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Welcome to ChesterGoad.com!

Thanks for taking the time to drop by!  At ChesterGoad.com I’ve combined my three favorite topics, “Leadership, Learning, and Life”–all in one place.  I’m a leadership junkie. I read about it, I write about it, and I speak about it.  I also can’t stop learning and I’m driven to help others learn too! I’m pretty open and I enjoy sharing about my life and helping others find their purpose and meet their goals.   I can’t wait to share everything with you!  Subscribe or add me to your favorites list and visit often because I’ll be blogging, and adding new features regularly!  And of course remember if you need a speaker, writer, consultant or coach related to leadership, learning, or life, I’m your guy!  You’re going to find lots of cool stuff here. Keep leading. Keep learning. Keep living.

–All my best, all the time –Chester

p.s. Email me at chestergoad@gmail.com  or find me on your favorite social media! 

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What You Do Matters

man in suit works manual laborFriends, be proud of what you do.

We’ve all been placed where we are on purpose no matter what the job or the task for such a time as this. You may be there a week, a day, a year or ten. Not everyone is meant to be on the front lines and not everyone is meant to be in the shadows. Every job we do is important, and it’s crucial that we pour our hearts into it.

Consider this, when we salute and honor those who serve our military, we never ask what job they had when we honor them. We simply honor them. We honor them because they were willing to step up on behalf of a great country. We salute them because in a unique and special way, they faithfully contributed to a great cause. They committed to being ready for battle in season and out and using whatever their skills were to protect the greater good in times of war and peace. Every job matters. Every position is key. If your assignment changes, be faithful until it changes again. Be faithful to the end. Don’t let the world determine that one thing is more important than another.

Respect everyone for their contribution, support them in their positions, encourage, lift up and lead where you can. We’re all in a battle, and when it comes to the unseen, we’re all on active duty for the greatest cause.

Colossians says, “Whatever you do, do it with all your heart as if it’s for the Lord, and not merely for men.”

There’s a plan. You’re part of it. You matter. What you do matters. Just be faithful, and in the end you’ll hear “Well done.” We’re all cheering you on and you will be remembered for your faithfulness.

All the best,


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Second Act. Class Act. A Conversation with Amy Roloff

amy roloff

Amy Roloff, Reality Star, cook, businesswoman, entrepreneur, and new grandparent

For over 12 years now, the Roloff family has allowed us into their lives giving us a glimpse of what it’s like to be a little person in a world that is predominately designed for bigger people.  What we have learned from the Roloffs–and what might just be the greater point of the show is that their lives are essentially no different from any other family.

In their attempt to give us the most authentic view of their lives, we have been there to experience the mundane, the amazing, the exciting, some sadness, and even the deterioration of Matt and Amy’s marriage.  The show could have ended. Many thought it would but it’s still in full swing. Now we’re enjoying watching the kids (all now adults) enjoy their own lives and they’re gracious enough to let us in on it. The 13th season of Little People Big World premieres this fall.

Not long after the realization her marriage was over and she had come to terms, Amy began using the hashtag Second Act (#secondact), with a renewed commitment to living life to the fullest. However, Amy doesn’t seem to discount the importance of her first act or even regret it.  “After you graduate college you start your new job, and that’s like a continuation of the first chapter—I got married, and had my kids and that was a huge chapter of my life. My second act, as I expected it to be, ended. I’m an empty nester, my kids are now living their own lives, it’s not like I am not a mom anymore but I’m a different kind of mom.”

Amy is very open about the fact that things didn’t go as planned but she’s also clear that she knows she’s not the only person who has ever experienced the trials life can bring.

“My married life that I thought was going to continue forever isn’t there anymore and I’m divorced. But other people have faced divorce it’s not as if I am the first. People have faced it in different ways. Until you’re in someone else’s shoes divorce is just this general word, but then it becomes specific to you. I could have allowed it to put me in a place that would not be good, would not be healthy, but would have caused me to get stuck”

She explains she like many others who have faced these sorts of trials before, had to come to grips and to terms on her own, and that meant asking tough questions.

“There were definitely some moments there that I thought, “What am I going to do?” But I asked myself, “Amy what have you been doing all along? Continue to take hold of that and see where that goes and maybe change it. Maybe you go down a different road.  Maybe you get to follow a passion in a different way. So I call it my Second Act. It may be a little more challenging, but does life have to stop?  I think of it and tell myself– “You’ve still got a lot of life to live Amy.”  It’s the same life but it’s different. And I can continue to live it, and it can be good, exciting, adventurous and of course still filled with challenges.”

Amy, a devout Christian, attributes her positive perspective and grounded outlook to her father and her faith. “Your core is what you have to focus on. Ask yourself what your core is and focus on that. What is that one thing that regardless of what life throws at you, no matter the choices you make, what challenges you face, what great adventures you have, what love—what is that one thing? For me, it’s my faith. My dad taught me this back when I was in the first grade and I still hold onto it, “I’m good because I matter. I have value, and I still have a purpose.”

Much of Amy’s approach to overcoming a struggle or surviving a painful time is good advice to anyone really, “There are times in our life.” she says, “when we’re good with the status quo. Whatever we are facing, we just keep doing what we’re doing until we can do something else, but there’s also taking action. You keep moving. You keep waking up in the morning. There’s still something to do until you get out of this funk you’re in, and then suddenly you realize there’s a lot more to do. You don’t have to stay in the status quo anymore.”

