Fertile Ground: How Dr. Drew Flamm’s Christian Education Journey Brought Him Full Circle
It is often said that what makes a leader is not the time that they spend in the limelight. It’s not what they do on stage when everyone can see them or the words that they speak into a microphone. It is what happens during their quiet time in the presence of God – the spiritual formation that happens under the surface.
Such is true for Dr. Drew Flamm.
In the days leading up to the announcement of his presidency, Drew had a long list of to-dos. There were countless people to call, colleagues to meet and tasks to accomplish, all while managing the regular workload of his role as executive vice president. With much on his plate the day ahead, Drew opened his Bible to the Psalms – a place he had frequently found himself the past several weeks. He flipped to Psalm 37 and was comforted by the simplicity of the words he found there, “Trust in the Lord and do good.”
Trusting in Christ and obediently serving Him, is something that Drew had practiced throughout his life. From his early profession of faith to his college years, his early career to assuming various leadership roles in Christian higher education, and now assuming the role as Grace College and Seminary’s seventh president – Drew has sought to live the very words he proclaims as most important. “To know Christ and to make Him known” are not just the words he proclaims to the campus, they are the heart cry of his life.
A Heritage of Faith and Christian Education
Drew was born into a strong Christian home in Waterloo, Iowa. From a very young age, he witnessed what life in Christ looks like, even amidst tragedy and heartache. When Drew was two, his older brother passed away at six years old. In light of the family’s loss, he was a witness to his parents’ unwavering faith – even before he can really remember.
Both of Drew’s parents were Christian school educators. When he was 16 years old, the Flamm family moved to Toledo, Ohio, where Drew’s dad took a leadership role at Emmanuel Christian School. While the beginning of high school isn’t necessarily an ideal time to be moved across the country, Drew can see how God used that transition to shape his story.
“The Lord really used that to put me in a place where I made some of my best friends to this day, and I learned to trust God amidst change,” he said.
Throughout his Christian education, Drew took every opportunity to get involved and try new things; he played three sports, led worship and even played the violin classically.
“I’ve always been the kind of guy that’s been the jack-of-all-trades but master of none,” says Drew. “I think that the Lord has used that to shape who I am and my leadership style. I am able to connect with lots of people over different topics because I have a general interest in all of them.”
In the fertile soil of Christian education, Drew’s roots of faith really began to grow. As college approached, he decided on Cedarville University where he would eventually major in comprehensive communications, a makeshift major that could be applied to both business and ministry and allowed him to take a wide variety of classes that interested him. Cedarville was a place where he could continue to grow in scholarship, in leadership and in His relationship with Christ.
Living For Someone Greater
While Drew was entering his second year of college, Stephanie Hueni, a freshman from Bremen, Indiana, moved onto campus. Stephanie also came from a tight-knit, Christian family. Many of her family members were even Grace College graduates, including her parents, Stan and Deb Hueni. But Stephanie didn’t come to her own personal faith in Christ until her junior year of high school.
“I knew all of the right answers, but I had a hard heart toward the Lord,” confesses Stephanie. “I just thought that I would get saved after I had my fun in high school.”
During Stephanie’s junior year, her volleyball team made it to the state finals. It was the proudest she had been in her life, and she was soaking up all of the fanfare that accompanied the success.
God stripped her of that pride on the way home from Indianapolis when she had a strong allergic reaction to the peanut oil that had been used in the fries she had for dinner. The coach struggled to get hold of an ambulance, as her cell reception was going in and out. When the bus finally pulled off the side of the road to meet the EMT, the ambulance didn’t have what she needed. It wasn’t until a second EMT arrived that she received an epi shot and her breathing returned to normal. After everything was under control, the EMT told her that she was very close to dying.
“That really shook me up,” said Stephanie. “I realized I was not ready to meet the Lord as my judge; I had been living a two-faced life.”
She prayed in the ambulance that night and asked Christ to be her Savior.
“I’m so thankful that God used that in my life,” said Stephanie. “It’s sad, but also ironic, that God used a moment where I felt like I was on a mountaintop to show me that I’m totally dependent on Him and that my breath can be gone in an instant. He showed me that I need to live for someone greater than myself.”
