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    "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
    - Jesus' words in Matthew 28:19-20

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Leading for the Next Step

Date: 03/06/24

Category: General Newsletter

Tags: Global Disciples leaders Multiplication organization vision

For the last 28 years, Galen Burkholder has been providing overall leadership for Global Disciples. During this time, Global Disciples has grown from an initial five training programs in three nations to over 3,300 training programs in 71 countries. As of June 11, Galen will be stepping down from his role as CEO. Josh Keefer of the North Group Consultants will serve as Interim CEO while the Global Board of Directors searches for a new CEO. We asked Galen and Josh a few questions about this transition.

Galen, why are you transitioning out of the CEO role now? Will you still be involved?

Galen: I have always wanted to make the transition out of leadership with Global Disciples at a time when things are going well and I’m in good health. And when I might have the opportunity to walk alongside a new leader to the degree that it’s helpful. This is a time when things are flourishing. A time when we’re seeing God do a lot of amazing things around the world. And it seems like an appropriate time.

The Board is providing me with a four month leave of appreciation, which will give me a chance for some reflection. I’ll do some writing, some traveling, and just some preparation for the next stage.

My new role will be Ambassador and Founder. That will give me the freedom to be involved to the degree that the new CEO finds that useful. And to continue to nurture relationships with some of the long-time donors that I’ve been relating with for years.

Why was the decision made to have an interim CEO instead of hiring a permanent CEO immediately?

Galen: I think our ODC (Organizational Development Continuity) team, our Board transition subcommittee, felt like after 28 years people have become accustomed to my style of leadership and feel as though it would be healthy to have someone assess the current patterns of leadership before we bring someone else on. And also, to alleviate some of the tendency for a quick comparison to how things were done previously. So, I think an interim provides both counsel in the transition and a bit of a cushion to prevent some of the comparison that may happen otherwise.

Josh: I think that’s well articulated. I think that was the intent of the Board – just to recognize that the mission of Global Disciples is being carried out in a really wonderful way and a really strong way. And a recognition that the organization has only experienced one key leader or head leader for its existence.  The intention of the Board is to create a space for the organization to kind of catch its breath and reassess. And also, to take a little bit of time to really discover what the needs of the organization are for the next CEO, so that it gives a chance to really determine and discern who that next right CEO is.

How long will the interim period be?

Josh: Anticipation would be somewhere between nine to 12 months. I say that just because the interim period will start in June. Our goal would be by late fall to have a search underway. And so the duration of the interim period will largely be determined in concert with the Board. There’s nothing magical about nine months or 12 months.

What is Global Disciples’ relationship with the North Group, and will they be involved in any way during this interim period?

Galen: The North Group is simply a Christian consulting firm that we have worked with the search to fill some of our key roles.

It’s a bit unique with Josh in that Josh had served for about six years with Global Disciples. And he and I worked together very closely over that time. From my perspective, it would be difficult for someone with no history with Global Disciples to come in and try to lead meaningfully for nine months, or try to assess leadership patterns over nine months. But I think with Josh’s history, he was open to the possibility of considering this.

Josh: I would serve as the Interim CEO with the full firm as a back-up. For instance, if any legal issue came up, I would have the North Group staff to sit with and talk to. Other than resources, the firm plays no role in this interim role.

Josh, is there a chance that you will also put your name in the hat for the permanent position of CEO?

Josh: The plan would be that this is an intentional interim position. The thought would be that we run a search minus my hat being the ring.

Josh, what was your role with Global Disciples when you worked with us in the past?

Josh: The easiest way to describe it would be that it was what was formerly the COO (Chief Operating Officer) role. It would have been a combination of the COO role and the role that Jeremy’s in now.  When we were smaller, those roles were combined. 

You are referring to Jeremy Campbell, the North America President. Last year, Global Disciples hired Jeremy. How does the President role differ from the CEO role?

Galen:  Jeremy is filling a role that was previously filled by a COO. There is a larger North American team than in any other one location in the world. We have 206 staff people globally at this point, and we have about 40 members of our North America team that Jeremy is giving oversight to.

The North America team does a lot of the back-office work and helps to support the organization globally. So, Jeremy’s responsibility is giving oversight to marketing communications, partner relations, and U.S. prayer, where the new CEO will focus their energy on the overall organizational and program activity.

Josh, could you tell us a little bit about your educational and career background?

Josh: From an education standpoint and even early career, it would all be in business. And then for three and a half years I was bi-vocational, with 50% of my time in business and 50% of my time in an Associate Pastor role.

Then, I thought I was going back to get my MBA, and I got a phone call out of the blue from Global Disciples. And that led to a discernment process of about six weeks. Galen and I met a few times. I put the MBA on hold and came to work here for five and a half, almost six years.

Then, I transitioned from here to North Group at the end of 2017.

What is the first thing you plan to do in your new role?

Josh: The biggest thing in coming into this role is really to just listen and learn. While I’ve been a part of the organization before, it would certainly not be my intention whatsoever to rely on that experience or that knowledge. There’s a lot that has changed, and my greatest interest is in learning exactly where we are currently. What are the current needs of the organization? What’s going really well that we just want to keep fanning? Where is it that we can continue to provide clarity? What are we needing to continue to keep the model simple and reproducible?

Do either of you see the strategic direction of Global Disciples changing under a new CEO?

Galen: In 2016, we put together the book which I think has been a handbook for us, called Global Disciples Approach, and in that defined our vision, mission, values, and guiding principles.  I anticipate that course will guide us well into the future. The Lord has entrusted us with a model that has met needs and has provided a level of adaptability and simplicity that is reproducible. And I believe it will continue to be adapted along the way for many years to come.

So, I don’t anticipate that vision, mission, or approach should be changed significantly. We have, I think, done a good job of guarding ourselves from mission drift and keeping the mission of reaching those who still haven’t had an opportunity to hear the Gospel as our central and primary priority.

What will your role look like when you come back as ambassador?

Galen: I anticipate that, at least during the interim, I will continue relationships with the National Foundations. There are currently eight of them beyond the U.S. and another six that are in various stages of exploration. So, that will require some of my time.

Also, there have been some other mission organizations that have expressed interest in the possibility of using the Global Disciples approach as a parallel tract to what they’re currently doing. And I want to follow up with those groups and see if there might be ways that we can assist in them achieving that goal.

And, as I said, I will continue to work with donors – mostly those who are my age and older – rather than turning them over to a new CEO. As well, I look forward to the new CEO building key donor relationships with the next generation of leaders.

Galen, what thoughts would you like to leave with our partners as you make this transition?

Galen: Two things that I feel deeply. One is a deep sense of appreciation for their partnership over the last 28 years. Their prayer support, financial support, friendship, and encouragement have been a huge blessing, and I’m deeply grateful.

And I think the second is we have done all that we can to ensure that the vision and mission for which Global Disciples was established will continue. I think God’s given us clarity and vision, and I believe that the Board and our senior staff are bought into that vision in a way that we can move ahead with confidence that what people have been investing in and praying for will continue with the same focus.

Josh: I’ll just echo what Galen said in terms of a huge thank you to all our partners for walking with the organization up to this point. And also for your trust in who the Lord has placed on the Board to continue to steward that really well going forward.

Galen: The only thing I might add is my confidence in the sovereignty of God and His ability to bring the right people on board at the right time has just continued to grow over the years. We have seen the sovereignty of God from the beginning right up ‘til today. And His provision has been amazing.

–Sherry Lee, with Galen Burkholder and Josh Keefer

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