The First 30 Seconds

Steve Donaldson is the director of Rural Compassion and co-founder of Convoy of Hope. I met him in 2018 at The Global Leadership Summit. Rural Compassion had been invited as a vendor. He was the first person ever to tell me I was a leader. He spent the rest of the conference convincing me. May I never forget his kindness or subtle push. – Julie Johnson


God’s heart beats for people.

In leadership, there is always a tension between task and people. The balance must be centered on our love for God and people.

words + photographs Steve Donaldson

Steve Donaldson and his wife, Rebecca.

A quote from A. W. Tozer I love is, “A scared world needs a fearless church.” Part of being fearless is valuing God’s heart for people. If we accomplish good tasks and behind us are a bunch of wounded people, something is wrong.

Focusing on the person and improving their craft demonstrates compassion and care with a goal of helping those I lead become a stronger follower of Christ.

The number one question people ask is, “Do you care about me as a person?” The questions I try to ask is, “How can I affirm the way God sees a person, and what ways can I teach them toward the task and God?” This doesn’t require having low expectations. Focusing on the person and improving their craft demonstrates compassion and care with a goal of helping those I lead become a stronger follower of Christ.

Steve Donaldson, right, with two rural pastors he knows through Rural Compassion.

In the first 30 seconds of meeting someone, I need to ask, “How am I making them feel about themselves?” Several key ways to help people know God’s love:

  • Remember their name.
  • Gently ask them about themselves
  • Smile
  • Serve
  • Care for what concerns them
  • Pray for them
  • Remember their story
  • Listening intently is a great trust builder
  • Realize everyone is a bit insecure
  • Put a 10 on their forehead


Leadership is influence, and we must move people to love God and love people. I believe God is sovereign. He brings people around our leadership role for more than completing whatever the task may be. “There is never a bad time to do the right thing,” Dr. Martin Luther King said.

C. S. Lewis said that Jesus would have died on the cross if it were just for the one person. Lewis taught that sometimes we leave the 99 to find the one. In Jesus’ math, “one” matters.

Steve Donaldson, second from left, with his wife, Rebecca, two sons, and daughter-in-law.

John Wesley said, “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”

And Martin Luther said, “God does not need your good works, but your neighbor does.” SD