Author: Kyle Yarborough
I struggle with anxiety. At times, it can be severe. It can be debilitating and I can feel trapped or chained to a chair, unable to move. It can bring on nausea and headaches and it can cloud my judgement and thinking. It is also relatively common. About 40 million people are directly affected by anxiety each year in the US. That’s roughly 18% of the population. Less than a third seek out or receive treatment. Anxiety is yet another effect of sin in our world. For me, this struggle is a constant exercise in obedience and faith that my Father has my best interests at heart and that He is using my difficulties and trials to sanctify me.
Matthew 6:26-27 says “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” This is a daily reminder that worrying about moving halfway across the country, pursuing a new job, pouring into a new relationship, and all the other upcoming life changes cannot alter the path that He has determined for me. It is not mine to control. Believing that is difficult, but it brings a peace that only He can provide. It’s all too easy to get wrapped up in the patterns of this world and to start believing that success is determined by a number in your bank account, by the clothes you wear, or the car you drive.
David wrote in Psalm 27:1 that “the Lord is my light and my salvation — whom then shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life — of whom shall I be afraid?” More like, what then shall I fear; of what shall I be afraid? If I am not in control, then it does me no good to spend time fretting. This does not mean, “Don’t act.” It’s actually the opposite. Act in faith knowing that the Lord will guide you in his purposes, not allowing your heart and mind to be consumed by the temptations constantly before you. He is faithful to provide for those who live according to his word.
In 1932, just before the height of the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said in his first inaugural address that the “only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” He sought to embolden his people for what lay ahead and give them the confidence to face difficulty. It would be a trying time but eventually industrial production rose to levels higher than before. The jobs returned but the people’s fears turned from employment to the conflict at hand, World War II.
A lot of our daily worries tend to be about things with very little long-term significance. That’s not to say there aren’t significant things to worry about in life, but each of these is an opportunity to lay our concerns at Jesus’ feet. In Mark 4:35-41 we see the disciples afraid for their lives as their ship struggles to navigate a heavy storm. Jesus, however, was asleep in the stern. Frantically, they woke him and asked, “Teacher, do you not care if we drown?” He rose from where he slept and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” and the storm dispersed. He then asked his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”, and they were terrified, asking each other “Who is this? Even the wind and waves obey him!” Our prayer should then be “I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).
Too often, we carry irrational fears of things out of our control. We will always be able to find something to be fearful about. The Lord freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt but we struggle to trust him to provide for some of our most basic needs. There is little doubt that the onset of World War II struck fear and uncertainty in the hearts of the American People. So is fear truly something to fear? It is, but only when we fear the wrong things. Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” My takeaway? Fear the right things. Fear of my circumstances gets me nowhere. To fear God is to desire to live in harmony with His righteous standards and to honor him through my actions. There is peace and sanctification in that.
Like the disciples, when we see Christ display His power over our circumstances, we fear them less, and we learn to fear Him more.
Every day, over 10,000 employees and hundreds of patients and families across numerous healthcare facilities rely on the leadership of Texas BYX alumnus Craig Cordola, who serves as the president of the central and west regions of Memorial Hermann Health System. Cordola, who has been with Memorial Hermann for nearly 13 years, points to BYX as a “training ground for leadership” that helped to shape him into the influential professional he is today.
“Actually being trained up as a leader of men really translates into the workplace to where I really try to show up every day and it’s not about me,” Cordola said. “It’s about how can we make people better and how can I both lead with integrity and as an example of what it looks like to be a leader of the people and for the people rather than over people.”
Craig’s experience as a member of BYX is not uncommon. Alumni brothers look back on their time as members of BYX fondly, acknowledging how the Lord prepared them for their future through the fraternity. Current brothers are in the midst of being shaped into the professionals, husbands, church members and fathers that they will be. While active membership in BYX is intended for a specific time and place, the impact of Beta Upsilon Chi stretches well beyond BYX.
Britt Hatcher, a member of the Nu Chapter, also serves as the president of an on-campus service organization focused on caring for underprivileged children in Nashville. As Britt serves beyond BYX, he sees how the fraternity has made him more effective in his other roles.
