Stralow_Family_Picture

Hi, I’m Mike Stralow.

Palatine, IL

Phone Number

(815) 535-3929

Email

[email protected]

Experience

Jill's House
VP of Advancement

Education

Wheaton College
B.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies

Church Affiliation

Non-Denominational

Years In Ministry

4 years

Personality

ENFP

Skills

Teaching/preaching, team building and development, strategic thinking, listening, vision casting, writing curriculum, adaptable, collaborative, compassionate, and facilitating discussion

Tools & Software

Microsoft Office Suite, Planning Center Online

Personal

Married to Keelia for 8 years
Kids: Oliver (2)

Top 3 Strengths

Communicative0%

Flexible0%

Team-Oriented0%

Discipleship Questionnaire Responses
Personal Info
Please share briefly how you became a Christian.
I grew up in a Christian family where we went to church every Sunday morning (whether I wanted to or not!), but it wasn’t until high school that I accepted Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior. The story is not very unique. It happened while I was on mission trip, and yet, it remains very special to me. It was on that trip that I connected with God for the first time in my life. I still remember the teaching from my youth pastor, the projects we worked on while we were there, and the influential conversations I had with other believers on that trip. Through a combination of all of these factors, I came to the decision that this kind of faith everyone was talking about was something I wanted for myself. My faith went from distanced and unimportant to, to personal and vibrant and it has been growing and transforming ever since.
How would you describe yourself?
  • Fun
  • Flexible
  • Loving
  • Organized
Personality Type
Strength Finders: Communication, Adaptability, Empathy, Ideation, and Woo. Myers Briggs: ENFP, Enneagram 2
Tell me about some people (i.e. authors, mentors, and ministry leaders) that have had a big impact on you.
Over the years, the people who have shaped my faith the most are: Jeff McIlrath (my youth pastor/mentor), Keith Johnson (theology professor at Wheaton College), C.S. Lewis, N.T. Wright, John Stott, Tim Keller, Karl Barth, and most recently, Rich Villodas. As far as preaching style, I think it has been influenced the most by my old youth pastor, who was also the pastor at the church I went to in high school.
Discipleship
How do you plan to engage and inform your church about your ministry objectives and progress?
Good communication is essential, especially early on in a new position. I would want to verge on over-communication at first to make sure everyone is on the same page and clear on what I am striving to accomplish. I would hope to get feedback on my original objectives so I can make adjustments if necessary and then would give updates on progress that are both data driven and anecdotal. The numbers are important and the most objective way to determine how much progress is being made, but ministry is about people and I would hope to communicate stories of impact on how lives are being transformed through the work we are doing.
Tell me about a time when you developed a new small group strategy. What did you do?
At my current job, I organized an Explore God discussion group for Jill’s House parents. The curriculum is similar to Alpha or Christianity Explored in that it is designed for seekers and/or skeptics to learn about God and ask questions in a safe setting. Many of the families we serve at Jill’s House do not go to church and do not have the time to think about some of the big things in life, like God and faith. We knew there was a need for this, but it is also hard for these parents to find childcare so I recruited staff to volunteer to watch the kids while mom and dad were in the small group. We also brought in a meal each week we met. It was my hope this would help remove some obstacles and give them the space and opportunity to engage in these important discussions. It worked great and we now try to have a yearly Explore God small group.
How would you alleviate confusion when you are communicating with someone and it becomes apparent that they don’t understand what you’re saying or vice versa?
It would depend on how we are communicating. If by email, I would ask to call or meet in person because written communication is prone to miscommunication since there is no inflection or nonverbal cues to go off of and usually a miscommunication can be resolved over a quick call. If we were already talking in person, I would ask them to either tell me what they thought I was saying or to let me know what part of what I was saying was confusing. I would try to keep asking questions until I felt like I had pinpointed the problem area and then would try to find a new way to explain it, whether using different words or a different example or analogy. I would then confirm to make sure we were on the same page before the conversation ended.
Spiritual Growth
Once someone accepts Christ as their Savior, how do you begin discipling them?
I think the first step is to make sure they have a church they can call home and a mentor who can meet with them consistently to help them through their questions and spiritual growth. From there, I think it is important to start with the fundamentals and then work their way up. You help them come up with a reading plan for Scripture and understand the importance of prayer. Then, work towards learning the basics of Christianity, such as key beliefs and doctrines, but also help them be pragmatic – how does their faith impact the way they live their life today? What difference is it making? How does it change the way they view the world? What are their faith goals for the year and how are they going to accomplish them? We want to disciple their hearts and their minds, and help them navigate how to be in the world, but not of the world.
As the spiritual leader of your ministry, how are you going to help small group leaders grow in their faith?
