After taking a year off to focus on family, she had decided to re-enter the marketplace and her searching boiled down to two organizations. On the one hand, there was a job she “had absolutely jumped through hoops for.” She had passed all the IQ testing and the background checks. The company had one of the world’s leading brands, and it offered her an “astronomical salary” with a “Porsche in the color of my choice.” (As someone who loves horsepower, the Porsche sounded pretty tempting to me.) On the other hand, there was a job with FamilyLife, a nonprofit that could seemingly offer just a fraction of the other job.
Many Halftimers are having measurable ministry impact in a high-profile job inside corporate America, but Paula had zoomed down that road before and she knew where she now needed to go. Earlier that year, at a Halftime event that I facilitated in Atlanta, she was among a couple dozen marketplace leaders we were introducing to innovative ministries impacting their city. At that event, she says, she felt a clear longing for something more than just another job – she was looking for a sense of calling. “Do I really want to help save people’s marriages so that they can have a solid foundation for raising kids and know how to apply God’s word in their family life?” she asked herself. “Or should I sell them another car or soft drink that they really don’t need to get by in life? It was just sort of a very simple decision at that point in time . . . it would be nothing short of greedy to go after the other opportunity, unless I thought I could do great ministry in that environment, but I didn’t have any indication that would be true.”
Paula realized her professional career – the stresses it had heaped on her family as well as the high-level training and broad experiences that came with success – had prepared her perfectly to lead the marketing efforts for Family Life. But that wasn’t something she envisioned starting out.“Early on, I had sort of big-scale ambitions,”she says. “I wanted to reach the nation and reach the world, and so I was really interested in organizations that had a very broad distribution and a strong commercial brand. Ministry was not on my radar except on a personal level.”In her 20’s, fresh out of college and working for Frito-Lay, Paula managed a$70 million ad budget with three agencies at her disposal. Success begot opportunity,and she went to work for CNN. She also got married, and soon she began wrestling with the conflicts of balancing marriage,family and a demanding career in a demanding industry.“Our marriage was tested big time,”she says. “We nearly split up in that very first year, but we stuck it out. It just gets better and better each year, only after we endured some very early trials, mostly brought on by my career and the industry I was in.”
Paula left CNN for Apple and later went to Disney, where she helped launch a start-up division that would manage the corporation’s global partnerships.With every move, Paula learned more about her profession and continued to reach her goals of impacting broad
audiences across the world. When her children came along, however, the career-family tensions increased. Paula left Disney for a more family friendly work environment offered at Kodak. But success again begot opportunities, and soon she found herself responding more to the needs of the corporation and less to the needs of her husband and children.
“That was my own failure to set boundaries,”she says. “I think God really called me to live out my values and demonstrate my faith, and I wasn’t doing it.”The defining moment came after she returned from a four-day business trip. She had called home one night during the trip, and her then 7-year-old son had told her that he had competed in his first golf tournament and won. “Then I came home and found that he hadn’t even placed and that he had lied to me,” Paula says. “I just cried because I thought it was so sad that my son would feel the need to get my approval on something like that, and I thought: ‘This is just not right.”
Paula made a decision to leave Kodak,but was able to stay another three years under a renegotiated agreement that made her the company’s only part-time vice president. Soon she began to value the things she did away from work more than the things she did at work.“The job became less satisfying as my work in ministry became more satisfying,and suddenly I realized that I was having an impact on people’s lives in my neighborhood,in my women’s group and in my church that my lack of time and margin never allowed,” she says. “And I definitely was able to serve and love my kids and help my husband in more ways than I ever could before. Life became more satisfying,even with less income and career prestige.”
Paula finally left Kodak and spent even more time with her family, while also taking on some consulting projects for her church and for corporations around her home in Atlanta. FamilyLife provided a platform for Paula to re-enter the marketplace with
an organization led by Dennis and Barbara Rainey that truly valued family. “FamilyLife actually wanted me to be home to meet the school bus, to be the wife and mom I yearned to be.” The ministry, based in Little Rock, Ark., allowed her to take on the role of Chief Marketing Officer while staying in Atlanta, where her husband’s small business is based. She quickly adjusted to the smaller budgets while embracing what she came to see as a bigger vision.
“I had spent so much of my career dealing with change on a mass level,” Paula says. The most basic unit of civilization– the family – is in crisis, and needs help now. That’s a massive challenge.” Yet, in terms of scalability, FamilyLife provides an organizational platform for Paula to leverage her marketing skills for a global impact.
It’s a well-run organization that already touches millions of families– more than 80,000 people experience one of their Weekend To Remember conferences each year, and for most of them it will change their marriage forever. Millions listen each week to their radio program and use their resources to find help and hope for their own families. And with her marketing skills, they can impact “even more” with the Truth.
Could it be that she was uniquely prepared for this role and that, as wonderful as her first half was, her greatest impact and most fun adventures remain ahead?
“Even though we have a much smaller budget to work with than some of the other companies that I’ve worked for,” she says, “our playing field is even greater. We still have the world to reach, and it’s a daunting opportunity to do that.”