The Flourishing Culture Podcast Series
“Flying Blind vs. Actionable Data on Workplace Culture“
June 14, 2021
Intro: Do you feel like you may be flying blind when it comes to navigating the health of your culture? Well, today’s guest admits he was, yet he wanted to create a culture his staff could thrive in. Listen in as he describes the key steps that he took to move his workplace culture to one of the healthiest that we’ve worked with.
Al Lopus: Welcome to another episode of the Flourishing Culture Podcast, where our goal is to equip and inspire you to build a flourishing workplace. As we all face today’s leadership challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we believe having a healthy culture is more important now than ever before. We are here to help you eliminate toxicity, improve your employees’ engagement, speed up new innovation, and grow your organization’s impact.
And before we meet our guest today, I urge you to subscribe to this podcast. As a result, you’ll receive our action guide. It’s our gift to help you lead your organization’s culture to the next level. To subscribe, simply go to bcwinstitute.org/podcast. Hit the Subscribe button and receive our free action guide.
If you can share this podcast with others, and rate it, it would mean a lot to me. Thank you.
And now, let’s meet today’s special guest.
Welcome to the Flourishing Culture Podcast, and thanks for listening in. I’d like you to listen closely because I’m going to give you a two-syllable abbreviation of one of the healthiest flourishing organizations BCWI has ever worked with. And are you ready? The two syllables are StuMo. That’s StuMo, short for Student Mobilization. And to tell you the story of their stunning flourishing culture, with over 80 percent of their staff fully engaged, is my guest, Dave Riner, the CEO and president of Student Mobilization.
Hi, Dave, and welcome to the Flourishing Culture Podcast.
Dave Riner: And it’s so good to be with you, Al. Thanks so much for hosting me today.
Al: We’re glad you’re here. And, Dave, know Student Mobilization is headquartered in Conway, Arkansas, yet your influence is much broader. And to start us off, I’d like it if you could give us StuMo’s purpose, your passion, even a strategy for your ministry.
Dave: Sure. So Student Mobilization is a college-campus ministry. Our mission is to build laborers for Christ from the college campuses of the world. So today our passion is Generation Z leaders. This is the generation on campus today, and so we really love ministering to Gen Z. But when I think about Gen Z, I think about Matthew 9:37, where Jesus looked out, saw the people, they were harassed, they were helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
And, Al, there’s really no description better when you think about today’s American college campus. Our young people are really under an unprecedented attack. Today’s students have little or no biblical knowledge when they arrive to campus. The culture there is really toxic. There’s a lot of hostility to spiritual truth. The standards of morality keep on changing in the wrong direction. And technology has captured most young men and many young women. It’s pulled them into pornography and sexual addiction. And so it’s really no wonder that this generation struggles with anxiety and depression more than any previous generation. And then add COVID on top of everything, their inability these days to socialize. We’ve just seen unprecedented darkness. Students are harassed; they’re helpless. They’re like sheep without a shepherd.
And so you can call it passion for this Gen Z generation, but you could also call it compassion, as Jesus had when He looked over the people. And so strategically to accomplish our vision, really, most of our staff are millennials. And so our strategy is to send young spiritual leaders to build relationships with those nonbelievers on campus, share the Gospel, and then watch God transform them into a new generation of Gen Z spiritual leaders. And they’re going to be the moms, the dads, the business leaders, the teachers, the pastors, and the missionaries in the near future.
Al: Well, that’s just touches my heart, Dave, I have to say. I think about college students today and what they face, and you’ve really outlined it just very well. But tell me, how did you get involved in StuMo?
Dave: Yeah. So back in the ’80s is when StuMo began, a different era in 1986, at the University of Arkansas. Steve and Carol Shadrach founded Student Mobilization. At the time, Steve was the collegiate pastor, and during the summer, Steve would invite students to a discipleship experience called Kaleo, the Kaleo Summer Project, about a nine-week summer discipleship experience. And I’ll talk more about that later.
Dave: But at the time, I was a grad student. I was finishing an MBA. I had completed a double engineering degree at Vanderbilt before my MBA. And about the time StuMo launched, I became an employee of ConocoPhillips. I was an engineer there. And my wife and I were some of the first financial supporters of Student Mobilization. So it was sort of a band of brothers my age that launched StuMo. And I was initially just one of their encouragers, one of their financial supporters.