As Stephanie began looking into colleges, her grandpa encouraged her to consider carefully who she surrounds herself with during the most formative years of her life. That advice confirmed her decision to follow in her older sister’s footsteps and attend Cedarville University where she studied early childhood education.
Student Body President and VP
Both Drew and Stephanie loved getting involved at Cedarville. Coming from small high schools, they both had the mindset that you should be involved in everything you can.
Drew decided to run for student body president, and at the same time, Stephanie was running for vice president. Both of their running mates dropped out, and the two were nudged to run together. As they met, Drew assumed the role of visionary and Stephanie would take care of the details. Their campaign slogan: “Vision and Expectancy,” still makes them laugh to this day, and despite the fact that they didn’t have any competition, they won the election, which meant they would be spending a lot more time together.
As time went on, Drew began suggesting that they meet at Panera or Olive Garden, and feelings started to grow. But neither of them was willing to confess their feelings until Stephanie’s younger brother came to Cedarville for a campus visit.
“I intentionally asked Drew if my brother could stay with him in his dorm so that I could get my brother’s opinion on him,” explained Stephanie. “He was always very protective and hadn’t approved of any of the boys I had dated in the past.”
Stephanie’s younger brother assumed the role of matchmaker, and it didn’t take long for Drew to initiate a conversation to define the relationship. As they dated, they continued to serve their fellow students and advocate for Christian education side by side.
“Christian education was formative in making my faith my own,” said Drew. “I was able to learn how to think for myself, wrestle with deep theological issues and come into maturity in Christ in a setting where my professors and my fellow students all shared a Christian worldview.”
Stephanie agrees. “College was fertile ground for me where I was being watered from every side,” said Stephanie. “I was a different person coming out than I was going in.”
Finding a Passion for Fundraising
When Drew graduated from Cedarville, he still wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his life, but an opportunity came along to do a summer internship in Georgia with Dr. Tim Elmore’s organization, Growing Leaders.
That internship led to a job with leadership guru John Maxwell at Maximum Impact Group where Drew served as manager of executive projects. He reported directly to the organization’s chief operations officer, Reggie Goodin, and was in charge of taking notes during executive meetings. This allowed Drew to rub shoulders with leadership giants such as Andy Stanley, Louie Giglio and Ken Coleman.
After a year in that role, Stephanie graduated, and the two were married. Both assumed roles on Cedarville’s campus – Drew as assistant director of alumni relations and Stephanie as an admissions counselor. Consistent with the origins of their relationship, the two were serving their alma mater once again, engaging alumni and connecting with prospective students.
After about a year and a half in his role, Drew began to take an interest in the fundraising function of the college. “I fell in love with fundraising because I realized this balance between business and ministry,” said Drew. “You have goals and numbers you have to hit, but you also get to explore donors’ passions and match those with students’ needs.”
Soon thereafter, Drew took a job in planned giving. He continued to pursue new areas of fundraising as jobs opened in annual giving and then major gifts. At the end of his seven years at Cedarville, he was serving as the Regional Director of Advancement.
Dreams Come True
Drew and Stephanie were in the middle of a three-and-a-half-year adoption process when a Director of Development position opened up at Manchester University. The ability to be closer to Stephanie’s family in Indiana was very appealing to the growing family. So when Drew was offered the position, they moved to Winona Lake, the halfway point between North Manchester and Bremen.
Not long after taking that position, Grace had an opening for its Vice President of Advancement. The fact that the position was at a Christ-centered institution just down the street seemed like God was opening a door. A national search was already underway, but Drew prayerfully put his name in the applicant pool.
After two rounds of phone and in-person interviews, Drew was invited to campus for a day-long series of interviews on September 5, 2013. He remembers waking up that morning and feeling exceptionally nervous.
“Despite the fact that I had to be on my A game that day, my head and my heart were actually somewhere much further away,” said Drew.
Stephanie and her sister-in-law were in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, finishing up some paperwork so that she could bring their 2.5 year son, Jadon, home for the first time. She would be landing in Chicago the next morning.
With the interview behind him, Drew and his family drove to Chicago wearing their matching adoption T-shirts the next morning. When they arrived, Stephanie and Jadon were awaiting the family in the airport. Drew still remembers seeing his wife and son across the terminal and running through throngs of people until they embraced. He was finally a dad.
