Julie: What if God put a really big dream in your heart and it started to roll and then he had you pick up and move your whole family. Well, we are going to be talking about that today on the Modern Motherhood Podcast. I’m your host, Julie Lyles Carr. I am thrilled to have Jennie Allen with us today Jennie is an author and many of you most likely know her as the founder of the IF:Gathering which is going to be coming up here in just a couple of weeks. We have a fantastic conversation about what Jennie’s path to starting the IF:Gathering was, what that all looked like, how she’s navigated a recent move. How many of you mom’s have been there? When you’ve had to pick up and move your kids, everything, and we have a lot of great dialogue and conversation about how important it is when God gives you a big dream to make sure and go small. Jennie’s up next.
Julie: Jennie Allen! I can’t thank you enough for joining us today. How are you?
Jennie: I’m doing great.
Julie: You’ve got an exciting year coming up, the year’s going to get off to a fast start because what looks to be one of your busiest month of the year is coming up fast. Jennie is the founder of IF:Gathering which is an amazing gathering of women. When did you kick this off? Give us some back story on how this whole idea came together and what you’ve seen and how it’s developed over the years?
Jennie: This is going to be our 5th year and I cannot believe I’m saying that. This has gone so quickly. But it’s been a beautiful thing. I think there was a craving for just what is it looked like for women to come together where they are and go deep and really seek God together. What happened was there was a group of us doing that. I have several friends that were hungry to see that their lives counted and actually the name IF comes from the idea if God is real then what? How do we live? That idea haunts me you know as a generation I want us to do our jobs well. If we are just here for a short time then the way I’m wired is I want to make the absolute most of that. I looked around and I thought, are we being absolutely serious about the things of God? Are we being serious about how short our lives are and making sure that we’re making a difference?
What happened was we put that out on the internet and it kind of blew up. A lot of people resonated with the question. A lot of people resonated with the question and the deep desire to come together with their friends and neighbors. We had a vision, not to take IF:Gathering to big stadiums and fill them up and bring everybody, but to actually give a resource to people to use in their homes and their churches, on their campuses. We asked women all over the world to lead for us. Will you host an event in your home? And they did. It’s beautiful. We have IF:local leaders, thousands of them all around the world and so pretty instantly we were able to reach a lot of the world, which was a phenomenal feat, but it was deeper than hosting a conference. These were women that say I want to lead in my place, I want to bring women together, I want to love them the way that Jesus has loved me, but I need a place to start. think we found a place to dream together and to encourage each other in a pretty cynical world and a pretty cynical time.
What’s happening is it’s just been this contagious thing that has spread and it’s so cool when you work with God because he does things beyond anything you could actually dream. The numbers and breadth Breath of this thing a pretty crazy but to me the most powerful part by far is the fact this is actually changing people’s lives. Women are becoming leaders when they were afraid and shut down, they are encountering Jesus for the first time and they’re taking Jesus to their friends and their neighbors. There is a beauty to putting something out there and you think, you know, how can you reach the world and how could it ever change lives and it’s actually been one of the most miraculous things I’ve ever seen.
Julie: It’s so cool. The whole weekend is very catalytic. It’s not just the people on campus. You guys are streaming this as well, so talk about what those stats look like on that weekend and for our listeners, you know, IF is coming up on February 9th and 10th, but we also want to talk about what extends beyond IF, but tell us about the weekend and what those numbers look like?
Jennie: Right. Well we sell out in about 5 minutes every year, and of course, people are like, well then make it bigger! Bring it to stadiums. But that has never been the vision. The vision has always been to put it in the hands of people to host in their homes. We really believe this is a generation that doesn’t want to be one of the masses, they really want to reach their neighbors and their friends, they want to be in living rooms, they want to have deep talks about God. They want to have a very authentic experience and have great teaching. They don’t just want to sit in the stands, they want to actually be part of the game and so what I love is that all across the world these women have done that.
I mean it’s crazy. Probably over 2,000 events live happening at the same time, hundreds, if not thousands, more happen after the weekend is over. We’re reaching upwards of half a million people to a million people. It’s hard to track because we just put it out there. So it’s hard to even really guess at how many people are part of it, but it’s special because I think you know right now we’re looking at a world that is divided. It’s about a politically but the church is also divided. And for one weekend it’s all about Jesus and we focus on the scriptures and we teach out of the scriptures. This year we are doing 2 Timothy. The two things we hold tightly are simple and pure. We don’t want to complicate things. Sometimes the church does have to deal with complicated issues, we know that and yet we can stay simple and pure because we’re hosting a weekend about Jesus and the Bible. It’s a beautiful thing to bring together people of different denominations and just for a few days to have a lot of believers in unison worshipping God and considering how we can spend our lives well.
