Gail recently sat down to record an interview with two gifted young leaders to share with our advisory board. Alex Stoll works in corporate finance and is completing 1,000 Young Leaders. Rachel Stathakis leads the children’s ministry at her church in Hales Corners, WI, and is wrapping up Leadership Essentials. They recently got engaged and will be married in Spring 2021.
Leadership Essentials teaches basic fundamentals of biblical leadership around the world, and has been taught in various forms since PLI’s beginning 20 years ago.
1,000 Young Leaders began two years ago as a conviction that the best way to reach a vast unreached millennial mission field was to create a community of missionary disciples that could create a different future in their own generation.
They let me listen to their conversation and take some notes to share with you.
Gail: Alex and Rachel, you’re getting married in Spring 2021. Is it true that PLI played matchmaker here?
Rachel: Almost! We met at our church, but PLI has been a common experience.
Gail: Alex, what did you expect in 1,000 Young Leaders? What did you find?
Alex: It’s been incredible to experience community every week with people like me…to have someone pouring into my life in the coaching huddle, to listen to other people around the country who are experimenting and trying the same things. And there’s been incredible teaching each week!
Trust builds so fast and there’s so much encouragement. I’ve been stretched in such good ways to follow Jesus. I’ve never experienced anything like it.
Gail: Alex, how do you think differently today?
Alex: I’ve known the loneliness of not living in community. I’ve known busy. I’ve felt burned out. 1,000 Young Leaders has taught me to do life with people in a way that works for me. And, now for us, with Rachel. We want Christ to guide us and go before us.
G: Why is this critical for your generation?
Rachel: The church needs to focused outside the walls of the building! Gail, a story you told about your neighbors when you were teaching in PLI deeply impacted me. You made the decision to start being present in your neighborhood, building relationships, having fun. Getting to know and be known. Praying for your neighborhood. And then, one day a crisis hit in one of those families. And they knew you and knew what was important in your lives. They asked for help, and they asked for the hope that you had. I will never forget that. It’s changed how I live.
Alex: It’s not just pastors. For this generation, it’s a huge challenge to reach our generation. I get surprised at the ways God is already using me now that I see differently.
Gail: Alex, tell me about work. It’s a big thing that followers of Jesus learn to incorporate this into their work.
Alex: The last six months have been super hard with working virtually. I work in corporate finance.
- I value the people I work with, not just the work that we do
- I’m honest. I just tell people how I spend my time. I go to church and I share life with a small group of people. It’s just what I do. No secret.
- I interact positively. People know what’s important to me. They see how I live my life. They sense we could naturally have a conversation about deeper things.
Gail: What would you say to a young woman or man thinking about joining 1,000 Young Leaders?
Alex: Be open. Ask God how He can use you. I had no idea what the journey would be like. You’ll be blessed.
Gail: Rachel, you’re on staff at Hales Corners Lutheran Church. You lead the children’s ministry through grade 5. You normally have 500 kids in VBS. 175 volunteers. 200 kids in Sunday school. What have you learned in PLI?
Rachel: I live for an audience of One! I came to Hales Corners out of college. I taught 2nd grade for one year. Then my name was recommended for the Children’s Ministry Director. I was in way over my head. It was a daunting responsibility.
God has given me unique gifts. I need to live into those gifts and not be something I’m not. God is in control. God knows my struggles. I don’t have to get upset. He has called me here to serve his people. I don’t ever want to forget what an honor that is.
PLI helped me see the mission again. I think I was running the risk of trying to operate the program, and I was starting to forget the mission that was in front of me every day.
Gail: Rachel, I see you as a gifted female leader. That can sometimes be a challenge in a male-dominated world.
Rachel: I met you two years ago. You were one of the first female leaders who reached out to me. You asked me good questions and got to know me, and invited me into PLI. I was so thankful. I love and respect our pastors. I’ve learned to speak when I need to and when to be quiet.
Actually, you’ve been a role model for me. I see how God has used you in your different positions, how you value relationships. I see a woman of resilience. I’m committed to invest in His Kingdom.
Gail: Is there a moment in PLI when it just “clicked”?
Rachel: First immersion. Two years ago. PLI is one of the few Christian organizations that I know that has named the struggle of leadership in post-Christian America. You’re actually doing something and doing it well. I realized that I needed to stop looking at my ministry by addition but begin investing in the people around me to multiply. Multiplication is difficult; that’s why we almost never do it and keep getting the same results.
Gail: What would you say to female leaders about PLI’s Leadership Essentials?
Rachel: I’ve gained so much confidence. You are important. You are such a gift to the Kingdom, and you are so needed. Do it.
Gail: And finally, any parting words?
Alex: Being in community every week in 1,000 Young Leaders, these people have changed my life. I was a part of a lot of things before. Busy. Lots of responsibilities. 1,000 Young Leaders has helped me focus on what’s important, on being on mission. We just bought our first house. We prayed about the neighborhood God wanted us to live in and for a house that would allow us to invite people into our lives. I’ve taken the time to cut a lot of busyness out of my life so I can live more intentionally.
Rachel: I’ve never been in anything like this where people poured into me so much. It helped me realize that I am a leader. God called me to be a leader. It was so nice to be with such strong female leaders, too. Humble leaders. The friendships…the coaching huddles…sharing similar, and different, experiences. I’m sad to see it finish but we both plan to give back in the PLI family.
A new cohort of 1,000 Young Leaders starts on November 1, and another in 2021. Young adults can join this life-changing journey today. Email Phil to get started.
Or, do you know a young leader? Recommend them for 1,000 Young Leaders! Talk to them. Tell them what you see in them and recommend them here.
We also have a new Leadership Essentials learning community kicking off in November, and we’d love for you to join us. Email Raechel to learn more.
Finally, let me encourage you to make a gift to support other young leaders like Alex and Rachel.