Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Youth of Christ CEO Chris Todia, right interacts with his co-worker Mike Stetzel on Friday 12.21.2018
Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Wall outside Youth of Christ CEO Chris Todia's office on Friday 12.21.2018
Sunday, December 30, 2018 1:00 am
Youth for Christ's new chief takes helm
Mixes MBA, desire to help; offers gratitude to mentors
Janet Patterson | For The Journal Gazette
Name: Chris Todia
Education: Bethel College, bachelor's degree, Business Administration
Colorado Christian University, Master of Business Administration
Professional background: Strategist for product development, Furniture Row, Denver
Chief Operating Officer, Youth for Christ Northern Indiana
Family: Wife, Amy; daughter Evelyn, 5; son Eli, 2
In the hallway outside Chris Todia's new office, the words “Young people live in a messy world” dance boldly across the wall.
“Young people need people who can love them extravagantly,” the new CEO of Youth for Christ of Northern Indiana says. “We want young people to have hope.”
Todia will assume leadership of the ministry Jan. 1, replacing Larry Lance, who has been with the organization for 42 years.
“Larry will continue to be a mentor to walk and journey with,” Todia said of Lance, who will stay with the ministry as senior adviser/president emeritus.
Youth for Christ is a nonprofit, religious organization designed to mentor young people – influencing their lifestyles through individual relationships and group programs.
Todia, 29, said his journey to the top spot at Youth for Christ has involved mentors who are strong in their faith.
Todia spent much of his youth working alongside his mother, Sue Todia, serving people in need. Later, he said, he learned that love can require sacrifice when she began to take in foster children.
“Mom loved young people extravagantly,” he said.
His studies at Bethel College, however, led him to the business world. After earning a bachelor's degree in business administration, Todia and his wife, Amy, moved to Denver.
She had accepted a job with Forge Ministries, which provides in-depth programs to churches to equip youth and adults for lifelong ministry. While helping his wife in her ministry, Todia discovered a love for international business by working with Furniture Row, sourcing products from around the world.
He also earned a Master of Business Administration degree from Colorado Christian University.
After the birth of their first child five years ago, the couple decided to return to their Indiana roots.
“I have a real passion for this region,” he said.
Todia said he took a year to build relationships in the business community as an independent business strategist.
“Unknowingly, I was building relationships with Youth for Christ,” he said.
His father-in-law, realizing Todia's love for both business and ministry, suggested talking to Lance about working with Youth for Christ.
Although Todia said he wasn't seriously looking for a new job, he honored his father-in-law's request by meeting with Lance to learn more about the organization.
“We talked for a couple of hours. We agreed that we want young people to have hope. It was evident that we had an overlap of passion.”
That conversation and several others led to Todia becoming chief operating officer of Youth for Christ two years ago.
“I truly believe that (Todia) is God's chosen person to lead this ministry,” Lance, the organization's outgoing CEO, said. “He has earned the respect and trust of our board, our donors, our leadership team and our staff.”
Lance started with Youth For Christ of Northern Indiana in 1976 when he was 33.
He is convinced Todia's youth, faith and experience will take the ministry into its next phase of growth and development.
Todia believes his passions for northeast Indiana, ministry and business are important qualities. One of his strengths, he said, is providing leadership that is based in love.
“In order to work together we need to love each other. It requires a great team, which we have,” he said.
The 12-county area served by Youth for Christ of Northern Indiana extends from Kosciusko County to the Ohio border, north to Michigan and south to Wabash and Huntington counties. Todia will lead a staff of 45 with more than 300 volunteers working in more than 30 schools. The ministry also serves three Fort Wayne neighborhoods through its City Life program and serves youth in the judicial system through its Juvenile Justice Ministry.
As part of his preparation for the new position, Todia has been volunteering with the Campus Life program at Homestead High School.
“In order to lead successfully,” he said, “there has to be a relationship between the director and the students.”
Todia said taking on the job as CEO at his age is a leap and said he is humbled by the opportunity.
“It is an honor to be trusted to lead,” he said.
Traever Wieland, Youth for Christ director of development operations, believes Todia brings “fresh eyes” to the ministry.
“Building off the foundation that Larry has created, he brings his youthfulness and new ways to think about what we do,” Wieland said.
Youth for Christ is an international ministry that started in 1944 with the late Rev. Billy Graham.
“It is such a blessing to be stepping into this role with an organization with such rich history and still so much opportunity,” Todia said. “God is moving in this region in unique and powerful ways, and I am thrilled to be a part of it.
“Our team's desire and efforts are focused on serving thousands more young people throughout northeast Indiana in the years to come.”