She encourages people to get out of their comfort zones and enjoy life.  “A friend gave me this little stick figure drawing and the person is inside this circle.  Just outside that circle is a much bigger circle and it reads ‘This is where life happens, where imagination or creativity begins.’ You’ve got to get outside that comfort zone, take chances, and become vulnerable once in a while.”

Amy readily admits that she never really wanted to do television.  Still she realized early on that she could leverage her “known” (or celebrity) status to pursue greater passions and purpose.

“I didn’t want to do television. For me, it was too much vulnerability and too much exposure, and I didn’t feel I was at a place, or that my family was at a place, that could handle the magnitude of all that would bring into our lives. But eventually I said ‘yes’, and very soon into it I was asked to come and speak at my alma mater.”

Amy attended Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, Michigan.

“I thought to myself, ‘Speak about what? Why would you ask me to speak? How can I contribute?’ And suddenly it hit me that I had been given a platform that might benefit something else out there.”

Amy Roloff’s humble nature takes center stage when she shares about her life.  “I really expected 50 people to show up, and there were over 1800 people there, and that’s the first moment I realized the importance of looking for opportunities to share or give something that can make a difference with the opportunity I’ve been given in the media.”

In 2009, Amy established the Amy Roloff Charity Foundation improving emotional, social, and educational opportunities for kids around the world. The organization is involved in a number of activities ranging from youth soccer after school programs, to resource support for disability related organizations, medical supplies for kids in the Caribbean, to Haiti relief and much more.  She’s also used her platform to help with hunger relief in the Northwest, and around the country through groups like Feeding America, and by supporting food banks in Oregon and Cincinnati, and wherever she can use her celebrity status to give back.

But Amy is not only a philanthropist she’s also a businesswoman with a strong and perceptive entrepreneurial spirit and business sense about her.

“I love cooking.  I have been cooking since I was 14 years old.  If I had a fantasy, it would have been to be a teacher or to be in the culinary world as a chef.  We have the farm, and we’ve been growing pumpkins for years, so I thought why not see what sort of products we can create from our pumpkins.”

Then Roloff Farms products were born. Pumpkin products like Pumpkin Barbecue and Pumpkin Salsa can be ordered online and can be found in grocery stores in the Pacific Northwest.

Amy’s love for food has led her to past appearances on Food Network’s Chopped, celebrity chef charity episode and also on Rachel Ray’s show, and she’s published a cookbook.  She has also passed that entrepreneurial spirit, independence, and business sense on to her children.

Jeremy and Audrey are definitely entrepreneurs.  They have a great online business reaching out and helping people, especially young people in relationships with dating, finance, marriage, and it’s called Beating 50%.  The time and effort they put into that inspires me.  Zach (who is married to Tori and just welcomed a new baby) is coaching competitive teams and looks for opportunities to work with kids and soccer, and he goes out there and makes himself available. Molly is a CPA accountant, and our youngest Jacob is exploring becoming a writer and stays busy blogging and on social media.  I’m hoping with all my kids they saw something in their mother or how I’ve been a part of raising them, and their father has contributed a lot to all that as well. I learn a lot from my kids every day, and they’re all grown up now.”

Like the rest of us, Amy wishes she could have known what she knows now as a teenager, but in the end, she knows success is the culmination of all of our life experiences.  “I wouldn’t be where I am if I had made different choices.  In the end, to me success is making a difference in people’s lives. It doesn’t even have to be a massive amount. Just a difference, and if that’s the case I’m happy.”

That sentiment translates into success for her kids as well.  “Success is also, ‘Are my kids ok?’ Are they in a good place right now?’ I think they are, even though I know they’ll face their own challenges.  If I die tomorrow, was I successful? Well, did I make a difference?  Did I leave some sort of legacy?  I think we have lost a little bit of perspective about the importance of life’s moments with people.  Not the fireworks, not the big vacations, but did you call a friend up you haven’t seen in a while and have a cup of coffee with them? Did you sacrifice some time for someone else? I find sacrificing some time for someone else part of our success. It’s about making connections with people and helping them be the best they can be.”

Amy Roloff is a woman of faith, an entrepreneur, a reality TV star, a parent—and now a grandparent.  If the rest of her Acts play out like the first, and second, she will no doubt leave that legacy of success she dreams of.  By using her very public platform to a make a difference, she has not only become an icon, she is a class act.

Learn more: 

Amy Roloff’s Website

Amy Roloff Charity Foundation

Follow Amy on Twitter

Follow Chester Goad, the author, on Twitter


*This article first appeared here at HuffPo. 

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Hearts Still on Fire for Youth Conferences

A wall lined with hearts on fire posters at leconte center

Thirty years of Hearts on Fire posters and memorabilia on display at Hearts on Fire Youth Conference at Leconte Event Center in Pigeon Forge, TN (November 2016). /cgoad

Current research indicates that church membership, and church activity is decreasing.  The latest statistics suggest that millennials are skeptical of churches and the number of young people leaving the church once they hit college is at an all-time high.  But for all the negative and worrisome numbers, there’s a glimmer of hope, a lifeline, a heart-beat—The American faith-based youth conference complete with energetic speakers, concert worship teams and fervent calls to action, still has a pulse.

Evangelical youth conferences for Christian faith groups of all types burst onto the scene in the early eighties, and while some have fallen victim to changing times and culture, many are still thriving and some are expanding.

