The Cru MPD Podcast

Ep. 49 : Raising Support While on Assignment with Ryan McReynolds Replay

January 10, 2023 Katie Johnson & Michele Davis
Ep. 49 : Raising Support While on Assignment with Ryan McReynolds Replay
The Cru MPD Podcast
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The Cru MPD Podcast
Ep. 49 : Raising Support While on Assignment with Ryan McReynolds Replay
Jan 10, 2023
Katie Johnson & Michele Davis

Is it really possible to see success in MPD while remaining on full-time assignment? Ryan McReynolds would answer a hearty "Yes!" Listen as he shares how The 4 Disciplines of Execution have helped him and his wife, Alex, achieve focus, experience weekly wins, and see results.

The 4 Disciplines of Execution
4DX Scorecard
Simplified Support Calculator
Ryan's Seminar Notes (2013)

Show Notes Transcript

Is it really possible to see success in MPD while remaining on full-time assignment? Ryan McReynolds would answer a hearty "Yes!" Listen as he shares how The 4 Disciplines of Execution have helped him and his wife, Alex, achieve focus, experience weekly wins, and see results.

The 4 Disciplines of Execution
4DX Scorecard
Simplified Support Calculator
Ryan's Seminar Notes (2013)

Jason Ruch: Welcome to the Cru MPD Podcast with Katie Johnson and Jason Ruch. We love that the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel. We’re driven to equip and inspire laborers to be Christ-centered, fully-funded, and financially faithful so that the missionary staff can get in front of lost people to tell them about Jesus. So, today, Katie, I’m excited about this one. I have not known Ryan personally very well -- Ryan McReynolds is with us today -- but I have been a beneficiary of some of his thinking and his practices as it relates to MPD for a number of years. And, so, welcome to the podcast, Ryan.

Ryan McReynolds: Thank you so much. It’s a privilege to be here. 

Jason Ruch: Yeah. So why don’t we just start off. Tell us a little bit about yourself, where you are, your family situation, and what you’re doing with Cru these days.

Ryan McReynolds: You bet. Well, I’m coming to you today from my basement in -- north of Boston -- Stoneham, Massachusetts, about eight, nine miles north of Boston. And my wife, Alex, and I have the privilege of being empty nesters during this time of COVID. All of our kids are out of the house. And, so, we haven’t had to face some of the really hard choices that families have had to make with sometimes parents, elderly parents living at home or kids going to school, etc. So it’s been just mostly us two. Our kids have visited a little bit. But we have three grown kids: 26, 25, and 21. My youngest is at Penn State as a senior. And, so, just one more college student, one more semester -- two semesters, actually. 

 And, then, we’ve been here going on 15 years. We moved to the Northeast because I accepted the position of being Operations Director for the Northeast region. But, before that, I was in Colorado for six years. On campus for three at the University of Colorado, and then was Winter Conference Director and kind of an Ops Director out there. And, then, before that, was in seminary for two years while still being on staff. And, then, before that, I was four years at New Mexico State. And that’s where we started our staff career, at New Mexico State [cross talk].

Jason Ruch: Where do you hail from? Where’s home? You’ve been all over the place.

Ryan McReynolds: Yes, I know. I’m originally from Southern California. My wife and I grew up -- yeah, I grew up in the San Gabriel Valley in a little town called Rowland Heights. My wife’s from Covina. We grew up maybe -- I don’t know -- five, six miles from each other, but it’s so densely populated we wouldn’t have known each other until we met at a Cru Winter Conference in San Francisco in 1989.

Jason Ruch: Oh, neat.

Ryan McReynolds: Yeah. So we have a lot of fond memories of our experience with Cru as students. And, then, been on staff for -- what -- 27 years, I think. 

Jason Ruch: That’s great.

Ryan McReynolds: And my current role -- I haven’t mentioned my current role. So, as we all know, there’s been significant re-structuring in the campus ministry. Anyone in the campus ministry knows that. And, for the first time in a long time, marketing is now a named role, not just in general but on the executive team. So Christy Goth [sp?] here is the Director of the relatively new Marketing and Mobilization team or, as I like to call it, the Priority Products and Services Marketing and Mobilization team. And I report to Christy as the Director of External Marketing and Promotions. It’s also a dual role where I also report to Andre [indiscernible] who is the Director of the Cru Marketing team for all the divisions in the U.S. and also helping globally as well. So, yeah. That’s it.

