I’m sure you’re familiar with the word embark. Well, after you read this month’s letter, I trust you will never think the same way about that word. Yes, we are embarking on something that is very needed.
This month for my personal letter to you, I want to continue the theme of what we are doing to protect the ministry of AiG, the Ark Encounter, and the Creation Museum for the future—and thus protect the investment (prayer, financial, volunteering, etc.) you have made in this ministry.
I mentioned in February that the Lord has brought some great younger visionaries to the ministry who are becoming the next generation of leaders for the future. Yes, the founders are getting older, and certainly Mark Looy and Mike Zovath, who cofounded the ministry with me, have been aging. I guess I’m a bit older too (ha ha).
Not only have we put in place a number of internal controls to protect the ministry, and we pray stop mission drift (as I detailed in my February letter), but we have also embarked on a phenomenal staff/leadership training program.
Last month I explained our burden to be able to bring young people (students) to the ministry for seasonal jobs as a part of not only enabling them to work in a Christian environment but to be able to impact them as they mature in the Christian faith. We want to help equip them for the future.
This month I want to tell you about a very ambitious, but very needed, staff and leadership training program AiG is developing that we believe will not only be a great benefit to us as a ministry for the future but will also be a benefit to other biblically like-minded Christian organizations.
A number of years ago, as our attractions were beginning to develop, I and a number of our staff sought ways to understand how others conduct staff/guest services training. For instance, we consulted with leaders at Chick-fil-A, and a number of us attended courses like those offered by the Disney Institute. I remember sitting through the Disney course learning how they treat guests and thinking how great it would be to have Christian courses in these areas. And knowing how “woke” Disney has become, I wonder what is included in those courses now!
At AiG, we have four basic types of staff members: full-time salaried staff, full-time hourly staff, part-time staff, and seasonal staff.
In the past, we have had a few interns as seasonal staff in select departments. Now we are adding structured intern positions as we embark on a program designed for all departments.
As well as building student housing, as detailed in my letter last month, we are also going to be building a Learning and Development (L&D) center. We are already developing our L&D programs to train staff and future leaders. As we develop these programs (and the Lord has brought to us talented staff to do this), we also want to provide courses (much like the Disney Institute does, only from a biblical worldview) for other Christian organizations.
We believe the Lord is directing us to do this.
To me it’s rather mind-blowing that AiG is going to do this, but the Lord brought us the talented staff with the vision and knowledge to construct such a program, so we believe the Lord is directing us to do this. I’m sure you will be mind-blown as you read about the vision with a summary of what this involves. This is another wow moment in the life of the AiG ministry.
The L&D program involves a ministry-wide process and plans for prioritizing all Answers in Genesis staff members’ professional and career development, impacting them with AiG apologetics and biblical worldview teaching. This begins with the recruitment process and continues through every role within the ministry. Here is how our L&D team states it:
This process will be developed with an understanding of our biblical obligation to develop our staff (Proverbs 3:27; 1 Thessalonians 5:11–14; 2 Timothy 2:2), our need to put staff in positions where they can excel, our desire to build a core leadership for our future, and our belief that AiG should be a standard bearer for staff development amongst other ministries. The emphasis on this development is built upon the model from Scripture, the desired AiG ministry culture statement of faith and core values, and our furthering of those.
This will involve the following:
A Learning and Development Center (LDC) will be the hub for the development of the staff at Answers in Genesis and, perhaps, individuals beyond AiG. Until we have a dedicated building for this, space will be used through the CM offices and two attractions.
The vision for the LDC is to provide large classrooms, breakout rooms, and space and resources for staff, interns, and others to take required or offered E-learning courses.
We are currently building our College Connections program. We are developing relationships with like-minded colleges/universities to the point where we are asking them to partner with us to offer AiG staff for-credit development opportunities to include degree pursuit, degree completion, and dual enrollment for our staff and/or children of staff pursuing such education.