Barna research suggests that Americans are practicing their faith less within the walls of the physical church, but that doesn’t mean people don’t believe or that they’re not connecting spiritually in other venues.  In fact, the same research shows that the vast majority of Americans (75%) pray regularly, and more than a third still read their Bibles outside their regular church services.

Separate research indicates the top two priorities of youth leaders are discipleship and building relationships.  When asked to list the top five activities essential for building relationships necessary for effective discipleship–outside regular youth group meetings–mission work and camps were the top cited priorities, but 23% listed large youth conferences as effective.

Mission trips may be considered more effective for establishing relationships that connect faith to service, but much of the latest research shows America’s youth have gotten way too busy for them. That trend of general “busyness” is an impediment to both discipleship and relationship building.  In fact, youth leaders overwhelming listed “youth busyness” and “lack of parental involvement” as their two greatest challenges.  So while mission trips, may be ideal opportunities for spiritual growth, and relationship building, youth and families have much less time or willingness to travel long distances to devote a week or more to missions.

Youth conferences on the other hand, remain a viable option for church youth groups and families to get away for short weekends together, and while such conferences have had to evolve in one way or another through the years, their focus is the same.

Such is the case with Hearts on Fire, a mainstay youth conference in Pigeon Forge, TN that has experienced tremendous growth over the last three decades. According to Hearts on Fire Founder, Scott Carter “The message stays the same and will always be the same. God loves us and He sent His Son to draw us into a personal relationship with Him. The methods however have changed, especially in the area of music. Thirty years ago, there just wasn’t a lot of contemporary Christian music like there is today” that appealed to young people.

Carter’s “Hearts on Fire” began in 1986, with 150 attendees, and with Carter serving as speaker and even cook. Through the years HOF attendance has grown to thousands.  The 2016 Hearts on Fire conference drew 12, 049 youth from around the southeast.  Carter who has been involved in faith-based missions around the US believes the success of Hearts on Fire lies in its mission and says he finds no greater joy than watching God touch teenagers’ lives. “Mission work can start right where you are and for Hearts on Fire that’s here in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The whole purpose of Hearts on Fire is to share the Gospel with middle school, high school and college-age young people and challenge them to a dynamic walk and commitment in Christ.”

That mission coupled with Scott Carter’s years of experience has been a formula for continued growth and success.  The growth of the conference has allowed him to bring in some of the top speakers and top artists in the Christian music industry.  The 2016 conference brought a lineup that included speaker Clayton King, For King and Country, Lauren Daigle, and the comedy-drama duo, The Skit Guys.

Though times have definitely changed, Hearts on Fire doesn’t seem to shy away from difficult issues or calls for unity within the church. According to Carter that is purposeful.  “It’s very purpose driven. We live in a time when things seem so divided and polarized. Racism, politics, and such have created a lot of dissension but in Christ we are One. We are family and God’s family loves big!”

Perhaps loving big is what keeps people coming back to Hearts on Fire year after year, and perhaps that’s the reason, they’re able to expand in the coming year.  Hearts on Fire will hold its first student conference in Charleston, West Virginia in August 2017.   An excited Carter believes this expanded vision is all a part of a bigger plan.  “Thirty years ago, I had no idea God was birthing something that would grow like Hearts on Fire has. Each year He expanded my vision and now here we are.”

Youth conferences remain a place where relationships are enriched and built over weekends, and where young people find a spiritual connection that will hopefully burn within them for a lifetime.  Successful Christian conferences around the country are evidence of their staying power, and Scott Carter is not surprised and encourages people to keep up the good work.

“There are a lot of great things taking place among evangelicals.  I’m no expert but I would encourage all believers to keep on keeping on, to never give up, and to love big and love loud. I believe inside the heart of everyone is a place that’s meant to be filled with Gods love.”

scott carter leads worship

Scott Carter Founder of Hearts on Fire and Youth Pastor for First Baptist Church Sevierville, TN.

But Carter, who also serves as Youth Pastor for First Baptist Church of Sevierville, offers a warning to today’s youth leaders. “We must keep our sins confessed, watch out for lust, power and greed and forgive one another and go forward sharing the Good News” He believes prayer is the key to sustaining the work, “In James 5:16 we read that the prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. I believe prayer has sustained us. God gets all the glory. It’s never about what we can do, but rather what He alone can do.”

For those who attend them, America’s evangelical youth conferences like Hearts on Fire, could mean the difference between lasting relationships and faith, and hearts that wander away church after high school.  It’s more than nostalgia, these conferences offer an opportunity for young people to grow and for many to hear a message they’ve never heard before.

With statistics indicating that today’s youth are struggling with identity, depression, loneliness, and anxiety, opportunities to hear messages of hope and love, and a chance to make a spiritual faith connection, may be why conferences like Hearts on Fire see continued growth.

For Scott Carter, “Nothing is more beautiful than watching this young generation worship with heart and soul…I believe long after I’m gone God will continue to use this conference to draw others to Him.”

Learn More:

Barna Research: The State of the Church

Barna Research: Priorities, Challenges, and Trends in Youth Ministry

Hearts on Fire

Follow Chester Goad on Twitter


*This article first appeared here on The Huffington Post.  Chester Goad is an independent contributor.