Jason Ruch: That’s great.

Katie Johnson: Yeah. That is great. It sounds like you are staying busy. 

Ryan McReynolds: Yes. My phone has been ringing off the hook since March. Suddenly, everyone is interested in digital marketing, and it’s great. The Lord is at work. And I’m privileged to serve.

Katie Johnson: Yes. We’re thankful you’re here serving as well. So we did wonder, what do you see as the greatest obstacles in trying to raise support while still engaged in your ministry role?

Ryan McReynolds: I’ll say this that I think the obstacles are different for everyone. Or, in other words, we all have obstacles. My obstacles might be different than yours. But what I observe as common about everyone’s obstacles is it’s an issue of focus where the biggest obstacle is deciding that support is still going to be a priority in the midst of an ongoing assignment and then freeing up the emotional energy to do it in the midst of ministry because, often, MPD can challenge us in some ways spiritually and emotionally that are just easier to put aside. So that’s kind of the general thing.

 What I’ve noticed over the years with my wife being an MPD coach and having worked with lots of folks on MPD, that very often the same people, orientation that makes people so great at doing in-person ministry often means it’s hard to pull away from those responsibilities to give time to MPD. It can almost be like a guilt thing, like, “I’ve got to serve my people. I’ve got to lead my Bible study, disciple.” And to pull time away from that can sometimes -- people feel guilty. They think, “Well, I’ll do support later.” And, so, those are the reasons that I see time and again that people ignore support for long periods of time. And then there’s a crisis because they haven’t been able to make any progress while they’ve been engaged in their regular assignment.

Katie Johnson: Yeah. Those are -- I can see how those are definitely obstacles in MPD while on your assignment, especially the emotional capacity. Ministry also takes our emotional capacity, right? And, so, to engage in MPD in addition to that can be really hard and difficult. You and Alex, your wife, have used a strategy to raise support while on assignment. Can you give us an overview of that strategy?

Ryan McReynolds: Yes. I think one of the key things -- it’s funny because I originally did this strategy, and then when it worked, I was like, “Well, I think I should share this with people.” So I turned this into a seminar that was in 2013. It’s hard to believe it was that long ago.

Jason Ruch: Seven years. Yeah.

Ryan McReynolds: Yeah. But what’s interesting is, as I look back, what started the strategy was desperation, really poor support because of ignoring it for a long time. And a lot of it came out of -- when you move into Operations -- there are natural breaks in a field role like at Christmas time or in the summer where, if you’re not doing a summer assignment, you can focus on MPD and whatever and just completely focus on that. In Operations, there’s often ongoing demands that are really hard to offload because they’re specialized knowledge that others don’t have. And, so, it feels more like a year-round job, even on vacations or during Christmas break or whatever. So we ignored our support for way too long, and I felt very responsible. 

 And, so, I had the privilege of being exposed to what’s known as the Four Disciplines of Execution. And I started realizing that the issue was focus, that it wasn’t that I didn’t know what to do with MPD. I’d had good coaching and some good practices, but I needed a strategy to get me focused on the most impactful behaviors in MPD for a consistent amount of time and to do it in partnership with my wife. And, so, that’s the idea behind this strategy. It’s, basically, you choose a wildly important goal -- that’s language from the Four Disciplines of Execution -- which is to choose a goal, a financial goal, and then focus on lead measures, not lag measures, which is to focus on the repeatable behaviors that give you the best chance of making progress. 

 And then you build a player’s scoreboard -- and this is literally just the Four Disciplines of Execution. You build a player’s scoreboard, which is something that you and your teammates, whether it’s a wife or an MPD coach or whatever, that you can look at together. And then you establish a regular cadence of accountability where you are referring to the scoreboard and seeing how you’re making progress towards your goal. And another big piece of this was, for the first time, really leaning into email as a way of initiating. But email was not the decisive factor. It was having a focusing tool that could help me carve out the time to give to it, etc. So that’s an overview. 

