works to combat systemic issues of homelessness and education disparity, they drove over to Leataata Floyd Elementary School, located next to public housing, to hear about how the church has come alongside after-school programs in a committed, long-term way, and how youth literacy has increased tenfold as a result.

And there were skits. Each mini-cohort devised two-minute skits illustrating their perspective on a leadership principle, which led to the scene of Candyland coming to life with Twix bars and Jelly Belly beans. Laughter ricocheted around the room, even as they emphasized key leadership principles like obtaining buy-in, communicating vision and the importance of calling, character and competency.

Gustavo Torres, associate pastor at Iglesia del Pacto Evangelico Peniel in Chicago, says the cohort’s diversity is especially important. “When you’re only focused on your city and you don’t go outside of your boundary, you remain stuck with one vision,” he says. “One of the things 30 for 30 is already doing for me is opening my mind to different types of leadership.”

 

“It hasn’t been hard to have
these deep conversations together.
We’re really getting to know each other
and our passions and what God is calling us to do.

(Evelyn Perez)

 

Evelyn Perez, women’s ministry leader at Iglesia Maranatha Church in Richmond, California, says her biggest hope is to impart what she’s learning to other women in her church.

“For a long time, I’ve always wished to be equipped in this way,” Perez says. “I know God has called me to be a leader and to be here. I feel humbled and very grateful. My biggest hope is that I can take all this information and be able to equip women in their calling, so they can also be leaders doing what God wants them to do.”

In their last evening together, the group clustered in section 110 of the Golden 1 Center, watching as the Sacramento Kings crushed the Cleveland Cavaliers. They took selfies and hunted for t-shirt swag. Even from the top of the section, their joy vibrated over the pop music, the announcer, and the rumble of the game.

“We’re a wild bunch,” Perez says. “It hasn’t been hard to have these deep conversations together. We’re really getting to know each other and our passions and what God is calling us to do.”

Age: 32

Lives in: Edwards, Mississippi

Current Church: Common Ground Covenant Church

Role: College Pastor, Area Ministry Director for InterVarsity

JASON “SMILEY” ABRAMS


My father became severely ill when I was nine years old and I stayed home with him while he was bedridden. He was a minister and showed me the importance of discipleship and unconditional joy. High blood pressure had blinded him, so he always listened to books on tape. (I have subscriptions to two audiobook services to this day!) I lost him when I was 16, and still talk about him all the time.

I was actively involved in ministry from day one as an undergrad and saw the impact of Christian community on my journey. The university campus is one of the largest mission fields because people come from all over the world to one place.

Books on my nightstand/e-reader:

Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time, by Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz; Being Latino in Christ, by Orlando Crespo; Langston Hughes poetry

When I grew up I wanted to be:

An elementary school teacher—until my mom became my fourth-grade teacher. I wanted to be a comic book artist after that.

Age: 36

Lives in: St. Paul, Minnesota

Current Church:
Crossroads Church

Role: Executive Pastor of Campuses

ERIK ANDERSON


I was working at Sports Authority after college, and I vividly remember one day as I punched into work sensing that I was supposed to be doing something different with my life. After my shift that day, I went home and posted my résumé on a ministry website. A few months later, I accepted a call to be a middle-school pastor at Modesto (California) Covenant Church. I’ve tried to be a learner in every ministry context where I’ve served. If I keep asking questions, seeking wisdom, and learning as much as I can, I’ve found I keep growing.

Books on my nightstand/e-reader:

Hacking Leadership, by Mike Myatt; Don’t Put Me In, Coach, by Mark Titus

I could give a 40-minute presentation with absolutely no preparation on:

Designing worship services for churches/conferences—or the art of designing the perfect taco

Age: 36

Lives in: Tulsa, Oklahoma

Role: Global Personnel
with Serve Globally—MENA

H. B.


A lifetime of frequent moves has helped me learn to trust in God’s constant companionship in a journey of regular change. Attending Covenant Bible College–Ecuador exposed me to ministry and a love for life abroad that I can’t get out of my system. I’m in the midst of a significant ministry transition, relocating to the Middle East after years of serving in Europe. One of the primary goals of 30 for 30 is to take what we are learning and pour into other young leaders in our ministry context. The biggest challenge for me might be finding avenues in my new context where I can invest in other leaders, particularly when those interactions will have language barriers. I don’t speak Arabic yet, so I’ll have to get creative!