But about eight years in, Steve recruited us. And so we made a big decision to sort of jump the tracks and leave the corporate world. And so I joined a much smaller version of StuMo as an administrator and a fundraiser in 1995. And then after about five years, there was a twist. Steve is a real visionary, and he began to refocus his vision on a ministry of support raising, helping organizations throughout the nation in missions mobilization. And so that’s when I and two other men, Ted Shimer and Sean Vollendorf, we relaunched Student Mobilization in about the year 2000.
Al: Well, that’s a great story, boy. And of the many stories you could share about how God is using StuMo to bring people to Himself, what might be one of your favorite stories of Student Mobilization at work?
Dave: Al, I think you’re going to love this story. This is a great one, but I got to set it up. So I mentioned the Kaleo Summer Project. And so it’s a discipleship project. It’s a leadership-training project for college students. It’s nine weeks, in-depth-training experience. It includes immersion in evangelism training, which we’ve learned that some students, that’s the main reason that they participate in Kaleo, just to learn how to share their faith. So bottom line, we’ll send 19-year-old sorority girls to the beach to meet seemingly random people, to share their testimonies and share the Gospel.
So a few years back, some Kaleo girls were down at the beach in Destin, Florida, and they met some partying high school girls from Texas, and Samantha was one of those girls. So Sam is the random girl on the beach, not following Jesus, in Destin, Florida. And so now fast forward, Sam is a believer. She’s a disciple maker. She’s a leader. And she’s actually on our StuMo staff. It’s pretty incredible how God did that.
Al: Well, tell us the rest of the story. How did all that happen?
Dave: Yeah. It was such a God thing. So Sam is with her friends there to party. And so the Kaleo girls walk up, and they’re probably terrified because they’re just now learning how to share their faith. So Sam heard the Gospel from them, and that day God really began to use it. It got her thinking about her life. Then six weeks later, Sam shows up as a freshman at Texas A&M, and she meets a StuMo staff leader, Tanya, who had just returned from—guess where—Kaleo. And then they figure out together that Sam had met those StuMo girls in Florida. Probably they were University of Arkansas girls. And so over time that year, Sam submitted her life to Jesus. And then guess where Sam spends her next summer. She’s back at Kaleo.
So that next summer, Sam is back on the beach in Florida, except this time Samantha is one of the Kaleo girls. God moved Sam over to the other side of the Gospel conversation. And then the next summer, she goes back to Kaleo and brings some of her sorority girlfriends. She’s their D-Group leader. Takes them where? To the beach. To do what? Share the Gospel. Sam is growing as a believer and a leader, and then she ultimately has come on our staff.
And so now, Sam and I are friends. I saw her two weeks ago, and she was introducing me to a girl that she’s recruiting to join our staff. And so I just love stories like that, Al, where God moves someone over from the dark side to His side. It’s incredible.
Al: Yeah. Yeah, well, that’s a great story. Thank you very much, Dave. I know all of our listeners can relate to that.
And talk about relating to our listeners about your decision to do the Employee Engagement Survey process with BCWI, how did you hear about us? What did you come to expect from our online Survey, designed to deliver a wealth of anonymous, honest employee feedback to reveal the true nature of your workplace culture? How did you come to hear about BCWI?
Dave: Yeah. And we didn’t know about everything you just said. From the beginning, we were starting from a very naïve position. Our ministry was growing, and before we heard of BCWI, we wanted to measure our leaders, and we wanted to measure their effectiveness. We were sort of the new kid on the block. We’re very unaware of resources like Better Christian Workplaces. And so we actually created our own survey from scratch. And somewhere in the process I heard about—maybe I just did some random searching. I really don’t even know how God blessed us with the idea of your ministry.
But I actually wanted to read to your listeners my first email to Kathy at Best Christian Workplaces Institute. It’ll sort of just give you an idea of where we started. It’s little bit hilarious.
I say, “Hello. I wonder if someone would call me. We want to benchmark each of our five regions. We have a lot of specific questions that we want to ask, but we wonder if a third party would be best to administer. We have some openness to what might already be established from your previous work regarding surveys, but we definitely want to ask our own questions.”