Julie: I love that heartbeat. My word for 2018 is Clarity and when you said simple and pure I was like that’s the definition of clarity. I love it, that we can just really reduce things down to what we can all agree on as believers and that is the Savior Jesus Christ. I think that just clears the decks in such a gorgeous way.
So IF started five years ago and started to spool up pretty fast but you didn’t know that back then. Were you scared starting out? I mean, if you had known it would be this would you have been terrified or would you have spent some more time learning spreadsheets? Like now looking back… what was the emotion and then compare it to where you are now?
Jennie: I know. We had no idea. It blew my mind we even sold out an event. I couldn’t imagine that we sold out and I couldn’t imagine thousands of people all over the world being apart. I remember my husband and I after the first event got into the car right as it ended and we looked at each other and we can’t really speak every compare it to that moment we just birthed a baby dragon. It wasn’t just a baby that needed food and oxygen, it needed all these things. We actually didn’t even know who to talk to about raising this baby because it’s so unique. I’ve been so faithful and he’s he’s provided Take care of it was such a unique baby end I didn’t know how to raise money we did everything we still do pay-what-you-can so strung together at 2 million dollar budget with $25 donations. It’s an absolute miracle that we’re still in existence when you look at our spreadsheets, but I know that every step of the way he has been giving us exactly what we need to do the work that he’s called us to and it’s been a humbling experience. It’s made me realize that I will walk through life the rest of my days here with my hands just wide open, whatever you want, because I don’t want to miss it, but I also don’t want to cling too tightly to something that he might have for a season and doesn’t have forever. I think it’s changed me to see how powerful he is and how able he is to do so much with so little. We made so many mistakes in the beginning I can’t even tell you how many mistakes.
I mean I think all our technology went down the first few years when we were trying to sell tickets. We did pay what you can and we had no idea if we were going to hit our numbers. We started with a too high ticket price and people were saying they want to be part of this and so we threw it up live our very first event. That was how IF:Local happened. We just wanted it to be accessible But we didn’t know how to do that. All along the way we kept hearing this is a mistake left and right and yet I do feel like God was clear and he kept being clear. Go left. Go right. And it wasn’t a voice but in our guts we knew where to go and I absolutely believe that was the Lord.
Julie: I love that verse from Isaiah. I think it is Isaiah 46 that says you will hear a voice behind you saying go to the left, go to the right. I think that’s the right address. We will find out how well my Bible rolodex is working when I look it up later. So do you feel that you’ve learned from those early mistakes? You’ve learned from the things, even that maybe somebody else was saying you should do it this way but God has a different way for you to do it but it’s feels like right? As you and your whole team started to get your choreography down you underwent a major life change this last summer. What happened?
Jennie: Well I think it’s really cute that you just said we hit a stride, because I don’t know what that would feel like even. It has been one thing after another And, yes, this year brought a move. It was for my younger kids who have learning disabilities.. We were having a hard time finding the right fit with the school. We have family in Dallas and a great school district so we moved for their good and it has been topsy turvy. If you’ve ever moved a family. You know, it’s one thing to move yourself, and you know that is a lot, but to undergo that much change and get these kids settled and it has been very wild. And then, you know, I sit down with my team of about 15 people in an office and I tell them, you know this is where we need to go for my family’s good. I didn’t expect them to come with me. Just thinking I’ll commute once a month and work remotely and their like, “We’re coming too.”
Jennie: So not only do we move a family of 6 but also an office of 15. And, again, we put on an event for the IF:Local Leaders in Dallas and it was probably one of our favorite events we’ve ever done. I think God keeps reminding us just quit trying to control everything, take your hands off. Enjoy the process, and you will enjoy it if you don’t try to control it. As soon as you try to control it you will be miserable, because this has never been for one minute something to control. That’s not just IF:Gathering. That’s my life. It doesn’t feel like any part of my life has been very much in my control. I do enjoy that he keeps us dependent. I do enjoy that you never know. I would have thought we’d live in Austin, TX for the rest of our lives. And then, within about 6 weeks after the thought crossed our minds we lived here. It was quite a sudden life change.