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10 Tips for Living & Dealing with Anxiety in Relationships & Families

a plastic or wax couple looks panicked or worriedI once knew a high school football player (I’ll call him Jay) who was destined to go places. He’d played football since he was in elementary school, and by the time he reached his freshman year of high school he had already being watched closely. Jay had always dealt with anxiety but when he hit high school the anxiety increased exponentially. It wasn’t uncommon for Jay to have panic attacks that no one but family and his guidance counselors knew about. While he quite most social activities, he stuck with football and by his junior year of high school he was being recruited by some notable college football programs.
Jay’s anxiety had increased however with each passing year, and had begun effecting his first love, football. At times his anxiety was so bad, he struggled to run out onto the field at game time. When his senior year ended, Jay turned down every offer for athletic scholarships opting to attend a community college close to home. His family dismayed at the ever increasing level of anxiety didn’t understand and tried to force him into a variety of unwanted situations that typically ended in disaster or arguments.
In an effort to escape what he viewed as his family’s disapproval and the shame that accompanied that, he moved in with his grandmother who assisted him in taking care of his college related activities until his anxiety became so debilitating that he opted for online classes. His hopes of avoiding situations that caused him to panic were dashed once he realized many online courses required some level of personal interaction as did customary visits to financial aid and other college student resources. Jay, a former high school football standout who had earned a GPA also worthy of scholarships, eventually dropped out of community college. The last straw for Jay had been collapsing as he arrived on campus one day, literally crawling on the college’s tile floor in a panic. The last time I checked on Jay, he rarely ventured into social situations. Occasionally he’d grocery shop for his grandmother and in his spare time he tended to her vegetable garden which he found peaceful.
People who suffer from anxiety can also experience panic or anxiety attacks triggered by uncomfortable situations and triggers vary. Many people who live daily with anxiety benefit from medication, but counseling and cognitive therapy is just as important. The earlier coping skills are introduced, the better. Anxiety can also manifest alongside other conditions as well, most commonly depression. Left untreated, anxiety of any type can become disabling over time.

a couple in their twenties sit together looking pensive
Fear and anxiety of all types prevent people from doing things they enjoy, even limiting them from things they need to do. Contrary to what one might think, most people with social anxiety want to be social and experience a tremendous amount of guilt over their own avoidance and inability at times to engage because of their struggle. That’s why seeking treatment is incredibly important. That’s also why the support of family and friends is equally crucial. If someone you love is struggling with any sort of anxiety, be sure to listen and validate their feelings. Anxiety is not something that can easily be turned off and neither is it something that “will pass”.

Below are 10 tips for living and dealing with anxiety in relationships and family.
Release your own guilt. It’s important for partners to understand first that we don’t have control over another person’s emotions, challenges or difficulties. Don’t allow negative emotions or feelings of guilt to determine how you’ll react to their situation. It’s also important for people with anxiety not to project their anxiety and worries on others, and it’s equally important that guilt not factor in to any living arrangements, relationships or family.

Be proactive. As with any relationship, it’s important to work to know each other’s limits and vulnerabilities. Sometimes people with anxiety are reluctant to discuss it as it can be uncomfortable. However approaching it proactively gets the issue out there, and makes life easier for everyone, even if it’s a challenge at first.

Set some ground rules. Ask some questions. Who is a morning person? Who is an evening person? When is it acceptable to have friends or guests over? How do we handle keeping our space cleaned and maintained? People dealing with anxiety do better when a clear understanding is in place, and it’s very important to respect each other and not just say it but show it. When we don’t follow agreements, (verbal or otherwise), it causes undue stress and destroys trust.

Confront conflict. Don’t let conflict fester. Everyone knows what it feels like when problems or concerns are not addressed. You’re not helping your relational anxiety issues when you walk on egg shells. You may be worried you’ll cause them to have a panic attack or harm the relationship, but people with anxiety need for issues to be settled quickly.

close up of worried woman's faceAt the same time, it’s important to approach difficult situations in a way that will not exacerbate stress. If you are someone who raises your voice by nature under stress, and your spouse or family member’s are not, it stresses them out. It’s not always best to do unto others as you would have done unto you, sometimes it’s best to do unto others as they would prefer you do unto them. Think about how that person might prefer you approach them. Think about what they need. Sometimes confronting conflict is one of the least selfish things you can do.

Don’t assume. Anxiety is as diverse as the people who live with it. Some are introverts, and some are extroverts, some are hardworking type A personalities and others are quite the opposite. We can’t gauge anxiety based on a person’s personality. Don’t assume that a loud, partying, extroverted, adventurous person could not have anxiety. And anxiety can strike those who deal with it anytime, anywhere but when we’re thoughtful about it in our relationships, it can take us less by surprise and it it’ll be easier to cope with.

Know your space. Share the space but don’t encroach. When we live together, it’s easy to forget that we share a space and that people are still entitled to their own areas and that personal space is a different concept from “shared space”. Messiness and disorganization can cause anxiety, and at the same time, being overly organized or compulsive, or rigid about our space can also cause frustration. Decide which space is actually shared space, and which space is personal space or off limits to the other person. Space matters!

Study up! You can help those you love who live with anxiety by knowing as much as you can about it. It makes a huge impact on another person to know that you cared enough to read up and understand more about what their dealing with.

When you step up and show interest by doing your own research, you’re not only contributing to a positive living environment for each other, you’re also expressing the level of your willingness to love well.