So basically, Al, we started off with asking BCWI to administer to us our own homegrown survey. We were so naive. We really didn’t understand the BCWI ministry, but we learned about your expertise. We learned about the history and your ability to benchmark. And I began to wonder why in the world are we reinventing the wheel? Maybe we could actually trust BCWI.
And so I think part of our hesitancy, frankly, was a little fear of the unknown, maybe a little bit of a fear of the truth. We had anecdotal evidence from our staff, but nothing really objective and actionable. And so the question was really, did we want to know the answers to these BCWI questions? It was like getting a physical exam, very probing, to come in and expose yourself to that process. And we weren’t sure if we wanted to be compared to the industry. You know, we were very siloed. We were very self-reliant as a young ministry. And so it was a big growth step to submit ourselves to the BCWI process. We had no idea how we would fare when we entered the first Survey, so it was a step of faith. But in the end, I really think it was the right step. We couldn’t not do it once we learned what BCWI had to offer.
Al: Well, thanks for sharing that, Dave, because what you’ve just communicated is oftentimes the very first experience people hear about us. They’re not sure if they can really trust the process. Why would we do this? You mentioned your young, self-reliant ministry. There’s a lot of those out there. And yet, boy, congratulations.
And as you took that first Survey, kind of what did you get from the Survey results that first year that you took the Survey?
Dave: Yes. Our initial Survey in 2019 was actually, you know, ended up very positive. We had no idea, and we were probably surprised. We were in the flourishing category in the first Survey, so I really expected our second Survey in 2020 to be lower. But the results were actually even a little higher, even a little more flourishing. So our leaders had looked through that initial Survey, and they did find areas to improve, and they began to act on the staff input. So I was really proud of their teachability and their willingness to act on the first Survey.
And one thing I would note: communication up and down the org was an area that our staff was calling for improvement in our initial Survey. And I think actually committing to an annual BCWI Survey, that decision itself was appreciated by our staff. I think they felt empowered by that. And I think that decision increased our second results, just that decision. They took that decision as an act of submission to their input. And I think it really helped them trust our leaders. I think overall, I think the Survey just gave us a window of trust. Each region can look into itself, and then all the regions can look into each other and see the specific strengths and weaknesses, you know, with the benchmarks, with the common questions, the common Survey results. Staff can give their opinion on the corporate headquarters, which is one of the areas I look over. And so that transparency has really been a blessing. And so I really appreciate you guys giving us this window of trust.
Al: You know, Dave, one of the things that you did—you’re talking about communication—and you acted on those Survey results. You communicated it broadly. It was clearly something that was communicated from the top down. Everybody understood it. And when that’s the case and people know that you actually care about it and you listen to the results and act on them, then, yes, they want to be engaged. They see this as a positive process. And your implementation was fabulous, and as you said, even improved your already very positive results. And, you know, your results were really positive and reaffirming that first year, and you’ve shown what a vibrant, flourishing workplace culture can look like. So what did those Survey results say to you about your people?
Dave: Well, we’re very thankful for those results, a little relieved because we were flying blind before the Survey. You know, I think our people just naturally experienced transformation as students, and so they expect transformation, and so that makes for a flourishing workplace and a vibrant culture. I really think our people are incredible. They’re very gifted, and they’re just really committed to the vision of StuMo because each of them have their own version of Sam’s story.
You know, many of them were that random person, not so much on the beach, but they were that nonbeliever on campus. Probably 50 percent of our staff have come to faith as nonbelieving college students, and so they were the very people that they encounter now on campus. In some way, they’re all a product of this ministry, and so they naturally believe in it. They receive a lot of rejection when they do their job, a lot of excuses, even persecution, but not long ago they were the ones dishing it out themselves, you know, as nonbelievers.
It reminds me of a couple of verses. In Ephesians 5:8, it says, “You were once in darkness, but now you are the light of the Lord.” And so the Ephesians were on one side, and then God moved them to the other side. In First Corinthians, Paul explains that the unrighteous won’t inherit the kingdom of God. And then he lists the sexually immoral, the greedy, the drunkards, the revilers. That reminds me of the college campus. And then he says, “And such were some of you. But you were washed. You were sanctified. You were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” So again, the Corinthians were on one side, and God moved them to the other side. It’s a simple idea, but I just don’t think I’ll ever get over that work of God, moving people from darkness to light.