Jason Ruch: That’s excellent. Yeah. So, I mean, some of our listeners are probably -- they’ve read or they’re familiar with the Four Disciplines of Execution. Perhaps they’re practitioners as well. Sounds like you are. And we’d love to hear a little bit more about each of those. So the WIG, the wildly important goal. Tell us what yours is. How do you think about that? Yeah. What’s your wildly important goal?

Ryan McReynolds: Well, there again, that can be very individual for different seasons of your life or different people. So, for some, it might be “Our account balance is in the negative, and we have to have more committed monthly to get out of that hole -- or one-time gifts or whatever. So that’s our wildly important goal.” For others, it might be all of a sudden there’s an unexpected medical expense, and maybe their account balance is healthy, but they’re going to have to deal with that. And, so, that frames the amount and the intensity and the effort. For others, it could be “We’d like to buy a second car,” or “We’ve got a child that is going to need a car. And, so, we’re going to need to raise more to accomplish a particular goal.” 

 The consistent thing is it just has to be wildly important to you. In other words, it has to be motivating to accomplish. And, when your support is poor, when your account balance is in the negative or whatever, it’s wildly important, but also there can be guilt and what not. That’s normal. Part of the reason I say that, put a name to it, is a lot of people feel that way, and they feel like they’re the only one. And I’ve been there. My wife and I have been there. But that’s why it’s so important to have a model for in the midst of everything else to be able to focus on it so you can move towards that goal.

Jason Ruch: Yeah. So, I mean, Ryan and Alex’s wildly important goal is going to look different than Jason and Erika’s or Katie and Ben’s, so. Yeah. So I love that. Choose something that’s very personal. What is it you're going after? One of the things that I know you have -- you have tended to emphasize committed monthly support over an account balance. Now, account balance, obviously, is still important. There are some on staff that advocate for something -- they use a language of “What’s your false zero?” In other words, somebody might say, “I am committed to maintain an account balance over X amount, say $10,000 whatever it is for them, right? How do you think about that? Is that something that you include as well as the monthly emphasis? Or how do you think about account balance?

Ryan McReynolds: Totally. All of that came out of -- it switched because for years I had used the account balance as my measure. And it was reading and hearing the Four Disciplines of Execution that I laughed out loud, because they talk about -- this is sort of the next point, but it’s relevant here -- lead measures and not lag measures. Most people use as their measurement toward a goal lag measures, which they literally call them “oh crap” measurements. 

Jason Ruch: Nice.

Ryan McReynolds: And the reason for that is is because they’re usually easy to get but hard to impact directly. So I realized, as they described it, that was totally my account balance. It’s like -- so in the summer right after your summer ask or in January right after your winter ask, your account balance goes way up. And they say that in the Four Disciplines of Execution thing. They’re like, “When it’s good, you’re like, ‘Oh, it’s good. We don’t have to do anything,’” until, because you’re not doing the things that would keep it at a good place, it drops off the table. And, then, by the time you get to, whether it’s April or October, now it’s back into the negative, and you go, “Oh crap.” And the problem though with that being your wildly important goal, that account balance, is that you can’t directly impact that balance. The example they give in Four D. Ex. is your weight. Often, the scale is very easy to pull out and get on, but if you get on it and your weight is above where you want it to be or below where you want it to be, you can’t just put more weight on right there standing at the scale, and you can’t take it off either. You have to engage in other behaviors, which they call lead measures, which will change that. 

 So that’s why it’s okay to have a lag measure as your wildly important goal, in other words as the end goal, but what I realized was that the account balance was sometimes giving me a false sense of security. And then, when it wasn’t, it was too late to impact. And, so, I realized it would be healthier to choose committed monthly, because that would be an early indicator of a declining account balance and would help me get focused on giving more attention before the “oh crap” situation happens.

Jason Ruch: Yeah. Yeah. Well, thanks a lot for kind of making it personally convicting talking about the scale and weight and all that stuff. That’s great. Okay. I got to think about this differently, right? I got to think about my lead measures here. Well, let’s talk about that then. What is the difference that you’ve -- you’ve sort of touched on it here, but more specifically, what’s the difference between a lead measure and a lag measure? And, then, what are your key lead measures when it comes to MPD?