Books on my nightstand/e-reader:

Amazing Grace, by Kathleen Norris; Blood Brothers: The Dramatic Story of a Palestinian Christian Working for Peace in Israel, by Elias Chacour; The Wisdom of the Desert, by Thomas Merton

When I grew up I wanted to be:

I still want to be an archaeologist!

Age: 35

Lives in: Tulsa, Oklahoma

Current Church:
Redeemer
Covenant Church

Role: Associate Pastor

ADAM BARNETT


I desire to see multiple generations in my church worship and grow together—and to love one another deeply. This goal would require young adults to step up in leadership and service while leaning into the wisdom and experience of their elders. This generation must contribute their time, gifts, and resources, and many are willing but simply waiting to be asked and empowered.

Our church has invested countless hours and resources this year in a community nearby that struggles with severe poverty and various other setbacks. Our congregation has readily and generously embraced this mission, and we are seeing God move in amazing ways.

When I grew up I wanted to be:

A starting point guard in the NBA

If I could be anywhere doing anything on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, I would:

Go fishing with my wife, Andrea (To be clear, she doesn’t like fishing, but I’d want her there!)

Age: 30

Lives in: Columbiana, Ohio

Current Church:
First Covenant Church, Youngstown

Role: Associate Pastor; Vitality
Associate for the Great Lakes Conference

DAVE BROWN


As a freshman in college, I decided to go into ministry. I followed a friend to Robert Morris University and picked a major in mathematics. Halfway through my first semester, I sensed that I was not where God wanted me to be, so I began praying for him to guide me. One Sunday morning while worshiping in my home church, I felt a profound call to ministry. The next day I transferred to Geneva College to major in student ministries. I have been in ministry ever since.

Books on my nightstand/e-reader:

The Radical Disciple: Some Neglected Aspects of Our Calling, by John Stott; Who Moved My Pulpit?: Leading Change in the Church, by Thom Rainer

I could give a 40-minute presentation with absolutely no preparation on:

Shaping electric guitar tones—from guitar pickups to effect pedals to the amplifier

Age: 29

Lives in: Tucson, Arizona

Current Church:
Eastside Covenant Church

Role: Senior Pastor

TAYLOR BURGOYNE


When I was in seventh grade I fell into depression triggered by some fairly intense bullying. But it was a decade before I was diagnosed. As my academics began to slip, I was placed in a special education program. It was not until I was a junior in high school that that was recognized as a mistake. I spent several years experiencing first-hand what it means for others to view me as “less than” and what it is like to be misunderstood and mistreated by a system that expected very little of me. That spurred a passion in me to care for those who have been disenfranchised, overlooked, and stripped of power. It has also been a powerful lesson in what happens in the absence of listening to those we seek to help. In short it has instilled in me a deep desire to listen and care well for those in need.

If I could eat just one food for the rest of my life, It would be:

Mongolian beef from Yea’s Wok in Newcastle, Washington. If you’re ever on the east side of Lake Washington, hit this place up. Tell them Taylor sent you. They won’t know what that means, but I’ll get a kick out of it.

Age: 36

Lives in: St. Paul, Minnesota

Current Church:
Crossroads Church

Role: Executive Pastor of Campuses

STEN CARLSON


I play basketball a few times a week over lunch at the YMCA. It’s been a great place to connect with people in the community. I struck up a friendship with one guy in particular and invited him to Easter last year. He never showed up. But a few weeks later, Matt and his family walked into our church for the first time and totally unannounced. They have been coming back ever since. In January, Matt said yes to a relationship with Jesus.

I’m challenged as a leader to replace the phrase “They won’t…” with “I haven’t led them to…” This small shift in my vocabulary has helped me to become a more effective, self-aware, and compassionate leader.

Books on my nightstand/e-reader:

I don’t read for fun nearly as much as I should. When I do, it’s usually catching up on the adventures of Mitch Rapp in nearly any Vince Flynn novel.

When I grew up I wanted to be:

A stand-up comedian

Age: 37

Lives in: Springfield, Virginia

Current Church: Community Covenant Church

Role: Co-Pastor, Founder of Four More Women in the Pulpit

DEVYN CHAMBERS JOHNSON


My call journey was a vivid and even visceral experience. I struggled with God to accept his call on my life and then experienced a supernatural sense of peace and joy after submitting it. This journey has sustained me in seasons when my call has been challenged or dismissed.

