The Odyssey Magazine

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Letter from the Editor: College Stress

(Originally from my magazine The Odyssey: A Magazine Presented by The Sojourn)

Going through the school day– walking down the hallways, participating in class, leading staff meetings– most people can find me with a smile on my face. I’ve always been someone who others tell me how much I make them laugh and how positive I am about everything.

But honestly, I’m not always like this. Most people would be surprised to know I have dealt with lots of stress and anxiety during my college years. I can recall several times the past few years lying in my bed, crying, thinking how I can’t handle all of my schoolwork and job duties. Many mornings I have woken up feeling sick to my stomach, immediately overwhelmed by everything on my schedule for that day.

I’ve never been too open about this area of my life because I don’t like to be vulnerable. I don’t want others to take pity on me, or to think of me as a weak person. So for two years, I’ve worked hiding how I truly feel and carried the burden on my own.

It wasn’t until this school year that I’ve been able to be more open about it and express my worries and fears to others. Since doing that, it has felt as though a very heavy has been lifted off of my shoulders. I know have a better sense that I will be able to get my work accomplished and know everything is going to be okay.

college-stress-infographicAfter researching studies on college stress, it has been a relief to know I’m not alone, but I am saddened by the results I found. According to a mtvU/AP poll in 2009, 85 percent of students reported they experience stress on a daily basis, with six in 10 reporting they have felt so stressed they couldn’t get their work done.

On top of that, the poll reported 53 percent said they have felt so stressed they didn’t want to hang out with friends one or more occasions. Also, one out of every ten students has reported signs of moderate to severe depression.

After reading these results, I wondered how there are probably many students on the IWU campus who are feeling this same way, and like me, don’t want to speak up about it to show weakness or vulnerability. My hope is that this magazine is able to help those needing help in this area of their life.

If you are worried about figuring out what your life calling is, make sure to read “Finding the Right Path” on (page #), a story about IWU graduates who changed their career to something completely different than what they majored in college. For those scared to make a bold move about their major or career choice, get some inspiration from Ryan Frank on (page #). If you are feeling worried about getting a job after college, get motivated from recent graduates’ testimonies on how cool their lives are post-college.

Having anxiety about college and life is never easy to deal with. I hope these stories can help you overcome your fears and motivate you to work hard so you can be successful in college and in the future.

Finding the Right Path

(Originally from my magazine The Odyssey: A Magazine Presented by The Sojourn)

A look into the struggles– and the rewards– of discovering your life calling later in life.

Growing up singing and playing seven different instruments, it only made sense for David Gafford to be a music major at Indiana Wesleyan University.

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David worked as a church music director for 15 years. Photo provided by David.

But at the end of his sophomore year, David was still undeclared and wasn’t sure what to pick. He ended up talking with someone he respected who told him he should do music because of his musical abilities. David decided to be an applied voice and church music major with a choral conducting minor.

Right after graduation in 2000, he stayed in Marion to be the music director at Lakeview Wesleyan Church for three and a half years. The senior pastor resigned and, because of the Wesleyan Church bylaws, the entire staff resigned as well.

For the next 12 years, David held church music director positions at different churches in Michigan, Minnesota and Indiana.

Then decided to choose a different career path.

“Even though (I had) been doing church music and all of these things (for) my whole life up to this point, I went ‘you know what? It’s probably time for a change,’” Gafford said.

David spent time taking the Myers Briggs test and other strength finder tests to find out what he should do. He said the results kept showing him he is not the best suited to be in a position where someone tells him what to do every day.

Along with taking the strength finder tests, David also asked himself, “If I could do anything in the world, what would I do?” He said when answering this, he decided he wanted to help people be successful with their business.

So with that, he decided to open his own digital marketing company called Fusion Creative.

While it may seem that church music and digital marketing don’t exactly line up, David actually built digital experience over the 15 years as a church director.

screen-shot-2016-12-11-at-1-50-12-pmAccording to David, 80 percent of his job actually had nothing to do with music. With being a church music director, the senior pastor gave him different tasks. This included being in charge of the church website, photography, videography, graphic design and more.