Ryan McReynolds: You bet. A typical lead measure is something that you have good reason to believe will impact that lag measure and lead towards the goal, but it’s often something that you need to do consistently, at least once a week, in order to get there. And the reason why we need things like these is because we, as human beings, are not great at long-term planning. And, so, we struggle to extrapolate out the daily, weekly behaviors into their long-term effects. And, so, a lead measure is, in a sense, just reverse engineering “What would I need to do consistently in order to impact the lag measure so that I can accomplish my goal?” And that’s where I realized that the most important thing I could do -- in fact, this has turned into a maxim of mine. My MPD maxim is people who end up joining your support team and giving are inevitably people that you ask to join your support team and start doing it. 

Jason Ruch: That’s gold. Nobody would ever think of that, right?

Ryan McReynolds: No. That’s right. Yep. It’s just a paraphrase of Jesus saying, “You have not because you ask not.” And, so, I started to reverse engineer that. It’s like, “Well, how do I get to the place where I can ask someone to join our team? Well, I need to ask them probably for an appointment. And what do I need to do to ask people for an appointment? Well, I need to ask them -- or how do I get to the appointment? You need to ask them for an appointment.” And what occurred to me was, once the appointment was set, emotionally I’m in. I’ll show up, energy. I got that. But, for me -- and this could be different for somebody else -- for me, the hardest part was asking for an appointment. It felt risky. It felt dangerous. And I could always think of an excuse why it’s not time to ask for an appointment. Like, “Well, I haven’t talked to them,” and, “Well, I don’t think I know them well enough,” and all these things. 

 And, so, what I realized was a lot of my activity in MPD -- and time was short because, again, I’m on my assignment. I’m trying to fit it in in the midst of other things. A lot of my activity was things like, “Well, I got to organize my spreadsheet,” or, “I got to rearrange my pencils,” or I got to do all of this sort of extraneous stuff. And, when I was really honest with myself, I thought, “Actually, the most important thing I could do is ask people for appointments, because that’s going to lead to finding out if they’ll have an appointment, and then I’ll get a chance to ask them -- present our ministry or join our team, etc. 

 And, so, my lead measure was asking -- originally, back when we were doing this in that real focused period -- it was asking two people a week for an MPD appointment. And it was email that broke the logjam for me, because I would stress and obsess about calling people because I was always like, “Oh, what if I mess up my words,” and whatever. And it was always hard to get people on the phone. And, then, when you got them, it was like, “Well, am I interrupting?” and that was always really hard. Where, email, I could say it exactly the way I wanted. I could add a crisp sort of ask for an appointment at the beginning and, then, put as much detail as I wanted later in the more detail about our ministry. But I noticed it was much easier to send an email than a phone number. And, so, initially I just committed: “I’m going to send -- as my lead measure -- I’m going to send two emails a week to people that I believe would be open to receiving those emails,” hoping that that would lead to more appointments, more opportunities to ask people to join our team, and that would get us to the goal.

Katie Johnson: Ryan, I’m curious. Was this -- your goal to reach out to two people on email -- was this during full-time MPD? Or were you still on your assignment [indiscernible]?

Ryan McReynolds: Oh, no. I was still on my -- I was in the midst of everything else. And the reason I chose two was it felt easy because, essentially, I’m sending the same email every time with just changing the name but same basic email. And, so, I tried to choose -- and this is actually an important principle of lead measures. You want to make something that’s so easy that you can’t fail to do it or be -- it’d be -- it’s really embarrassing. If you can’t send two emails a week, like -- yeah. 

Katie Johnson: That makes sense. I feel like you’re probably sending a lot more than two emails for your job, so just adding two more on maybe doesn’t seem as hard. 

Ryan McReynolds: Exactly. And, in one planning time, you could probably plan out ten people you could email, but you’re not committing to email ten people a week. It’s just two. So if, in that initial planning time, now I’ve got five weeks of emails to send out. And, in a sense, what that does is it relieves the pressure of having to compete between your regular job and your MPD. And, so, the number being low was actually important. And, then, on the flip side, you’re making a little bit of progress every time. 

Katie Johnson: Yeah. Yeah. I think that’s great. So, in email, are you still finding email and Boomerang effective? Which is just a great question because I did just tell some of my new staff about Boomerang, and now I’m sitting here thinking, depending on what you might say, I might not tell them about Boomerang. I don’t know, so.

