(Originally from my magazine The Odyssey: A Magazine Presented by The Sojourn)
Twelve years ago, IWU alum Ryan Frank and his wife started a ministry, Kidzmatter. In the last eight years, they started publishing a magazine. Turn the page to find out how Frank manages a big company in a small town.
Living in Grant County all of his life, Ryan Frank decided to stay in the area to start his ministry career after graduating from Indiana Wesleyan University.
Ryan grew up attending Liberty Baptist Church in Sweetser and was hired on as the church’s first children’s pastor after he graduated from IWU in 1998.
While being a children’s pastor, other pastors in surrounding areas asked if he could come and train their teachers and leaders. He eventually created his own website, Kidzmatter.com, for those who attended his seminar to go onto to find the links he would mention.
Kidzmatter later evolved into not only a place with information about the seminars he led, but also an online store where he could sell the products he mentioned.
“Part of it is my pastor’s heart and part of it is my entrepreneurial spirit, but I saw an opportunity to be a little more aggressive and … become a little more intentional about how do we serve the broader children’s ministry better,” Ryan said.
A few years later, the website was re-launched into a bigger online store plus articles related to children’s ministry topics.
Ryan said many people ask if the Kidzmatter staff works directly with children, but they primarily work with people who work with children, partnering with children’s pastors and leaders.
In a nutshell, he said, “(they) encourage and equip people who work with kids in the church.”
Ryan was not alone when founding Kidzmatter in 2004. His wife, Beth, was right next to his side the entire time, being the creative chief officer.
“She has her hands in a little bit of everything,” Ryan said. “She kind of speaks into the creative part of everything. But she’s willing to jump in and do whatever… She’s also involved in every decision we make.”
Ryan said they work very well together.
“It’s great. We’ve always served together,” Ryan said. “Some husbands and wives find that it’s really hard to work together, that there’s too much tension. We’ve never really experienced that thankfully.”
Beth said Ryan is the biggest blessing in her life and she is thankful she gets to work with him.
“I feel like we complement each other very well. We work together extremely well,” Beth said. “I gain energy and strength from him.”
During a church service in summer 2008, Ryan and Beth both sensed the Lord telling them the next step for Kidzmatter: publishing a magazine.
Beth said typically in their marriage, they spend time praying to the Lord before sharing an idea they have. But the magazine idea was different for them.
“I just felt like God speak in my spirit … and I came home from church that evening and I said to Ryan ‘You know what? This is going to seem really crazy but I felt like God said to me that we should start a magazine’” Beth said. “But he was like ‘That’s so weird that you say that because I really felt God speak the same thing to me today.’”
That summer, they spent the time working with editors as they researched what all goes into making a magazine. The following January, Kidzmatter launched its first magazine.
“In a day that a lot of magazines are shutting down … our magazine has continued to stay steady and strong,” Ryan said.
Kidzmatter magazine reaches all over the world. While the majority of subscribers are in America, there are also lots of readers from Canada, New Zealand and Australia. The magazine serves 110 denominations, with 80 percent of the people being females due to most children’s ministry pastors and directors being female.
Six years ago, Ryan decided to step off of church staff so he could focus on Kidzmatter full time and to give it more energy. And while Beth is still on the Kidzmatter staff, she usually works from home to take care of their three little girls.
While starting a company, and magazine, can be a big deal, Ryan wasn’t scared.
“I don’t really deal with fear a whole lot which is I guess a good thing and a bad thing,” Ryan said. “I’m not afraid to fail and I’m willing to try things and we’ve got a huge track record of ideas and projects that failed and stuff that we spent a lot of money on that didn’t work. But we just tweak it and try new things.”
The Lord has opened lots of doors for Ryan and his team since Kidzmatter’s first launch, he said. One of the latest big initiatives was an online conference called Kidmin Academy.
Kidmin Academy is a 24/7, 365 days a year children’s ministry conference with live sessions and keynotes each month. Viewers can watch these sessions at real time or access the recordings. At the end of the year the team plans on hosting a big live event called The Kidmin Nation Megacon where several thousand people can attend for a very affordable price.
Ryan said while it’s easy to point out all of the team’s successes, they constantly remind themselves that their success is measured on the lives they touch.
“I think some of the loneliest people that work in the church are the ones that work with kids because they’re unappreciated and it can get very exhausting. They’re often under resourced,” Ryan said. “So when we can really come alongside of them and encourage them, and we get those stories from folks that we’re helping I mean that really reminds us that’s what true success is in our mind.”
Not only do they work hard to make children’s ministry pastors and directors feel appreciated, Ryan said their goal is that kids will come to Christ.
“It’s easy to point to product services to measure success, but ultimately I think it’s in the lives you touch,” Ryan said.
Ryan said IWU has helped him with his career mainly because of the relationships with professors and faculty members he built during his time there, some of which he still maintains today. He said he remembers wanting to model the way he communicated and teach because of certain professors he had for his classes at IWU.
Ryan mainly stayed in Marion because of his family, but he said he thinks people can still do a lot even with living in a small town.
“In this digital world we live in, you can make a big impact really from anywhere,” Ryan said. “You can really influence from anywhere. I think it’s really cool to invest in a small community.”
As far as the future goes, Ryan tries not to be so focused on making plans.
“The trends change so quick … and people change, and this digital stuff changes quick that I kind of decided a few years back I’m not going to waste my time trying to come up with a two or three year plan because I really don’t think we do any of that because of how things change and we want to fluctuate and be nimble,” Ryan said. “But I know that there’s something I am committed to unless I know the Lord can change anything.”
Beth said whatever happens with Kidzmatter in the future, she always wants to be focused on God.
“Lately I’m learning that I want to be all about kingdom building and not really personal kingdom building but God kingdom building,” Beth said. “I’m always reminded that it’s super exciting to serve God because you really never know what tomorrow will bring.”
For now, Ryan and his team plan to have a mindset of change and innovation, as well has being open-handed before the Lord.