My husband and I have journeyed through infertility, an experience that opened my eyes to the brokenness of our world and the silent grief many suffer. Countless times growing up, I saw my parents practice radical hospitality and demonstrate great concern for those in pain or in need. I have discovered the power of sharing stories to bring grief into the light and begin to heal the brokenness of the world.

Books on my nightstand/e-reader:

Intersectional Theology, by Grace Ji-Sun Kim and Susan Shaw; I’m Still Here, by Austin Channing Brown; The Moment of Lift, by Melinda Gates

Age: 29

Lives in: Vancouver,
British Columbia

Current Church:
City Collective Church

Role: Lead Pastor

JASON CHARLES


A unique challenge we face in Canada in comparison with our American counterparts is a clear departure from Christianity. It isn’t normal to be part of a church or go to church on a Sunday. The general feeling toward Christianity is that it is irrelevant. Though this provides the church in Canada with a great challenge, I believe we have an opportunity to recapture the imagination of our nation with the transformational message of Jesus. I believe Canada is going to be a country of revival and redemption in my lifetime, and I am grateful to be part of that story.

Books on my nightstand/e-reader:

Homo Deus, by Yuval Noah Harari; Simply Jesus, by N.T. Wright; Stricken by God: Nonviolent Identification and the Victory of Christ, edited by Bradley Jersak and Michael Hardin; The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds, by Michael Lewis

When I grew up I wanted to be:

A pediatrician

Age: 28

Lives in: Lafayette, Colorado

Current Church:
Ascent Community Church

Role: Teaching Pastor

AISHA COX


My mother runs group homes for boys, and I was always blown away by her generosity. I love to be a blessing to others.

When I was a sophomore
in college, my little sister was
battling cancer. In that season
I learned how to praise God in the midst of pain, uncertainty, and challenges. He gave me supernatural strength to be a support for my family and sister. God has used many tragic events and transitions to develop me and take my faith to another level.

Books on my nightstand/e-reader:

The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron; The Vulnerable Pastor, by Mandy Smith; I’m Still Here, by Austin Channing Brown

When I grew up I wanted to be:

I wanted to be in a girl band with my cousins even though none of us could sing.

Age: 27

Lives in: Lafayette, Colorado

Current Church:
Ascent Community Church

Role: Associate Teaching Pastor

MAURICE COX


When I was 18 years old, ministry wasn’t on my mind at all. But my pastor saw something in me. He took me under his wing, discipled me, and eventually called me to something higher.

There is power in making ministry an “us” thing. Serving alongside my spouse means I have a prayer partner. We share the same gift, so I get to see her do what I myself love to do.

Books on my nightstand/e-reader:

Insider Outsider: My Journey as a Stranger in White Evangelicalism and My Hope for Us All, by Bryan Loritts; The Advantage, by Patrick Lencioni; The Starbucks Experience: Five Principles for Turning Ordinary into Extraordinary, by Joseph Michelli

If I could be anywhere doing anything on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, I would:

Play dominoes with my twin brother, Marquise, and some friends

Age: 29

Lives in: Chicago, Illinois

Current Church:
River City Community Church

Role: Manager of Church
Relations, Serve Globally

PRAJAKTA DAVID


I was born and raised in Pune, India, and moved to the U.S. at 18 to go to college. When I returned home for the summers, I had a few internships with Hindustani Covenant Church where I worked with survivors of sex trafficking. I learned that not having hope is not an option for those who experience marginalization. It helped me understand that our discipleship calls us to actively live out hope rooted in Jesus, that should transform us and those we encounter. My experience has helped prepare me for my current role in global ministry in encouraging churches to embody and authentically live out Jesus’s radical love for the world.

Books on my nightstand/e-reader:

The Cross and the Lynching Tree, by James Cone; Struggle to Be the Sun Again: Introducing Asian Women’s Theology, by Chung Hyun Kyung

Age: 33

Lives in: Loveland, Colorado

Current Church:
LifeSpring Covenant Church

Role: Pastor of Student Ministries

TOM DIERENFELD


One of my students recently told me, “Tom, you’re like an 80-year-old and a 12-year-old at the same time.” I took it as a compliment—that wisdom and childlike faith are combined.

