Joe Woodruff is an author, speaker, pastor and coach. Starting at age sixteen, Joe began a career of inspirational public speaking. In addition to his ministry in churches, Joe has worked with several businesses and non-profit organizations, including vocational training for persons with developmental disabilities.
Intending at a young age to pursue a degree in law, Joe was influenced by the ministry of Overlake Christian Church in Kirkland, WA. Joe witnessed the positive change Jesus makes in the life of people. As a child, Joe had been captivated by the power of word and story. Realizing his own gifts with word, Joe decided to commit his life to helping people through speaking, writing and personal coaching.
A graduate of Ozark Bible College and California Graduate School of Theology, Joe started Bellevue Foursquare Church in Bellevue, WA in 1991. He moved to Spokane in 1996 to start Summit Ridge Church, and in 1998 moved to Simi Valley, CA to pastor Sonrise Christian Fellowship. He currently is the Lead Pastor of New Vision Fellowship in Beaverton, Oregon.
Joe’s effectiveness in speaking and starting of new churches paved the way to train and coach leaders and develop curriculum to be utilized by others. Joe has used his gifts to serve internationally. He is the founder of several websites and the developer of FUN Marriage, a unique book, video and conference resource that helps any marriage experience more of what they desire.
Joe and Natalie have been married since 1982 and have three children and a growing number of grandchildren.
What do you do?
I speak, write and coach.
Currently, I am pastor of New Vision Fellowship. I lead staff and volunteers to make a difference in their community by helping them connect their talents and gifts to people who will benefit from them. In this role, I speak weekly and promote innovation in our creative arts and public presentations.
I write books related to faith, love and leadership. Most recently, I have started a number of websites. joewoodruff.net is the primary base in which I offer free resources and products to help people accomplish their heart’s desire. Those resources are available as blogs, books, videos and podcasts.
Currently, FUN Marriage is a book -video-conference resource I offer to help marriages become more of what they have always envisioned or desire.
How long have you been doing it?
I have been speaking publicly since 1979. I began coaching in 1992. I have been writing training materials throughout that time, and began producing books in 2007.
What inspired you to do this?
I was an avid reader as a kid as well as a sports enthusiast. What the two have in common is suspense. I loved reading whodunit mysteries and adventures, and the thrill of sports is in the tension and the unexpected. I become bored easily.
I was the first in my family to place faith in Jesus. I was five years old. At twelve years of age, I heard a preacher speak who was passionate and intense, unlike any I had heard before. All of a sudden I liked church and stopped bringing books to read during a service. Then I began to see what God’s power can do to change a life. I was hooked: help people through things I loved and loved to do. I had always been bold and outgoing, and coupled with the ability I had to speak, my course was set.
How do you earn money?
I am salaried through employment with New Vision Fellowship. I also earn income through coaching contracts and product sales.
Who is your target client?
I aim to serve people who are seeking improvement in their life and relationships. Even if things are pretty good, people desire more. It’s in them, and I help draw it out to reality.
Generally, I relate well to people who appreciate humor, who want to take an honest look at things and who look to consider different perspectives. Though I have an obvious faith background, I communicate to people who exercise faith differently than I. Generally, I do not relate well to people who are religious but have no sense of God’s ability to innovate, create and come alongside people in language and expressions they understand. I’m okay with tradition, but I’m far from traditional. I never shy away from challenging the status-quo.
What is a typical day?
My work day varies between periods of study, meeting with leaders and coaching/encouraging people.
With children grown and gone, my wife and I enjoy the quiet of our evenings. If you want to know what the rest of the day look likes, pick up a copy of FUN Marriage!
What is your company structure?
The church I serve has a staff of employees and volunteers.
My wife and I work together on the websites and utilize friends, contractors and outsources to keep it all moving along.
Are their industry trends that particularly excite you right now?
I love that getting one’s message and story out has never been easier and is only becoming more facilitated. I once had a publisher respond to a manuscript submission. He said it was good writing but I didn’t have a name they could build off of. Today, you don’t need a name, so much as a tribe and an audience. And for that, you just need the ability to help someone. Word of mouth has always been important, but not as important as testimony of change. Word of mouth now equals worth of message.
