Contact Roger: firstname.lastname@example.org || Twitter: @jrogerdavis || Roger on facebook
YM360 is thrilled to welcome J. Roger Davis to the team. Roger has spent his last 25 years leading and serving churches with excellent, gospel-centered youth ministry event experiences. Roger joins the team as President of YM360 and is energized by the opportunity to create moments that matter for you and your youth group starting with the summer of 2016 at the GENERATE 2016 Camp of your choice.
Learn all about Roger's road to YM360 below in an interview with YM360 co-founder and CEO, Les Bradford.
So what will your role be?
Becca and I are excited to join the ym360 family. I have spent the last 25 years of ministry focused on creating meaningful experiences and resources for the next-generation. When we felt like the Lord prompted us to step away from our last ministry assignment we were unsure of what the next season would be. Throughout our journey to ym360 we have felt our calling has remained clear and consistent. Joining the team in the role of President will allow us to help bring new leadership capacity to the growing ym360 team along with you and Andy Blanks, (co-founder/Publisher), who have lead this ministry well over the last five years. I am personally very excited about partnering together as we seek to serve churches. In day-to-day stuff, I will lead live experiences like camps, conferences, training events and focus my time on growing our relationships with ministry leaders and the churches we serve.
Why do you think camps and events are important in the growth and development of a young Christ-follower?
In anything, Jesus is always a great example to follow and as you read the scriptures you see Him often retreating from the crowds and “normal” flow of life. He goes away and spends intimate time with His followers or with His Father. I believe that model still has great value. When we remove ourselves from the distractions of our lives we tend to hear the Lord more clearly, we tend to spend more time in healthy Biblical community and we often understand more wisely how we are to spend time serving and making the truth of the Gospel known. I have heard some say that camps and such are dead. Well, from my perspective and experience they still have an amazing impact when done well and prioritizing the right things.
What is your past experiences leading ministry events?
When I was 17 I surrendered to ministry and at that time I believed it would be student ministry, most likely in a local church context. However just before I started school at Samford University I was introduced to camp ministry. For the next five years I spent my summers serving and growing as a leader and teacher at Christian summer camps. In the fall of 1996 I was serving as a High School Youth Pastor at a church in Birmingham when I left that role to join a fairly new ministry called Student Life. After doing some contract roles with them including the launch of the first Student Life Conference Tour, I joined the team full-time 18 years ago. Our time serving there and leading was a joy, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have accomplished great Kingdom impact with some amazing people.
What roles did you have during your time at Student Life?
Well like I said it was a small team when I started, we had about five full time staff, so everyone did a bit of everything, but my primary focus was camps and then conferences. I served year-round creating our summer events and also giving hands-on leadership to them for five years. I then moved into a role as Director of Camps as the ministry grew its reach, then Senior Vice President leading all events and for the last five years served as the President of Student Life. I may know where every college in the country is. It’s great for school mascot trivia.
Why did you decide it was time to leave your role leading Student Life?
Many people have asked me that question. We loved our time serving there and loved the work we did and the people we served with. Student Life is a huge part of my heritage. Becca and I were talking a few weeks ago, and she too has been involved with Student Life for 20 years either as a student minister or serving alongside me. But over the last season of life we just felt like the Lord was moving us to step away. We made the decision early to give plenty of time for healthy transition in leadership, and it gave us a lot of time to pray and consider our next assignment while also ending our time well at Student Life.
The team here is doing some amazing things for youth ministers and youth workers. I am a believer that God is honored in excellence and excellence attracts people. That has obviously been true here. It is important to not just partner with projects, but also the people. And we know you guys very well. We trust you. Many don’t know that I was actually a bible study teacher for (you), Les, when you were a fourth grader ... there is actually a picture floating around somewhere. I’m not sure who looked more awkward. And then your wife, Jamie, was in Becca’s student ministry at Brook Hills. After Becca left her role at the church she joined the team at Student Life Bible Study and worked with Andy. So there are a lot of connections. But I think the biggest reason is the mission. It lines up with where our family is, and we believe we can leverage our talents, gifts and abilities for it.