Julie: We’ve got a lot of moms out there in various stages of life. I, myself, moved a lot as a kid. I followed my dad and his career with the space shuttle actually and then my husband and I moved to a city specifically for family reasons and then God took us on a path and following some different career stuff he led us to Austin. What are some of the things that you’ve learned in this move that you think are really important for moms to know in the process of relocating? I mean even when it’s something that is such a God thing, it is still a really big transition.
Jennie: Well this is not something I have obeyed perfectly, but I do believe it has kept me sane and alive in the last few months. I believe that when we try to carry everyone’s security and happiness, we will lose ours. For me, if I tried to make sure every one of those 5 other family members and 15 team members that really move because of us if they were all happy and that they were all situated and perfectly settled and all their needs were met. If I carried all that I would implode. And I remember in prayer, being anxious in the change and what we didn’t know what was ahead and getting on my knees and just handing over everyone. I said, God I cannot take care of all these people. I give them to you. I don’t believe you have just good plans for me. I don’t believe this is just for my kids, I believe this for every single person coming, that you have plans for each one of them. And so I just laid it all there. And then what could happen is my kids could come disappointed, my kids could come to me missing Austin. My teammates could come to me with a roommate that fell through, with a car that broke down, frustrations in Dallas and I didn’t panic like I would have felt if I was carry the responsibility for everyone. I was able to get out of the way and let them each experience God in their own way instead of trying to fix everything, because I think I would have stepped in if I felt responsible for every single person. What I saw was that God had plans for them and they weren’t all perfect plans. A lot of the plans have been very hard to watch unfold. Our life here, there have been so many blessings, but there have been a lot of days that have been incredibly difficult for my kids and I’ve had to watch them suffer. It is hard to not rescue, but I believe those moments are shaping their faith and their trust in God.
Julie: I think that’s just incredible and I think as women we so often do feel responsible for the emotional contagion that happens once we go through a big transition or if we see our kids experience a disappointment in or if our team members things aren’t working out well and I think you’ve really landed on something beautiful that you know to some degree when we really are just trying to obey God’s plan it does list some of the sense of and I’ve got to fix this for everybody You know. So I think that’s a powerful insight into what your experience has been.
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Julie: You are a mom with four kids and when all of this began, this idea of asking this question IF, you know we may have a lot of moms out there who have little ones under foot and they have some big dreams and big questions that they feel like God may be prompting them to ask, but they are buried under laundry or we may have women out there who have really invested into their kids, into their homes, into a career and all of a sudden they find themselves at a place of transition and they’re thinking, “What’s next.” What do you say to them? What do you say to them in the context of this community of women?
Jennie: I think God works in the laundry and he works through the seasons of chaos. If he doesn’t then we’re going to be only useful in the last few years of our lives. And, watch out. If we have kids, we could have grandkids one day. If we wait for a time when our lives are simple and uncluttered to obey God, we are going to be in trouble. What I’ve found is the very things that I thought would take me away from my family and hurt my family because they were costly, because I couldn’t be at every single game and I couldn’t do all the things I thought I needed to do to be a perfect mom, those are the things that have shaped my kids’ faith. So when my daughter looks at me I am fearful she is going to resent ministry because at times that is the thing that has taken away from you. She starts laughing and tells me, “how could I resent the things that I’m most proud of you for?”
Julie: Oh, wow.
Jennie: Because you’ve served God I want to serve God with my whole life. And so I don’t think we can be afraid of the implication of obeying. We have to trust him. Now if we are out there building our kingdom with disregard for our families I don’t think we should hold to those promises, but If we are truly saying, “God, I’m surrendered. Anything you want for me, I want it. I want to obey you whatever that cost “ I believe the implications of that obedience will be good. They may be costly. Good might look difficult at times but often, in fact usually I’ve found good looks difficult in our lives, but what I’ve come to trust is that he is accomplishing purposes I don’t want to miss. So if I don’t live surrendered saying, God I’m all in, whatever you want from me then I’m potentially missing the best parts of life.