“It showed me that it’s not about you,” Hatcher said. “It’s not about how it makes you feel. It’s not about how it fits into your schedule. It’s more of a lifestyle of learning to give your self up daily to benefit other people. If I hadn’t seen that example modeled by older guys in BYX, I don’t know if I would have come upon it or if I would still be viewing service something as primarily for me.”
Men walk out of BYX ready to contribute elsewhere. Nowhere is that more evident than in the church. TCU alumnus Cody Dick believes that BYX equips men to make an immediate impact on their church, small group and community.
“It’s invaluable to churches around the country to have men coming in at age 22, 23, 24 who can be a vibrant and active part of their church who have some of this training at their back where a lot of people never get that their entire life,” Dick said.
“I think as men we are called to be leaders of the home and often called to be leaders of the workplace,” Cordola said. “While that’s not the sole purpose of BYX, I do think that that’s an outcome of BYX.”
As we close out another semester, the national advisors looked back on the moments that made the fall great. Here are the memories that stood out most to them.
One of my favorite weekends of the fall semester is always National Officer Training. For an entire weekend, we as a staff, with the Board of Directors, get the opportunity to throw all the wisdom and teaching we can throw out to the top leaders for this coming year, and we don’t have many opportunities like it. One of the best times of the weekend for me is worshipping with the 200-plus officers, and I am always encouraged by the passion of these men as they pursue Jesus. National Officer Training is definitely the busiest weekend of the year, and we are always sick for a week after it, but I am always encouraged by the love and passion these leaders have for this fraternity as they pursue Christ.
This semester was full of ups and downs, as anything in life is. Every time there was a down, God met me there with a reminder of His faithfulness. Greater highs overshadowed the lows this year. One of my favorite highlights of this semester was National Officer Training. I obviously enjoyed all of my chapter visits but it would be impossible to choose only one to talk about. One of the coolest things for me at Officer Training was being able to spend time with all of my chapters during the same weekend. At National Officer Training, I was able to work with the chapter presidents. This was an awesome opportunity for me to teach and answer questions. Personally, this was exciting for me since just a couple of years ago I was sitting in a room similar to them, learning how to properly lead my chapter.
This may be a cop-out, but the highlight of my semester was a chartership ceremony. This semester, I had the honor of chartering the Chi Chapter at the University of Mississippi. It was especially surreal because of the number of dedicated alumni who came back, some shedding tears of joy at the occasion. Working with the Ole Miss Chapter for the past two-and-change years has been an adventure. There have been plenty of ups and downs, but it was a proud moment to see them achieve this level of recognition. All of the National Staff before me invested heavily into this chapter, and I’d like to thank them all. All of the members who helped set the foundation for this accomplishment deserve recognition too. But in this celebration, the chapter must remember that this achievement is not the finish line, but only the beginning of greater things to come.
Zach Van Meter
I attended the Alpha Theta Chapter at Yale University for the first time this past semester and had a blast. Not only was the campus tour really cool but also getting to meet and know the brothers and how they do BYX at their campus was intriguing. Yale is definitely a different campus culture compared to the south, yet these men are furthering the same purpose established for BYX around the nation regardless of the challenges they face. I also had the privilege of getting to see and help set up their new BYX house on fraternity row! This is a solid add to the chapter and has already been productive in hosting brotherhood events for the brothers and open parties for the campus. I’m looking forward to visiting these brothers again and rallying up for spring rush and pledgeship.
One of my favorite moments of the semester happens to be one that went well off our plan and was changing up until the moment it happened. During the summer, Blake Hankins posed the idea of creating an initiation ceremony for each BYX officers that would take place at National Officer Training. What that conversation led to evolved into an experience that has now set a precedent for years to come and will hopefully serve as a reminder throughout this coming year of the significance of the commitments that they have made before the Lord, to their brothers and to themselves. That feeling I had while looking out at more than 200 men taking their oath in unison around the fires is not one quickly forgotten.