Discover ways to relieve stress together. Find out how they like to relieve stress or anxiety and be willing to join them. For example, if your spouse or family member finds yoga, running, or other exercise to be relaxing or helpful for dealing with stress, make an effort to join them in that. Also, when you’re aware of their preferred coping strategies, and you find that your friend may be experiencing some anxiety, you can suggest they may be in need of a run, better yet offer to join, “Hey, maybe we should go workout.” That’s a non-confrontational way to let them know you’re noticing they may be a little stressed and that you’re willing to help them deal.

Be open to alternatives. You may also consider the use of essential oils in your living space if there are some oils you can agree on. There are specific oils that have been found helpful for dealing with stress or anxiety. Whether or not you are a believer in natural remedies like essential oils, they’re worth trying.

And finally…wait for it…

Be sensitive and mindful of your timing. Timing matters. Please, please avoid suggesting someone “take their meds” in the heat of the moment, or tying it to difficult circumstances or challenging moments. If your loved one uses medication as one way of coping with anxiety, then it’s ok to discuss and ask questions. It’s critical to remember though that most people who take medications for any reason consider use of medications as necessary, whether they like the fact that they take them or not. There’s a fine line when it comes to how we approach other’s use of medications. The people we love will appreciate sensitivity where medication is concerned. No one wants to feel guilt or shame for taking medications they find helpful and that have been prescribed by their clinician. They shouldn’t feel forced or coerced into seeking medication either. Whether or not someone chooses to pursue medication for their anxiety is a personal choice.

Dr. Chester Goad is a university administrator, a former K12 principal and teacher, and a former US Congressional staffer. He’s also an author and blogger, and has presented from Appalachia to Africa on topics related to education, disabilities, non-profit advocacy, parenting, access, policy, and leadership. He has a heart for people and for people who help people. In addition to the Huffington Post, Chester is a contributing writer for The Good Men Project and has been quoted in major media outlets like CNBC, Washington Post, Forbes and more. He’s also the author of Purple People Leader and Host of the Leaderbyte Podcast on iTunes.

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Heartbeats, Drum Kits and The Hardest Places: Josh Devine Talks FH Global Relief

drummer josh devine sitting at drum kit

Josh Devine/ Cal Aurend

*This article first appeared in The Huffington Post.

Wanna change the world? We’ve all seen humanitarian or global agency offers to help you help a child by becoming a child sponsor. Many of us have signed up to help change a life in that way, but how many of us actually ever get to meet the child we sponsor? How many of us get to visit their community? How many of us find a way to help those communities become more self-sustaining? Well, Josh Devine did meet his sponsored child, and now he’s helping bring about awareness to change lives in a small community in Rwanda. And you can be a part of it.

Josh Devine is a drummer. He’s been drumming most of his life—actually since he was three. Who knew that a childhood dream of becoming a drummer would take him all the way to Rwanda and introduce him to boy named Evaride, and help him fall in love with the notion of changing lives?

“I’ve just kind of been drumming my whole life really I got through school and then decided, really this is what I wanted to pursue. Then despite what the One Direction drummer calls “ridiculous odds” he somehow managed to do it. “To get to the level of where I am now—-I’m absolutely blessed and absolutely love it.”

So the drummer is taking what he loves and loving people with it. Actually, he’s loving a whole community. Josh Devine is leading by example and using the platform he’s been given to make a difference.

jeff gilbert and josh devine lean forward against a truck

Jeff Gilbert and Josh Devine

Josh met Jeff Gilbert, from Food for the Hungry (Referred to more often as “FH” because they do so much more). He met Jeff when he attended a friend’s show in LA. “Jeff got up on the stage and started talking (about FH). It was almost like a light bulb went off. You know how people talk about how a light bulb goes off above their heads? It was kind of that moment for me, it was like ‘Dang I should really go and speak to this guy.’ So I just went and talked to him about it afterwards and from that moment we just became like brothers.

Jeff Gilbert, agrees and explains how it all came down. “Yeah Food For The Hungry invited me to participate in that tour and that night one of the tour staff said, “Hey Jeff, one of the guys from One Direction is here and wants to meet with you.” I’m like, “Okay, that’s random.” I met Josh and he shared his heart saying, “Hey listen, this absolutely resonates with everything I want to do.’ One Direction was getting ready to take a hiatus and he said, “I know that this needs to be a part of whatever I do next, whatever that might look like, and this needs to be a part of it.” So One Direction drummer Josh Devine sponsored a child.

A month later he was traveling in Dubai and a family member forwarded something special. He received a letter from Evaride, the child he was sponsoring, and the letter managed to change his life. He contacted Jeff on Facetime in tears ready to get involved.

It wasn’t long until Jeff began working on a video project called “The Hardest Places”and asked Josh to join him. “I decided I would love nothing more than to see Josh’s influence support these people in Rwanda. It was a very beautiful, organic unfolding.”

The next thing you know Josh and Jeff were on a plane to Africa.

“I never actually thought when I first sponsored a child that I’d have such an awesome experience or even contact with him. I thought it would just be one of those things that you pay some money toward and hopefully ever so often you get an update saying ‘he’s doing great’ and I thought it was a really cool thing having actual hand-written letters from him. It was awesome and he was so thankful and it was mind blowing and then to actually go and meet him, face to face—that made it real.”

To Josh, Evaride was no longer just a face on a piece of paper.