Julie. Right. And potentially missing the hard things that are a gift. In those laundry days, in those days of not being quite sure what’s next, I do think there’s a gift in there. Aside from God’s timing in favor for IF, which has been amazing, I think there’s something so central to the IF message that has compelled women to be a part of it. And not just at the weekend itself, but the local gatherings. What do you think that it is in today’s generation of women that compels us to circle up?
Jennie: I think everybody is lonely. Technology has made us lonely. I think we’ve become independent. We can almost survive in our home. I barely need to go to the grocery store anymore, you know, I can order my groceries.
Jennie: So to be pulled into community, because, IF:Gathering isn’t just enjoying great talks, it is a call to bring together the people you love and discuss God together. And I think, not only do we crave eating together and conversations like we never have because things have gotten more isolated, I think we crave depth. I think we crave real conversation about bigger things than what are we going to do Saturday night. We want bigger dreams than that. I think we are longing for purpose and I believe we find that better together. It’s been so cool to see the ways that women have creatively taken If:Gathering into the world. They’ve taken it to prisons. They’ve taken it to homeless shelters. They’ve taken it to teenagers. They’ve taken it to college campuses. They’ve taken it to neighborhoods. They’ve been braver and more creative than I could ever have imagined. So to be on a mission and to have a giant team around the world you are doing with, it’s special. And,we’ve kept it simple. I mean all you really need to have is the Internet to be a part of it. And yet these women have done such beautiful things with such a simple thing.
Julie: I keep finding over and over at the church at which I serv, when I poll my women or do a survey, when I say, “What are you wanting,” what’s fascinating to me is they continue to come back and say, “We want community and we want mentoring. And I know that with IF:Gathering it’s a big deal about discipiling disciples. Unpack for me what you see. How people can make those connections to mentors in the community. Obviously a tool like the local IF:Gathering is it is a huge way to be able to do that, but once you get to that place what are some things that you think women can do to create that connection. We all know those women who make the effort to go to something and then they are still kind of holding up against the wall, they are still struggling to really reach out and then they say, “Nobody reached out to me.” What are some things we can proactively do to get in community and find those mentors?
Jennie: First thing we’ve got to do is remember discipleship life on life is where live change happens. It is the model Jesus Christ built.
Jennie: I think we are living in a culture that has really praised bigger better that is why we are being careful as an organization. The only reason we lead something big is because we believe it is pushing people into small. If we fail at that. If we make big the idol rather than small then we have gotten everything backwards. Jesus was God and he picked the way to change the world was to invest his life in a few men while he was on Earth. I believe in this to my bone. I will preach this until I die. We will always do life on life discipleship.
First, we’ve got to believe small isn’t settling. Small is where it is at. It is the goal. Then if we can really embrace that and not be looking for some bigger purpose out there but really see that no matter what we’ve been called to do that above all we’ve got to be making disciples doing it.
The next thing is, who has God put in your life. I mean yes he’s given us all different roles and assignments. Yes, IF:Gathering is one for me so I have an office full of 20 somethings most of them to invest in. I also have a daughter right now that is 15 years old that has asked me to disciple her. That is a regular thing for me. It’s more official for me. Diapers in the past and now we are moving into more teaching what is in the Bible and how to live that out in her context. Look right in front of you. Who has God put in our life? Do not underestimate how much you know and how much you’ve been given because we disqualify ourselves. Everyone is looking for a mentor and no one wants to be a mentor. We’ve got to recognize that we are the disciplers. If you have been saved Jesus has given you a call and that is to go and make other disciples. You don’t have to wait until you know everything. There is no arrival point. Now, if you’ve never been discipled, sure, go find someone to do that for you but don’t let that be the thing you look for before giving yourself away because surprisingly you know more than you think you do and people are hungry for people to point them to God. It is a generation starving for it.
Julie: You know, I think it’s an Bruce Wilkinson’s Book, The Seven Laws of the Learner, that if you want to master something you need to teach it. You need to learn it to teach it and I think that’s a really powerful word what you’re saying that a lot of us are wandering around saying we need a mentor but we’ve been walking with the Lord for awhile. We have some things we can invest in others and it is okay if we feel unqualified to do that just yet. We begin the investment process and it is so critical. There is such a longing for it and sometimes it is right in front of us. For some of us it is interesting. It does sound like let’s really whittle it down. Jesus invested in 12 people. And sometimes I feel like I’m trying to invest in a couple thousand people I see on Facebook or Instagram. How do we really get down the people God has for us to do life with and not to be pulled away with the access we have in our broader community?