Digital marketing is “how you leverage the Internet to be able to gain new clients and prospects for your business,” according to David. He said he sits down with companies and asks what they are doing to gain clients and how that is working, and then helps them to improve.

With his graphic design and website skills, he said he knew he would be successful at starting a digital marketing company.

About eight years after graduation in 1994, Jeremy and Jennifer Hite found themselves in the same situation as David.

After changing majors three different times, Jeremy decided to finally declare his major as communication with an emphasis in speech and theatre, and minored in church music and Christian ministries. During his time at college, Jeremy said he never felt good about his choice and considered dropping out or transferring, but because of already being in debt, decided to finish it out.

Jennifer came to IWU after completing her bachelor’s degree in music and vocal performance with a minor in youth ministry and music at Bethany Bible College, now Kingswood University, in New Brunswick, Canada.

For five years after graduation, Jeremy and Jennifer stayed in the Marion area. Jennifer was a chaplain’s assistant and Beard Arts Center office manager at IWU while Jeremy worked as an admissions counselor at the university for two years until he became the worship pastor at Mt. Olive United Methodist Church.

In 1999, the couple moved to South Dakota where Jeremy was the male dorm parent and Jennifer a substitute teacher at a private boarding school. Jennifer was always interested in nursing but said she was scared to major in it during college.

“I was too chicken, I didn’t think I could do it,” Jennifer said. “I didn’t believe in myself. I didn’t have any self-confidence in that.”

It wasn’t until living in the boys dorm with Jeremy at the boarding school and having children of her own that she gained enough confidence to go back to school to get a nursing degree.

“The boys would come, knock on the door (and say) ‘I don’t feel well,’ ‘Mrs. Hite, something is wrong,’ ‘I hurt my finger,’” Jennifer said. “Having kids, too, helped because then (I could say) ‘Oh he’s got a fever, he’s going to be okay. I can treat him, I can help him. So it wasn’t until those experiences did I feel confident going into nursing.”

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Jennifer graduated in 2006 with a degree in nursing. Photo provided by Jeremy.

In 2002, Jeremy was offered a full-time job as the children’s pastor at Mt. Olive, so the couple moved back to Marion, and Jennifer began nursing school.

Jennifer has now been a nurse since 2006, and even went back to school again to become a nurse practitioner and is currently working at Central Indiana Orthopedics.

A few years ago, Jeremy made his own career switch. After working as the children’s pastor for about ten years, he got burned out. After quitting ministerial work, he started to work at the Tree of Life in Marion. He said he always had an interest in education back in college, but didn’t want to change his major again.

“I always felt like I was too old and I didn’t want to spend the money at this point, we have kids that are going to be in college in a few years, she was going to school, applying to get her Master’s, we don’t need that,” Jeremy said. “But (Jennifer) definitely gave me the nudge to say if you’re not happy, if this is what you want to do, you just need to do it.”

Jeremy finished his transition to teaching degree in December 2015, and is now a kindergarten teacher at Converse Elementary School, part of the Oak Hill United School Corporation.

“I love it, I can see myself doing that long-term and I wish I would have done it 20 years ago,” Jeremy said.

Even though David is doing what he thinks is the right career now, the transition was anything but easy.

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David spent a year unemployed trying to find a job. It was a struggle because he knew he needed to find one to be able to put food on the table for his family. Photo provided by David.

David said it took him one year to find a job after he quit working in the church. He said when he applied for jobs, employers didn’t want him because he only had church experience and not industry experience. He described the transition as hellish.

“(My family and I) spent a good year just basically going I don’t know how I’m going to pay the mortgage and I don’t have any idea how to put food on the table,” David said. “So it was not easy.”

