So, how’s the Perry family been doing?

Savannah, Aaron and Poppy. Cheryl and Tim. Silas and Haleigh. Phoebe and Ryan

Our crew is doing really well these days. We’re all enjoying good health – got to spend a few days together over the holidays in southern California. And yes…it looks like we may be adding to our tribe. Definitely more on that later! Let’s just say we’re maybe going to all be together again later in the calendar year… maybe in a warmer setting… after Covid has loosened it’s grip a little more. Stay tuned. That’s all I can say for now!

Quick updates: Aaron, Savannah and Poppy live in Camarillo, California (in the L.A. area) about half an hour from the coast. Aaron is in his first year with an aero-space company after graduating last May. Poppy turns 3 this April. Phoebe and Ryan also live in California – Phoebe dances for the San Diego Ballet and is opening her own massage therapy business. Silas is here in Omaha – knocking out his first year of Computer Engineering at the University of Nebraska. There’s a certain girl in these pictures he is VERY serious about. Cheryl is finally working just one job! She’s full-time with Omaha Bridges out of Poverty and really loves being a facilitator.

The Pacific ocean attracts birds that eat small fish. And then there’s Nebraska – you might just have a red-tail hawk eating a squirrel in your back-yard. We’ve had tons and tons of snow this winter – just got another 7 inches dumped on us one week ago today! Just about when I could shovel it no longer we’ve had a break in the temperatures.

Random other things I’m so grateful for these days: a date with my wife to enjoy Ranky Tanky at the Holland…Charlton Singleton’s horn… Quiana Parler’s vocals and their Gullah tunes! My youngest is just killin it all the way around – terrific job in school, working an internship at Union Pacific, and getting to know this beautiful young woman he met last summer at Camp Rivercrest.

And yes… as painful as this looks (actually just catching my breath and stretching), I’m enjoying a renewed interest in cycling! Nebraska has given us a handful of 50 degree days in January and February. I’ve taken advantage of all of them for rides on my mountain bike. Can’t wait to get the road-bike involved in the fun (too many snow-melt puddles out there still). Spring, please keep it coming! Winter and Covid…we’ve had quite enough, thank you!!

My Third Team

Staff directors always think about two teams. The team you’re ON. And the team you LEAD. The team I’m on is the South-Central Regional Leadership Team (above). These are the folks who do the same job I do across a 17 state chunk of the U.S. Together with our Regional Director we lead a strategic plan to develop InterVarsity’s mission on campus among Faculty, Graduate and Professional Students. We meet weekly via zoom. We used to meet annually for several days in Nashville – retreating together, working on vision, direction, strategic planning and leadership development. We have to do that now virtually. That’s the team I’m ON. Evidently our boss experienced that feline hi-jacking that’s recently gone viral (yes he did this to himself)!

We were playing Tenzi – via zoom!

Here’s the team I LEAD (most of them … missing Jake and George). We work directly on a dozen or so campuses building faculty and student fellowships. Our geography is mildly ridiculous compared to our Region – only Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and Missouri. This is where my Third Team comes in.

GFM isn’t the only InterVarsity ministry that connects with faculty and students. We’d be crazy not to collaborate with the undergrad side of InterVarsity’s ministry. Undergrad IV is spread all over my four-state territory. The Undergrad entity known as the Central Region overlaps exactly with my four-state Area. The undergrads have a team of Area Directors for Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and Missouri. You guessed it. I consider them my third team. I don’t supervise them. They don’t report to me. But I’d be crazy to ignore them. Here we are hanging out together last month talking ministry collaboration.

Since coming to this leadership position three years ago, I’ve been pretty intentional about my Third Team. My Third Team is led by Kathy Haug. She and Will Chu, her Associate Regional Director, graciously give me access to their Area Director team. Before the pandemic I used to actually hang out with them if I came to their town. Three people in the screen above actually live in my town! We’re practically family by now. They’re probably getting tired of me to be honest!

Stuff I’ve done with my Third Team in the past couple of years:

  • Met with Kathy (RD) twice a year to talk ministry collaboration.
  • Starting two years ago began thinking though a combined staff conference for UFM/GFM in our four states.
  • One on one conversations with all the undergrad Area Directors (once or twice a year).
  • Joined the undergrads for a Prospective Staff Weekend (shared staff recruiting structures).
  • Our two teams share a staff member who is matrixed – George Stulac is a GFM staff member in St. Louis AND George is a Spiritual Formation resource for the undergraduate ministry.
  • Kathy invites me to her AD meetings once a year – talking strategy and collaboration.
  • This past year we pulled off our first combined staff conference with both our teams present. See my post from December.

