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I started this ministry—The Counseling Solutions Group, Inc., which I branded as Competent Counseling on July 03, 2008. I wrote a blog post, thinking the Lord may want me to reach folks with the practical message of Jesus Christ. Because there was nothing in my brand new, echo-ey cyberstore (website), I wrote a blog post the next day, the day after that, and every day for two years. I wanted to “fill up our store” with resources.
I was using the content mostly for the folks that I was counseling. I wanted to help them when they were not meeting with me. I would tell them, “I want you to take me home with you.” I knew that counseling for two hours was not enough for a 168 hour week; they needed more than one meeting, so I got busy writing.
As I was writing to help my counselees, other folks began to read the articles too. In time, we had a growing following. So I decided to become a non-profit, thinking this could perhaps become a ministry. We cobbled together $5K, hired an attorney, and received our IRS designation in the spring of 2009.
We continued to grow an audience, and in January 2011, Todd Friel reached out to me, pitching the Drive-By Marriage (DBM) concept. I took 250 articles from my website, sent them to him, and we pared them down to thirty-one 16-minute audio talks about all things marriage.
It was during this season that we began rebranding by using my name. People were Googling me, so it seemed prudent to make the ministry and what they were looking for the same name. We went from Competent Counseling dot Com to Rick Thomas dot Net. We also spent six months of wrestling through a mission statement. You can see how our mission statement breaks down by viewing this mind map.
Our mission is to help people by providing practical resources and ongoing training for more effective living.
DBM made us more of a national brand, as our following grew, which meant more phones call for help, as well as training. It was during this season that I began developing our Mastermind Program. People resonated with our “way” of caring for folks, and they wanted to learn how to do it.
In 2014, the Lord began assembling a team. Lucia was already volunteering for the ministry, along with being a full-time wife, mother, and homeschool teacher. Julie Hansen showed up on our “cyber doorstep,” asking if she could pitch in with anything we needed. The Lord was affecting her through this ministry, and her “tech skill set” was exactly what we needed then and now. Eventually, Mark Grant and Brandi Huerta came along, after they graduated from our Mastermind Program.
By 2015, I had two full-time jobs, as I was counseling and training full-time. I knew that I could not continue doing both, so after a lot of prayer and consultation, I started a process of backing away from counseling one-to-one.
We still provided counseling through the graduates of our Mastermind Program, and we had active forums on our website where folks could come with their questions. I also counseled on occasion, perhaps eight to ten times a year.
I also started podcasting in 2015 in response to a seeing-impaired reader who wanted to listen to our articles. Podcasting was nearly ten years old at that time, and I wanted to step into this medium, knowing that it would only increase our reach. My five-year goal was to put all of our articles in audio format (Your Daily Drive), which has turned into a ten-year project. (We have just under 1200 podcasts currently.)
I also started taking on speaking events in 2015 because our children were older and able to travel with us. I did not do public speaking, other than locally when they were younger because our growing family was a priority. But we agreed that we could add speaking to our plate if we went together, so I started taking on a few speaking events each year.
In 2016, I launched the Life Over Coffee (LOC) podcast so we could do various things like interviews and current topics, such as this oral history. LOC also gave me another way to answer the questions that pour into our ministry. (We have more than 200 LOC podcasts currently.)
In addition to all these resources, I was doing video production by creating webinars, which are one-hour training events, and we use them in our Mastermind Program. I was creating video shorts for our social media platforms, which had thousands of followers, with new ones “liking” us daily. (We have more than 250 videos currently.)
In 2018, we stepped into the paperback book publishing arena. For years, folks were asking for our content in paperback. I had been publishing digitally, with more than twenty eBooks in our store. But because of the time, money, and energy needed to produce a book, I was not able to make paperbacks happen. I knew we had to do it eventually, but finding the time in the middle of our hectic ministry demands was a big ask.
I finally bit the bullet and published our first two books in 2018—Change Me and Suffering Well. The third book—Get Ready—came out in the spring of 2019, and the fourth paperback is due in 2020. We’re set to publish one book per year indefinitely.
Throughout our ministry life, we never were able to have a website that could keep up with our traffic. As fast as I built one, we needed something larger. This past year, we completed our seventh website launch. Thankfully, we were able to hire a web development team for this massive project. This website provides us with unlimited expandability. The cost started at $25K and will increase as we continue to develop it.
Also, in 2019, it became apparent that we had to pare back our counseling availability even more to accommodate ministry growth, as well as our growing Mastermind Program. I pulled our two counselors from counseling and gave them a significant portion of the training/supervision in our school.
And in 2019, we knew that it was time to reevaluate our ministry mission and vision. So in the fall of 2019, we hired a consultant to step into our ministry, “take it down to the studs” and provide an objective assessment in three key areas: where we have been, where we are, and where we need to go.
After hours of meetings, we began mapping out a plan for the future. There were two primary takeaways from this consultation.
To provide you with a fuller picture of my job description, you may look at this “Operational Mind Map” to see what my responsibilities have been, and the reason why we must change “how we do business” in the future. In the Mind Map, you will see that my two main responsibilities are Content Creation and Leadership Development, which is how we came up with the “four vital areas” for my job description.
I had no plan on July 03, 2008, other than to write a blog post. And then I did it again the next day. What we have today was not in my thought processes by a long shot, though omniscient Lord had much bigger plans in His mind.
The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps (Proverbs 16:9).
Today, we reach hundreds of thousands of people all over the world annually. It is as humbling as it is stunning. But this is only part of what the Lord can do (Job 26:14).
One of the most vital keys in whatever good that has come from this work is the folks who support it. On a human level, you know that all this would not happen without you. The Lord has marshaled a small army to do a mighty work. I cannot overstate the value of your partnership with us in this gospel adventure.
What do we need now, and how can you pray? We need $100K for the hiring of staff to run the “business side” of this ministry. Specifically, we need an Operations Manager, plus a few other key individuals. We need help so I can focus on the heart of this ministry—the vital areas that the Lord is using to help many hurting souls.
We need your support to help us carry the weight of this work. As I told one of my students recently, I don’t feel stress, but that is because I’ve been in it for more than a decade. I’m the frog in the kettle, as the heat turns up gradually; I don’t know how bad it is.
What I do know is that I can’t continue as I have been; I need your help. If you can, would you pray about supporting this ministry in any of these ways?
If you have more questions, you may contact me here.