Colleges interested in participating in the program would be expected to offer scholarships for AiG staff to make the classes more affordable.
Opportunities would primarily be online classes so that our staff could work for AiG while pursuing their degree.
The LDC would provide opportunities for staff to attend livestreamed classes from partner colleges.
The LDC would be used for colleges to send professors (or utilize AiG staff as adjunct professors) for in-person classes.
The LDC would serve as a gathering place for high school staff or children of staff to participate in dual enrollment courses offered by partner colleges.
The LDC would provide opportunities for students to use class space for study groups.
A future desire is to work with partner colleges to provide for-credit opportunities for work experience within AiG; have more colleges offer on-campus scholarships for AiG staff and their children; and offer monthly development sessions on various topics through both classroom and E-learning opportunities to all AiG staff. These would be on soft and technical skills and culture, core values, and guest engagement development opportunities.
Now what are some of the ways we will implement all this? We are working to embark on various programs on a number of fronts.
Our Embark program will involve a marketing strategy with its own logo. Of course, you can see we used a word that contains “ark,” but this program is for the whole ministry (AiG and both attractions).
Embark Answers Internship Program involves the creation of a purposeful, well-defined, and proven intern program for every department that will make AiG the internship opportunity of choice. It also involves an apprenticeship component. This will be used as a tool to encourage colleges/universities to recommend us to their students and attract them and their parents, independent of college input. We see this as not only training young people but for future roles in the AiG ministry.
The Campus Ambassador (CA) is a program to recruit a college student who has experience working at AiG to represent AiG at the college which they attend. The Campus Ambassador will represent AiG at social events, job fairs, etc. The CA will be an hourly paid position. The future goal is to have a minimum of one CA at the colleges/universities we already have a relationship with, along with other colleges/universities with which AiG will be able to establish a relationship.
The University Relations Recruiter (URR) will build upon existing relationships and create new ones with like-minded colleges and universities through year-round contact and visits and participation at university career fairs and regional Christian high schools. The University Relations Recruiter will coordinate with appropriate leadership to accompany AiG speakers on engagements throughout the country, ensuring at each event, when appropriate, we have an opportunity to promote employment.
This centers on our “going out” into the community to invite others (who can sign our Statement of Faith, of course) to join us and on-site marketing to encourage attraction guests to consider joining the AiG ministry.
I trust you are thrilled to see what we are doing to train up staff/leaders for the future of AiG, and we pray to help other like-minded organizations with this as well.
Our team will do this by providing a clear understanding of the culture of Answers in Genesis through the way we present ourselves at career and job fairs in colleges, the community, and private Christian high schools. We will provide training in interviewing skills for all staff who wish to be involved in conducting interviews. This training addresses legal issues and how to conduct interviews to communicate our unique AiG culture and discern if a candidate would be a fit for the ministry.
Are you exhausted after reading that? You should see all the documents detailing everything produced on this program! But exhausted or not, I trust you are thrilled to see what we are doing to train up staff/leaders for the future of AiG, and we pray to help other like-minded organizations with this as well. It’s a big vision to embark on! But it’s needed to enable this ministry to maintain the mission the Lord raised up for us.
Last month I explained that we needed more student housing as we not only have great need for staff during the year at our attractions, but we also see that part of our mission is to help equip them to stand boldly on God’s Word as they are impacted by the ministry/attractions and all the training they will receive. I explained that we had the funds to build one building that would house 100 students but that we urgently needed to build a second one. This will enable us to house 100 males in one building and 100 females in the other. That will go a long way to help us obtain the staff we need but also be a conduit for training up the younger generations.
Thank you to those who have already given toward this $4.5 million project for the second student housing building. This, along with our core ministry needs, will be the main fundraising focus for us for the first half of this year as we continue to embark on our mission journey.
Would you prayerfully consider a gift to both the student housing project and our core ministry? Your gift of any size to either or both will be a blessing as we strive to impact the next generation for Christ. Thank you!