Craig Jutila

Craig graduated from Biola University in 1988 and went right into ministry, choosing it over a career in professional baseball. While in ministry for 30 years, he served on staff at three churches. The Grove Community Church in Riverside, CA for seven years, Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA for 13 years and Venture Church in Los Gatos, CA. In his ministry, Craig served as a Family Pastor and a Children’s Pastor while also being a Teaching Pastor at both Saddleback and Venture. He had a passion for communicating in a relevant fun way and audiences all around the world enjoyed his live teaching, best selling books and curriculum, leadership blog and online classes. Craig was voted by Group Magazine as one of the Pioneers of the Decade for his work in Children’s Ministry as well as one of the top 20 influencers of the last 20 years in ministry. He also appeared on several radio and television programs discussing the topics of authentic leadership, life balance, family and parenting. In 1996, Craig and his wife, Mary started Empowered Living where our mission is to “Empower Leaders and Families for Life.” In 2004, they started a non-profit ministry to help families adopt internationally. Later this ministry changed names from Orphan Impact to Empowered Living Foundation, in order to widen its ministry and scope.
One of his books is Hectic to Healthy: The Journey to a Balanced Life in which he and Mary openly share of his struggles to balance ministry life and family life. While in counseling, Craig left church ministry and went through a very difficult time in which he struggled with depression and brokenness but came out a much better person; more humble, patient, genuine and caring. Some of his most important learnings involved avoiding isolation from others, staying connected with God & close friends and putting your family first, above ministry.
Craig and Mary began sharing about their marriage and ministry struggles in conferences all around the country. What they learned was that their struggle was not unique. Many pastors feel isolated from others, have no one to turn to in a crisis, when often their own church cuts them off either because of their own failure or just because the “church is going in a different direction.”
Soon others saw Craig as a person they could turn to in their brokenness. Countless connections at conferences and through emails, placed a strong desire on Craig’s heart to start a place where hurting pastors could come for healing and get connected in long term relationships with others who could relate and encourage them.
Over the last 10 years, Craig prayed and journaled and dreamed of a place on Whidbey Island, Washington for this connection and healing to begin. He wanted a beautiful place where others could get away from the rush of life and experience the magnitude and serenity of God’s power in nature while rekindling hope and rebuilding healthy habits. He dreamed of bringing in counselors to help start the healing, Christian leaders to help teach new habits and group facilitators to help connect hurting pastors to each other. His dream was not for it to be a ‘retreat’ where they would come for a period of time and then leave, but rather as a place for healing to start. Connections would continue long term, with follow up and most importantly ongoing authentic relationships between the attendees, so that the pastors would experience community in a safe healthy way.
When Craig passed away suddenly of a heart attack in December 2018, Mary and the Empowered Living Foundation Board started the Craig Jutila Memorial Fund, with the goal of making Craig’s vision come to life.






Mary Jutila

Craig and I began dating when I was just a Freshman in High School. Eight years, after college, we were married and five years later we were blessed with our twin boys. We then adopted our daughter Karimy, when she was 6 years old and the boys were 7. Craig was working in full time ministry at Saddleback Church, and I was running our curriculum company, Empowered Living and eventually our non-profit company as well. In addition, we were writing curriculum and Craig was speaking. Things got pretty crazy, pretty quick and our marriage was in crisis. If it wasn’t for our wise Christian counselor, loyal friends and God’s mercy combined with hard work and grit on our part, we would have been another statistic of a broken family. But God works all things for good. He prompted us to have courage and share our story with others in ministry. A whole new passion for marriage and healthy families was developed in our hearts and this began the dream of helping others pastors and their families in crisis. We started by writing Hectic to Healthy and then speaking openly about our crazy and what we had learned. We found that the need is immense and so many pastors and their wives feel isolated, hopeless, depressed and used. They give to help others in the church, but who is there to help them when they need it? We want to be there to help point them to God’s truth and empower them to grow through brokenness. Broken is not final, it’s temporary and God will heal your crazy and your broken if you will let Him. We are here to help.




