Conversations with the CEO: Bill & Rhoda
Organizational development is a complex topic. If a company has a good organizational structure, then people within the organization understand their role and how it fits into the bigger picture. A solid structure also means that employees feel supported and encouraged to grow while working. And for a Christian non-profit, it also means that people are spiritually fulfilled.
In today's conversation with the CEO, Bill Meier sits down with Dr. Rhoda Wolle, Vice President of Organizational Development here at Kingdom Workers. The following is based on their conversation and has been edited down for clarity. You can watch their full conversation here.
Bill: We'll start with the basics. Rhoda, where are you from and how did you get connected to Kingdom Workers originally?
Rhoda: It's been a long road. I grew up in Tempe, Arizona just outside of Phoenix. Went to Emmanuel Tempe and Arizona Lutheran Academy and then onto college. Eventually went back to college again to be a teacher. Then I wound up on the board at Kingdom Workers and I was serving on the board for five years and in January changed my involvement a little bit in that I came to work for Kingdom Workers. So I've been with the organization and ministry for five months now and loving every minute of it.
Bill: Tell us a little bit about organizational development.
Rhoda: So here's what it is right now, or here's how I perceive what I'm working on right now. The number one aspect of it is member care. We have an obligation to take good care of our people. So member care is making sure that our people, our workers, our co-workers, our volunteers, that they are spiritually, emotionally, and physically healthy. I have a background in psychology and a background in education so a lot of what I'm doing is working with our people, listening to them, making sure that they are well taken care of so they can do their ministry.
Also a part of that is working with our volunteers to make sure that they are comfortable sharing the good news of Jesus. The Great Commission is part of our mission, and we want to make sure that people feel equipped and comfortable when they care for their neighbor in need that they share their motivation for why they do that. That they share the good news they have, the peace and joy that they have because the Holy Spirit is living inside of them. So, how do we make sure that we feel equipped and empowered to do that.
Part of what I'm working on is cultural alignment. You know you can have people spread out around the globe. How do we make sure that we are all one in unity, one team working towards one common goal together.
Another part I'm excited about is new mission field development. Where is God calling us next? Where are there other people in the world, other places in the world, where we can help mobilize local Christians to love God and love their neighbor in the capacity that He has set in front of them. So that's exciting work.
In addition as we get governing bodies helping to develop that.
Professional growth for our co-workers. Where do they want to go in the future and how do we walk with them on that journey and help them feel equipped so that they can work at full capacity.
Any then managing the strategic plan.
So it's all fun stuff. The learning curve has been really big, but it's been really fun.
Bill: Out of all the different elements of your role and responsibilities what's most fun for you?
Rhoda: Oh gosh, I was just telling somebody the other day that you know, if I was retired and I didn't need a paycheck, and I just had a way to spend my days, this is what I would do. So I feel super blessed to be able to do this.
So far there's not an aspect of any of the things that I just mentioned that I'm not enjoying immensely.
I think the two most important for me are first off the Great Commission. That is why we exist. It's what sets us apart and we all have been given that Great Commission. But just everything we can do to help people feel comfortable talking about it, sharing it in a way that's natural. And I think one of the big keys for that is as we walk really close to Jesus and share what we know to be true, it becomes a very natural way to share that with other people.
A lot of it's just encouragement for each of us to be in the Word, to be connected so that the fruit of the Spirit can work and God can work through us to do His work.
The other part is just taking good care of our people. I love getting to know our people. Traveling is built into that which is one of my all-time favorite things to do. I have a lot of traveling going on this year as I go on my listening tour. I just want to go and visit our places and see what we do and get to know our people and hear them, hear their stories. Hear the things that they are excited about, hear the things they are frustrated by and then figure out what we can do to support you so that you can do the work you've been called to do.
On the left, Rhoda spending time with our Chile team. On the right, Rhoda talking at our Global Gathering event.
Bill: You talked about maintaining unity and that we come from different cultures socially, demographically, and geographically. If you could describe briefly the culture that we're trying to maintain and create as Kingdom Workers regardless of our background or our role with Kingdom Workers.
Rhoda: So first off, because of the unique nature of our ministry and mission it's that each of us are connected to Jesus. That's the primary thing—that we are healthy in our relationship, that we're spending time in the Word, that we're solid in our faith. That takes care of so many of the issues when that happens because that's the foundational thing. But then there's also other things you can work on.
We want to be a place where, and I think we have this very good, people that come here come here because they are passionate about sharing Jesus and loving the people around them, taking care of their neighbors needs. That's what draws somebody to this kind of work.
So we have a beautiful group of people to work with who have a heart for God, have a heart for other people. Part of that too is a trusting culture. Transparent communication, speaking the truth in love, caring for each other. We are brothers and sisters in Jesus as well as coworkers so having that trusting relationship that goes on.