I would try to come up with customized plans and ideas for each leader as much as is feasible. Each person has different needs for what would most help them grow in their faith. I would make sure they are equipped with anything they might need by providing book recommendations, devotionals, opportunities to meet, etc. I would also want to set periodic check ins with the leaders to get a gauge for how they are doing and if they are really taking the initiative to grow in their faith. My goal would be to provide gentle nudges and create opportunities for the leaders to engage and continue to grow.
Ministry Growth
What is your philosophy of ministry?
My philosophy of ministry boils down to two questions. Are we helping people love God with all their heart, soul, and mind, and are we helping them love other people? Everything we do as ministry should be pushing people towards following these two greatest commandments. As we do this, we need to make sure that our ministry is both intellectual, that is, that people are thinking rightly about God, as well as practical and pragmatic. The hope is that everyone in the church would have an answer to the question, “How does your faith change the way you live your life today?”
Share with me how you deal with a fast-paced, always changing environment. Have you had this experience in a previous position?
I would call my current job fast paced and always changing. Working at a nonprofit, everyone wears a lot of different hats and you never know what might be asked of you on any given day or what new skill you need to learn. Also, leading the Advancement team while remote presents its own unique challenges that always keeps me on my toes. I have learned the importance of being adaptable and, for me, I love it. I like knowing each day will be a little different than the last and surprises are always around the corner. I like meeting new problems and trying to figure out creative solutions to them. I like working with a team on new challenges and the feeling of collective accomplishment when we achieve our goals.
How would you evaluate systems and structures to see if there could be improvement?
One way would be to keep track of important numbers, such as the number of small groups, number of participants, percentage of church members in a small group, etc. Paying attention to these numbers should give some indication as to how we are doing. I would also try to implement a yearly 360 review of the program and solicit feedback from small group attendees, small group leaders, and other pastors on staff to understand different perspectives on the structures in place. By getting feedback from the top down, it will hopefully reveal any blindspots I may have and help me make important changes to improve the overall program.
What was the most creative idea you introduced in your last ministry role? What steps did you take to implement that idea?
I started the dad’s retreat ministry at Jill’s House three years ago. While I realize creating a retreat may not seem particularly unique, it is important to note that in many special needs ministries, the focus is mostly on the moms because it is assumed they are the primary caregiver. Even at Jill’s House, we had mom’s retreats long before we ever hosted a dad’s one. I pushed to add this retreat to our calendar because I saw it as a need in the Jill’s House community that was not being met. When it came time for the first retreat, rather than bringing in a speaker, or planning a ton of activities for the guys to do, I kept it really simple. The most common struggles I have heard from parents raising kids with special needs is how isolated they feel and how tired and stressed they are. With this in mind, I created a lot of free time in the schedule for the guys to take a nap, go on a walk, or whatever else they wanted to do. Then in the evening, around the fire, we had discussion time. I started with the question, “Tell us about your family and what is on your plate right now,” and that was all that was needed. The conversation went on for three hours, with guys talking about anger, guilt, depression, marriage struggles, problems with their kids, and a whole lot more. None of the dads knew each other at the start of the retreat, but in those moments they felt comfortable enough with each other to shed tears and open up. By the end of the retreat, they were exchanging contact information and setting up future times to get together. I have led the retreat two more times since the first one, and while we have different dads each time, the impact of the campfire discussion time remains consistent.
How has COVID changed your approach on how to create community with the church members and nonbelievers?
COVID has caused me to be a lot more creative, thoughtful, and intentional on how I create community. When most people are still remote, it is obviously a lot harder for community to naturally develop. At the same time, I think a lot of us quickly became fatigued by the number of Zoom calls in our life. While everyone wanted more community, they did not want to set up another video call in the evening when they spent all day on one for work or school. In order to combat this, I have worked on different methods and forms of communication to keep it as fresh as possible. This has meant finding ways to still meet in person while abiding by CDC guidelines such as small outdoor gatherings with social distancing, as well as varying my digital communication methods and styles. I also think it is important to take mini breaks from our efforts, even if they are going well, to help prevent virtual communication fatigue.
What is your experience with creating an online weekend experience via live stream?
I preached at my church towards the start of the pandemic when we moved our services online, and have helped out with aspects of the online services such as giving the announcements or leading the communion devotional. Admittedly, my experience is small in this area, but I do consider myself technologically capable and a quick study. I am confident I could learn how to create a great online weekend experience via live stream.
What goals have you set in the past for your ministry area. Did you accomplish them and if so, how did you accomplish them?
For the dad’s ministry at Jill’s House, I set goals to: 1. Organize a monthly outing to a local restaurant 2. Lead an annual retreat 3. Send a quick note/email to one dad a week to ask how I could be praying for them I would say I was 90% successful with these goals. There were weeks that were busy with my fundraising responsibilities and I never got around to writing the note, but I would try to make it up the next week. In order to accomplish these goals, I would set aside time blocks on my calendar to give me the space and time to do them.
