Our Spiritual Directors are each skilled at and committed to following the Spirit’s leading in helping you to find a clear vision and maintain a confident hope that there is something stunningly alive in you that is good and pressing for release. They are your guides to life in God’s larger love story.
Kent Denlinger served as a lead pastor of Valley Springs Fellowship in Warsaw, Indiana for 32 years. For the past 15 years, he has also worked for NewWay Ministries as a spiritual director at the School of Spiritual Direction and NextStep. After retiring from the pastorate in 2018, Kent has worked as a corporate chaplain for a pharmaceutical company in Cincinnati, Ohio. Kent has a Masters in Counseling degree as well as a Master of Divinity degree, both from Grace Theological Seminary. In 2010, he completed a Doctorate of Ministry in Spiritual Direction from Gordon-Conwell.
Kent is married to Karla, and they have two adult children and two grandchildren. Their friendship with Larry & Rachael Crabb extend back 35 years. Not only did Kent train under Dr. Crabb, he considers Larry a personal mentor over that same period of time. Kent has been described as a relationally gracious person who enjoys coming alongside people in the natural, ongoing journey of life, helping the individual discover what the Spirit of God is up to in his or her soul.
After serving 32 years alongside the people of Valley Springs Fellowship in Warsaw, Indiana, Karla now resides in Cincinnati with her husband Kent. Her introduction to Larry Crabb came as an undergrad psychology major. Her studies continued under Larry, including an internship, and receiving a MA in Biblical Counseling from Grace Theological Seminary in Winona Lake, Indiana. Karla has served as a spiritual director for the School of Spiritual Direction and NextStep for the past 15 years. In addition, she has spoken at retreats and offers ongoing spiritual direction to numerous individuals in a variety of settings.
Karla enjoys being a grandma to her two grandchildren. She also enjoys painting, reading and a good cappuccino. Those closest to Karla would describe her as having an ear for the inner workings of the Spirit, uniquely gifted at helping a person discover and put words to what is transpiring in their soul, most specifically the often undetected life of God.
Whether during her years as a mom nurturing small children, while living in Little Rock, Arkansas and working on staff of Family Life alongside her husband Blair of 42 years, or serving her church teaching women’s bible studies and speaking at retreats, Debbye has spent her life journeying with others. She has always been drawn to listening and asking penetrating questions of the heart. Since 2008, her passion and vision for accompanying others on their spiritual journey has been greatly influenced by the ministry of Larry Crabb. She attended both of Dr. Crabb’s schools for spiritual direction and completed her certification from NewWay Ministries. Those who know Debbye describe her as one who offers a peaceful presence, who holds a God-given vision for others when they are unable to see it for themselves, and who listens deeply and articulates truth in a way that guides the listener in their journey toward the hope of the gospel.
She currently lives in her hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee where she enjoys reading, gardening and a good weekend project around the house. Debbye welcomes time spent with her adult children, traveling to be with her four delightful grandchildren, as well as coffee shared with a friend.
Anthony Vartuli served as a pastor in various different churches for 27 years. He has also served as a spiritual director in Larry’s School of Spiritual Direction for the past 7 years. Presently, he serves as a hospice chaplain. Anthony holds a Masters in Theology (with an emphasis in pastoral counseling) from Dallas Theological Seminary, a Masters in Biblical Counseling from Colorado Christian University, and a Doctor of Ministry degree (with an emphasis in Spiritual Formation) from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
Anthony is married to Diane, who together have 3 children. Both have enjoyed a lasting friendship with Larry and Rachael Crabb since 1995. Larry has also been a trusted mentor as Anthony and Diane have dealt with both the joys and the difficulties of life. Anthony enjoys playing golf, reading books, and hanging out with his family. People have described Anthony as a calming presence, perceptive when it comes to the movement of the Holy Spirit in other’s lives, able to meet people where they are, not where they are supposed to be.
Brian is a licensed psychologist with bi-coastal roots: He studied at UCSD and the Rosemead Graduate School at Biola in Southern California, and now serves as the Clinical Director of CCAHope in upstate New York. Similar to Dr. Crabb, Brian appreciates his early training but has been increasingly drawn over the years to the centrality of the Trinitarian Community as the focus and source of all deep change. He specializes in marital counseling; growing men’s relational understanding and courage to husband and father well; and providing spiritual direction, especially to pastors and ministry leaders. Brian is passionate about facilitating oneness within the body of Christ, especially within marriage (including his own!). He has studied Larry’s books, attended and listened to many of his conferences, participated in SSD and Next Step, and has had the privilege of receiving many years of spiritual direction and mentoring from the Denlingers. He intentionally invests in the next generation of church leaders by teaching spiritual formation seminars, marriage conferences, and supervising his cohort of Christian therapists at CCAHope. Brian’s impact on others is usually described in terms of encouragement and hope but with practical, relational application.
Brian and Jean have two children and two amazing grandchildren. They regularly teach adult Sunday School and have trained marriage mentors in their church. Brian also served as an elder for many years. His hobbies reflect his bi-coastal influences: water, mountain and snow sports, volleyball and music. But deeper is his joy at being used by the Spirit to bring sweet brokenness and growing confidence to live in revival and amazement at God’s grace.
Sonya grew up in East Tennessee where she attended and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from East Tennessee State University. Sonya then moved to Texas to attend Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS), graduating with a Masters degree in Cross-Cultural Ministries. While at DTS, she met and married David Reeder. Following seminary, they moved to Colorado where Sonya completed her Master’s degree in Biblical Counseling at Colorado Christian University.
Returning to Dallas, Sonya was a staff counselor in the Counseling Services Department of DTS, where she also provided small group training with the Center for Christian Leadership. In 1992 she co-founded the Center for Biblical Counseling, serving as the assistant director. Ten years later she made the move to East Texas to serve as the Director of Counseling at Heartlight Ministries, and in 2004 she opened up her private practice in Longview. Sonya has spent years working with churches and Christian universities as both a consultant and a mentor. She speaks regularly at various retreats and conferences.
In 2015 Sonya authored a book, Listen In (InterVarsity Press), along with two other ladies.
Currently, Sonya is a Licensed Professional Counselor as well as a Licensed Supervisor of LPC Interns. Sonya and her husband, David, have been married for 30 years. They have four grown children, one daughter-in-law and a beautiful granddaughter.
Sue Poyner has served the people of Valley Springs Fellowship in Warsaw IN alongside her husband in the area of music and worship as well as an elder. She was introduced to Larry Crabb’s teaching in her undergrad counseling major at Grace College before enrolling and graduating from his MA Program in Biblical Counseling at Grace Theological Seminary. Sue grew up on the mission field in the Philippines. She has worked for Big Brothers/Big Sisters including a community program entitled Strengthening Families. She also works alongside her husband in his computer consulting firm.
Sue’s passion is to continue to explore the richness and fullness of the Gospel and to come alongside individuals who hunger after more in their walk with God. She presently serves on the speaking team at the church while engaging in countless conversations with the members of this Fellowship, which she has been doing for nearly 35 years. As her friend and former pastor says of her, “Sue is a gracious and compassionate listener. I trust my soul with her as she listens for God on my behalf and on behalf of others. There is something incredibly disarming about Sue that invites others to open their hearts to God amidst the struggles of life.”Sue is married to Tim and they are the parents of three adult children (four, if you count their beloved daughter-in-law). She enjoys music and conversation with friends, reading, nature and a good hot beverage alone or with others.