Ryan McReynolds: This is breaking news. I’ve not said this publicly. I think I said it to my wife. But I actually just let my Boomerang subscription lapse, whatever it was, a month ago, for the first time in -- I mean, I was using it there since 2013, so it’s probably been 10 years I’ve been using Boomerang. And great company. I loved it. But the reason I let it lapse is because Google, essentially, has built in all the features that I used in Boomerang right into Gmail. And, so, I just realized that I no longer had a need to use Boomerang because Google, essentially, stole all their features and put it in for free. 

Katie Johnson: Yeah. Which is nice.

Ryan McReynolds: Yeah. Which is nice. It’s tough for Boomerang, but that’s how it goes sometimes for digital companies. So the main thing about the reminder -- I’ll do a couple things. One is, I’ve learned now -- I’ve grown confident that when I send an email that asks a question, Google knows it and will, two days later, put it back in my inbox. Or, if I mention a date, it’ll actually figure that, which is amazing. So it’s like AI Boomerang automatically. But sometimes, with MPD emails, I don’t want to trust Google, and so what I’ll do is I’ll send the email and then go into my Send folder, choose that email that’s already sent, and hit the Snooze button, which is essentially the Boomerang feature in Gmail. And I’ll choose the date, a week later or whatever, that I want it to come back to my inbox so that I can, if they haven’t responded, follow up. 

Katie Johnson: Yeah. Yeah. Does Gmail -- I’m just curious, because I think when I -- I joined staff in 2014 originally, and Boomerang was big deal. And we used it a lot to see if people even opened our emails. Does Gmail do that too?

Ryan McReynolds: It does not. And that -- I mean, I know that that feature is there. I, essentially, use that in Mailchimp. But that’s not actually -- it’s not that it’s not important. I don’t know. Let’s get into the inside baseball. Why not? Why not just put it out there? So people who are sophisticated in marketing know that they’re being tracked whether they open it or not. And, for some people that creates distrust. Now, most people probably don’t even know that it’s happening and etc. But, because I do marketing as a job and I actually want people that are pretty savvy with those things on my team -- I think another part of it is I don’t -- when I send a personal email, I don’t have an Unsubscribe button. 

 And, so, kind of my personal policy is I’m not going to track whether you open unless you have the ability to unsubscribe. And, so, I just haven’t used that feature. I’m not saying it’s immoral. I’m not saying it’s illegal or anything like that. It’s just a personal preference, because I do send Mailchimp, and Mailchimp can tell me who opened, etc. But it also has the Unsubscribe button and all that kind of stuff. So that’s not a feature that I used in Boomerang, and therefore, it wasn’t a loss with the switch to Gmail snooze.

Katie Johnson: Yeah. I think that makes sense. I mean, speaking of even being able to see if someone can read a message, do you ever use social media DMs or text messages? Or do you usually just stick to email? 

Ryan McReynolds: Well, I don’t as much. I was just -- what was I looking at? I was just looking at something and realizing -- oh, I know. Saw in a trivia question that the very first text message ever was sent in 1992. So that means I had been married a year and been raising support full time for most of that year before there was a thing called text messages. So that’s just an illustration of how I’ve learned how to communicate in lots of different ways that didn’t involve texting and then, now, social media. It doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t do that. But a lot of my existing partners, their preferred mode of communication is definitely letter, call, text message, or email. And that’s because I have a -- I’m 51. I have an older MPD team, and so not a lot of them are on social media. So that’s the artifact of being an old guy doing MPD. For many people hearing this podcast, it’s probably very normal to use Facebook Messenger, Instagram DMs, whatnot. And that’s great. It’s just another form of digital connection.

Katie Johnson: Yeah. Yeah. I think that definitely makes sense. Using what you know your partners will respond to is how you should communicate.

Ryan McReynolds: Right. What they prefer is actually what you should use. So if they reach out to you through a DM, then that’s probably a great channel to connect with -- that’s actually the principle. And I just haven’t had that many people who use other than email.

Katie Johnson: Yeah. Yeah. I think it makes sense. I definitely have people that I’ve reached out to on multiple platforms, and wherever they answer, I am there answering back. So, Ryan, we know you mentioned number three of the three disciplines is build a player’s score card. So what exactly is that? And how has this helped you?