“He was a breathing human being in front of me with hopes, dreams, desires, and craziness going on in his life. The most important thing that really struck me was how happy he and his whole family and his whole village were, despite their conditions that they’ve been in. They live every single day as if it’s the greatest gift they’ve ever been given.”

Josh Devine’s appreciation for his own journey and his new found appreciation and love for Evaride’s community and, for that matter all the people of Rwanda, is palpable. Evaride’s community is now graduating from FH’s program as they are considered recently to be “self-sustained”. So now there are other communities that need help. Josh is now committed in a unique way to raising money for a small village in East Rwanda on the border of Tanzania that only recently started partnering with Food for the Hungry, and now Josh has decided to giveaway his One Direction drum kit to raise $70,000.

josh devine sits at one direction drum set

Josh Devine/ Cal Aurend

That move doesn’t surprise Jeff anymore but at first he was shocked. “They had a bunch of immediate needs— about $70,000 worth of needs that would include building schools, digging wells, and getting them up and moving. When we got home we were talking about how to raise 70 grand. ‘What should we do?’ And Josh thought, ‘Why don’t we just give away my drum kit and see if we can raise 70 grand doing that?’ I was like, “Are you kidding me? Are you sure? Is that really something you’d want to do?” And he just says, “I’d love nothing more.”

Fans can enter to win One Direction’s world famous drum kit, now through December 31st. You can go on to thehardestplaces.com/sweepstakes and make a donation that’s going to help make a difference.

According to Jeff Gilbert, thehardestplaces.com is the epicenter for promotions to help Rwanda and to giveaway the drum kit. “If you give a dollar, then you’re entered in one time. If you give five dollars, then we’re going to enter you 25 times and ten dollars is going to enter you 100 times and if you sponsor a child, we’re going to enter you 250 times.”

When Josh Devine reflects on his time in Rwanda, you can feel his heartbeat through his voice, and he laughs, “We spent a lot of time in the back of a pick-up truck and I loved it. It was probably one of the best things ever. I got to play soccer, or football as it should be called, with Evaride. We sat down and had food with his family and got a real chance to connect on a personal level and show him that we’re not just faces from a faraway land. That we’re tangible people that they can reach out to and we’re here. Hopefully they know how loved they are.” Indeed, and there’s no doubt more people will feel loved if Josh has anything to do with it.

To learn more about The Hardest Places and to win the drum kit, go to www.thehardestplaces.com.

Follow Josh Devine on Twitter.

Follow Jeff Gilbert on Twitter.

Follow Chester Goad on Twitter.

Learn more about FH (Food for the Hungry)

Meet Evaride on the Hardest Places Video

Listen to more of the interview here.

*This piece also appears at Huffington Post.

Dr. Chester Goad is a university administrator, a former K12 principal and teacher, and a former US Congressional staffer. He’s also an author and blogger, and has presented from Appalachia to Africa on topics related to education, disabilities, non-profit advocacy, parenting, access, policy, and leadership. He has a heart for people and for people who help people. In addition to the Huffington Post, Chester is a contributing writer for The Good Men Project and has been quoted in major media outlets like CNBC, Washington Post, Forbes and more. He’s also the author of Purple People Leader and Host of the Leaderbyte Podcast on iTunes. 


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Toothpaste, Holy Confidence & Second Chances: Big Lessons in Tiny Greatness from Mike Foster

Author, Speaker and Chief Chancer Mike Foster of People of the Second Chance speaks during a catalyst lab.

Author, Speaker and Chief Chance Officer Mike Foster of People of the Second Chance speaks during a catalyst lab. /Credit Mary Caroline Russell

Have you ever needed a second chance? How about forgiveness? Have you ever struggled with accepting yourself, or with guilt or shame? Most of us have messed up. Most of us have failed. Most of us at one time or another have found ourselves broken.  Mike Foster, author of People of the Second Chance has a question for anyone “struggling to find meaning and love”.  “What if we all started loving ourselves the way God loves us?”

Foster a pastor from San Diego is also an author, and a speaker. Lately he’s becoming more notable for encouraging others to love themselves and to love others well.

“I think we’ve all experienced toothpaste moments where the toothpaste comes squirting out of the tube and it’s like ‘Oh my gosh, I didn’t plan on that’, and we realize the toothpaste is not going back in the tube.” Foster explains, “It’s messy and uncomfortable. We would never have chosen that, but it happens. Those broken things, those messy things, those things that didn’t go right can actually be leveraged for good.”

Affectionately referred to as the “Chief Chance Officer” the Founder of People of the Second Chance, (POTSC), a husband and father of two teenagers, also spends much of his time talking about grace, and second chances, for everyone, including those in leadership positions.  His encouragement for leaders is to regularly examine their own heart.

“The biggest threat to a leader is the leader himself or herself.  Speaking of myself, my number one project is to manage my own heart. I know I do right things and help people but my number one responsibility is to manage what’s going on inside of me, because if what’s inside my heart is unhealthy, or dysfunctional or feels empty or tired, then that has a ripple effect on my marriage, my kids and the things that I do. Sometimes we forget that.”

In addition to his latest book, Foster also authored a faith-based small group series called, “WonderLife” focused on owning your “not-so-perfect” personal story with all of its twists and turns, and learning from that story. And rightly so, Foster points out that leaders need forgiveness too.