When I was in high school, a volunteer youth leader planted the seed in my mind and heart about pursuing ministry in the church. I had a heart for my peers to know Jesus, and God continued to cultivate compassion for high-school students in me. A year at Covenant Bible College and a yearlong youth ministry internship confirmed my call to youth ministry. Throughout college, an international internship, seminary, and countless conversations with trusted friends and family, God has continued to affirm that call in my heart and life.

I could give a 40-minute presentation with absolutely no preparation on:

How to give a 40-minute presentation with absolutely no preparation!

Age: 26

Lives in: Unalakleet, Alaska

Current Church:
Unalakleet Covenant Church

Role: Youth Pastor

CHARIS ERHARDT


My first year serving at Covenant Bible Camp, up the river from Unalakleet, was when I felt the Lord was calling me into ministry. From there, I stepped into internships with a local church and a nonprofit organization that allowed me to work with youth and young adults in Alaska.

Alaska is vast and spread out, and Unalakleet is only accessible by plane. Being so remote has high financial costs, but the positives of living in rural Alaska outweigh everything else. We have a strong connection to the land and observe God’s beautiful creation every day. The land is not distracted by manufactured things but is pure and free.

Books on my nightstand/e-reader:

The Great Vanishing Act: Blood Quantum and the Future of Native Nations, by Kathleen Ratteree and Norbert Hill; Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, by Peter Scazzero

If I could eat just one food for the rest of my life, It would be:

Fry bread!

Age: 34

Lives in: Beverly, Massachusetts

Current Church:
Highrock North Shore, Salem

Role: Senior Associate Pastor

BRYNN HARRINGTON


As a little girl, I loved serving behind the scenes with my parents at our church plant. When I got to middle school, I started writing notes to my adult pastor self about how middle schoolers interact with the Bible. Later I felt this desire confirmed in my own heart and by peers and mentors.

Many of us in our 30s are experienced enough to know where we need to grow and learn, but we’re still pretty green in the grand scheme of things. I see 30 for 30 influencing how I approach ministry. Hearing how different pastors in my generation approach the tough topics of our day in their own cultures and contexts has stretched and challenged me to think more broadly about serving in my own community.

If I could eat just one food for the rest of my life, It would be:

I grew up in Southern California, so my heart belongs to true Mexican tacos.

Age: 33

Lives in: Oakland, California

Current Church:
First  Covenant Church

Role: Youth Pastor

SARAH HENRY


This past year I felt stretched thin ministering to students who were feeling less than, lost, and hopeless. However, there was a moment that changed the narrative. I was invited to career day by one of our high school students. It was the first time a pastor had been asked to participate. As I sat at my booth, student after student approached with questions. “Why did you become a pastor?” And “What’s the best part of your job?” As I retold my own story of brokenness and restoration, I realized the greatest part of my call is walking with students in the midst of brokenness—reminding them that they are loved, they are important to God, and their voice matters. This season of hurt became a season of hope. Students who didn’t know me or my hurt, who weren’t churchgoers by any means, called me out of the ashes and turned my eyes to the Savior.

Books on my nightstand/e-reader:

Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah, is an incredible story of racism, hope, love, and a mother’s love.

Age: 34

Lives in: Novato, California

Current Church:
Marin Covenant Church

Role: Associate Pastor of
Outreach and Missions

DANIELLE “DANI” KILGORE


I went into ministry because I wanted to be wherever God was. This past year I became an associate pastor, and my highest point was preaching on Easter Sunday.

The 30 for 30 cohort is a chance to hear from leaders who started out just like me and are willing to share their experiences and build some lasting relationships. I’m hoping to gain a deeper understanding of what makes the Covenant so amazing.

Books on my nightstand/e-reader:

Crushing, by T.D. Jakes; You Are a Bad***, by Jen Sincero

When I grew up I wanted to be:

I honestly thought I would be a singer and an actress until Beyoncé stole my job!

Age: 38

Lives in: Los Angeles, California

Current Church:
Newsong LA Covenant Church

Role: Executive Pastor

MANOJ MATHAI


One of our themes this year as a congregation has been “Share Your Story.” We have called our congregation to tell more of their stories during worship services and small groups which incorporate lessons from our families of origins, ethnic backgrounds, and testimonies of God’s faithfulness and how we came to know him. That journey has fostered a greater sense of awareness, affirmation, and unity within our body. It has also helped us to share our stories beyond our church walls so our neighbors can see how Jesus has transformed our lives.

