Thrive SoCal Breakout

Advanced Leadership Sessions

"The Day Before" // Wednesday, March 25
MARRIAGE CONFERENCE: Our Problem is Communication // Paul + Virginia Friesen

Communication is often cited as a source of conflict in marriages. Yes, our gender, temperaments, and family of origin all affect our communication. But, perhaps it is deeper…”Out of the heart the mouth speaks…” – perhaps we need heart surgery more than a lesson on communication.

Relationship Experts
Home Improvement Ministries


Drs. Paul and Virginia Friesen have been involved in Family Ministries for over 30 years through family camps, church staff positions, speaking, consulting and writing. As the founders and directors of Home Improvements Ministries, the Friesens regularly speak at men’s, women’s and marriage conferences in the US and internationally. They also have an ongoing ministry with several professional athletic teams.

MARRIAGE CONFERENCE: A Great Marriage: Harder than you thought…Easier than you think. // Paul + Virginia Friesen

Our expectations for marriage are quite high, but our experience often does not meet our expectations, which leads to dissatisfaction. Come discuss how any marriage, with two willing partners, can grow and flourish. It is actually easier than you think!

Relationship Experts
Home Improvement Ministries


Drs. Paul and Virginia Friesen have been involved in Family Ministries for over 30 years through family camps, church staff positions, speaking, consulting and writing. As the founders and directors of Home Improvements Ministries, the Friesens regularly speak at men’s, women’s and marriage conferences in the US and internationally. They also have an ongoing ministry with several professional athletic teams.

THRIVE ESPAÑOL: No somos dos mitades sino el doble de poder // Hector + Laura Teme




THRIVE ESPAÑOL: A partir de este día // Rudy + Tanya Paniagua

Compartiremos los principios bíblicos de cómo un matrimonio saludable puede ser una representación de la unidad en el liderazgo, donde tanto el esposo como la esposa co-lideran mientras atraviesan las dificultades y circunstancias de la vida al comprometerse a una comunicación abierta y resolver conflictos. Un matrimonio próspero requiere compromiso incluso cuando los cónyuges sienten lo contrario.



Rudy y Tanya tienen un fuerte amor por el ministerio y les apasiona ver a las personas convertirse en quien Dios los ha diseñado abrazando su pasado, creciendo en su presente y aspirando a ser los cambiadores del mundo para los que fueron creados. La transparencia es una de sus palabras favoritas y su franqueza sobre sus batallas y victorias les permite conectarse con otros mientras los dirigen a la esperanza de Jesucristo y su poder de redención, que han experimentado de primera mano en su propio matrimonio. La predicación y la enseñanza son su pasión como creen firmemente que la Palabra de Dios es la base de toda transformación.

Rudy y Tanya viven en Irvine y tienen cuatro hijos increíbles y una hermosa nuera. Hace un poco más de un año, se convirtieron en orgullosos abuelos de Julia Rose. Les encanta pasar tiempo juntos y disfrutan navegar por la vida con sus hijos y su nieta mientras descubren el propósito de Dios para sus vidas.


Becoming the Leader You Would Want to Follow // Andrew McCourt

Senior Pastor
Bayside Church

Andrew is one of the Senior Pastors at Bayside Church. He is married to Isabelle and together they have four children. Originally from Northern Ireland, he has been in active ministry for over 20 years and travels extensively sharing the Christian message in a creative, humorous and challenging style. He is committed first and foremost to building local churches and raising up multigenerational leaders. As the father of four children, life is never dull, however he still finds the time to enjoy running, mountains and French food!

The Art of Being Selfish // Chris Brown

Everyone says they want to be a healthy leader and have a healthy team, but that is an impossibility without learning the art of being selfish. Come hear why living a balanced life is not only a myth, but a dangerous trap, and get some practical help to make you a better healthy unbalanced leader.



Lead Pastor
North Coast Church

Chris Brown is one of the Lead Pastors at North Coast Church in Vista, California and one of the three Teaching Pastors. Along with being on the vision casting team, and providing directional leadership for the church, he also co-teaches a preaching course at Bethel Seminary. Chris loves bringing the Bible to life with his gifts as a communicator and storyteller, but most evident in his teaching is his passion for sharing a real and authentic journey with Jesus. Chris and his wife Amy have three children, two beautiful daughters, Sayla and Karis, and a crazy son named Barak. They plan as a family to stay involved in teaching, ministries, and fishing for as long as humanly possible.

Church Communications // CJ Alvarado + Haley Veturis

Organic reach on social media is not dead but it’s definitely declining. Is it still worth your time and effort? Absolutely. Learn how to effectively reach and engage your audience and turn them into an army for your church in this session.