After the reality of not getting the jobs he had applied for, he said he decided to take his most marketable skills and put them to work. A friend of David’s, who is a graphic designer, asked for some help on a quote for a website he was working with, and paid David to fix it. After that, his friend told others.

“Next thing you know, I had a full blown company,” David said.

Jeremy and Jennifer’s transition was not very simple, either.

Jennifer described her transition as being scary because she said she dealt with thoughts like “I could kill somebody” and “I could be responsible for them not living right now.”

Jeremy said he was a wreck when he started transition to teaching because he didn’t know how it would all work out. But he said him and Jennifer were both very supportive of each other in their decisions to switch careers.

One reason the Hites decided to declare ministry majors was because of the pressure they received growing up. Jeremy said he grew up being told being in ministry was the highest calling.

The Hites shared that they have had conversations with their friends who were also ministry majors in college but have since changed careers because they have had the same struggle as them.

“Part of my growing up even after college was just understanding and figuring out and wrestling with that I’m in ministry no matter what I do as a believer,” Jeremy said. “There’s no higher calling as opposed to a pastor, a teacher, a nurse, a journalist if you’re doing what God has called you to do and you’re being true to yourself … as you serve Him.”

Jeremy and Jennifer both have said their previous careers have helped prepare them for their current ones. Jennifer said youth ministries was a good foundation to being a nurse now, and while Jeremy was told by his principal that usually administrators don’t like hiring transition-to-teaching teachers, they knew he was well-equipped for the job due to his time as children’s pastor.

For college students who are nervous about finding their life calling, David said he thinks they should not worry about it too much.

“It is something to worry about but at the same time it’s not so much,” David said. “You have to look at it rather than your major, look at it more in the “I’m developing myself as a person throughout my time at college, so I’m developing my personal skills, I’m developing my work skills.”

Because it can be challenging to decide a career or life calling right out of high school, Jeremy said to not be afraid to take some time off.

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Jeremy loves what he is doing now, teaching kindergarten. Photo provided by Jeremy.

“I think we put a huge amount of pressure on kids to go to college right out of high school to know what you’re going to do,” Jeremy said. “Everyone’s journey is their own, so don’t compare yourself and feel like it has to be a certain way, and take the time to figure out what you want to do.”

Jennifer said in her previous career, when her family went on vacation, she loved it because she could escape reality. But now, her reality is so much better.

“If we’ve got to work full time, if I got to be away from my family … if I have to do something every day … do something you love. What a drudgery, I lived that where I dreaded going to work,” Jennifer said. “If there is contentment in what I’m doing and it brings me satisfaction and joy, I’m going to be more useful and I’m going to be better serving God.”

Home Sweet IWU

(Originally from my magazine The Odyssey: A Magazine Presented by The Sojourn)

Since graduating in 1995, Robin Jewett has lived all over the country. Her and her husband have lived in Indiana, Tennessee, North Carolina and now Oregon. Even after many years, and moves, Jewett still feels very connected to the IWU community.

From Nashville to North Carolina to Oregon, Robin Jewett has lived in many different places, near and far, since her time at Indiana Wesleyan University.

Jewett graduated from IWU in 1995, with a bachelor’s degree in biology. While there, she helped start Friday Night Live, directing five of the first six shows.

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Robin and some of the original FNL cast for a reunion at IWU Homecoming 2015. Photo provided by Robin.

“(With FNL), we were looking for creative ways to get the people on campus involved in a local church ministry,” Jewett said. “We had chapel but a lot of (college students) just slept through on Sunday mornings.”

After graduation, Jewett took a job at the Wesleyan Church Headquarters in Indianapolis. She wrote youth group curriculum and served in several capacities of churches in Michigan and Indiana.

It was in Indy where she met a youth pastor, Ken. They connected very quickly and married one year later.

Her husband led her back to Marion and IWU in 1998. While he was the youth pastor for Lakeview Christian Church, she worked as a lab instructor and assistant lab manager at the school. With that job, she taught anatomy and physiology labs, did prep for general chemistry labs, worked on basic maintenance of lab facilities and assisted adjunct professors with their labs.