“Some leaders may not like to hear this…but God is only interested in a loving relationship with us. Sometimes we forget that and we are doing all this stuff, and we forget that we too are children of God. We too need grace. We too need forgiveness. I see leaders get off course when they forget to manage their own hearts, their own health, and replenish and do self-care.”

Confronted with the notion that many people refer to him as a person of humility, and then coupled with the question, ‘which is more important boldness or humility?’ Foster laughs uncomfortably. He prefers to consider the terms “holy confidence” and “tiny greatness” and he attempts to deflect the compliment.  “I get cocky, and prideful, and arrogant, trust me. Trust me. Ask my wife,” he declares, before offering a piece of leadership wisdom as his wife Jennifer laughs in the background.  “Regarding tiny greatness, I’ve become really interested in the small things, and loving the person that’s right in front of me versus pursuing a platform.”


Foster indicates that he finds the trendy, all too common pursuit these days of building platforms and gaining influence or leading movements troubling, or maybe even “ridiculous.”  Instead he prefers a “tiny greatness” approach. “What can we do here at a table at Starbucks? How can I show up for my friends? How can I be a good dad? That’s what I’m pursuing.”  And that’s what he recommends to the leaders he comes in contact with.

One of Mike Foster’s latest projects is gaining steam and attention. Prodigal parties. These parties are events designed to celebrate the second chances that are so important to Foster’s mission in life, and to pour love into broken or hurting people from hurting friends to lonely neighbors, recovering addicts, ex-cons, or anyone being marginalized or overlooked or struggling to fit in.

It’s evident that to Mike Foster, leading people well means loving people well, and he makes a point to be thankful for the privilege of leading even through difficulties.

“I remind myself every day that I’m working in people’s brokenness.” Foster finds it an honor to be working with people and suggests that sometimes leaders fall into the trap of making it harder than it should be. “We get so caught up in the stresses and anxieties that sometimes we over-complexify things, and we take things too personally. Our identity gets too caught up in metrics.”

Finally, he emphasizes that leaders should enjoy the experience because “It’s special to be a leader, to be able to influence people, to be able to create things,” and he stresses that all of it, is “an incredible privilege” and he cautions leaders not to get to the end of a career or a life before they “start living” because he says “living starts to today.”

Mike Foster possesses the tiny greatness he talks about, but is too humble to realize it. His focus on others is contagious. He makes you want to love others and to love them well. He makes you want to lead where leadership is needed and to lead others well. He makes you want to find a prodigal and celebrate them—especially because we’re all prodigals in one way or another.  And hey, everyone needs a second chance sometime. Right?

Follow Mike Foster on Twitter: @MikeFoster

Follow Chester Goad on Twitter: @CGoad09

Check out Mike Foster’s People of the Second Chance

Mike Foster was recently a featured speaker at Catalyst.

*This article also appears at here at Huffington Post.

Dr. Chester Goad is a university administrator, a former K12 principal and teacher, and a former US Congressional staffer. He’s also an author and blogger, and has presented from Appalachia to Africa on topics related to education, disabilities, non-profit advocacy, parenting, access, policy, and leadership. He has a heart for people and for people who help people. In addition to the Huffington Post, Chester is a contributing writer for The Good Men Project and has been quoted in major media outlets like CNBC, Washington Post, Forbes and more. He’s also the author of Purple People Leader and Host of the Leaderbyte Podcast on iTunes. 

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Uncommon Leadership: A Conversation with Catalyst’s Tyler Reagin

Catalyst Executive Director Speaks to Attendees during a Catalyst Lab session

Catalyst Executive Director Speaks to Attendees during a Catalyst Lab session/ Credit: Mary Caroline Russell/ CatalystATL

When was the last time you went to church?  If you fall in line with most statistics it may not have been recently.  Or maybe you attend three days a week.  Even so, at best, church growth is stagnant. At worst it’s in a free fall.  Research recently released by Barna suggests that while most Americans still identify as Christian (as much as 73%), church attendance and the ways individuals practice Christianity offer a bleaker picture.  But why? Tyler Reagin, Executive Director of Catalyst Atlanta asserts the culprit is lack of leadership, and he’s committed to turning things around through encouraging, building up, and equipping leaders especially those within the Church.

Reagin readily acknowledges that the church is all over the map. “If you look at the church landscape right now, the church is not growing. No main line denomination in North America is growing. It’s not an issue of great preaching. In my opinion, it’s an issue of great leadership. Most people are walking away from faith not because of Jesus–they’re walking away, because of the people who represent Jesus. For us at Catalyst, literally our heartbeat is–we want the church to be the best run organization on the planet.”

Thousands of people attend Catalyst Leadership events each year.

Reagin is responsible for the flagship event, Catalyst Atlanta, which has grown significantly over the last 16 years and is typically held in early October.  Similar events are scheduled all over the country, but they don’t just happen.  Effectively pulling off events like Catalyst Atlanta held inside Infinite Energy Center in Northern Atlanta requires a highly finessed cooperative effort of paid staff and volunteers.  As such, effectively leading an organization dedicated to supporting faith-based leaders, and pulling off one of the nation’s largest leadership conferences takes the right kind of leadership, logistics planning, and organization.

Leadership like that takes a great deal of introspection, self-assessment, and self-acceptance.  For Tyler Reagin, it took “realizing that the way he is wired as a leader is ok”, and an understanding that the way he’s wired is purposeful and even necessary to carry out his own purpose.