Bayside Church
Bamboo Creative


CJ is a brand strategist and creative problem solver. He’s been known for his creativity, passion for innovation, and team- building prowess. He was recognized in the Business Journal’s 40 under 40 and voted top 10 most promising startups in Northern California by Velocity Ventures. For more than 15 years, CJ has been helping brands capture the attention of their customers and designing experiences that inspire them to take action.


Director of Digital Engagement
Bayside Church


Haley Veturis is the Director of Digital Engagement at Bayside Church. Prior to coming to Bayside, the SoCal native spent 8 years at Saddleback Church as the Social Media Manager. She has had the pleasure of training church leaders worldwide at various conferences both nationally and internationally.

Critical Conversations // Curt Harlow

How to help any couple, family member, team or friendship get better through better dialogue.

Senior Pastor
Bayside Church


Curt Harlow is one of the Senior Pastors of Bayside Church in the Sacramento area. Bayside is one of the fastest growing and innovative churches on the west coast with 20 weekly services, 7 campuses and 20,000 in regular attendance. Before coming to Bayside he spent almost three decades working with teens and 20 somethings as a missionary to college students. Curt communicates in a hilarious style that will make you laugh hard and then think even harder. Most of all, he will challenge you to find grace inspired ways to apply truth in everyday life. He has been married to Kelly, his graphic designer wife and partner in ministry, for over 30 years and they have three children.

Crafting Your Leadership Point of View // Dave Page

In this workshop, you will learn how to create your personal Leadership Point of View, your beliefs about leading and motivating people. This process will clarify your thoughts on leadership and will prepare you to teach your LPOV to others. Using a unique 7-step process you will learn to:

  • Identify the key influencers in your life and discover how their influences helped your LPOV evolve
  • Claim the core values that guide your behavior as a leader
  • Surface your beliefs about leading and motivating people

Saddleback Church


Dave Page is a Pastor at Saddleback Church, a Certified John Maxwell Trainer and a Leadership Coach to pastors and church planters. Dave started two churches that grew to over 1,000 people and teaches at conferences across the country. He has a passion for empowering people to reach their full potential. He also started an innovative Wedding Pastors Network for pastors to reach unchurched couples. Dave has an MBA in Leadership, an MDiv and is currently completing his Doctor of Ministry degree.

Embracing Tough Questions // Dena Davidson, M.A.

Are you paralyzed to share your faith? Do you avoid it because you’re afraid someone will bring up that tough question? I can relate. It used to keep me from sharing what I believe about God. But over time, I’ve learned to embrace tough questions. When I did, I discovered they unlock the very conversations with people about God and faith that I long to have. If you’re longing to share your faith with humble confidence and to create conversations our culture is dying to have, then join me in learning to embrace tough questions.


Discipleship Director
Thrive School

Dena has a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy from the University of Nevada, Reno and a Master’s degree in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Dena is married to her favorite person, Cheyne and are just beginning the grand adventure of parenting the wonderful Rylee Grace. Officially, she is Thrive School’s Discipleship Director. Unofficially her office is a place of laughter, crying and the peculiar mess of making disciples.

Divided States of America // Efrem Smith + Bob Balian

We live in an increasingly multiethnic and multicultural reality and yet we are deeply divided and polarized across race, class, and politics. This session will focus on leading within this reality as bridge builders, reconcilers, and voices of Kingdom justice.

Co-lead Pastor
Bayside Church, Midtown


Pastor Efrem Smith is an internationally recognized leader who uses motivational speaking and preaching to equip people for a life of transformation. He consults on issues of multi-ethnicity, leadership and community development. Pastor Smith is the former- president and CEO of World Impact, an urban mission, church planting and leadership-development organization. He is the current co-lead Pastor of Bayside Church, Midtown. He’s the author of several books, including his latest, “Killing Us Softly.” Pastor Smith is a graduate of Saint John’s University and Luther Theological Seminary. He received an honorary doctor of ministry degree from Ashland Theological Seminary and a doctorate in Church Leadership at Fuller Seminary.

Pastor Smith is married to Donecia and has two daughters. Pastor Smith is excited to a be a part of all that God is doing in and through Bayside. He and Pastor Bob are encouraged by the rapid growth on the Midtown campus and are eager to work together and share the love God throughout the Sacramento region.


Co-lead Pastor
Bayside Church, Midtown


Bob grew up in Sacramento, went to college at UCLA and returned to his hometown to be groomed to take over the family construction business. Letty was born in Mexico, raised in Northern California and is a successful Wardrobe and Lifestyle Consultant, along with her volunteer service at the church. They have a beautiful daughter, Taylor, who lives in Los Angeles. They also have many friends and family that long preceded the church. Bob and Letty love Sacramento and want to see it become a model city for taking care of its people. Sacramento is one of the most diverse cities in the country and Bayside Midtown – is a church that successfully embraces and celebrates diversity.