But that wasn’t the end of the good news. Three days later, as the family was adjusting to life with a two-year-old, Drew got a call informing him that another dream was coming true, he would become the next VP of Advancement at Grace.
Drew started on October 1, but according to Drew, the “Pinch me, I’m dreaming,” mentality didn’t wear off for a while. “For a long time, every time I drove into work, I would think, ‘I can’t believe this. I can’t believe this is my job.’”
As the Flamm family grew, they found Winona Lake to be an ideal community to raise their three boys: Jadon (who is now 11), Rihaan (8) and Bennett (6).
“Our family has loved this community, and we love that Grace is so connected to this community as well,” said Drew. “Winona Lake and Warsaw are big enough to always have something going on, but small enough to be able to run into people you know at the store.”
Ultimately, what makes the community great is the people. The Flamms have found great encouragement and support through the robust adoption community in town and their local church body at Mission Point Community Church, where Drew occasionally fills the pulpit.
Aspiring and Inspiring
Over the past nine years that Drew has served as a vice president at Grace, he has been able to sit back and watch the Lord provide in amazing ways.
“I’ve seen time and time again, when something doesn’t work out the way I wanted it to, God ends up doing something totally different, and abundantly better, and all you can do is give Him the praise,” said Drew.
A few weeks into his new role, Drew was thrown into the planning of the Aspire Campaign, what would become by far Grace’s largest comprehensive campaign in school history. Looking back, Drew sees the Lord’s kindness from the campaign’s start to finish.
When the board met to talk about the campaign in 2014, they were discussing the feasibility of a new track. According to a study they had done, it wasn’t looking probable, but President Dr. Bill Katip pled with the board to make it happen, and the board decided to put the track on the list and trust the Lord to provide.
Drew was later sitting in chapel when a board member nudged him saying he had an idea about the track. That “idea” led to a six-figure donation, and the track was the very first project on the list that went to completion.
Not to mention, what started as a $21 million goal ended at $37 million. “We thought maybe we can do more, maybe we can do more,” said Drew. “And the Lord just kept blessing us.”
In the fall of 2019, the school completed the Aspire Campaign with $39.8 million raised.
While it has been incredible for Drew to watch the Lord provide financially, he has also be able to see lives of donors transformed over the course of their relationship with Grace. One story that has inspired him recently is the story of Mr. Allen.
Ninety-three-year-old Mr. Allen has given to Grace faithfully for years and he and his wife even started a scholarship to help provide for students. He didn’t know the Lord, but his wife was a believer and would ask Grace’s leadership to pray for her husband often. After many years of prayer, Mr. Allen came to know Christ this past year.
“To see a donor who has made such a difference in the lives of students over the years come to know Jesus was truly amazing,” said Drew. “Stories like these are truly what it’s all about.”
Vision and Expectancy
While the Flamms still laugh at their original campaign slogan at Cedarville, there might not be two words that better express their posture walking toward what’s next.
There is no doubt that Drew has a vision. Awake to the challenges and pressures that surround Christian education on all sides, Drew is devoted to remembering Grace’s original mission statement, “To know Christ and make Him known,” and has clear objectives to ensure that this remains the heartbeat of who Grace is. By focusing on the school’s spiritual vitality, ensuring student success, investing in faculty and staff and remaining fiscally responsible, Drew intends to lead Grace boldly into its next exciting chapter.
“It wasn’t a question of, ‘Will this be easy?’” says Drew of the decision to apply for the position. “It was a question of, ‘Will this be good for our souls?’ We wanted to be confident that God would use this for our good and for His glory and to be at a place where our family can be used for His Kingdom.”
The Flamm family is excited to serve students and expectant about how God will work in their lives.
“If you ask our kids right now where they want to go out to eat, they’ll say Alpha,” said Drew who has taken his family to eat dinner there once a week for the past nine years. “They love the food, but ultimately, they love interacting with students.”
As for Drew and Stephanie, making students feel welcomed, encouraged and supported on campus is something they know well.
“It’s crazy to think that we met on a Christian college campus through student leadership and that we now get to lead at a Christian college and make an impact for Christ with a family,” said Drew. “Our faith became our own in college, and now we get to help create an atmosphere where that can happen for others – to help cultivate Christian education with fertile ground for students to grow.”
Do you want a college that provides Christian education? Visit Grace to find out what it’s all about!