Texas BYX founder Wendel Weaver, who works as a business professor at Oklahoma Wesleyan University, took the stage late Friday night at the opening night of National Officer Training to deliver his most important teaching session of the year.
“Something was missing,” Weaver said dramatically.
There was a tangible weight to Weaver’s words as he began to describe the need that he and the other founders identified on the campus of the University of Texas and challenge the 2016 officers to take the torch on their campus. This is the weekend that would prepare 215 men to lead BYX into 2016.
On November 20-22, the fraternity’s newly elected officers came together for a weekend intended to develop a greater understanding of the fraternity’s purpose, equip officers for their specific roles and generate excitement for the next year. Here is how the National Staff and Board of Directors set out to achieve those goals this year.
Understanding the Purpose
Many of the main stage sessions from National Officer Training provided a deep look into the purpose of BYX. Each teacher looked at our goal of establishing brotherhood and unity under the common bond of Jesus Christ from a unique perspective.
Weaver’s Friday night session set the table for the weekend by helping the men to see the need for BYX on their campus and by painting a picture for how important their roles are.
One of the most emotional moments of the weekend came when TCU Founders Jon Sherman and Kyle Kight took the stage to describe what lifelong brotherhood has looked like over the 25 years they have known each other. During the course of the talk, Sherman described how Kight stood by him through emergency open-heart surgery. He was able to return the favor when Kight’s 11-year-old daughter was diagnosed with lung cancer. She was declared cancer free recently.
Sherman and Kight are living and breathing embodiments of what brotherhood and unity should look like in the lives of our men. Their real life examples pushed the men to lead in a way that cultivates these types of relationships in their chapters.
National Director Brian Lee finished Saturday’s main stage sessions by speaking on the cost of leadership. In order to develop brotherhood and unity, Lee challenged the officer to be together in unity, sacrifice, commitment and love. The officers left the session with a greater understanding of the high calling placed on their lives as officers in BYX.
Equipping for specific roles
Officers went through a number of breakout sessions intended to leave them with a strong grasp on their roles. Board members led sessions on the fraternity’s key success factors, and the officers attended the session most pertinent to their roles.
Each officer attended a series of sessions for their specific roles. They were broken down into four different sessions focused on why their position matters, how to do their job and what other chapters are doing.
A new addition to the officer position breakouts was the size-specific session. For two hours, the officers were broken into smaller groups based on the number of members in their chapter. The groups, ranging in size from 10 to 15 officers, allowed the men to dialogue about the specific issues that chapters of their size are facing. These new sessions allowed the National Staff and Board of Directors to better tailor the information for these officers.
On top of leaving National Officer Training with vast amounts of new information, the new officers should leave with a renewed fervor for BYX. Some of that comes from opportunities to enjoy the brotherhood.
Throughout the weekend, brother chapter pairs competed in a series of competitions known as battle of the brethren. The pinnacle of battle of the brethren each year is the dodgeball tournament. This year, dodgeball was held under the lights of the outdoor courts on Saturday night. The team of Auburn and Clemson won dodgeball, and the same pair ultimately ended up winning battle of the brethren.
One of the annual highlights of National Officer Training is the chance to worship in song with a room full of brothers from across the country. This year, the Jeff Johnson Band led worship over the course of the weekend.
Following Brian Lee’s Friday night talk, the men spent time praying and reflecting on his challenge, as well as worshipping in song. Board members spread around the room for brothers who wanted to talk and pray with an older brother.
The weekend proved to be a huge success. The National Staff and Board of Directors are excited to see where these officers take BYX in 2016!
The greatest baseball game I have ever attended was Game 2 of the American League Championship Series in 2011. The Texas Rangers and the Detroit Tigers were locked in a 3-3 game in the bottom of the 11th. Nelson Cruz steps up to the plate with no outs and the bases loaded needing only a single to win the ballgame. The crowd was going absolutely crazy cheering “CRUUUUUUZZZZZ!” Nelson sent a high fastball over the left field seats for a game winning grand slam.
