Q. How does an Executive Director change the culture of YFC?

A.  The ED is the one who establishes the culture of the organization. The ED has to be healthy with a great balance between work and their personal life.  Then, the ED must cast a beautiful vision that attracts highly talented youth workers to that vision. Then, you must make sure that they fit in with your leadership style. Most youth organizations don’t pay enough attention about the culture of their organization. We work hard to find and attract people that fit into the culture of Spokane YFC.

Q. Describe your staff culture at Spokane YFC.

A.  One of the greatest marks of a good leader is health. Having healthy relationships with my spouse, my kids, and having a good balance between life and work made me able to recruit people into a healthy organization with a healthy perspective.Before I came on staff, the Board and previous leadership hadn’t seen a dynamic youth leader. Now, we have several dynamic, healthy, servant leaders, and it’s attractive. Several staff members have come because of the culture; we’re recruited extremely talented people who are mission-first minded.

Q.  What does it mean to fit into your culture?

A.  They have healthy relationships, love Jesus, love kids, and all want to fight injustices. Find someone who has those four things, and they can be a good youth leader who thrives in our culture. Coaching by the ED is also necessary. I have the ability to see potential and bring that out of the person. For example, I just felt like Shane had more potential than he was realizing at his previous position. I hired Shane and poured into him what it means to be a leader, be accountable, be professional. And he has exceeded my expectations. I think it’s really important for executive director to breathe vision into their staff members, to find help them find their calling, and be all God has created them to be.

Q.  What is your advice to an ED who is struggling with someone who isn’t healthy to the culture?

A.  First, start with yourself. Are you fostering a positive or negative culture? Are you the reason the culture is not what you want it to be? If we don’t look within first, it is likely that the problem could be us. It takes real courage and humility to ask: “Am I creating the culture the Lord wants me to create or am I the problem that is holding us back from going where we need to?”
If the ED says ‘Yes, I am establishing a healthy culture of love, community, respect’, then look at the key staff members and make sure they’re in alignment with the vision of what the culture needs to be. If they aren’t, then bless and release them. If they are, bring them even more into the vision, and it seeps down. I pour into my key people and they pour into theirs and on and on. We have done a good job of weeding out people, and that’s true for volunteers too. You have to have a certain level of flexibility. You have to be able to submit to authority in a healthy way.

Q.  What have been your highlights as an executive director?

A. My main highlight as an executive director is our mission to reach inner city youth. Our main ministry in Spokane is City Life, working with at-risk city youth. Part of our interest as a family was to move from suburban to the city life; to live among those we’re trying to reach made us super excited about living in the neighborhood. There has been great alignment with my heart with respect to the mission of YFC; it’s been amazing to take that to another level. Now instead of being in just one neighborhood, we are in two neighborhoods with state of the art facilities and wonderful, effective programs.
We’re also looking into doing foster care ministry and thinking about other strategic initiatives. In addition to traditional City Life, we have a state-of-the art recording studio. Every Friday night kids can come to our Re-LEASED program where kids are taught the arts - spoken word, poetry, music, rap, story writing, and video production.

Tom Davis is the Executive Director of Youth for Christ in Spokane, Washington.

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