What is your biggest business challenge?
Starting a new venture while overworked in another career is a major obstacle. The work I do as a pastor and coach doesn’t easily allow me to learn about website resourcing. I knew nothing. In the end, I determined to do four things:
- Give myself a learning curve. I like things done yesterday. I knew I wouldn’t be at my creative best if I didn’t take time to read and research best practices, and give myself a little knowledge of the terminology of the industry.
- Get around people who were doing what I wanted to do. I attended conferences. I felt out of water, but at least being in the shallow end of understanding was better than just dangling my feet in the pool.
- Isolate indirect mentors. I found people online and in books who told me their story, a story I would want true for me. In this, I was able to take my new broad understanding and focus it on the practicals I would need to move forward.
- Invest in those with experience. I sought specialists whose work would allow me to do what I do best: drive content.
Could you share a funny story or something quirky about your work?
A few years ago I used to say two different phrases repeatedly: “That drives me up the wall” and “That drives me nuts.”
One time when I was speaking, I thought I had said, “drives me up the wall.” But I noticed my wife get up and leave dabbing at her eyes, and others were shaking and reaching for tissue. At the time, I figured I was moving people to deep emotions, so i fired it up even more. After I was done, I was told I had actually said, “That drives me up the nuts.”
Writing and video allows for edits, but not live speaking. There was a day I would have felt bad about the blooper. But I’ve learned genuine is a greater appeal than perfect.
What motivates you?
Nothing moves me like seeing people transform from less than best to all they imagined.
What frustrates you?
Jesus has been grossly misrepresented. Formula faith has soured people on God and his love for them.
I am committed to helping people see Jesus for who he is and knowing that he loves them as they are.
What makes you laugh?
The show Big Bang Theory.
I’m a sucker for intellectual humor, unexpected humor and clever wit. In Meet the Parents, when Ben Stiller is asked to pray at dinner and he quotes the musical song “Day by Day” I busted my gut. Of course, at the same time, he’s explaining how he milked the cat and then he busts the urn. That series of scenes had it all.
Jeff Dunham’s puppet Walter kills me too.
How do you maintain your/your employee’s morale when things are not going so great?
We don’t pretend when things are rough. We talk about it and let people get their stuff out. Those times can happen because we’ve given it a relational context beforehand: every employee knows why I appreciate them, has had time away from the office with me for coffee or lunch, and has been celebrated before fellow staff for above and beyond work.
How do you keep yourself balanced?
I love my wife. Time with her is priority and work is always secondary. She knows I work hard and long, but she knows I would rather be with her. And then I make time to do it. When kids were at home, they knew the same.
Diet and physical fitness has paid amazing dividends. I have energy and feel good about myself. At age 50, I’ve never looked better or felt better.
You are creative in your presentations. Where do you get your ideas?
Early on I would find stories from every conceivable storyteller that was writing books. I still love a good story, but anymore I scan the Internet and pay attention to what is in front of us and how I can use that to highlight a truth about life. Also, I was never good at telling stories from my own life. Now I tune in better. Recently I talked about how my wife and I load the dishwasher differently. I would put spoons with spoons, forks with forks, etc. I anticipated the unloading, and I knew my way was better. Then she pointed out my way promotes more germs. I looked it up and she was right. I don’t like germs. At all. So I changed because what was good for me was better than insisting I was right.
How have you been happily married since 1980?
Lots of romance and sex.
Marriage is to be a place where each person discovers what it means to be free, united and made new (FUN). My wife and I are committed to helping the other be their best self, together, navigating the changes needed to experience it. Shameless plug: get my e-book FUN Marriage!
When you need guidance, where do you find it? Who do you go to?
I use both indirect and direct mentors.
Indirect mentors are sites, books and conferences.
Direct mentors are short term or long term. Short term addresses an immediate need in their specialty. Long term is more relational and holistic.