And so, really, to sum it up, our staff are motivated by what God has already done in their lives. We can’t really take credit for that. We are leaning on the Lord, have just strong faith in the Lord that He’s going to use them, because fairly recently He showed up in their own lives. They’re very hopeful people, and they’re looking for God to work on the campus, and they’re also willing for God to continue to work in our organization.
Al: I love that, Dave. Moving people from darkness to light, and they’ve seen it and experienced it themselves. That’s exactly right.
So, Dave, we’re often asked the question, why would we do this? Why would we bother to engage our people in Employee Survey? What’s the benefit? Is it going to really increase or have an impact, positive impact, on our ministry and our impact? What would you say to that, Dave?
Dave: Well, I think we just have a real responsibility to offer these motivated young staff a culture that they can thrive in. I just feel a big stewardship to shepherd them, manage them, encourage them, give them the right fences. You can tell they’re natural entrepreneurs. They don’t see themselves first as employees of Student Mobilization, and that has some positives and some negatives. They view themselves first as personally called by God to ministry, and they’re willing to use the StuMo structure to submit to the organization to empower them. So really they’re the ones who own the ministry. I think it’s really important to remove their obstacles, to grease the skids, fight the fires, and clear the path for their ministries. We know that healthy things grow, and we certainly want to help our staff and their ministries grow. And so this process of the Survey and the results, it just gives us a way to bless our staff with a more healthy culture to operate in.
Al: Yeah. To create a culture where people can thrive. I love that.
I trust you’re enjoying our podcast today. We’ll be right back after an important word for leaders.
Female: As we come through the COVID-19 crisis, leaders everywhere are asking, how do we understand the tensions our employees are experiencing coming back to work? How do we keep our employees engaged, hold on to our best talent, and position ourselves to thrive as an organization going forward? If you’re looking for a way forward, the Best Christian Workplaces Institute can guide you onto the road to a flourishing workplace.
The first step to begin the journey is our well-known Employee Engagement Survey. This proven online tool pinpoints where your organization is already strong and where you can improve your employees’ workplace experience, resulting in more productive people. That’s right. You’ll have more engaged, productive, and fulfilled people. Time-consuming guesswork won’t get you there. Instead, let us help you with a fact-based, hope-inspiring action plan that only our Employee Engagement Survey and skillful coaching can provide. Sign up now to begin the journey to build a flourishing workplace culture and a thriving organization. Find out more at bcwinstitute.org.
Al: And now, back to today’s special guest.
One of the other things you’ve reflected on is the way we’ve given your team language that describes the health of a culture. So what can you tell us about that?
Dave: Yeah. So we started with the Survey, and it just sort of naturally seeped into our culture. So these days, if we refer to engagement or we refer to life-giving work or rewarding compensation, we know we’re talking about the BCW Survey results. So we’ll want to know if we’re flourishing in this area, or how flourishing are we in this area? So I just can see that gradually we’re integrating into our StuMo culture the Survey language. And so our staff are using the results and the language.
Al: That’s helpful just from that perspective. So you have a common language that has common meaning that you can talk about.
And what about a baseline? How has established such a baseline helped you gauge your organizational health?
Dave: Yeah. That whole idea of benchmarking even one year to the next within a region or the organization as a whole to a region or our organization to this industry, the group that we’re in, our people are really goal oriented. And, you know, comparison can be good. It can be misused. But overall, I think our people like knowing where they stand, both the staff and the leaders. They pray and they work in teams, and so the BCW results gives them a chance to celebrate, and it gives them a chance to evaluate together. They’re definitely human. They can be discouraged. But overall, I think that it’s a chance to communicate with each other and improve. And so they can look at each benchmark and they think about, why are we high or why are we low? They can brainstorm on ways to get better together. And then, of course, some of the areas are definitely our responsibility at the corporate level, so I and our CFO are working specifically on making our administrative processes more healthy.
Al: Yeah. You know, certain questions and focus areas of the Survey have been particularly high for StuMo. While they might be unique to StuMo’s ministry, they might also speak to leaders listening in. What would you have to say?