Books on my nightstand/e-reader:

One Blood: Parting Words to the Church on Race and Love, by John Perkins; Discipling in a Multicultural World, by Ajith Fernando

I could give a 40-minute presentation with absolutely no preparation on:

Whatever issue the Lakers or Dodgers need to solve at the moment

Age: 33

Lives in: Long Prairie, Minnesota

Role: Director,
Solid Rock Discipleship

TYLER MENSSEN


One of our challenges and great opportunities at Solid Rock is bringing together young adult students of different backgrounds and personalities and helping guide them in what it means to be a unified community in Christ. Every year before graduation, students share how God has moved in and through them during the year. It is amazing to hear their stories of growth and transformation.

Books on my nightstand/e-reader:

Saved by Faith and Hospitality, by Joshua W. Jipp; The Myth of Equality, by Ken Wytsma; Liturgy of the Ordinary, by Tish Harrison Warren; Vulnerable Communion: A Theology of Disability and Hospitality, by Thomas E. Reynolds; Jesus the Disinherited, by Howard Thurman; Raging with Compassion, by John Swinton

Age: 27

Lives in: Madison, Wisconsin

Current Church: Fountain of Life Covenant Church

Role: Assistant Pastor, Special Assistant to the CEO of Nehemiah Community Development Corporation, Barista at Starbucks

TYLER NYLEN


The pastors at Fountain of Life are intentionally bivocational. People try to encourage me, saying eventually I’ll become a “real pastor.” Explaining that I am acting out of call is hard for others to understand. I still wrestle with it myself when I’m washing dishes at a coffee shop at 11 p.m., remembering I still have a lesson to prep for Bible study. Yet I have found it is a model for ministry that can engage those who want less to do with official religion and more with an authentic Jesus.

Books on my nightstand/e-reader:

Notes of a Native Son, by James Baldwin; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J.K. Rowling; The Coddling of the American Mind, by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt; The Pastor, by Eugene Peterson; White Fragility, by Robin DiAngelo

When I grew up I wanted to be:

A baseball player and a weatherman—I wanted to be on TV with those cool graphics.

Age: 35

Lives in: Richmond, California

Current Church:
Iglesia Maranatha

Role: Women’s Ministry Leader

EVELYN PEREZ


I felt a call to ministry at age of 16 on a mission trip, but I didn’t give in until three years ago. After a rough journey and lots of twists and turns, I realized I could do nothing better than allow God to steer the wheel of my life and use me. My church is located in an underserved community, and it’s almost impossible for families to be able to afford summer camps. A high point in my ministry this past year was sending off our church students to experience a Christian camp for the very first time. I am also challenged in my church context to lead and bridge the gap between recent immigrant families and first- and second-generation young adults.

Books on my nightstand/e-reader:

Lioness Arising, by Lisa Bevere; The Third Option: Hope for a Racially Divided Nation, by Miles McPherson

When I grew up I wanted to be:

A court judge

Age: 34

Lives in: Jackson, Mississippi

Current Church: Common
Ground Covenant Church

Role: Church Planter,
Community Developer

JOHN PERKINS JR.


My mentor, former superintendent of the Southeast Conference Robert Owens, encouraged me to participate in 30 for 30 to develop lasting friendships, best practices of church development, and leadership principles. I believe millennials are not one size fits all. It is important for the church to listen to them.

If I could eat just one food for the rest of my life,
i
t would be:

Soul food

Age: 27

Lives in: Livonia, Michigan

Current Church:
LifeChurch Livonia

Role: Worship Design Coordinator

ALEX RAHILL JR.


I decided to go into ministry because I saw the way Jesus changes lives. My parents were in ministry my whole life, and as a kid I saw how people from every walk of life—the rich, the poor, the successful, the needy, people the world praised and the ones it despised—all found new life in Jesus. I realized that Jesus was the only one who could really satisfy, and that giving my life to work for him in the world would be the greatest way that I could use it. I’m hoping to find clarity, direction, connection, and training through 30 for 30.

Books on my nightstand/e-reader:

I’m not really reading for fun right now, but my wife and I are watching One Piece.

