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Leader of Leaders

Regent University alumna, Jennifer Murff.

Jennifer Murff (SBL ’16), president and CEO of MENA Leadership Center, asks herself an important question before going into staff meetings, interviews or meeting new people: How can I bring others alongside me?

This question was posed to Murff by her mentor, Dr. Kathleen Patterson, director of the Doctor of Strategic Leadership program at Regent University, when Murff graduated with her doctorate in 2016.

“There have been leaders who have taken a chance on me, and I’m so glad they saw potential and took me along with them,” Murff says. This leadership model has placed a mantle on her to raise leaders—a role she takes to heart.

Leader of Leaders 

Growing up in south Louisiana in a hard-working, blue-collar family, education was important to Murff’s parents. She was the first person in her family to go to college and graduate. Her journey started at Christ for the Nations and then to Dallas Baptist University, where she received her bachelor’s degree. She then received her master’s degree and doctorate from Regent University.

In 2015, while Murff was at Regent, she started a ministry called Millennials for Marriage, a pro-family, pro-marriage organization that reintroduced the beauty of marriage. Murff and her husband have four daughters (ages twelve, ten, eight, and six) and have homeschooled for eight years. Murff possesses a fierce passion to helps leaders in the marriage movement reach the millennial generation.

“I began to research the issues that are plaguing our culture and the different aspects that are keeping millennials from wanting to enter holy matrimony,” Murff shares.

In 2019, Murff was approached by a group of researchers out of California that focused heavily on leadership and organizational development needs in the Middle East. The team of researchers had spent six years conducting organizational research within 120 ministries working throughout the Greater Middle East to understand their top needs. The analysis revealed the need for professional development and help in equipping leaders to advance the gospel.

Murff joined as the president and CEO and her team began to create a plan for a leadership center that trains leaders of leaders. In February 2020, they gathered with hundreds of organizations in Malta, where the apostle Paul was shipwrecked and launched the MENA Leadership Center.

“The MENA Leadership Center exists to bridge leadership gaps,” Murff said. “We do that by providing courses and coaching. The point of it is to expand and accelerate the impact of the gospel within their ministries. We believe that God is at work. We believe that God is doing incredible things.”

Almost two years into her role, the MENA Leadership Center has enrolled and trained more than 400 leaders from 26 countries. While they specifically focus on 24 countries of North Africa, Pakistan and Turkey, the Diaspora extends well beyond the Middle East. Because of the political turmoil in Iran, the center also supports Iranians living elsewhere, such as Singapore, England, Canada, or Brazil, providing tools to expand their reach.

While COVID-19 forced MENA to quickly move its courses 100% online, the center was already planning to provide online education. Recently, they completed their first course in Iraq focusing on the virtual church. Forty leaders across Kurdistan and throughout Iraq gathered to learn how to grow the church.

“We understand that culture should dictate the way we do things,” Murff says. “We work in a highly relational context, so we knew that just throwing things online and saying ‘You’re on your own’ was not going to be successful. We meet once a week for live teaching; in-between we have assignments and encourage participants to meet with the instructor.”

To cover a wide array of topics and provide what leaders need the most, 50% of the instructors are from the region, and 50% are from the West. The instructor for each specific class is determined by the topic. In this way, the center listens to what each region needs and can provide the most appropriate teaching and coaching.

“There have been leaders who have taken a chance on me, and I’m so glad they saw potential and took me along with them.”

Helping Ministries Spread the Gospel 

“I always knew that I wanted to do nonprofit work with ministry in mind,” Murff says. While she thought that work would hover around the marriage and family space, it was evident that God was working behind the scenes leading her to the role at the MENA Leadership Center.  

Shortly after Murff and her husband were married, they worked in Austria at a Farsi-speaking Afghan and Iranian church. “It was almost like God was planting seeds in our heart,” Murff says.

“The Middle East and North Africa region was the home of our Christian faith,” she continues. Murff emphasizes that Jesus was a refugee in Egypt. The gospel writer Mark was from Libya. The apostles ministered in Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey. The Bible as we know it today was approved in Tunisia, which is in Northern Africa. The whole region was once the center of the Christian world.

“God is at work,” she says with profound conviction and excitement. “The church is seeing growth as we have never seen before. This is where the center comes in because with that growth comes an increased demand for Christian leaders to be trained and equipped.”

The abiding aim of the MENA Leadership Center is to continue the work that God has started—to partner with God and equip leaders.

About the School of Business & Leadership

The School of Business & Leadership is a Gold Winner – Best Business School and Best MBA Program by Coastal Virginia Magazine. The school also has earned a top-five ranking by U.S. News & World Report for its online MBA and online graduate business (non-MBA) programs. The school offers both online and on-campus degrees including Master of Business Administration, M.S. in Business Analytics, M.A. in Organizational Leadership, MA. in Product Management, Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership, and Doctor of Strategic Leadership.

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