And then with our promise, so our promise is that we're going to share the Great Commission. That we're going to have meaningful relationships and we want to have meaningful relationships across the board—with our volunteers, with the people they are serving. Amongst our coworkers, with our donors.
I have a dear friend who has a saying up in his office that really resonated with me that says, "He who bonds, wins." And I just think that's really, really important. Every time that we can bond with somebody that's a win-win.
Those are the foundational things.
Bill: What are the things that you enjoy doing most apart from Kingdom Workers?
Rhoda: So for 14 years I served as a professor and Dean at Wisconsin Lutheran College. My background as I mentioned before was educational psychology. I'm an old high school English teacher and coach. So I love everything sports. I love music, believe it or not I worked in Nashville for a record company and that was kind of my first career phase. So I love all music.
I love travel, I love people, I love reading, I love walking. I'm blessed to live on the shore of Lake Michigan so I do a lot of walking there, really enjoy that.
But some of the mission-related things that I'm really near and dear to. I mentioned WLC, when I was there I started a podcast with a colleague. A lot of my research has been in the area of thriving. So what are those things, because Jesus mentioned we're going to have highs and lows in life, but how do we have a sense of well-being regardless of our circumstances. And there's a body of literature out there on that so I did a lot of writing and presenting in that area. And I did develop a podcast called Five to Thrive. Our goal was to help parents and educators help young people thrive.
So now that I'm not so much in the role of education anymore, but I'm still passionate about thriving. Because Jesus in John 10:10, "I have come that they may have life and have it to the full." The New Testament talks about joy over 70 times. He wants us to not only wait for heaven to be happy but to be thriving now. So how do we do that. I'm trying to figure out how do I adjust that a little bit to fit with my current work on how we talk about thriving and keep that podcast going. So that's one of the things I'm working on in my spare time.
I serve on a couple of boards that are really meaningful to me. I had been on this board but now that I'm working here I am not any more. I'm on the board for Friends Network, used to be called Friends of China. It's very important to me as we share Jesus through friendship evangelism primarily in asian countries right now.
I'm on the board for Kingdom Prep Lutheran high school which was a school I was involved with helping getting it started serving inner city young men. The premise isn't necessarily college prep but it's kingdom prep, seeking first His kingdom and all these things will be added unto you. So how do we help our young men really develop into healthy fathers, husbands, workers, whatever that might be.
I'm on the board for a couple different scholarship type things, and I'm just getting ready to go on the board for Wisconsin Lutheran College.
Bill: What is your go-to passage when you're full of joy and energy and it's clear that God is moving in a direction that gets everybody excited. And the second part is, what's your go-to passage when there's challenge all around you?
Rhoda: It's a group of passages for Ephesians 2, the first part I just love so much. The first nine verses are talking about how we're saved by faith through Jesus and it's a free gift. It's nothing of our doing. And that's where our identity comes from. I've written a book on bullying that talks about identity. I think it's so important, I've worked a lot with young people and old people that we're solid in our identity. When we take our last breath, what's the only part of our identity that carries on? It's what Jesus has done for us, that I'm a redeemed child of God purchased by the blood of Jesus. That's where my identity comes.
Then Ephesians 2:10 goes into how we are God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works which he's prepared in advance for us to do. What a privilege right? God wants to partner with you and me to accomplish His will in the world.
When people say, "How can there be a God when there's hurting?" There's a God and he wants to partner with you and me to take care of that hurting. And just what a privilege to be able to do that. So that's kind of my anchor section. That'y my identity, that's my purpose, that's why I'm here.
Whether I'm in a high or a low that's a solid place for me.
And then another one that I kind of use in both situations, I am a fan of Ephesians. Ephesians 3:20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more that all we could ask or imagine according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory. So you know whether it's a good day or a bad day, the God who created the universe lives inside of us. It's just not about us. It's Him, it's His work, He's working through us to accomplish His will, and to Him be the glory.
Bill: What do you expect, hope, and pray for in organizational development at Kingdom Workers for God to do in the next 5-10- years?
Rhoda: I think we are having such a tremendous impact. I mean as a board member and now a coworker in this work I on a daily basis see how the Lord is using us to accomplish incredible things and to share the gospel. Whether it's in a refugee camp, or it's in a home here in America God is using our people to do incredible work. So how do we maximize that?
Organizational development is taking care of our people so they can be healthy and thriving, making sure they are on target with professional growth. That they feel well equipped to do the things we are asking them to do. So we want to do that really well. To make sure our people feel cared for, equipped, and empowered to be able to use the gifts they have been given to make a difference in the Kingdom.
One of our goals is to double our impact. So to do this we have to have a solid group of people who are running on all cylinders so I think that's a large part of organizational development.
Then also it's just where do we go next? What are those new mission fields. So that's kind of exciting. We've got a couple that are just on the horizon which is super exciting to think about. You know, Christians in that area who might not really know Jesus or the whole concept of grace which is that beautiful gift we have to share with one another. So I'm super excited about that.