Taming the Top 12 Nonprofit Threats: Winning Strategies for Leaders // Elizabeth Maring

What if you could see into your nonprofit’s future and avoid costly leadership mistakes or missteps before they happened? What if the remedies you would need then are available right now? What if your organization was past worrying about money, enjoying competent, high integrity leadership and a board modeling effective oversight? What if your nonprofit was free from destructive conflicts, consistently making great hiring decisions and bursting with competent volunteers? What if your nonprofit was innovative and alert to disruptive trends coming its way? What if your nonprofit never had to face the pain of a public scandal or knew exactly what to do if it did?

In this session, Elizabeth Maring, an experienced nonprofit founder, leader, lawyer and volunteer will guide you through the top twelve threats to nonprofit success and sustainability and offer concrete steps to tame them. After this two-hour session you will know where to focus now to ensure that your nonprofit survives and thrives in the future.

Azusa Pacific University


Elizabeth Maring has a unique expertise derived from over 35 years of service to ministries and nonprofits at all levels. As a board member, lawyer, founder, leader and volunteer, she draws upon her experience within numerous organizations including Christian Leadership Alliance, Willow Creek Community Church and Heartland Community Church in Rockford, IL. She is currently a Trustee for Azusa Pacific University. From 2011 to 2018, Elizabeth founded and led a social enterprise in Arlington Heights, Illinois to produce over two million dollars in grants for Christian educational scholarships and homeless intervention. Nonprofit service is her passion. Her new book, Taming the Top Twelve Nonprofit Threats: Winning Strategies for Leaders will be published later this year.

The Grand Awakening // Larry Fowler

God has begun a powerful movement of intentional grandparenting that will continue to gain momentum for years to come. Would you like to be part of that movement? Would you like to learn how to more quickly and effectively awaken Christian grandparents in our country to be instruments of grace and truth, and influence the youngest generations? This breakout session is both for pastors who want to be more effective equippers and motivators of grandparents, and for grandparents themselves who desire to leave a legacy in their families.


Legacy Coalition


Larry Fowler is the founder of the Legacy Coalition. Under his leadership, the Legacy Coalition has inspired thousands of grandparents to become more intentional and has encouraged dozens of churches across America to launch grandparenting ministries. His ministry career includes 39 years with Awana as a missionary, international director, and Executive Director of Training. In 2012, he was recognized with a lifetime achievement award from the International Network of Children’s Ministry. He is the author of several books including his latest, Overcoming Grandparenting Barriers (Bethany House). He and his wife Diane reside in Riverside, California, and have two children and seven grandchildren.

A Gospel Centered Enneagram Approach to Healthy Staff Culture // Lynette Lynn

Whenever you bring different personalities with varying strengths, weaknesses, communication styles and preferences together, you can bet there will be challenges. Even when members of the group share a common vision, conflict can arise. All too often, we see how dysfunction plays out in the workplace, through individual relationships and team dynamics, stifling the effectiveness of the team. But the good news is that all groups can benefit from understanding the Enneagram, especially when it’s viewed through the lens of the Gospel. This tool shows us how to understand and appreciate the beautiful intricacies of our personalities as the unique individuals God designed us to be. It reveals how each personality type has its unique set of flaws, strengths, weaknesses and struggles and how we can navigate through those effectively.

Strengthen your team using the tool of a gospel centered Enneagram and watch your efficiency, productivity and employee satisfaction improve by getting people in the right seats and doing what they’re best at!

Enneagram Coach


With over 25 years working on a church staff and many years working in the mental health field as a nurse, Lynette is passionate about integrating those years of experience to equip others to live heathy and whole lives. Lynette feels a personal calling as a certified Enneagram Coach to share Gospel centered Enneagram insights and teach others how to use this powerful tool to walk in freedom and fullness of life, despite their past history or current circumstances.

Lynette has found the tool of the Enneagram to be a wonderful gift to strengthen communication and appreciate the beautiful uniqueness of her wonderful husband of 32+ years Bob, and their 5 kids and 4 grandkids.

Lessons from Disney: From the Magic Kingdom to God’s Kingdom // Mel McGowan

Discover how the unique gifts and processes of one of the world’s greatest storytellers have been made applicable to hundreds of ministries around the world. Mel McGowan, Disney alumni and Chief Creative Officer of Storyland Studios will demonstrate how the art of Imagineering and Spatial Storytelling has potential to create destinations that lift the spirit and architectural evangelism.

Master Planner & Designer
Churches in America


Mel McGowan is leading Master Planner & Designer of churches in America, having partnered with over 1000 ministries in the US and abroad. Mel spend a decade at Disney where he learned the art of “imagineering” and Spatial Storytelling. Today he is Chief Creative Officer and Co-Founder of Storyland Studios, a 90 person design and production firm consisting of several former Disney Imagineers, artists, architects and artisans who create “destinations that lift the spirit.” He is an Outreach Magazine columnist and author of “Design Like God Gives a Damn: Revolutionizing Sacred Space”.

