Crossing the Finish Line with Empowerment

Posted by: DVULI | March 29, 2021

DeVos Urban Leadership Initiative

by Kimberlee Mitchell, DVULI Staff

Entering mile 26 of the race, Natasha Thrasher (Pittsburgh 2012) was nearing the finish line. She was chosen to run the last leg of her marathon relay team, and her role as the anchor was to finish strong. She fought the mental game and pushed through fatigue. As she turned the corner to the final stretch, finishing became a symbolic moment for Natasha. “I saw all my teammates cheering for me. They helped me cross the finish line,” she reflects. “I don’t even know what my time was. All I remember is the support that helped me finish.”

Before she participated in DVULI, Natasha struggled with striking a healthy balance between her work and home life. In her role as the Youth and Families Coordinator with the Pittsburgh Project, Natasha admits, “My ministry life was crazy. I worked long hours and barely made it home for dinner.  I was running four large programs, two after-school programs, and two summer day camps.” Her only month off was August, and with four children at home, “family life was crazy.” Therefore, something had to give.

Acceptance into the DVULI program helped Natasha begin to address her imbalance struggle. “Balance was the main thing that screamed at me the whole time,” shared Natasha as she thought back on the training experience in Orlando. Eager to learn how to achieve balance, she realized her job wasn’t going to change, so she needed to change. After a time of reflection, group discussion with her cohort members, and thinking about what was most important, Natasha made some personal goals for her mental and physical health, which would require her to focus more on the core value of empowerment. 

“I prepared to run on a marathon team with my coworkers. While I was taking an hour from work to train, I had to find someone else to get things done,” explained Natasha. “I trained another staff person to be in charge of the outreach to avoid cancelation if I couldn’t be there. It also helped other staff members step into leadership roles that they were more than capable of doing.”

The key lesson for Natasha to strike and sustain this work/personal life balance was, “Sometimes you have to give it away and let people dream and create on their own [success] and just be around to answer questions and encourage them to stay the course.” The giving away also meant delegating the planning, cooking, setting up, and sermon delivery. Now, even her ministry team is experiencing balance. Their realistic planning and scheduling allow everyone to go home at a reasonable hour.

“The team I work with is awesome, and we are all healthier people,” Natasha said. “We can take vacations without feeling stressed. We are very supportive of one another. We talk more and have brainstorming sessions.” She continues, “This might not mean a lot to some, but I celebrate every moment of it. I remember when it was just me and my own brain and long hours. It’s great not to be in that place anymore.”

Learning that “ministry isn’t everything” and that you “need to take time for your family and care for yourself” were impactful takeaways for Natasha. This realization compelled her to make family a top priority while establishing boundaries in her work.

“I hired a full-time assistant to help run and lead programs without me. This freed me to spend more time with my family,” she describes. “I don’t plan things and then fit in my personal and family time. I actually schedule my time, family time, and then work events.”

Very simply, Natasha is enjoying work and home life more. “I feel more relaxed to be in ministry,” she said. “I also get to enjoy my family, and they like that a lot. I’m fully present, which is a major difference in my life. I am not tired and stretched thin.” Natasha’s DVULI experience and developing a breakthrough plan was a “game-changer” for her.

“I am healthy,” exclaims Natasha. “The ministry work gets done and doesn’t require me at every turn. I am living a life that is full right now. DVULI opened my eyes to so many things, but living a life with balance led me to a great place in ministry and my personal life.”

Her role as the marathon relay anchor has provided lessons learned that are playing out in both her ministry and family. Along with her DVULI tools, Natasha is equipped with the stamina to cross finish lines, both at home and at work.