Ryan McReynolds: Well, the definition of a player’s score card or scoreboard is -- from Four Disciplines of Execution -- is something that the players who are actually in the game or pursuing the strategy can look at regularly and immediately see whether they’re winning or losing. And that’s very true to life. If a scoreboard is too complicated to immediately know whether you’re winning or losing, it’s not going to be motivating, and therefore, it’s not going to be helpful. So what I did was create a spreadsheet, basically, that every week, if I made two calls, I would check that off. And it would turn the little box green for that week. And, so, I did that week after week. I would have a series of green there. And I also had a graph for new monthly commitments. And, in typical MPD fashion, I needed to string together a bunch of weeks of green before I saw that overall graph move. And that, literally, is the visual definition of the difference between a lead measure and a lag measure.

 But what the player’s scoreboard -- I committed to my wife in this season where we did this for the first time that we were going to meet weekly and go over the scoreboard. And it was really my reporting of my activity to her. It wasn’t like she was completely uninvolved, but I just committed to her to spearhead this and take action. And, so, for me, it was a way to let her know whether I was winning or losing on her behalf. And it didn’t take any -- and once she learned it, she knew exactly what it meant every time. And we set a time to do it every week. And there was accountability in that, but also enjoyability to be able to say, “Hey, yeah. I did this again.” And there’s that dip at the beginning where it’s like, okay, several weeks of green and no new appointments, no new commitments. What’s going on? But then, as is often the case -- as is usually the case, if you keep at it with those lead measures, suddenly you get a flurry of new appointments. And then you get people who commit to joining your team.

 Now, we don’t do -- we don’t use that exact same scoreboard today, but the principle is the same, whether it’s MPDX or a spreadsheet or whatever, is it has to be simple enough for the people doing the activity to know if they’re winning or losing. And that’s it.

Katie Johnson: Can I ask a follow-up question to that? 

Ryan McReynolds: Sure.

Katie Johnson: I’m just curious. Were there weeks where it didn’t turn green? And how did you come back to it week after week when you felt like you weren’t necessary winning?

Ryan McReynolds: Well, that’s actually the next point of a regular cadence of accountability that if you set a time to look at the scoreboard with the other players, if you will, then if you have a week where -- like in my case, I didn’t send the two emails. I sent one maybe. Well, it was a pass/fail. It was either green or red. So one was as good as nothing, and two was awesome. So that’s actually good. I was motivated to get two. And, if after a couple of weeks, I wasn’t making progress and it was red for a couple of weeks, well, then I need to have a conversation with myself or my wife and I need to have a conversation of “Well, how important is this really?” But the scoreboard is working in that it’s giving me feedback on a regular basis of whether I’m actually acting on the things I say are important. Or am I saying it’s important and then moving on to other things? The purpose of the scoreboard is to reflect back you’re not actually doing what you planned to do. It’s a very effective model that I use actually in my whole life. 

 This is for free. I use a little thing called I Run, You Run. It’s a free website where you can set up any behavior in your life -- having a quiet time, doing sit ups, whatever -- on a weekly scoreboard that always is 0 to 100 in terms of points, whatever. And you set the frequency and what’s important and what’s not. And, basically, every week, it’s a scoreboard of whether you’re winning or losing at your own life or at least the things in your life that you want to start doing weekly but you struggle with. That’s an example. I still have MPD -- one category on that I Run, You Run thing is still a weekly MPD activity. The activity may change, but there’s always something on there, because I need a scoreboard to keep that focus.

Jason Ruch: Now, if I already am pretty convinced I’m losing at my own life, I might not be as motivated to have somebody else tell me that that indeed is the case.

Ryan McReynolds: Well, let me share though, because we’ve all been there. I heard a phrase the other day that really struck me as wisdom that the thing that you need the most is often in the place you least want to look. And that challenges me to push against my own inertia, whatever, to think, “Why can’t I get going on this? What am I avoiding? What is it that I don’t want to face in this?” And there’s something about that that turns it from a feeling of dread to a “Doggone it. I’m going to solve this thing. I’m going to get to the bottom of this.” And, so, that’s what scoreboards do for me. They may not be for everyone. But they help me look at the place that I may not want to look and decide why am I not able to make progress on this and figure out a different way of attacking it.