After working in Marion for five years, the couple moved to Nashville, Tennessee, in 2003. Jewett studied at Trevecca Nazarene University to participate in its physician assistant school. They stayed in Nashville for 11 years, where Jewett worked several jobs as a P.A., including teaching classes at Trevecca that led her to becoming the program director for the P.A. school.

During their time in Nashville, the couple also adopted two children from the Congo — Adeline and Palmer.

But in 2014, it was time for the Jewetts to move again.

Jewett said the Lord took them to Boiling Springs, North Carolina so she could help start a P.A. program at Gardner Webb University.

Jewett and her family didn’t live in North Carolina for long. Soon after moving there, they moved to Salem, Oregon, which is their current location.

“I began to realize that my family needed me closer. My kids were growing up without knowing their grandparents,” Jewett said. “So we moved out here to be closer to my side of the family.”

In Salem, Jewett works as a P.A. for The Doctor’s Clinic. Besides being interested in going into the mission field someday, their family’s plan is to stay in Salem so they can be with Jewett’s side of the family, who, she said, keeps them rooted in Oregon.

Even after graduating 20 years ago and moving several times, Jewett said she still remains very close with her friends from college.

“I think many of my friends that I’ve maintained over the last … 20 years have been from Indiana Wesleyan,” Jewett said. “I’ve moved to a lot of places and done a lot of things, but really some of the people that I still maintain the closest connections to are (my college friends). Even to this day, some of the people I go to for spiritual wisdom are friends that I made when I was at Indiana Wesleyan.”

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Jaena and Robin in 1998. Photo provided by Robin.

One of the strong friendships she has kept over the years is with Jaena Hardin, who graduated in 1993. They met at IWU, but actually became closer friends after college. Hardin worked at Lakeview while Jewett and her husband were there.

“We actually became better and better friends once we left college, which I think is usually backwards so we were acquaintances and friends but then when we left college, our friendship got better,” Hardin said. “She’s a lifelong friend.”

Hardin said if it wasn’t for IWU, they wouldn’t be such close friends today.

“It’s funny because I think you go through college and you have close friends and you think those are the people who you will always be friends with and so it’s kind of a gift that there’s this commonality that we went to school there,” Hardin said. “I feel like Indiana Wesleyan also gave us both the training and part of that journey to lead us to where we would need to be to eventually work on staff together or paths to cross in other ways.”

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Robin and Kari have remained very close even after being roommates in college. Photo provided by Kari.

During her senior year, Jewett lived with Kari Terhune (‘96), another close friend to this day. She was also able to work alongside Terhune during her time as a lab instructor at the university. Being science majors is one reason why they have stayed close over all of these years.

“Even if we don’t talk every day or every week, I know that I can just ask her a medical question real quick and we can discuss something scientific or just talk about whatever we need to,” Terhune said. “It’s doesn’t have to be that we keep in really close contact but we can pick up where we left off.”

Jewett has tried to come back to campus when possible, and was able to for last year’s homecoming for an FNL reunion.

“I was a little disoriented just from all of the new construction on campus, but I’ve just loved to see the fantastic growth of the university,” Jewett said. “How obviously stagnation is not an issue, but there are always new things being tried and new buildings being built and new programs that are coming about.”

Jewett said she also loved seeing Ott Hall because of her past experiences in IWU’s science department.

Because of her Christian college education, Jewett said the lessons she learned in her classes are still part of her life today.

“The most powerful devotion times I had were in my biology classes,” Jewett said. “Those lessons I really carried forward with me that my faith can be integrated in many parts of my life whether I’m teaching or whether I’m practicing medicine. That’s really stayed with me.”

Jewett also said how the most profound moments of her life when God gave her clear direction were her time in her classes, chapel and one-on-one time with professors talking about him.

Even though she lives about 37 hours away from Marion, Indiana, Jewett feels very close to the IWU community.