As Executive Director, Reagin oversees 11 events in addition to coaching development for Catalyst staff, but the challenge doesn’t scare him. According to Reagin it’s a lot, but effective leaders set priorities. In addition to the events “there’s some fun stuff in the works,” but he maintains, “While our investment in leaders and the team takes a huge chunk of my time, I’ve got 2 boys, 9 and 6.  And my wife (Carrie), and those 2 guys is where I try and focus a lot of my extra attention.”

Aside from spending time with family or his extended family, (the Catalyst Team), the bulk of Reagin’s focus is spent developing leaders and finding ways to help them realize their potential contributions and purpose as leaders.

Tyler Reagin conducts an interview on the Catalyst Atlanta Stage

Tyler Reagin conducts an interview on the Catalyst Atlanta Stage/ Credit Mary Caroline Russell

Catalyst is committed to five attributes.  The most prominent and the “constant” as Reagin describes it, is obviously leadership, but the other four attributes are creativity, change, courage and unity and typically these rotate year-by-year. This year’s focal topic fell around the “Unity” attribute leading to the theme “Uncommon Fellowship,” supporting the notion that the church is stronger when it works through important issues together, and that it consists of diverse groups of people.  The agenda was packed with panels, nationally known speakers like Mike Foster, Judah Smith, Craig Groeschel, and Jen and Brandon Hatmaker, Jenny Yang, Scott Sauls, Brian Houston, and rapper and spoken word artist, Propaganda, along with intimate “lab sessions” focused around racial reconciliation, guarding against division, and other challenging issues the church is facing right now, all related to scripture and corporate worship.

Interestingly the unity theme happens to be coinciding with a particularly difficult national election, but Reagin says it wasn’t planned around that. “As believers we’ve never put our trust in government. I just watch God orchestrate this stuff all the time. It blows my mind.”  An example of that orchestration he points out is the scheduling of Simon Sinek, a much sought after leadership expert and speaker. “Simon’s one of my favorite leaders, but I had no idea once we booked him that he released a children’s book two weeks before Catalyst Atlanta, called “Together is Better.

“Honestly, I wish I could say it was more strategic. It’s a combination of being on our knees going ‘God, what do we need to talk about?’ And watching Him help us believe that together, and …a lot of hard work.”

Reagin has a passion for new and upcoming leaders and stresses the importance of having confidence, experiencing coaching, and recognizing their uniqueness in leadership and purpose.  He believes that lack of confidence often delays a leader’s potential impact. “Truthfully. Insecure leaders just don’t have followings for a long period of time.” He suggests that until they’ve become more comfortable with themselves it’s going to be harder getting to that point “when you can show up day in and day out, and be the leader you’re wanting to be and the leader they expect to show up. We’re in this, because there’s a bunch of heroes, who need to be reminded to not be insecure, because the gospel tells us we have victory in Jesus.”

Currently, Reagin leads a Catalyst team under age 40. His sense of responsibility and obligation to coach and mentor them is palpable. He stresses his responsibility, obligation, and desire to develop and coach them. “If there’s one thing I can give them as a staff at this stage in their careers, it’s to coach the heck out of them, and make them understand this is how God made them.  I want to say, ‘Are you kidding me? Did you see that? You know that came natural to you. None of us even thought about that.”

It’s his desire to take what he’s learned from past experiences and help others realize their own uniqueness.

Tyler Reagin stands speaking

Tyler Reagin Speaks at Catalyst Atlanta/ Credit Mary Caroline Russell

“My life’s message and passion is that we as Christian leaders, recognize that we are uniquely made for unique purposes.  I’ve spent the last 12 years pulling out the uniqueness of the people on my team, and pulling out the uniqueness of the people around me saying, ‘Look at that. Are you kidding me? You’re the only one on our 25 person staff that does that. We need that from you. You are loved, just exactly how you are. Now go and love other people like that.”

At the same time, Reagin laments that many leaders are chasing other people’s uniqueness and that churches are chasing other church’s uniqueness.

“They’re losing, because they’re chasing the wrong things. What I know is God has said ‘I know who you are. I put you together. I put the bone to bone, muscle to muscle. I built you. I have knit you together for a unique calling. We are his masterpieces. At the end of the day, the best leaders on the planet are the ones who are okay with themselves. Our unique calling is absolutely connected to our unique wirings and our unique purposes.”

Tyler Reagin is an uncommon leader, inarguably unique possessing a love for coaching and developing more leaders, particularly church leaders.  He is authentic, and funny, and dedicated, and confident, but not arrogant. It’s obvious he’s worked through the years to understand who he is so he can live out his purpose.  As long as there are leaders like Tyler Reagin committed to building up more leaders, and as long as organizations like Catalyst are building up, edifying, equipping and encouraging those faith leaders, then no matter what the media says about faith, no matter what the latest research shows, the church is most assuredly not doomed.

*This article first appeared on The Huffington Post. 

Dr. Chester Goad is a university administrator, a former K12 principal and teacher, and a former US Congressional staffer. He’s also an author and blogger, and has presented from Appalachia to Africa on topics related to education, disabilities, non-profit advocacy, parenting, access, policy, and leadership. He has a heart for people and for people who help people. In addition to the Huffington Post, Chester is a contributing writer for The Good Men Project and has been quoted in major media outlets like CNBC, Washington Post, Forbes and more. He’s also the author of Purple People Leader.

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