Fulfilling the Gospel: Leadership Lessons from Christ’s Sacrifice

Fulfilling the Gospel: Leadership Lessons from Christ’s Sacrifice

Christ gave us all the ultimate gift – the gift of sacrifice manifested through his life’s ministry and ending in his crucifixion and atonement for all people from all time. His devotion to us can be seen in everything he did, every lesson he taught, and every soul he healed.

That is our goal at SpringHill, to continue the work of Christ’s mission. Doing so requires a lot of work, love and commitment from everyone involved; but the results in transformed lives – thousands of lives. Last year, when our summer ended, we said goodbye to replace with over 25,000 children and teens and nearly 1,000 young adult leaders in over 135 SpringHill locations throughout eight states. Yes, at SpringHill, we pack 80 percent of our direct missional work into four months.

From the middle of May until the final SpringHill Experience is finished in the middle of August, I feel as though I’m shouldering a great weight: the responsibility for the lives of all these people. I can only imagine the weight Christ bore for all people.

And while this weight is great, the leadership responsibility provides some of the greatest inspiration and energy only comes through sacrifice and working with such an amazing, embracing, talented, committed, and diverse SpringHill community. Our professional staff work hard for the eight months leading up to camp to ensure a successful summer. They then serve tirelessly almost every day, all day, for four straight months. They work alongside our summer leaders, who give up their summer to serve kids unselfishly, with great love, energy, and passion, and alongside our volunteers, ambassadors, and supporters, who host, paint, drive trams, serve in our medical centers, provide meals, garden, and work in the offices, helping us create SpringHill Experiences.

In this work we get a glimpse of the love and care Christ must have for us. We are continually reminded of the great worth of those we minister to and have the privilege of serving. We’re all working together to create a life transformation, The SpringHill Experience, The SpringHill Way.

And in the end, that’s our desire: our plans will be God’s plans because we want the results and the glory to be all His. At the end of the day, it’s all about what we call, FTK. No, the letters FTK are not a secret code, and yes, they have meaning, a serious meaning. As a matter of fact, these letters stand for two significant but related purposes that highlight why over 1,000 summer and year-round SpringHill leaders run the sprint we call summer camp. It’s why they work uncountable hours, at times in uncomfortable weather and conditions, and often endure heartache and disappointment. It’s why they experience the joy of loving, serving, teaching, coaching, and leading nearly 26,000 children and students. FTK moves these leaders to do all they can to assure campers have the best week of their year and the most transformative experience of their life.

FTK is also why thousands of supporters, ambassadors, prayer partners, volunteers, churches, and families invest in the work SpringHill does every summer. It’s what drives the SpringHill family, every day, to be more creative in their work, and more effective in serving more kids, families, and churches in more places.

FTK is how we ultimately evaluate the work we do in the summer. It is SpringHill’s plumb line. It’s what moves us, inspires us, sustains us, and brought all of us together this summer. And it’s why, for the past twenty summers, I’ve devoted my vocational life serving SpringHill’s mission.

The words behind FTK are significant, yet quite straightforward. And as soon as you read them, you’ll understand why they are the guiding force of our work. FTK means “For the Kids and “For the Kingdom.” There’s no better cause, no more important work, no better way to spend a summer than serving and sacrificing for His kids and His Kingdom.

How I Lead SpringHill by Submitting to God’s Wisdom

When I was younger (and a bit naïve), I believed I could fulfill my personal mission of serving others, especially young people, through ownership in successful businesses thereby donating tons of money and free time to changing the world. But as any good entrepreneur knows, start-ups require every ounce of your time, energy, talent, and financial resources. At the end of the day, I simply had nothing left to give.

At the time, my good friend, Mark Olson was President of SpringHill. Both of us were married, both of us had four kids, and our families spent a lot of time together. Mark and his father had created not just a place but an experience at SpringHill, an experience that was both innovative and extremely popular. The ministry had finally grown to the point where it was decided to open a second camp in southern Indiana. Mark wanted freedom to travel to Indiana and spearhead the effort, but the SpringHill board was reluctant to have him do this if he didn’t provide a replacement for himself at our camp in Michigan. That’s when he asked me to take over as the Michigan SpringHill Director. Needless to say, I was both humbled and thrilled. Business with a purpose, the two things I loved.

Then tragedy struck.

Mark became ill and would pass several months later due to an aggressive form of leukemia.  Not only had I lost a dear friend, but SpringHill had lost its leader, its heart. Our team worked to make sure the magic and impact of SpringHill would live on, but we would need to understand what the future looked like without Mark.  Little did I know; the board had devised a succession plan long before Mark was ever sick. And I was in the middle of that succession plan.

Zero to sixty: I had gone from being the Michigan Camp Director to being the President of SpringHill in three short, fast years. It was then that I realized the opportunity before me to truly be a leader who leads as a servant. To pick up the reigns and serve a greater purpose despite my insecurity of not being Mark Olson, or even an Olson.

I knew I had a love of learning, teaching, coaching, and nurturing the spirits of others to help them become better leaders and followers of Christ, eager to share His word – but, was I ready for this?