Since our shared Staff Conference, our teams are working together this spring on growing our faculty ministry. Faculty Meet-ups and Square Inch Stories are a couple of new tools we’re putting on a shared work-bench in our four states moving forward. Stay tuned for the details, but here’s the strategy: team up in our approach to faculty members in particular. The undergrad side is committing to involving faculty members in their planting strategies. In most cases, undergrad student groups need to have a faculty or staff sponsor in order to affiliate a group with a university or college. GFM can help faculty discover and network with each other. New corners on new campuses can be planted. And possibly new faculty Bible studies and fellowships can be established.

What that looks like here in Nebraska is a possible Faculty Meet and Greet event that GFM and undergrad IV work on together. On the GFM side we’ve been trying to grow an Omaha Area Faculty ministry for about a year. Even though we’re on three of the same campuses, GFM isn’t fully aware of faculty members our undergraduates know and partner with. Additionally, GFM has no presence further down I-80, but drive to Lincoln, Grand Island, or Hastings and you’ll find our undergrad team mates planting and growing ministries. The left hand just doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. We can fix that!

This zoom session is as good as it gets. I’m meeting up with the undergrad Regional leaders (Kathy and Will) AND the three of us are dreaming and scheming with Kathy Tuan MacLean – InterVarsity’s National Director of Faculty Ministry. KTM is helping us identify where we have collaborative hot-spots in the coming months. In addition to a Faculty Meet and Greet in Nebraska, we also identified another strategic location – Kansas. GFM has a well developed faculty ministry at Kansas State University. Yet there’s even more potential when you consider Kansas University in Lawrence, a faculty group we have at Emporia State plus what our undergraduate team mates can bring to the table in other places like Kansas City or Wichita. We’re in the early stages of planning a state-wide faculty event for early August.

Pray for our collaborative work in the coming months. There’s still so much uncertainty about when our campuses will recover from the pandemic, but the beauty of virtual events is that they’re much easier and cheaper to pull off. And it looks like virtual events might be here to stay! Thanks for your partnership!

Timmy talks too much…

I like learning. I have a degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Master of Divinity degree. I like to read. And I like to build book shelves for the books I like to read. I’ve always liked school, book-learning as well as learning new skills. When my parents passed away in 2011, all manner of memorabilia made it’s way to me- my kindergarten through junior high report cards among them! I remember trying to show my kids how solid my grades were even as a youngster, but what they noticed instead were the teacher’s written comments.

“Timmy talks too much!” Says so right here, Dad, on your kindergarten report card! Wait, your first grade teacher says you needed to work on getting along with your classmates better. And that your printing could be neater. And that you liked music class but spent more time talking than singing! Dad!

Ok, maybe I like learning so much because… there was always a need for me to grow up, get along better with others (and stop talking without permission). One curious thing I noticed about my report cards is that in the first few weeks of being in a new grade level, it would say “Timmy could use some real improvement in ________________ (subject).” But by the time the last report period came out: “Timmy has made a lot of progress this year – we’re very satisfied with his achievement. I highly recommend he move up to the next grade level.” I always seemed to make great strides that last 6 week grading period. Hmmm.

I’m taking two classes this spring.

Because I love learning (and my bookshelves still have some open spaces) I signed up for a course about racism, and a training class for marriage counseling. I probably should explain both. One thing I love about InterVarsity Graduate Faculty Ministry is that I get to be around people who teach, research, write and lecture on fascinating subjects in every discipline you could imagine from plasma-physics to sociology. When I noticed GFM was co-sponsoring a course on the subject of race (for faculty members) I jumped on board. Making sense of the historical and political context we live in has never seemed more urgent to me than now. I’ve exposed myself to no small amount of reading and training on race, gender and class throughout my ministry career and seminary training. But the current unrest of our country among people groups I am called to minister makes me want deeper explanations. 2020 troubled me greatly. It still does.

Why Does Blackness Matter? is being offered through a partnership between InterVarsity Faculty Ministries and The Veritas Forum. If you’re seriously curious about the course content, you can get a look at the syllabus at the link down below. It’s a deep, revisionist dive into the American story evaluating the impact of slavery and its many ongoing economic and social bi-products. It’s not only a story about the glaring racism that has historically caused such episodic damage. It’s also a bigger story about systemic injustice with stubborn roots that have never been fully dealt with. Racism is just the presenting surface, racialization is the underground network of causal tributaries – quite alive and well in today’s America.

I hope you pray for our country regularly. I’m still trying to learn how to do that myself. The needs seem to get deeper and darker the older I become. The Kingdom of Jesus has it’s work cut out if it’s to heal the wounds still festering in a nation divided by race and class. Pray for my learning. If it was true of me that I talked too much when I weighed 48 lbs and was 45 inches tall, I’m sure it’s true I still have a lot of listening and learning to do before God is finished with me.

Oh, yeah, the second class. Can’t go into a lot of details just yet, but I have been getting requests to officiate weddings! The marriage counseling course is so I can be an official Prepare and Enrich facilitator and administer their assessment tool with engaged couples. And exactly which engaged couples am I referring to? Stay tuned.