Jason Ruch: That’s good. So you touched on the establish regular cadence of accountability as well. So what I’m hearing you say is really you and Alex, your wife, are kind of your built-in accountability along with the scorecard. Have you ever done some of these things where you’ve brought somebody else in, maybe shared your scorecard with someone else, had either a teammate or a supervisor check in with you? Have you had that kind of accountability as well? 

Ryan McReynolds: Well, yes and no in the sense that Alex and I still have a weekly MPD appointment that’s in our calendar, and we don’t keep it every week but most weeks we do, where we look at our MPD and our budget, because they’re sort of tied together, inputs and outputs. And that is really helpful, over the course of the year, to have just a 30-minute touch point. And if we need to do longer planning or whatever, we do. But it’s that regular cadence of accountability. And, for MPD, we look at committed monthly is a key lag measure there. And, obviously, budgeting, we have like savings goals and stuff like that. So that’s an example of, again, the personal.

 Because for the last -- I don’t know -- 10, 15, 16 years, I’ve been more of a boss where I’m setting direction for others and because of my own experience of floundering for so long with MPD, I have made a commitment to make MPD an issue for any team that I’m leading. 

Jason Ruch: There you go.

Ryan McReynolds: So I schedule time where we’re going to talk about MPD as a team, because, as I say when we do it, I say, “MPD is not something extra to your job. It’s actually your job.” And, so, I, as a manager, am responsible to communicate that and then carve out time where we work on it together. So we talk about emails. I’ll share template emails. And we share each other’s prayer letters. I’ll have time where we as a team will plan our End of the Year Ask and share ideas for that. 

 And what I always see is people -- people just -- at first, they get kind of nervous, like, “Oh, we’re going to talk about MPD. I put that on the shelf. I don’t want to think about it.” But, then, as we get into it and they realize “Oh, we’re going to do this together, and I’m going to learn,” and there’s this healthy encouragement and accountability, they just lighten up. It’s like, “Oh, this is great.” And it’s not -- some people find MPD easy; some people find it terrifying. But when we do it together -- it’s just like evangelism. Evangelism’s always easier when you have a partner. Doing MPD together is another way of having a regular cadence of accountability, and I view that as my responsibility as a team leader to establish that cadence of accountability in the regular course of our team activity.

Jason Ruch: It’s really great. We’ve just done a couple of episodes where we’ve talked to teams, people on teams that are doing MPD together. You’ve probably heard the phrase “MPD Champion.” So we talk about teams. But you are -- you’ve just essentially dubbed yourself the MPD Champion of your teams it sounds like, and that’s excellent. That’s what we’re talking a lot about is, just like you say, again, just one of many parallels to evangelism and MPD. But another one is “Let’s go together. Let’s do this thing together,” because we can -- isolation in both of those worlds, evangelism or MPD, is discouraging. It could be dangerous, right? So that’s excellent. 

 Well, tell about -- what have you seen? What kinds of things have you seen the Lord do as you have implemented the Four Disciplines of Execution in MPD, as you’ve chosen a wildly important goal and focused on lead measures and putting a scorecard together, being accountable? What are the results?

Ryan McReynolds: Well, initially when we did this and I decided to turn it into a seminar, it’s because, in the course of -- I think we started in the fall. And, by the spring, we had raised $700 monthly while doing our regular job. And I was like, “Okay. This works.” 

Katie Johnson: Yeah. That was with two emails?

Ryan McReynolds: Yeah. Two emails a week.

Jason Ruch: A week.

Ryan McReynolds: Yeah.

Jason Ruch: That’s going to be motivating for a few people, I think.

Ryan McReynolds: Yeah, because it adds up. And it was the snowball in the sense that most of it came in late in the process. The momentum builds very slowly. Then, all of a sudden, it’s like, in a few weeks, bam, you get a whole bunch of support, because you’ve been trying to get appointments with people and whatnot. And, obviously, your [indiscernible] may vary. But I’m such a believer in this process that, like I said, I’ve implemented similar things in my life for all kinds of things, regular lead measures to do X, Y, or Z. 

