Connected for Christ
Christian Leadership Alliance President and CEO Tami Heim recently interviewed Jacinta Tegman, CEO of the Seattle-based CRISTA Ministries. They discussed Tegman’s vision for CRISTA, her thoughts on stepping into this new role, and this edition’s theme of “Giving.”
In December 2018, the Board of Trustees for CRISTA Ministries announced the selection of Jacinta Tegman as CRISTA’s next Chief Executive Officer. Tegman is the first female, and just the sixth individual, to serve as CEO in the 70-year history of CRISTA, one of the largest nonprofit organizations in the Pacific Northwest.
CRISTA – which means “Christianity in Action” – is a family of seven unique ministries empowered to serve the needs of the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. The CRISTA family includes Christian Veterinary Mission, CRISTA Camps, CRISTA Media, CRISTA Senior Living, King’s Schools, Seattle Urban Academy and World Concern.
It was World Concern that initially drew Tegman to CRISTA in 2008 as donor relations director. After serving as senior director of international operations, she was named president of the ministry in 2013. Over time, Tegman was appointed to expand her leadership CRISTA-wide, as she served as chief international ministries officer and interim chief operating officer prior to her selection as the successor to CEO Bob Lonac.
Her career includes vast experience in international missions and church leadership, and she recently served as Chair of the Integral Alliance, a global coalition of 23 Christian relief and development agencies around the world (including CRISTA’s World Concern ministry). Tegman holds a master’s degree from Seattle University (Nonprofit leadership) and a bachelor’s degree from Northwest University (Organizational management).
Congratulations on becoming the new CEO of CRISTA. How have you approached stepping into this important kingdom role?
Before I stepped into this role, I prayed for God’s will. What does he want from me as I lead this amazing family of ministries? It is such a humbling honor to step into this type of role with an organization like CRISTA, which has an incredible 70-year legacy of service. I feel a great responsibility to honor our past and preserve the best elements as we move forward. We’re building something that’s not about a person. It’s about kingdom work that was in God’s heart long before I was born, and Lord willing, will be here long after I’m gone. What a blessing we have to be able to serve a world that has such need. I know wholeheartedly that I have a very definite moment in time, as we all do. Every day provides opportunity for us to strive to meet those needs, and I embrace that opportunity.
How have your previous roles within CRISTA helped prepare you for this responsibility?
CRISTA is truly one of the most unique nonprofit organizations in the world today, as our family of ministries serve individuals and communities in such distinctly different ways. This complexity can be hard to grasp initially. My time here over the last 11 years was invaluable for me as I step into this new role. It gave me an opportunity to see, watch, and I would say “catch the spirit” of who we are as the CRISTA family long before I became CEO. Along the way I have been blessed to work alongside and be mentored by very talented brothers and sisters in Christ, including our former CEO, Bob Lonac. Together we have tackled and worked through issues big and small. As President of World Concern during a transitional period for the ministry, I had to introduce a lot of necessary change to set the right course for the future. Seeing how that developed over time gives me faith and confidence as I step into the CEO role at CRISTA and we begin a new era. I know how faithful God is, and how great our team is. I have been inspired by how enthusiastically they are joining me on this new journey God is taking us on.
How would you describe your vision for CRISTA? How does such a large and diverse ministry stay connected in its shared mission for Christ?
As we celebrate our 70th anniversary at CRISTA this year, I have stepped into this role looking first to build on this amazing legacy. The world has of course changed a great deal since we were founded by Mike Martin in 1949. But I believe Mr. Martin would see my vision very much as an evolution of what lived within his heart and drove him 70 years ago: how can we reach the greatest number of people in the world with the gospel of Christ? As individual ministries, the different members of the CRISTA family reach many different respective audiences. Yet it is together, strengthened by God and united in mission, that we can work more efficiently and reach even more people in need in this ever-changing world. We want to be whole-heartedly sold out and living for Christ as a family of ministries. If we can do that, there is no end to the amount of ministry we can realize together.
Our theme for this edition is “Giving” and with your experience in donor relations, what would you say is vital for success in growing giving for CRISTA’s core ministries?
When we give, it is an extension of faith.
I truly believe that at the core, stewardship and the giving of our resources is a biblical practice. When we give, it is an extension of faith. At CRISTA, we strive to come alongside people that believe in our ministry and empower them to live out a calling of stewardship through generosity. I think giving is about relationship. We want to partner with you, giving you a place to practically bring your heart into the work being done by God through our ministries. Our donors become part of the story as it is being written. When God is in it, people sense that and will be drawn to becoming part of it. Once their heart is touched for the work being done, I believe that giving will follow.
What encouragement would you share with other leaders transitioning into new positions of authority within the organizations where they currently serve?
Leadership development is part of our culture at CRISTA Ministries. It’s a big part of who we are. I have felt so blessed to be part of an organization that actively invested in me and countless other emerging leaders. I have in turn relished the chance to invest in the growth of other leaders as well. But I’ll tell you, one of the best and most important pieces of advice I’ve ever received in regards to leadership development was to start by knowing and understanding my own identity in Christ. Who is God calling you to be? Look within and prayerfully uncover the answer to that question. When you have that answer, fully lean into who you are. Without shame. With total abandonment. Do so trusting that God has a plan for your life. When you do what God calls you to do day in and day out, you will find yourself with less worry and greater confidence about the path in front of you. I can tell you that I had no ambition to become the future CEO of CRISTA when I arrived here 11 years ago. But isn’t that just like our God? When we faithfully serve him, he tends to open doors.
Finally, what would you say to young women working in Christian nonprofit organizations on growing their leadership capacity and being ready to step into new leadership roles as God opens those doors?
Here is my message to these young women: go for it. Don’t be afraid to risk, try or fail. That is simply part of the journey, whether you are a woman or a man, young or with abundant professional experience. I would not give up any failure I’ve experienced in the past. It can serve as an invaluable learning opportunity, and is part of what leads to future success. I would also encourage these young women to be willing to hear from God and do what he says without fear. God, when I fail, you are good. When I succeed, you are good as well. I believe that if we serve and meet the needs of the world, there will always be a platform of leadership for us. Whatever the task in front of you is, no matter the size, do it for the Lord and trust that he will open doors for you.