Cultivating a Culture of Creativity via Pixar Animation Studios // Pete McGowan + Rich Hurrey

Learn how leading global storytellers such as Disney and Pixar have been able to carefully cultivate an ongoing culture of creativity, while encouraging risk-taking, criticism, and feedback.

Creative Principal & Chief Evangelist
PlainJoe Studios


Peter McGowan is one of the founders of PlainJoe and Storyland Studios. He is a chief champion for our clients and has never met a stranger. With a large capacity for out-of-the box thinking, he shows what design vocabulary looks like when it works across every experience Imaginable.

Working with companies like IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Disney, Universal & Lego – Peter’s background has a robust background in technology, art, and architecture which has equipped him to skillfully integrate these fields of design to tell immersive stories on the graphic and environmental stages.

Peter is a big believer in partnering with non-profit organizations to tell their stories with excellence and heart. At the end of the day, he loves spending time with his wife, Jennifer, and their three kids making memories that usually involve Lego sets, Star Wars, Disney, or all three



Rich Hurrey is the lead educator at Kitestring Inc, a Plain Joe company that is an online learning community designed to empower the current and next generation of artists and storytellers. He has been involved in the visual effects and animation industry for over 25 years with the last 13 years spent at Pixar Animation Studios.

Gospel-Centered Leadership // Ricky Jenkins


Senior Pastor
Southwest Church


Ricky Jenkins is the Senior Pastor of Southwest Church in Indian Wells, CA. Southwest is a thriving community of believers compelled by its vision to be a gospel-centered, multiethnic, intergenerational church that LOVES discipleship! Located in the heart of the Coachella Valley, Southwest is one of the fastest growing churches in the nation who have been praying fervently for revival in our times.

From his beginnings in Pearl, Mississippi, all the way to Oakland, California, to Memphis, Tennessee, and Chicago, Illinois, Ricky has been preaching the gospel for over 20 years. Fueled by Acts 20:28, Ricky is called to pursue God passionately and pursue God’s people compassionately for the glory and honor of Jesus Christ. With a shepherd’s heart, Ricky’s preaching weaves together biblical exposition, vivid illustration, heartfelt application, and an extra helping of humor with which to convey the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ.

Ricky is married to the light of his heart April Jenkins. Together they have three beautiful children—Camden, Grand, and Andi. Ricky is currently pursuing a PhD in Historical Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Chicago, IL. His research interests revolve around pastoral leadership, racial reconciliation, and issues of justice during the Civil Rights movement. The Jenkins’ have been serving in the Coachella Valley since January of 2018.

They enjoy opening their home to create safe spaces where the gospel can flourish and memories can be made.

Juggling Act // Thrive Worship




Thrive Worship, which started as the worship team for Bayside Church in Sacramento, CA, has quickly bloomed into a sprawling, eight-campus worship family whose songs and weekly Sunday night worship services are transforming their Northern California community. An ever-growing, ever-evolving group of diverse singers and musicians, Thrive Worship is writing new songs for the church that sing of a hope for the future and love for the Savior.

Principles for Getting, Building, and Guarding a Great Culture // Tim Stevens

Most church leaders received little or no training on how to build a healthy staff culture. This starts with being a healthy leader, but also speaks to hiring for culture and knowing how to identify someone who is toxic to your culture.

Tim Stevens spent 29 years leading in ministry settings—and has been involved in hiring more than 200 people. He led a team of 129 staff at Granger Community Church, and for the past 5 years he has helped pastors all across the country with staffing issues in his role at Vanderbloemen. In this session, Tim will share proven principles he practices for building and maintaining a great culture. 

Vice President of Consulting
Vanderbloemen Search Group


Tim brings more than twenty-five years of senior leadership ministry experience to the Vanderbloemen team. He joined Vanderbloemen from Granger Community Church where he served as the Executive Pastor for twenty years. He was a part of growing Granger from a church of 350 to over 6,000 with a staff of 125. Tim’s leadership helped Granger connect with people who think church is irrelevant. He did this through the creative blending of architecture, strategy, and technology. He was instrumental in balancing operations with building effective teams.

Tim is also a gifted writer with six published books on church vision and strategy including Simply Strategic Volunteers, Pop Goes the Church, and Fairness is Overrated. His newest book, Marked by Love: A Dare to Walk Away from Judgment and Hypocrisy, was released by Barbour Books in October 2018. He also writes on leadership through his blog

In his role as the Vice President of Consulting, Tim leads our team of Executive Search Consultants as they help churches find their key staff. Tim provides strategy, development, and overall direction to the Executive Search Consultants to ensure the Vanderbloemen Search Group process serves our clients and candidates as best as possible.

Tim and his wife, Faith, have four children and live in Houston, TX.