It was the first recorded walk-off grand slam in MLB postseason history. The crowd went nuts and exited the ballpark in a frenzy of “CRUUUZZZZ” chants. It was an incredible adrenaline rush as a fan unlike anything I have experienced at a baseball game.
National Officer Training is lot like this baseball game. Newly-elected officers arrive expecting to learn a little bit about their role as an officer next year and leave with a much bigger picture of the history, vision and future of the fraternity. Over 200 leaders from 33 BYX chapters and 3 prospective chapters will gather this weekend to worship the Lord together while learning from one another. This is the single most important weekend each year for the fraternity. The purpose of National Officer Training is threefold:
- To cast vision for the fraternity
- To generate excitement
- To equip the officers to carry forth the vision in their roles
Officers will hear from some of the top leaders in the fraternity. Chairman of the Board and BYX Founding Father Wendel Weaver will lead off the vision casting by talking about why BYX exists. He always has some incredible stories to share with the men of how the vision came to be and how the fraternity was founded.
TCU Founders and current board members Jon Sherman and Kyle Kight will share the vision for a lifelong brotherhood through their personal stories of founding the Beta Chapter at TCU and their relationship since the founding 25 years ago.
National Director Brian Lee will challenge the men in their spiritual leadership on Saturday night, and I will finish off the weekend talking about the role of Nationals in the life of our local chapters. Everything we do at National Officer Training will seek to promote and display brotherhood and unity based on the common bond of Jesus Christ.
National Officer Training is a working retreat. However, it truly is a ton of fun. Officers get to learn from one another through competition and conversation. Throughout the weekend, brothers will compete in the Battle of the Brethren. The competition allows the men to physically breakdown some barriers between different chapters and between one another in order for each individual to experience the weekend to the max.
Chapters will celebrate the success of BYX together through our annual award ceremony in which we highlight and honor chapters that have excelled in various areas in the past year. All in all, officers leave after building new bonds of brotherhood with men that they never met before but share the same passion for brotherhood and unity in Christ.
Equipping the Officers
As we move throughout the weekend, the focus will narrow in scope. Officers will hear from various board members and prominent alumni about why their role as an officer is important.
They will attend sessions about the fraternity’s key success factors. These are the things that we have identified as necessary elements for successfully establishing brotherhood and unity in Christ. We must do these things exceptionally well.
Officers will spend several hours talking to one another about best practices for leading the fraternity and challenges faced chapters of various sizes. Officers will learn from their training manuals what is expected of them to fulfill each of the officer positions well. Officers will leave National Officer Training with a firm understanding of their role as a leader in the fraternity.
National Officer Training is much more than learning a little bit about BYX. National Officer Training is a catalyst to a successful year in leadership for every one of our local chapters. We have been praying and working toward November 20, 2015 since the last officer training ended in 2014. We are praying for the hearts and minds of our men to come together to grow in brotherhood and unity in Christ together.
We will be blessed with Dove Award winner Jeff Johnson leading our men in worship this weekend. We are praying and asking the Lord to move in the hearts of our men, grow us in unity as a fraternity and that we may leave National Officer Training in pursuit of Christ and ultimately His vision for BYX on our campuses. In so many ways, we desire for National Officer Training to be a walk-off grand slam weekend for Beta Upsilon Chi where our men walk away with a fervor for BYX that they have never had before.
Key Success Factors: Executing pledgeship and recruitment in a manner that sets up BYX for long-term success.
Having established why pledgeship is a key success factor for BYX, we hope to get into the weeds a little bit and examine how our chapters can effectively execute pledgeship and recruitment.
While thinking about how to create a pledgeship process that both glorifies the Lord and lays down a great foundation for the future of the chapter, it begins with recruitment. A lack of recruitment will lead to a low number of pledges which significantly hinders the pledge class from doing events together that bring the chapter together and also influence the campus. It takes a significant effort by the entire chapter to bring in both the quantity and quality of pledges that the chapter needs to fulfill the purpose of the fraternity.