Board Member


Don Fine

Don is excited and thankful to be a part of bringing Craig Jutila’s dream to life. Craig was not only a mentor; he was a true friend. He walked beside Don and Daphne when others walked away, during some of the hardest times of their ministry. Because Don has experienced some of that brokenness first hand, he wants to be able to help other pastors who may be feeling that same brokenness by showing them how Jesus brought peace to a storm. He believes Empowered Living Foundation will provide the kind of support that pastors need.






Martin Lombrano

Being on the board of Empowered Living Foundation is one way for me to honor Craig’s memory, his passion for life and advance the vision of coming along side church pastors and leaders who have lost their way and needing healing from their own brokenness. Connecting a persons heart and head, helping them to be curious and mindful of staying connected or abiding with God are just a few important goals of the foundation.




Board Member


J Steele

The mission of Empowering Leaders Foundation resonates with me because I have seen and heard the tragic experiences of ministry leaders who are isolated and hurting within systems that are meant to be healthy and whole. One of the most compelling statistics is that over 80% of ministry leaders say they do not have a friend close enough to share their deepest hurts and concerns with. During my friendship with Craig and other ministry leaders I have seen how this dynamic works and how it is perpetuated if there is not intentional focus and effort to counteract it. Personally, I am motivated to see leaders learn how to make and have close friends in order to experience the community and healing that genuine ministry is all about. As I connect more with those that are like-minded I can sense a momentum building that will refresh many.






Chris Lewis

I have been a friend of Craig and Mary Jutila for over 20 years and have witnessed firsthand their desire and dedication to support others. Craig firmly believed that God had led him to help those who have been involved in ministry and are currently in a broken state. My involvement with Empowered Living Foundation is an opportunity to align with a purpose I believe in and to contribute towards fulfilling Craig's vision.



Board Member


Cameron Jutila

I’m the son of Craig and Mary Jutila and I was able to see firsthand their desires to help those who’ve been hurt in ministry. Growing up I was able to see the effects of overworking in ministry and how it affected our family. My dad was a good man and I know he knew how to help others who were struggling with the same thing, and I’m positive we can help others too through his vision. I became a part of this board after my dad passed away so that way I can further his vision to help people who’ve given up everything to work so hard in ministry.




Board Member


Daphne Fine

Daphne is so grateful to be a part of Empowered Living Foundation’s great work in bringing the dream of founder, Craig Jutila, to life. During the 20 years that she and her husband, Don, were in ministry, Craig was a treasured mentor. And in their own seasons of brokenness in ministry, Craig continued to be a loyal friend and encourager, and a wise counselor. Daphne is excited about the opportunity to join with ELF in offering support to pastors and their families. She knows from experience that there is great reward in the midst of brokenness because of Jesus.




Board Member


Debbie Lombrano

Debbie's bio is coming shortly.




Board Member


Cheri Steele

Having grown up in the church, I have seen the toll working in the church spotlight has taken on those called to serve in this capacity. Unfortunately the institutional church has historically done a poor job caring for it's leaders. Empowered Living Foundation seeks to meet this huge need, helping to nurture and restore God's people through rest, retreat, and community. Craig had a heart for caring for broken leaders and I am excited to be a part of carrying out his dream.



Board Member


Dawn Lewis

I am passionate about Empowered Living for many reasons. The founders Craig and Mary Jutila have modeled for me how to do ministry--both on a professional and person level--for the past 25 years. Having walked alongside them during their many years as church and ministry leaders, I know how important it is that leaders have strong support systems and safe places to turn in times of need. The impact Craig and Mary have had on my life is immense, and I want to do what I can to help empower those in ministry as they serve to spread God’s Kingdom. I am excited about this opportunity to make Craig's vision come to fruition so that leaders can continue to empower, guide, and inspire.



Jim Mastellar, Director of Center for Individual and Family Therapy

Lance Witt, Founder of Replenish Ministries

Michael Bishoff, Founder of Souleader Ministries

Reggie Joyner, Founder of Rethink Ministry

Jim Wideman, Founder of Jim Wideman Ministries, Inc.