“I feel like I’m never really far, because (IWU) was so foundational to who I had become the rest of my life,” Jewett said.

What Can You Do With Your Major?

When choosing a major, or even when questioning if you picked the right major, it’s important to know all of the sorts of jobs that come with it. Here are some interesting career choices you can have with some of the many majors offered at Indiana Wesleyan University.

THEATRE

KENDRA EMMETT-GOLDWASSER

Assistant Touring Manager/Understudy

at American Shakespeare Center

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Goldwasser played Nell Gwyne in the production “Or” during grad school. Photo provided by Goldwasser.

After graduating in 2013, Kendra Emmett-Goldwasser went straight to graduate school to study at the Mary Baldwin College Shakespeare and Performance Program in Stanton, Virginia. During her time there, worked in the box office and became familiar with the program’s touring troupe. After getting her master of letters degree, she sent an e-mail to the director and asked if she could help out with the tour. Two months later, she is the assistant touring manager and understudy for the troupe. And in December and January, it’s going to be her first time to fill in for one of the actors.

Goldwasser said she loves her job because she loves her job and all of the actors and manager in the troupe.

“Don’t be afraid for opportunities, don’t be afraid to talk to people and then ask for things,” Goldwasser said. “The worst they can say is no.”

NURSING

TIFFANY RANDALL

Captain in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps

       

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Randall riding in a Blackhawk working as a U.S. Army Nurse. Photo provided by Randall.

Since graduating in 2011, Tiffani Randall has worked in the U.S. army as a nurse. She first started her career on a cardiac unit in Hawaii and then became an E.R. nurse after attending a critical care/E.R. trauma course through the army. In December 2015, Randall finished her Master of Science in Nursing with an Emphasis in Nursing Education from Grand Canyon University, where immediately she was deployed in Iraq as a flight nurse.

In Iraq, she rides in a Blackhawk helicopter and performs rescue missions and critical care transports for the injured.

“I joined the Army to help those I felt deserved it the most. I love taking care of soldiers,” Randall said. “They sacrifice so much, more than I ever realized, until I joined, and I truly believe they deserve the best care possible.”

COMMUNICATION STUDIES/ PUBLIC RELATIONS

HANNAH BUNCH

Event Planner for 1920 Company

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Bunch lives in Michigan where she works as an event planner. Headshot provided by Ben Pancoast Photography.

Hannah Bunch moved to Chicago, Ill. so she could be an editorial intern for a magazine after she graduated in 2012. After that, she moved to St. Joseph, Mich. to be a copyeditor for The Herald Palladium. While being a copyeditor, she decided to get her “feet wet” in the wedding industry, so she did an apprenticeship with a local wedding planning agency. After that experience, she still loves that field and is now an event planner for 1928 Company. While her and another woman help with events for people, Bunch said about 90 percent of the events are weddings.

“Every day is different. Every client is different. I love that I get to work with such a variety of people every day,” said Bunch. “I get to be creative with my job, which is something I really enjoy… And it keeps us busy and I really enjoy being busy.”

Along with event planning, Bunch also started a business called A Foraged Affair, where she teaches modern calligraphy workshops throughout the southwest Michigan and greater Chicago area.

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Some of the beautiful work Bunch and her team have done. Photos provided by Jill Tiongco Photography.

Bunch said she encourages students to try to get experience in anything that interests you.

“I never really tested the waters until I had a steady job, and I kind of wish I could have figured out I could have done this a long time ago,” Bunch said. “Sometimes you have to move for that certain job, but I think it’s worth it.”

PHOTOGRAPHY

MICHAEL MATTI

Freelance Photographer

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Matti gets paid to travel all over the world to take photos. Photo provided by Matti.

Right after graduating from IWU in 2013, Matti moved to Seattle, Washington to begin his career as a photographer. Up until a year and a half ago, he was assisting commercial studios while shooting weddings in the summer. He stopped working for companies and began working for himself, as he took outdoor photos and gained lots of popularity on his Instagram account (@michaelmatti).