Recruiting begins and ends with relationships. Relationships are the most essential element of recruiting efforts. So before I delve into many practical points for efficient recruiting, understand that all recruiting is centered around relationships. Good events, organization and advertising can only go so far. Take time to invest in people and build a connection. Recruiting = Relationships.
Have a product worth commitment.
Bottom line is everything you do as a chapter either positively or negatively affects your recruiting efforts. You are constantly selling yourself to your campus, so be aware of the campus perception of BYX and try your best to make sure that’s a positive perception. Don’t worry to an unhealthy point. Our job is to limit that negativity and love well within it. If we strive for quality within all facets of the brotherhood, positive momentum will be captured. Quality matters.
Gain commitment from brothers.
Create a standard for the brothers in recruiting potentials that is extended outside of Rush Week. You cannot reach the chapter’s potential in recruitment if you rely solely on the efforts of a small group of brothers from the pledge team or recruitment committee. All brothers have to be involved in recruitment at some level. I suggest that chapters start a standard of excellence, which encourages each brother to invest in 1-2 potentials throughout the year, prior to rush. For smaller and developing chapters I suggest 2-4 potentials per brother. Notice the key terminology here is INVEST, not invite. It is easy and impersonal to invite. That’s average. For greater results brothers need to buy into this concept of investment over invitation
Organize and Connect.
It is of utmost importance that you create a recruitment database. Make a Google doc with the following information on potential pledges:
- Phone Number
I would also suggest that you group the men based on their interest in BYX. This allows you to be more proactive with connecting with potentials and also alleviates the possibility of missing guys in the recruiting process. You can tailor certain recruiting events and efforts to specific guys and groups. You can send certain guys to the right people to ensure the best results. By doing this you’re less likely to forget about connecting with certain potentials.
It makes the process of recurring contact much easier. After you have spent time with a potential (recruiting event, dinner, etc.), follow up through email, text, phone call or letter. Thank you notes and update texts are a nice touch and will help you engage more with men considering the fraternity. Details in these relationships are important and can set BYX apart from other fraternities who are recruiting these men.
Advertise and Promote.
Doing a small handout with rush information and contact information works well. Nationals has made this easier than ever by creating a template in which you will be able to input your rush week information through the BYX website. If you make a flyer and it is well put together, make sure it is placed in high-traffic areas.
If your chapter is going to do a social media campaign, make sure the brothers share, retweet and like it on their pages since they are likely going to have a more direct connection to the target audience. If your chapter’s social media page is filled with great content but it doesn’t have a prominent following or the right followers then it could be pretty ineffective. Overall, remember to be professional and intentional with all promotional content.
There are two pieces that make the pledge interviews a success:
- Finding out if the guy has a relationship with the Lord.
- Getting to know the guy on a personal level.
The key to this is listening. Allowing the potential to share his faith and answer the questions provided by the pledge captain will give you all the information you will need to extend a bid or have a follow-up interview.
The Pledgeship Semester
Now this is arguably the most influential aspect in building into the future success or failure in your chapter. Having a pledgeship process that promotes servant-leadership by active members and a healthy amount of requirements for the pledges will have them leaving initiation ready to pour into the chapter the next semester.
A hierarchical-style chapter with the pledges being demeaned while promoting minimal investment by the pledges will give these potentially future members excuses to either drop during the semester or not graduate as an active member. A Kingdom-minded fraternity will, in some ways, go against what the world thinks of when they hear “fraternity.” Actives serving the pledges will give each pledge a glimpse into how to be an active come initiation night.
When I was pledge captain, a pledge told me at initiation night that, “this was the best experience that I would rather not have to do again.” That told me that it was difficult enough to garner an investment, while also promoting an environment that was God-glorifying and enriching to the pledge.
As I have stated before, great recruitment will be the primary thrust that will drive the semester. Invest into the potential members, and you will (most likely) reap great results. The goal is to find the next generation of members who will lead your chapter forward. Remember, if you don’t do anything else during pledgeship, do these three things:
- Recruit as many men who love the Lord as you can.
- Give them a pledgeship semester that allows them to invest into the chapter
- Foster a culture within the chapter to promotes actives serving the pledges.