Jennie: He actually focused most of his time on 3 so we’ve got to realize it’s okay to pick people and focus. And I would say a minimum of a year but really he focused on those men for 3. I don’t think that’s a bad goal to say 3 years I’m going to invest in 3 people. That would be fantastic. And maybe it’s 1. I mean if every Christian in the world would just pick 1 the world would be absolutely turned upside down. I don’t even think it has to be 3 if that overwhelms you. I think the goal is keep it simple. Put it in your calendar. If it is not in your calendar it will not happen. Whether it is once a week. Whether it is once every other week. I think it should be a minimum of twice a month that you are going to meet with that person and you are going to intentionally invest in them. Keep it simple. Start with…bring your Bible, a journal and pray. Read your Bible together and discuss the challenges that person is facing and help them and point them to Jesus. Keep it simple. Bibles journals coffee. Just show up. I promise you. When you look back at your life, what has shaped you? It is sermons? It is podcasts? And again no offense. I preach sermons and host podcasts. But what has truly changed your life is someone sitting eye to eye across from you. You can probably name 3-5 people who have done that for you at some point in your life. And, so we’ve got to remember that really is the deepest, most powerful point of influence we have.
Julie: This is how we change the world. This is it. The IF:Local gatherings are incredible and two of my team here at my church where I serve have ponied up and they are going to be doing the If:Gathering Local in our community. How do people get involved in IF:Local?
Jennie: So go to ifgathering.com and you are going to see there that you can sign up for an IF:Local. You are going to see a map and you put in your zip code. If there isn’t one near you, you can host one. It isn’t too late. Put your date there and invite a few friends to your house. Join us.
Julie: Go to register.ifgathering.com for more information to see the different local expressions happening. And if you say, “Oh I don’t know if I’d be good.” Just try it and see what happens. I had lunch recently with a gal I adore and she moved north recently and she wanted to hone her leadership skills because she started an IF:Local in her home and now it is in a community center. I just love seeing her grow because she wants to be all she can be to invest in these women at the local level. It is exciting to see where the momentum is carrying.
Now you also have a new other little project, so you have this big thing coming but then you are going on a little jaunt. You have a tour coming up. Tell us about that!
Jennie: Yeah! We are hopping on a bus, Christy Nockels and International Justice Mission which is a cause I deeply believe as well as Noonday. We are going across, and it’s cool because we’ve done this once before, so we are going to start up in the West coast and work our way down and we are going to do the same thing in the fall for the East Coast. We are so excited. It’s one of my fave things to be face to face with people in their town and they can bring their friends and we can just consider Jesus together and what it looks like to live more free and what it looks like to live with more purpose with him. Also, so fun to travel with Christy Nockels. She is a longtime friend and just to worship and to have a great conversation with God together.
Jennie: Yes, I am!
Julie: Great. And what are a couple other stops on the West Coast sprint?
Julie: Where do people find you on social?
Jennie: I love instagram which is my fave. @jenniesallen and then jennieallen.com for the other links.
Julie: Jennie, we wish you all the best as you huddle with women across the country for IF:Gathering. And, again those of you interested in If:Local we’d love to see you jump in and get involved and we have The Freedom Project Tour going on so check that out. Jennie, all the best to you and your team. Congrats on the move to Dallas. I hope that is going well. Thank you for what you do to speak into the lives of women who want to ask the question IF God is real then how should I be living my life? Such an important question. Thanks for being with us.
Jennie: Thanks, Julie.
Julie: Such an important conversation today with Jennie Allen. Go small even when things are going really big all around you. Be sure and connect with Jennie on all of her social media channels @jenniesallen and I would love to connect with you to on social media Facebook and Instagram all the fun places @julielylescarr and we’ll have all this information for you in the show notes as well. A big thank you to our producer Donna Totey who helps put all this together every week and Rebecca Beckett, our content coordinator, who keeps us sane and on the same page.
Next week on The Modern Motherhood Podcast, I’m still pinching myself, our guest will be Beth Moore. Yeah, that Beth Moore. It will be an amazing conversation about how God specifically places us in our communities, in our cities and in our neighborhoods for a very specific purpose. It’s going to be a phenomenal conversation with Beth Moore. Can’t wait to have you here back next week on The Modern Motherhood Podcast.
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