 So what we -- I would say, at this point in our staff career, our support has never been better in terms of finances, but I’ve applied this methodology -- I think part of the reason for that is I’ve applied this methodology to other parts of our MPD. So, for instance, I got on to the gravy train with Steve Simms and a few years ago, where he offered a special deal that if you sent out one letter every month, you’d get one of them free. So if you’d do 12 months, he would refund you the cost of one of those letters, which is like $300. And, so, I was like, “Okay. I’m going to do that,” because I knew it would be what they call a commitment device to get me to do it. And you pick the date every month that you had to upload your letter, and then, it would get sent out to your MPDX addresses and everything. 

 And, so, I don’t think I’ve missed a month in, I think it’s almost four years now of prayer letters. Every single month. And what it took was the $300 incentive. That’s the scoreboard where it’s like, “Well, if I do this once a month” -- and part of what that meant is I needed to simplify my prayer letter, which my wife loves. She hates long, complicated prayer letters. So it’s like one page, one picture, short words. Boom! It’s like, “Okay. I can do that.” And, so, I do that every month. And, then, I thought, “Okay. I’ve got that down.” That became easy. So I was like, “Well, but email is a thing -- I should be sending emails,” so I started to commit to one email a month about ministry. I started to do that roughly. And I could put in links and stuff like that. And that went pretty well. 

 And, then, last year -- it’s funny. I’m just finishing my 12th month of doing this. I started to think, “How could I” -- because I don’t know what your experience is, but the emails that get opened the most and that get the most comments are things about your personal life or your family. It’s like, “Ministry’s great. Yeah, somebody else came to Christ. It’s all good.” But it’s like when you share about your kids or your dad’s illness or whatever, that’s when people engage. So I was like, “How could I build relationship, in a sense, through something more personal, and, at the same time, be sort of in the same brand of spiritual leadership and engagement?” So I came up with this idea. I don’t know. It hit me, and I wrote it down. I was like, “Oh, okay. I think that will work. I’ll try it.” And it’s called “Throwback Third Thursday.” So you probably have heard of Throwback Thursday, you know, when you -- old photos and stuff. 

 And all of this is going to this question of implementing the strategy. I was like, “Well, this sounds overwhelming to do this a bunch,” but I thought, “What if I could pick 12 photos of old pictures of me and Alex and our kids and whatever and spread them out and send one once a month.” And I thought, “Well, I won’t do it every Thursday, but I’ll do it every third Thursday of every month for 12 months and tell a story about what that picture was about, etc.” 

 And nothing I’ve ever done has resulted in as much engagement with our donors. I just sent one out -- month 11 was this last month. And I had some pictures of Alex and I when we were first dating and then a picture when we were in marriage counseling. And I contrasted our big smiles when we were dating and then the kind of nervous look when we were in marriage counseling and just what God had done in our marriage in the hard times and the counseling and everything. And at least a dozen people emailed and said, “Thank you for being vulnerable. Thank you for being real,” and, “Our marriage is a struggle too, but thank God for God’s faithfulness and whatever.” And all of that came out of having the confidence to try something on a regular basis that felt -- at first, it might have felt overwhelming, but, because I just planned “Let’s just do one a month and then have some kind of a scoreboard to do that,” that’s unlocked other things, and I’ve consistently kept up the things that have been working. 

 And I think, obviously, God’s faithfulness in giving -- our giving is good as a result of God’s faithfulness, but what I’ve seen is the things that we didn’t used to do, I think, had something to do with why our MPD was so poor. And the consistency of using a scoreboard has really helped turn that around.

Jason Ruch: That’s really great. So much good stuff here. And we’re going to provide some of these resources, in particular, to Cru staff, some of the things that you’ve mentioned, like even just having resources to calculate your goal, right? Like, “What do I need? Knowing what I need is going to be huge.” Sharing some of the scripts that you’ve used, I think, would be helpful for many as well. So we’ll get those up in the show notes. Ryan, this has been great, and thank you for -- I’m sort of thankful that you were in a desperate place seven years ago, because it led to some great ideas that you and Alex have implemented that I think are going to really benefit our staff. So thanks for joining us today, and thanks for your commitment to the mission as well. 

Ryan McReynolds: You bet. Thanks for asking, and it’s great to be with you guys. Thank you for serving staff with this podcast and everything you guys do.