Doing those well will greatly enhance your chapter’s success in fulfilling our purpose of brotherhood and unity in Christ on college campuses.
I was talking by the time I was eight months old. I have been trying to get the last word ever since. My parents would say one thing, and, without fail, I would always have a response as if they needed the perspective of a child to help them make a better decision. I always had to interject my perspective into the situation. Some things never change.
I was always popping off, trying to convince my parents to see my side, pointing out the flaws in their thinking or just generally being disrespectful. But it didn’t matter because ultimately I never had the last word as long as I was under the roof of my parents.
As for our vertical relationship with Jesus, it works in a similar manner. These kids down here will pop off. The world will always have an opinion. We personally will deal in lies. Regardless of what the world, our peers or even our own minds have to say, Jesus gets the last word. Under his roof, what He says goes.
Look at Romans 8:31-34
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
God is the one who has declared us to be in right standing with Him, and He is the only one who has the authority to do so. No one has the right to condemn us, and we need to really abide in that truth in this day and age.
If you don’t believe that, just look around. It’s heartbreaking to see the way that people, each made in God’s image, interact with each other. When we fail to see eye-to-eye with each other, our initial inclination is often to discredit the other person by name calling and stigmatizing. If you’re too conservative you’re bigoted, narrow-minded and stupid. If you’re too liberal you’re immoral, hypocritical and illogical.
It’s so easy to get beat down by the opinions that are flying around our culture. Thanks to the plethora of information at our fingertips, we can learn how stupid we are with just a few keystrokes. It feels like we need to develop the skin of an elephant every time we go into the world or hop online, or we will be eaten alive.
Speaking from experience, the condemnation and negative talk doesn’t end when you withdraw. I can be harder on myself than anyone. I have a way of remembering things that others don’t and then heaping condemnation on myself for situations that have been long since forgotten by others or situations that haven’t even happened. I feed myself lies and pile on shame and condemnation.
But Jesus gets the last word. When He has every right and reason to convict and condemn, He loves and lifts up. He doesn’t put out a smoldering wick. We abide in the fact that The Lord has spoken and decided who we are and where we stand.
The rest of the noise has to be blocked out. Why should we give any relevance to the words of fallen man, be it ourselves or others, when the God who used His words to speak creation into existence says we are loved, righteous and forgiven?
So try this: if a thought or comment doesn’t align with what The Lord would have to say, then just let it roll off you. Test everything. Hold onto what is true. Under God’s roof, he has the final say. And that is great news for us.
I squatted over the telephone pole attempting to get my right foot on the top of the pole next to my left foot. I was 40 feet above the ground and the pole was shaking more than I would have preferred. I made the decision to just go for it and in all in one step I placed my right foot at the top of the pole and jumped out towards the trapeze swing. My left hand hit the trapeze but my right hand never made it over with my slightly awkward jump from the pole.
The Colorado portion of the COR Leadership Retreat isn’t about having success in every activity that we participate in; it’s about stretching yourself to try activities that you normally wouldn’t try. We certainly had that opportunity last week as we stretched ourselves on the giant swing, the zip line, rock climbing, peaking a summit at 12,500 feet in elevation and conquering the rapids of the Taylor River. Each experience is designed to grow the brothers in the purpose of the fraternity.
Men are not naturally willing to share their hearts with one another quickly. We need a shared experience, a common bond through activities in which we grow closer to one another. Colorado gives them the shared experience where brothers learn to trust one another on a much deeper level.
Mixed throughout the week were guided reflections times where brothers had the opportunity to reflect on their sessions from the prior week and seek the Lord in the vastness of the mountains. The Lord used those times to pursue the hearts of our men, and that became clearly evident as brothers grew closer to one another throughout the week. Debrief groups became deeper in conversation as brothers opened up about challenges and issues happening in their lives.