Has this relationship been a long-time coming?
I guess that may be who you ask. As I look back I can see that God obviously had created connections and common mission with us, but it was not until recently that we felt this was the next assignment for our family. Along our journey over the years we have had great respect for ym360. Last year when Servant Life was put in a position needing new offices you guys also needed more space so it was logical to connect and share some resources. Additionally, Servant Life has done some ministry partner stuff with ym360 in your magazine, emails and such. And remember there have been plenty of personal connections along the way. But it was just in these last days as we prayerfully considered the options in front of us for this new season that the reality to partner with long-time friends became reality.
You mentioned Servant Life, the global conversation has always been one that is important to you. A few years ago when we previously worked together you took us to Kenya. Could you tell us more about your heart there?
Well, the Great Commission is pretty clear for all of us that are Christ-followers. Particularly in the late 90’s the Lord began to work in both me individually and other leaders I served with to use whatever platform and favor that we had to mobilize students to serve overseas. At that time we were just serving in Ukraine. When we started Servant Life as a separate 501(c)3 it was kinda like a church plant supported by the mother church, the focus being to advocate for our partners and mobilize students to serve with them. That has grown to now include 18 different global partners, and I have been giving leadership to that team as Executive Director since 2008 and will continue in that role. I still believe students can change the world.
Are there other things or organizations you are involved in?
In addition to Servant Life my family members are big advocates, supporters and fans of Compassion International. We officially began a relationship with them in 2003 and have been able to be a part of leading teams to see over 27,000 children sponsored in all 26 countries that Compassion works in. As my wife says, that is also 27,000 American students that are also getting to experience what it is like to live how the Bible calls us to live as Christ-followers as we take care of those that have need and as we speak up for those that have no voice. In this new season of ministry, we will continue to partner with Compassion both personally and professionally. I also am a big fan of a former staff of ours who started Fund The Nations. I first hired Bubba Crowder when he was an 18-year old on my summer staff. It was a joy to watch him grow into a leader while serving full-time with me, join a church staff, and then later start FTN. I will do some relationship and marketing stuff with him as I help spread their mission to serve people with funding for mission trips, adoption, non-profits or churches. We have used them at Servant Life and think they are one of the best resources out there.
What do you hope to accomplish with this new season of ministry?
The last week I keep saying I simply want to say “yes” to as many churches as possible. Both Becca and I want to spend our time and energy helping churches in their mission to grow a generation of students that know Christ, know the Word and share it boldly.
Thoughts on GENERATE Camp?
As I mentioned, camp has always been special for me. We are excited about this new option for churches. We will be able to provide a one-week experience that impacts the other 51-weeks at a great value. We want to help lead students to know Christ and to make Him known, that will always be the goal and will be the driving mission behind GENERATE. This is accomplished through a strong commitment to the Word on all platforms. We are also looking forward to working with many friends and my family and I are planning on being at the camps throughout the summer, so that should be fun for us.
Do you have a personal mission statement?
I do. Billy Graham would often say, “God gave you two hands, one to receive with and one to give with.” I kind of have that focus for my time serving and leading people. I want to help people, primarily students get the Gospel and give it away. When we truly “get it” we receive the gospel and become a believer and this should lead all true Christ-followers to also want to “give it” away to others. It is all about making disciples that make disciples. So these are the areas we have leveraged our gifts, talents, abilities and time.
What about any philosophies of ministry that have been key to your time as a leader?
I am sure staff that have served with me could likely quote some of these with a smile as they have shown up often in our time serving together. A few that I place high value on are ... Ministry is 100% about relationships. The Word is what changes lives. It should always be the foundation of our sermons, studies, and lives. God is honored in excellence and pleased with authenticity. You win with great people. I have many that have guided and molded me. I am sure you guys will get to hear them plenty.