What would it take to grow a successful discipleship program?
I think it would take a team effort within the church. Yes, you need one person to spearhead the effort and take ownership over it, but everyone in the church is a part of discipleship. From the preaching, to the worship, to the children’s ministry, volunteer opportunities, and many more, they all help play a role in helping people be more like Jesus. I think it is important for everyone to be on the same page, striving for a common goal, and looking for ways to help and support each aspect of the church. In addition, a successful program would be able to meet people where they are currently at in their faith journey while challenging them to keep growing. This means having different opportunities and programs for people to partake in based on if they are more advanced in their faith, or fairly new. Finally, a discipleship program helps people navigate the world in which they live. It needs to be grounded in reality and the current day. It should help people see that God cares about the here and now and the Kingdom is already at work, and within this Kingdom, we each have a role to play.
Your members/guests come to church with specialized needs, different learning styles, and family stresses. Do you have a strategy to provide significant ministry to meet these needs?
This is an important topic to me because I have seen this first hand with the families we serve at Jill’s House. For families raising children with intellectual disabilities, they face a disproportionate amount of hardships and stress. They are exhausted, isolated, and hardly anything in society is created with their needs in mind. They have real struggles and challenges, and yet, far too often they have been abandoned by their family, friends, and even the Church. For me, it has been a reminder that if ministry is not meeting these kind of real needs, then we are falling short of what we are called to do. We can’t turn a blind eye to people just because their challenges are more difficult. These are the people who need Jesus the most. My strategy then is to do what I have learned to do at Jill’s House over the last 4 years – coming alongside the families I serve and meet them exactly where they are at, accepting the good, the bad, and the ugly. Then, trying to understand what would be most helpful to them in their current stage of life, and adapting my ministry to them. What I have cherished the most about my time at Jill’s House is knowing that I was a part of an organization that was making a tangible, significant, and immediate impact on the families we serve. I hope to always be able to say that about whatever ministry I work for next.
Describe the diversity of some of the ministries with which you’ve worked. How did you go about learning and educating yourself in order to effectively reach your community?
The population we serve at Jill’s House is very diverse. We have families of many different race, ethnic, and religious backgrounds. I have found the best way to educate myself is to listen to them and learn about their lives and their culture. I also try to read a lot and be diverse in my reading so I can understand other traditions and perspectives that I may not have. Most recently, I was able to lead a discussion group on The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby for the church I currently attend. While my church is mostly white, there was an interest and desire to better understand the racial tension the country has been facing and the role of the church To better prepare and educate myself before leading the group, I tried to read and absorb as much as I could from authors, pastors, and friends of color. It was very helpful to me and I think it was a really impactful experience for everyone who participated in the group.
Is there a process that you go through when choosing a platform for curriculum choices?
My process involves an internet search of topics I am thinking about, and an email/text sent to friends in ministry asking for recommendations of what they have done that has worked well. Then, I’ll usually narrow it down to a couple of choices and get feedback from a few people I trust.
What have you done in the past to ensure your church has a safe environment, including emergency procedures.
While I do not have much experience for this question within a church context, I do with my current role on the leadership team at Jill’s House. Once a year we have a risk assessment meeting where we go over every aspect of our organization to ensure we have a safe environment and emergency procedures in place. We research what other nonprofits are doing and best practices that are already being used. Then each of us come up with a plan for the areas we oversee and present that plan to the team. Adjustments are made as necessary and then the plan is put in place with assigned action steps and deadlines.
How would you describe the ideal relationship between senior/lead pastor and discipleship pastor?
The relationship should be a close one with the pastors working hand-in-hand towards a common goal. The senior pastor is the one who casts the vision for the church and the discipleship pastor creates opportunities to equip members to accomplish the vision. The pastors should be consistent in the topics they are focusing on and the objectives they are aiming for within the church. Beyond that, I would hope the relationship is a friendly and personal one. In the ideal relationship, the two get along well and enjoy working together. I think it would also be great if the discipleship pastor is able to learn a lot from the senior pastor and the experience and wisdom he brings to the table.

References

Dave Corlew || (847) 529-6284 || [email protected]
Brandon Massey || (847) 495-2830 || [email protected]
Dana Hecht || (703) 380-8862 || [email protected]
Jeff Hensley || (703) 461-9692 || [email protected]

Favorite Bible Story

The story of the resurrection of Lazarus

Favorite Scripture

Philippians 2:1-5