by Jennifer Svetlik, Salford congregation
In 2005, Steve Kriss was living in Pittsburgh, working in leadership cultivation with young people, and going to graduate school at Duquesne University. When he saw Franconia Conference’s job description for a role that involved cultivating young adult leaders, Steve said to himself, “How can I say no to this?”
Franconia’s vision and staff culture were a good fit for Steve. After flourishing on conference staff for over a decade, in 2017, he was asked to serve as Executive Minister. “I would never have anticipated or asked for this role, but it has allowed me to live into God’s calling,” he reflects.
In his fifteen years on staff, Steve has “come to love the people” of the conference, and that love was one of his primary motivations in accepting his current role. He describes his leadership posture as seeking to create change through love, which grows over time. “It is work that feels very personal, meaningful, and with people and communities I’ve come to care about deeply,” he says.
Steve works with the Conference’s executive leadership, leadership cultivation, and serves as a leadership minister. A typical workday for Steve has at least three meetings and additional contacts with lots of people in a variety of ways. Usually, this involves conversing in English or Spanish and texting in Spanish, Indonesian, and/or English. “I don’t know many professional roles that have the diversity of people that I encounter daily, and sometimes that is disorienting,” Steve reflects.
The most rewarding aspect of Steve’s work is watching people grow over many years. There are high school students that he worked with 15 years ago that are now leaders in the conference. “It is also significant to watch our conference’s intercultural transformation, and to have been around long enough to see us changing,” says Steve.
“I continue to be amazed by how our conference communities are comprised of so many gifted, committed, and compassionate people,” shares Steve. “I am amazed by the generosity of individuals and communities, feeling a sense of ‘us’ as the conference and wanting to dream together.”
Recently Steve has been inspired by the work of reconciliation. “It feels like a privilege to get to lead the Conference in the time of the reconciliation work,” admits Steve. “When so much in the culture around us is divisive, we are attempting to bring the resources, strengths, and shared history of these conferences together. It has been shared and holy work.”
Steve grew up near Johnstown, PA in a three-generation household. His great grandparents were from Slovakia and many Eastern European immigrants lived near him as a child. In middle school his family moved to a more Mennonite area in a suburban setting and began to attend a Mennonite church.
Steve graduated from Eastern Mennonite University (Harrisonburg, VA), and served as a pastor for Mennonite congregations in Somerset County, PA and Staten Island, NY.
Steve lives in Northwest Philadelphia and is a member of Philadelphia Praise Center. Even though he is an extrovert, his work is so people-oriented that he really values time by himself, along with time with family and friends. He enjoys being outside and biking on trails. He prioritizes going to the gym to maintain both his mind and body. His love of planting things comes from his grandfather, for whom Steve is named. “I feel tangibly connected to him when I am working in my garden,” Steve shares.