Dave: So effectively, Student Mobilization has a two-to-four-year interview process, and that’s been a huge blessing for us. We’ll meet our future staff first as nonbelieving college students, so our growth is really organic. Getting the right people that match our vision for the organization is really key. But I think, also, other organizations can make that a focus by searching for the people that are willing and able to make the organization a success. My wife has a business with 100 franchisees, and finding the right fit is definitely number one for her, finding people that match exactly what you’re trying to accomplish.
But then I think trusting your people and getting out of their way. Sure, definitely you need to train your people, the young staff, to the keys to victory. But also reward their loyalty with empowerment, and as we’ve talked about, with transparent communication. We just really need to trust them to innovate, be willing to make them—accept their mistakes. They’re just different generation that leaves them differently sometimes. We can’t afford to waste their perspective.
Al: Well, you know, Dave, I really like what you’re saying about the right people, and a lot of organizations don’t have that luxury of a two-to-four-year interview process. We hear a lot of organizations that are frustrated with 30-to-60-day interview process, if not faster. But I know exactly what you’re saying. And you’re able to see these people grow and develop under the supervision of your staff. What a great thing. Empower them, trust them, reward them, train them, be transparent with them. Those are all just really great comments.
But let’s look at the commitment to mission and strategy. And every question related to your staff’s confidence in the work that you do is, as Cary would call it, super high. So what’s the reason for that, Dave?
Al: Well, as I’ve mentioned, they’re a product, really, of their own ministry. They were helpless and harassed themselves. Now Jesus is their shepherd. And so they just know for a fact that God is faithful. So for us, the mission and the strategy are proven first at this most personal level. They just know the Gospel changes lives. They see it every semester. And so they just want to light the campus on fire. And a lot of ways, I’m just the guy holding the matches and keeping them dry.
But I would say this. I’d say that our regional and our campus leaders do have to work to keep this vision in front of our staff. This idea of laboring, sharing with person after person after person, establishing person after person in the faith, it’s really hard, repetitive work. So changing lives one life at a time just takes an incredible amount of perseverance. So it’s really important to keep the vision fresh. So we do recast the vision annually at our staff conference. We remind ourselves why there’s a Student Mobilization, and we really preach the Gospel to ourselves.
Al: I’m looking at your FLOURISH model, actually, Dave. We’ve talked about outstanding talent, which is perhaps your strongest score in comparison with other similar organizations. Now sustainable strategy. And you’re really preaching the Gospel. People know you’re making the strategy personal. And as you say, they’ve experienced it, and they know it works, and, boy, that’s great.
So when staff consider the caliber of the people that they work with, you know, their commitment to excellent and the overall capability of their peers, they rate it very high. You know, when I think of overall engagement, boy, that’s off-the-charts positive. So what drives that, Dave?
Dave: I think a lot of it is that StuMo has these organic discipleship relationships. There are a lot of friendships within the ministry. There are a lot of marriages. And so there is a lot of mutual respect. We’ve been able to select and concentrate our people to be very effective, very influential. And so they see a lot of great results. They just know they’re on a successful winning team, and that’s just so motivating. They see thousands of students show up for a winter conference. Probably 40 percent of those are nonbelievers. They’ll see 1,000 students, some of which are nonbelievers, commit to a nine-week summer project. And so that’s just really motivational.
At the same time, we also have many former students and those don’t come on our staff, and we even have former staff. And I would say that they’re equally committed to the Lord and to discipleship, and they’re carrying out their personal vision in other venues. We’re Student Mobilization, so it’s not all about being on our staff. Really, it’s about providing these laborers and workers to the church and to the mission field, to the marketplace. And so all of that, I think, that they see is just, it’s motivating to them.
Al: Yeah, yeah.
You know, COVID has been unsettling for all of our businesses and ministry partners. And I just want to take a moment to encourage each of our listeners how much I appreciate your leadership in this time of COVID, and I’m praying we come out of it. And I know I’ve talked to a lot of ministry leaders, and they’re tired as a result of leading through COVID. Now, Dave, what’s your approach been in StuMo? So how can you reflect on the COVID impact on ministry to students?