“I absolutely love it,” Matti said. “I like being my own boss and not taking orders from anyone.”

If his name sounds familiar, it’s probably because one of his photos is the official Indiana Bicentennial stamp. He said he took it one summer while visiting his parents in Milfred, Ind.

Now, Matti is hired by tourism boards to travel to a country and spend a week there, traveling and taking photos, so the pictures can be used for marketing purposes. He has been to 35 countries including Australia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Norway, and more.

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Matti’s sunset photo that is the official stamp for the Indiana Bicentennial. Photo provided by Matti.

Matti said his success has been based off of his rise on Instagram and him leveraging an audience. He said it’s important to know networking if you are going to be a photographer.

“You can have all the knowledge but you have to connect with people,” Matti said. “It is a very person-to-person industry.”

Illustration

Joshua Brunet

Artist for Children’s Books

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Brunet is a professor and works on illustration for books on the side. Photo provided by Brunet.

In 2000, just after graduating from IWU, and subbing for art classes at his old high school, Joshua Brunet didn’t know he would be an illustrator for children’s books in the future. Over the years he worked some odd jobs—subbing, printing and copying for professors, and working in an arts store—but he was also able to connect with publishers and freelance for them. His big break was being able to illustrate a book called “I’m in Love With a Big Blue Frog,” by Peter, Paul, and Mary—a popular folk band from the 1960’s.

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Brunet’s illustration from “I’m in Love with a Big Blue Frog.”

Brunet said he encourages students to pursue whatever their dream is.

“And sometimes those things might take a while and you might have to do some weird odd jobs to support what you feel the Lord is calling you into,” Brunet said. “But if you feel the Lord is calling you … just keep pursuing it and it may take a while, but if He wants you there He’s going to get you there.”

Religious Studies

Nathan Metz

Missionary in Uganda, Africa

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Metz with some of the university students from the Congo and Uganda that he has worked with. Photo provided by Metz.

Nathan Metz, his wife and four children just recently returned to the U.S. from serving in Uganda, Africa for two years. Metz worked with the two percent of Ugandan people who are in a university, developing them into leaders. Along with working with the students, Metz also wrote four books and is in conversation with people to get it translated into French and Creole.

But Metz wasn’t always this hard working and successful. After high school, he failed out of different colleges and lost a job. After getting married, him and his wife had a “spiritual awakening” and came back to the church.

He then became an IWU employee and worked on campus for eight years, finally earning his degree at 34 years old. He is now in the seminary and working on his Master’s.

“I’m far enough removed from all of those past life failures that I’m a little more comfortable including them as a part of my story because I mean if you’re working on your Master’s it’s okay to refer to how earlier … I was an awful student with no discipline so that kind of speaks to some people who are struggling in school that struggling doesn’t mean you’re a bad student,” Metz said.

WRITING

DAVID PRIEST

Associate Editor at CNET

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Priest graduated with a writing degree in 2015. Photo provided by Priest.

David Priest, a graduate from the class of 2015, lives in Louisville, KY and writes for CNET, a media website owned by CBS. There, he spends most of his time in the company’s “smart home” – a house fully integrated with smart home technology that he tests out and writes reviews for. He also writes about other miscellaneous content such writing stories about Netflix T.V. shows or video games.

Priest said he is glad he has a writing degree because of the uniqueness of it.

“In writing, (there are) all sorts of jobs that are out there, whether it’s in news or online content creation, or technical writing. And just a lot of companies out there need writers,” Priest said.

A Pastor’s Heart + an Entrepreneurial Spirit= Ryan Frank’s KidzMatter

(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.

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The September/October issue of Kidzmatter magazine. Photo provided.

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.

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Ryan leads many conferences throughout the year. Photo provided.

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.

screen-shot-2016-12-11-at-12-39-10-pmRyan 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.