The brothers had the privilege of hearing from TCU BYX Founder Chuck James on the first night in Colorado. He shared with the brothers about the cost of leadership. He spoke on the importance of unity from John 17 and that unity requires a sacrifice. Chuck demonstrated his sacrifice in sharing with us some of his life challenges that often times prevent him from physically feeling well. The time inspired the brothers and challenged them in their leadership.
The brothers had the privilege of hearing from Texas A&M alumnus and board member David Pearson on the leader and the heart. David shared his personal testimony with the men and challenged them to learn from his experiences in life. He challenged the men to think deeply about the things we are tightly holding onto in our lives right now. We threw those challenges off the 12,500 feet Summit Peak together and continued on to share them with one another in our debrief groups.
The final night left a lasting impression on the brothers as we gathered for two hours in our debrief groups to encourage one another. Each brother had the chance to share a word of encouragement to each brother. I personally left deeply encouraged by the words my brothers shared as we got to know one another over the 11 days. We finished the evening in prayer and worship under the make shift lanterns of a cell phones and Nalgene bottles.
In the words of UTC Founder Scottie Hill, who attended the retreat, “There was not a brother who walked way from the experience unchanged, and certainly not a brother who regretted attending. It was one of the most formative experiences of my life to date, and I am pumped to see the lasting effects on my walk with Christ, my leadership in the fraternity and my impending excursion into the real world.”
When the opportunity presents itself in life, there are times where you just have to jump off the pole to experience all that God has for you.
Our third annual COR Leadership Retreat officially came to a close last week. As our 26 brothers left the mountains of Colorado to return to their respective campuses, the process of reflecting upon their experience has in many ways just begun.
It is nearly impossible to effectively share about the significance of our annual COR Leadership Retreat to those who have not had the privilege of participating in the experience. This is my third year to be a part of COR, and each year it seems to get bigger and better. Although I feel hardly capable of scratching the surface of the experience that was the Houston portion of this year’s retreat, I will attempt to paint a picture.
Our Houston crew had the privilege of getting to share in some experiences that few men will ever get to enjoy. Where else can 12 leaders representing 10 BYX chapters sit in a boardroom overlooking the city of Houston from 30 floors off the ground as they hear about integrity from Brett Williams, the founding president of our Gamma Chapter and a BYX board member?
Where else could these same young men spend an afternoon sitting at the feet of the pastor of Houston’s First Baptist Church, learning about life from a seasoned minister of one of the largest churches in one of the most populated cities in our nation? Where else could this crew go to the rooftop of this church and, as a group, pray in every direction over the lost and hurting people of the city?
Where else could this group of young men representing so many different states and schools get a behind-the-scenes tour of one of the busiest hospitals on the planet, with the former CEO of that same hospital, who happens to be a former board member and BYX alumnus from our Alpha Chapter?
Or where else would it be possible for these guys to take an all expense paid tour to one of the most respected museums in the country paid for by a board member of the museum who also happens to be a faithful donor and supporter of BYX.
And last but not least, where else could a group like this stop in Corsicana, Texas to take a tour of one of the most famous bakeries in all the land, given by a recent BYX alumnus and current vice president of Collin Street Bakery Thomas McNutt.
The group also had the privilege of sharing dinner with families of board members, hearing from other recent alumni and spending half a day hearing about life, work and family from another alumnus who is partner of a large oil and gas consulting firm. Needless to say, if it were not for COR, none of these experiences would have been possible for these men.
COR is one of the most significant events that we have the privilege of hosting each year. It is amazing to watch what happens when young men catch a larger vision for life. As our COR participants get a front row view into the lives of many successful BYX alumni, they can’t help but be inspired. When I say successful, I not only refer to success in their careers and ministries, I am also talking about the way they lead their families and give of what they have to the Kingdom.
As our men walk away from COR each year, they walk away with minds blown and hearts full. As they get a glimpse of the possibilities of Kingdom life, purpose and impact after college, they walk away changed by that vision that has been modeled by so many different men in their various spheres of influence. COR allows the leadership of BYX at the highest level to invest in many of our future leaders in a way that is life-changing. And if I’m honest, I too am walking away from this year’s COR Leadership Retreat changed.