How often do we feel like Moses, being asked to accomplish something that seems entirely too big for us to achieve?  How many of us respond to those calls as Moses did, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11, New International Version).

I too asked God, “Why do you have me in this job? I’m no Mark Olson.” But something occurred to me not long after that must have been the reassurance Moses received when he had verbalized his concern: “And God said, “I will be with you…” (Exodus 3:12, New International Version).

God has a plan for each and every one of us, above and beyond what we could possibly anticipate.  Each of us has a calling to become an influential servant leader if we chose to let go of our fear and insecurity.  God uniquely equips us to accomplish the tasks that He’s called us to, we need only have the faith to press on.

As leaders, we must always remember we’re never quite ready for the assignments that come our way (whether we know this or not), but in humility, we must submit to God’s wisdom, seek the input from trusted advisors, and lead from a posture of listener and learner.


You’ve Made Your Resolutions. Now, What’s Your Personal Mantra This Year?

The gifts are unwrapped and decorations are being put away.  The radio station that was once playing Christmas music all day, every day, is back to the soft rock playlist.  Holiday dinners are over and lights on homes are slowly disappearing.  Just like that, we find ourselves in a New Year.

The new year welcomes the tradition of setting new goals and identifying new priorities for the upcoming months.  Many of us sit down and contemplate resolutions to improve and be better in a number of areas.  Some of these resolutions are likely the same as those that have been committed to before; others may be different.

Consider your resolutions for a moment and what they say about you and what you are prioritizing in your life right now.  Based on that reflection you can determine what your personal mantra is for the year. Not sure where to start?  Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why do I exist? What purpose do I fulfill, and what difference do I want to make in the world? This is a question we at Spring Hill ask ourselves frequently and feel that is just as applicable as individuals. For us, searching for these answers has led to the recognition and dedication to our purpose – or mission statement.  So, our answer to these questions is ultimately, “To glorify God by creating life-impacting experiences where young people can come to know Jesus Christ and grow in their relationship with Him.”


  • What’s most important to me? What am I most deeply passionate about and willing to sacrifice and suffer for?

At SpringHill we answer this question with an acronym we have for our core values: ARCH, which stands for adventurous faith, relationally focused, contagious joy, and holy discontent. These core values define the kind of organization we are, how we accomplish it, and why it is important to us.

Ponder these questions for yourself and how they align with the resolutions you hope to accomplish.  Try identifying what your core values are and as a result, discover your mission statement or personal mantra for 2019.  When you do, your goals will be a manifestation of these values – helping you be intentional and specific about how you approach those resolutions and experiences.

For our organization, our goals and objectives span the entire year but are most actionable during the summer months.  At the end of those months, after a summer of executing against those goals, there’s a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.  You too can experience this satisfaction with yourself next year as you take stock of how you achieved objectives that supported your personal mission statement.  What does God have in store for you this year?

Jesus Christ

The Gospel Made Known: Celebrating the Birth of Jesus Christ in Our Lives

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

When you read this scripture, do you happen to sing it to yourself?  This, along with many other prophetic verses from Isaiah are beautifully sung to music written by Handel each Christmas season to celebrate the birth, life, atonement, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  This music along with so many others capture the reverence, joy and love that stirs within us as we reflect on the life of Jesus Christ.

It’s a magical time of year that inspires kindness, service, gratitude and love. It’s also a time of year that can cause stress, anxiety and loneliness when we focus too much on the secular traditions of the season. The solution to this is to remember the “reason of the season” – the birth of Jesus Christ and what that event meant for mankind.

To help keep our priorities, focus, and intentions aligned with the real meaning of Christmas, let me suggest three ideas to integrate within your celebrations this year:

  • Turn to Scripture – Take the time to read the account of Jesus’ birth in the gospel of Luke as well as his life and ministry in the other gospels. Remind yourself of these accounts and discuss them with your family.  Many enjoy reenacting the nativity with their friends and families to make the events of that evening more realistic to little ones. Talk about why His life was important, the principles He taught, and the miracles He performed.
  • Reflect on Your Relationship with Jesus – When we contemplate our blessings and our personal relationship with Christ, it will automatically make the holiday more meaningful as we make it about our gratitude for Him and not solely about the gifts under the Christmas tree. One way my wife, Denise, and I helped our children remember who to be focused on is by reminding them that it is Jesus’ birthday that we celebrate, with a birthday cake and all. It helped them remember what Christmas was all about and to celebrate Him with as much enthusiasm as crafting a wish list for Santa.
  • Do It Unto the Least of These – In Matthew we are taught the importance and significance of service toward one another. In Matthew 25:40, Christ teaches, “Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” When we take the time to serve and love one another, we are, in essence, serving and loving God.  Take the opportunity to serve – even in small ways; you will discover God’s love for you and for those you serve.

Let us approach this Christmas season with purpose and joy.  Let us truly exclaim “Joy to the World!” and “Hark! The herald angels sing, Glory to the newborn King!” as we sing beloved Christmas hymns and songs throughout the holiday.  Let us be inspired to apply His gospel in our lives each and every day!