I could give a 40-minute presentation with absolutely no preparation on:

Guitar, music composition, songwriting, the business of buying and selling musical equipment, and marketing for local bands

Age: 38

Lives in: Kent, Washington

Current Church:
Kent Covenant Church

Role: Executive Pastor

LESLIE SANDERS


My call to ministry happened over a period of three years beginning when I was a senior in high school. I grew up in a church that was extremely community-centered, and I saw hundreds of people make decisions for Christ over the years. That birthed in me a deep desire to serve people and God’s kingdom. I begin to sense a call into ministry, though I wasn’t sure what that meant. God ultimately led the session of my church to call me as an elder at the age of 21, and I was subsequently asked to be the youth pastor. I’ve served the church ever since.

If I could be anywhere doing anything on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, I would:

Be on a beach in Jamaica with my wife and daughters eating plantains

If I could eat just one food for the rest of my life, It would be:

Fried catfish

Age: 28

Lives in: Fresno, California

Current Church:
On Ramps Covenant Church

Role: Lay Leader,
Worship Team Coordinator

MARTHA SOLIS


One challenge I face is not being acknowledged because I am Latina. Part of my narrative includes not being embraced by my own community, because of my appearance and cultural upbringing. I am thankful that we serve a God who encourages, heals, and restores us in his image. Healing is a continuous process, and I am thankful for the redemption that has been happening through my ECC family. In the Covenant I have been embraced for who I am as a Latina leader, and I am thankful for the amazing Latina(o) leaders who have empowered me.

Books on my nightstand/e-reader:

My seminary books have taken the majority of space on my bookshelf. However, Emboldened and Dare to Lead are books I have enjoyed.

As a child I always wanted to be:

A dancer. Dance was my outlet of expression, my place of freedom. To be honest, that is still what I would like to be when I grow up.

Age: 25

Lives in: St. Paul, Minnesota

Current Church:
Emmanuel Covenant Church

Role: Connections Pastor

CAITLYN STENERSON


I’m in a stage of my life and ministry where I’m hungry (starving, really) to learn and grow. I felt called to be a pastor as a teenager but spent the first bit of my career working in politics as a writer. In my grand plan for my life, I was going to go to seminary as a second career in my 40s. But I ended up receiving a scholarship to Bethel Seminary, and God has been so faithful. This year a sixth-grade girl told me that she feels called to be a pastor. It was a ministry moment I’ll never forget. Now I’m constantly looking for ways to affirm that call and plug her into leadership roles.

Books on my nightstand/e-reader:

I’m reading The Chronicles of Narnia for the first time ever, and I’m loving it.

Everyone in my life would tell you that I could give a 40-minute presentation without prep on:

The Enneagram. They’re probably right, I’m a little obsessed.

Age: 28

Lives in: Chicago, Illinois

Current Church: Iglesia
del Pacto Evangelico Peniel

Role: Associate Pastor, Worship
Leader, Electrical Engineer

GUSTAVO TORRES


I have been blessed to attend a church where my voice and spiritual needs have always been heard by my senior pastor. Now I co-pastor along with him. When I was a child, my mother, younger brother, and I had to walk to church through a very bad neighborhood. My mom taught me Romans 8:31: “If God is for us, who can be against us.” We would recite it while walking. No matter what I saw, I felt peace that nothing would happen to us. Now that same verse reminds me that no matter what circumstance I am facing and what negativity surrounds me, God is always on my side.

When I grew up I wanted to be:

An electrical engineer and serve in the kingdom of God. Since the age of 10 years old I knew that God had chosen me to serve him, and that’s exactly what I am doing, along with working as an electrical engineer.

I could give a 40-minute presentation with absolutely no preparation on:

The importance of education and how to provide pathways to those in need

Age: 37

Lives in: Sacramento, California

Current Church: Bayside Midtown

Role: Associate Pastor

TERRENCE WILLIAMS


My plan was to not go into ministry, but God had another idea. The Lord put a group of freshmen boys in my life and I have been in ministry ever since—17 years later. Recently I saw one of my former students who had not been walking with the Lord and was living a destructive life—now they are on fire for the Lord. God is truly the author or our lives and is always at work!

If I could be anywhere doing anything on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, I would:

Be with friends, exploring a new city

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