Dave: You bet. Well, honestly, it’s been a huge challenge, I know, for everyone, but also for us these past 15 months. But God has really done some incredible things. Last summer, 2020, summer, none of had that much experience with COVID. We prayed, we held our breath, and we chose to hold some of our projects in 2020 in person. We had in-person Kaleos even during COVID. You know, at that point we could see through the spring that this particular age group is very rarely impacted physically by COVID. We had a lot of cases of COVID, but praise the Lord, there were really no consequences, and we’d seen that over and over and over. So we actually had 90 cases of COVID during our nine-week summer project. So our staff were implementing all the protocols. We quarantined in place. So you had students with COVID. You had students who were exposed to COVID. They stopped going to work for two weeks. They attended their meetings virtually. They stayed in their apartments for two weeks. Then after their quarantine, they went back to work, back to meetings, and in person. You know, when you have a nine-week project, we didn’t send them home. We just sort of took care of their situation, knowing it would pass, ultimately, in two weeks. We had other Kaleo projects that went virtual, but some of the students would move in together in groups in various cities and then do Kaleo online, but together in these small groups.
And I just think that in-person aspect was really important, and it kept our ministry thriving as we entered the fall of 2020. And it definitely was true that our access to students in the fall was more limited as the school year began. The campus was sort of opened, closed in the fall. They started classes, but we weren’t allowed to be on campus ourselves. But our staff reinvented their ministry. Some went virtual. Some were really innovative. We had one campus that rented a drive-in movie theater, and so they just had their drive-in-movie meeting and did their worship and did their talks with students sitting in the grass or in their cars. So I was really proud of how innovative they were.
This sort of sums it up, Al. One of our staff guys told me that he said, “Dave, usually in the fall, I’ll meet 100 guys in the first few weeks, and then maybe 10 are interested in meeting up.” He said, “Well, this year, I was only able to meet about 40 guys, but more like 20 guys were willing to get together with me.” So the students have been harder to find, but they’ve been much more responsive. I think they’re more desperate. They’re more willing to talk to someone that they think is trustworthy.
We also held two in-person winter conferences as 2021 began. They were held in locations that allowed these larger gatherings. And we definitely responded with the required protocols. We had about 4,000 students in two locations in January. And we were battling COVID some during those four days, and we implemented the protocols. But we had hundreds of students come to Christ at those in-person gatherings, and many of those are going to be at Kaleo even in a few weeks. And so we really praise the Lord for what He did in these in-person gatherings. I think it has made a big difference. And so the result is in a few weeks, we’re going to have the largest number of students ever at our Kaleo Summer Projects. We’ll have over 1,000 students at our Kaleo Projects this summer, so we’re praising the Lord for that.
Al: Well, Dave, I hope that’s an indication, and again, encouragement for our ministry leaders that God is working in this time, right? There will be certainly an outcome. It sounds like a positive outcome that will come in terms of people’s hearts being opened, having double the people that are interested in following up with initial meeting that you might have had otherwise. Those are really positive.
When it comes to maybe your own leadership, is there anything that we haven’t already touched on about the Survey experience that impacted your approach to leadership, Dave?
Dave: You know, I just think it’s been empowering to have the access to the BCW reports when it’s broken down by regions and even teams. Several of our regional leaders have made the choice to hire BCW to go over their regional results with their campus directors, and they’re even looking at results at the team level. So I really just think that taking this Survey to the granule level has been very, very beneficial to me. When I know that they’re looking at these results and taking it seriously, it keeps me from being tempted to make too many top-down decisions.
As I mentioned earlier, I can really relate to Moses. He’s sort of a reluctant leader, and I’m really hesitant to make disempowering decisions if these tribes are paying attention to their own strengths and weaknesses. I think my job is to keep a strong, excellent, centralized set of services to these tribes, for them to share, but also to really believe in them, to pray for them, tell them I’m proud of them. I just think it’s a real honor to be in the position I’m in within StuMo, so I just am thankful for the BCWI Survey as an accountability tool that is so, I guess, empowering to them. It makes me feel like we’re being accountable. It makes me feel like I’m leading in a great way, in a way that is wise, given the kind of organization that I’m shepherding.
Al: Yep. To empower others. Yeah.
