Jeremy Del Rio (New York City 2010), came to the DeVos Urban Leadership Initiative (DVULI) during a time of transition. He had been working as a consultant helping various ministries with strategic planning, and program design for youth and community development; he was a lawyer; a youth pastor; and had started his own non-profit. Del Rio sensed that God was preparing to move him in a new direction, but he wasn’t sure where or what form it would take.
From an early age Del Rio knew that he had a calling to work in ministry, but also felt that it was going to be an unconventional kind of ministry. Growing up, he gravitated to stories in the Bible about leaders like Daniel, Nehemiah, Esther, and Joseph. So when the opportunity presented itself to be a part of DeVos, Del Rio knew that the DVULI program was the kind of process he needed to explore his calling, and he found the program to be tremendously impactful.
“Like a lot of youth workers, I wrestle with the impulse to want to solve every problem and rescue every crisis; I’m kind of a type-A personality. So the invitation ‘to be before we do’, to be transformed, not to transform ourselves – the process that forced us to go inward to a pretty deep and transparent place, before we really thought about the implications of that for the world around us – is exactly what I needed in that season,” said Del Rio. “Plus, the Core Values and the skills that build upon those values, and the framing of the experience so it was very dynamic and interactive, it wasn’t just a receiving end of a fire hydrant, it was exactly what I needed.”
What Del Rio appreciated most about the DVULI process was the invitation to receive grace. From a young age, he preached grace for everyone else – but it was not something that came naturally to him. The process allowed Del Rio to come to grips with his own humanity, and the need for God’s grace every day. As a result, he is not as hard on himself as he used to be, which Del Rio admits is just as good for everyone around him.
“['m more willing] to not only receive grace but to extend it in a much more supportive role, rather than a directive role. As a type-A problem solver, I hear someone’s problem and immediately want to fix it, or want to tell them how to fix it,” said Del Rio. “Having gone through DeVos, now I know that it’s not my job right now – that my job is to be a support. I think people have seen it and celebrated it.”
The Five Core Values taught in DVULI have continued to play a large role in Del Rio’s outlook and his approach to ministry. “As far as the Core Values go – balance, accountability, interdependence, leverage, and empowerment – they are both personal and deeply ministerial in their nature,” he said. “On a personal side, we will never experience transformation if we’re not accountable to others, and if we haven’t invited other people into our lives or to God. I think a struggle for most leaders is inviting a support network around us; getting them into the mix so we don’t overextend ourselves constantly, so we stay true to our mission, so the balance is moving us in the direction of our call. We will never manifest that if we’re in isolation, which is why we need to be interdependent and trust those around us – whether they’re holding us accountable, or they’re co-laboring with us on our mission.
“You can trust them more if you’ve empowered them, even if it’s simply permission to hold to me to task. If it’s about a larger vision, such as the demonstration of the Kingdom of God on Earth as it is in Heaven, that will not happen if I’m not willing to play like Jesus played.” Del Rio goes on to add, “Jesus empowered twelve dudes and bounced after three years, and trusted them to take his ministry to the outermost parts of the world. That doesn’t happen if we cannot identify the small actions that have a big consequence.”
Del Rio has also had the privilege of bringing and presenting the DVULI content on a number of platforms. As an Adjunct Professor at Fuller Alliance Seminary, he’s brought the content, tools, and the ideas of Leverage and Breakthrough into a number of his classes. Del Rio has also directly integrated the content into the staff and professional development opportunities at his ministry, and built a leadership pathway for senior leaders at his church. He’s also called upon other DVULI alumni to join him and supplement the teaching of the DeVos material.
“When we embrace the Core Values, and are willing to pursue them, breakthrough is possible – the kind of breakthrough we all pray for, the breakthrough we aspire to live in, and the reality we want for ourselves and our families. It’s a natural outgrowth, it’s not something that I have to manipulate or coerce, it’s the fruit of those values operationalized in my life,” said Del Rio. “I’ve seen it, I’ve lived it, and I’ve witnessed it in the lives of the people I love, and that’s what keeps me coming back.”
For anyone thinking about applying to DVULI, Del Rio says it’s a “no brainer.” If you’re willing to embrace the Philippians 2 model of servant leadership, if you want to be more like Christ and serve those around you, then this is the type of program you should engage in.
“First of all, the generosity of the DeVos Initiative itself, and the experience they’ve created, is first class. The only reason not to do it would be if your life circumstances prevent you from carving out the time to complete it. But assuming you have some flexibility there, stop over thinking it and fill out the paperwork and get it in and submit to the process,” he said. “Trust the process. You’re going to hear that mantra over and over during the DeVos training – and let that begin as soon as you submit your application and get called for an intervew.”