Some moments and experiences are difficult to explain. I have told my share of stories that ended with me conceding that you just had to be there. The COR Leadership Retreat is one of those things. On my best day, as a graduate of a top-tier journalism school, I don’t think I can appropriately encapsulate the broad spectrum of emotions, lessons and experiences from those five days in a blog. I will try, but you just had to be there.
The third annual COR Leadership Retreat brought one huge change with it; The group was divided in half and split between Houston and Dallas/Fort Worth. Historically the retreat has started in Houston, moved to DFW and then on to Colorado. The National Staff and Board of Directors decided to try something different by having two smaller, more intimate groups go through professional and leadership development sessions in separate cities.
For the Dallas/Fort Worth group, the smaller group size helped to quickly foster unity and continuity within the group as a whole. Everyone seemed to connect with their brothers in large part because there were fewer men to get to know. They were all on the same page with the same common focus for COR.
All the men were there with a clear desire to develop new friendships with brothers from other chapters and to grow as leaders. It didn’t hurt that the entire group could fit in one 15-passenger van either as we trekked around the metroplex to visit the places of employment of the alumni who hosted sessions in their offices.
The schedule for the week set up the men to connect quickly. After Texas A&M BYX alumnus and Board Member Loren Hsiao led the retreat’s first session at his Northwestern Mutual Office in Allen, Texas, he and his family hosted the brothers at their home.
The evening was the perfect opportunity for the men to lay a foundation relationally for the rest of the trip. Loren, an avid basketball player, organized a four-on-four basketball tournament, which became the main event for the evening. Some brothers played washers with Loren’s sons, threw Frisbees and swam.
Tuesday night looked similar to Monday when Baylor BYX alumnus Todd Tramonte, who owns a real estate company in Plano, taught a session and hosted the men at his house. Todd invited a handful of other Baylor BYX alumni over. These men have managed to maintain their close relationships with each other well after graduation. Some of them are involved at the same church and are part of the same small group.
Todd and the Baylor brothers encouraged the men to invest in the relationships they have in their chapter by sharing how much their friendships mean to them. It was a beautiful and encouraging picture of the lifelong brotherhood and unity under Christ that BYX can produce.
That’s one thing that separates COR from so many other leadership and professional development opportunities: the heart. The numerous alumni went beyond just trying to impart professional wisdom. They were intent on sharing their hearts with the brothers, opening up about their failures and successes as brothers, fathers, husbands and employees. Nothing was off the table, and the authenticity of the session leaders left a mark on the attendants.
Each evening, the attendants had the opportunity to recap the day in their breakout groups. Five attendants and a staff member would get together to talk through what stood out. As the week went on, the men opened up more and more, sharing thoughts and struggles as well as posing challenging questions. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to work with the men in my group.
On Thursday night, the Houston attendants (recap coming Wednesday) traveled to DFW and met the DFW group at the TCU intramural fields for some ultimate frisbee. After a few moments of the groups staring each other down like Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly in “Step Brothers,” they greeted each other with holy kisses, figuratively of course, or was it…
Friday brought with it an opportunity for the attendants to sit under some of the fraternity’s oldest brothers. With that came a wide range of emotions. I swung from choking back tears to laughing uncontrollably over the course of just a few minutes.
The day started with Christian Pinkston, an alumnus of the Alpha Chapter who was a part of one of the first pledge classes. He shared what he has learned over the last year-and-a-half from his two near-death experiences that occurred within 48 hours of each other. Alpha Chapter Founder David Daniels, a pastor in Fort Worth, followed that afternoon. Daniels hit the men with a challenging barrage of wisdom and Scripture, encouraging them to evaluate their theology on many levels.
For the final session before hopping on the bus for an overnight drive to Colorado, TCU Founders Jon Sherman and Kyle Kight spoke on the importance of cultivating relationships with your brothers. The men shared what it has been like to walk through life and hardship together. It’s one thing to hear conceptually about lifelong brotherhood. It’s another to hear from men who have been there for each other through heart surgery and a child’s cancer diagnosis.
But you probably just had to be there.