Well, gosh, it’s just been great listening to all we’ve learned, going back to have a double engineering degree with an MBA, get into student ministry, that’s just fantastic to start with. Not always the career path that double-engineering majors dream of, I’m sure, right, Dave?
Dave: Well, that’s definitely true. Yeah. I thought I was going to be a different kind of executive, but God had other plans.
Al: Yep. I can say the same for me. And to be leading a ministry and to not really know, to be flying blind, to use, to quote your term, about the health of the culture, and how it’s important to have a healthy culture really struck me as well. And how you really see that it’s important to create a culture where your team can thrive. I just love the way you expressed that. And how having a way to benchmark so that you can celebrate and evaluate what’s working well, just really outstanding. And you think about your strengths of having the right people and making sure you’ve got the match with your culture, how you want to make sure that when it comes to people that you empower them, trust them, reward them, train them, and are transparent with them. Just all fantastic. And you as a leader, you’ve got these tribes, as you describe them, and you’re able to kind of help your leaders as the Moses, if you will, and coach them, because you can see exactly what’s going on in their area and help those leaders even get to be better. So this has really been really something.
Dave: Yeah. I think one of the things that’s true of our ministry is when we were smaller, you know, we wouldn’t need the kind of tool that you guys provide because there was so much inherent communication. You know, you just are sort of a small band of brothers, and, you know, everyone’s on the same page. It’s so easy to go forward. You know, you’re trying to stay small, but now you’re growing. You have hundreds of staff. And so the BCWI Survey, it just has been a real important step for us because we’ve been able to sort of stay small but have the same kind of communication and transparency that you get in a small organization at a larger size, you know? And we can keep growing with that kind of a tool. So you’re right. I just think that it was the right thing at the right time for our ministry, and I just really appreciate the ministry that you guys are to us.
Al: So, to conclude our interview, Dave, how about a final thought? I know as you’ve reflected on this, one final thought that you’d like to leave our leaders with that are listening. How would you encourage them?
Dave: You know, I would just say this. God is at work. You know, we’ve had a hard time with COVID, just like everybody who’s listening to this. It has been just so uncertain, so challenging. But at the same time, I really think that COVID has potentially softened a lot of hearts out there. People are looking for a place to turn for stability, and Jesus is the rock that they’re looking for. As the old hymn says, all other ground is sinking sand. And that’s just so true.
Just this past week, my son-in-law, he used to be a Student Mobilization staff guy, and he led a guy to Christ, and it was because of the uncertainty all around him, caused by COVID, caused by politics, caused by world events. Americans are just so used to trusting in themselves, but America is really off its game right now. There’s a lot of uncertainty. There’s a lot of anxiety. And so this particular guy is a young, successful, married guy. And maybe in a more stable world, he might have just continued to trust in himself and have a false sense of security. He may never have begun to seek. But I think there’s some new seekers out there these days. There are new opportunities for people to come to know Jesus. And so I would just say be encouraged. We need to all lean on the rock that Jesus is in these uncertain times. But I think we can be willing to ask people how they’re doing. We can be willing to ask them, even strangers, even Uber drivers, for prayer requests. And you never know what will happen. I think God can use times like this. I think He’s at work, and we should be encouraged by that.
Dave Riner, CEO and president of Student Mobilization, headquartered in Conway, Arkansas, thanks for your insights, your leadership, and most of all, your devotion and your Christlike service to God’s kingdom here on Earth. Thanks for being with us on the Flourishing Culture Podcast.
Dave: Thank you, Al. I really appreciate your team, and it’s been great to be with you.
Al: Thanks, Dave.
Outro: Thank you for joining us on the Flourishing Culture Podcast and for investing this time in your workplace culture. If there’s a specific insight, story, or action step you’ve enjoyed, please share it with others so they can benefit, too. Please share this podcast with friends on social media, and show your support by rating, reviewing, and subscribing wherever you listen.
This program is copyrighted by the Best Christian Workplaces Institute. All rights reserved. Our writer is Mark Cutshall. Our social-media and marketing manager is Solape Osoba.
Remember, a healthy workplace culture drives greater impact and growth for your organization. We’ll see you again soon on the Flourishing Culture Podcast.