Every week, thousands of people of all ages and walks of life enter one of Wave Church’s seven vibrant campuses stretching from Virginia to California. And every week, lives are changed as God confirms that His Church remains the hope of the world.
While Wave meets the criteria of “megachurch,” with thousands regularly attending its multiple weekly services, under the leadership of Senior Pastors Steve and Sharon Kelly, Wave isn’t concerned with numbers in and of themselves. The church is on a passionate mission to build healthy people in love with God, life and others.
Partnering with like-minded, forward-thinking leaders and organizations is vital to advancing Wave’s calling. Regent University is one such organization, serving as a significant community partner and instrumental academic champion for the church for decades.
Now, as Wave builds missional momentum through Wave Leadership College™ (WLC), the profundity of its alliance with Regent has never been more evident. Meet a trio of gifted Regent graduates who joined forces in 2013 to propel WLC — and Wave Church — forward: Derek Holser ‘05 (Education and Law), Stephanie Iaquinto ‘10 (Law and Communication & the Arts), and Jason DeVerna ‘04 (Divinity).
Although each pursued his or her Regent journey with no connection to one another or inkling that their work would one day collide, this “cord of three” has played an instrumental role in developing a vibrant and growing training ground in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
While the diplomas and professional histories of Holser, Iaquinto and DeVerna spin on distinct spools, their stories intersect where they’ve learned to follow God down whatever path they’re called.
Derek Holser’s eyes light up with an almost-electric pulse when he talks about the novels he’s completed. He sits, literally, on the edge of his seat as he explains the creative process of his latest piece of fiction: a Narnia-type story titled Atlas Forman & the Necessary Dream, which he’s written and rewritten three times.
“It’s a lot of work and persistence,” says Holser. “But I really enjoy creating new worlds and seeing what happens.”
Holser doesn’t only roll up his sleeves within the context of the literary world.
Recently promoted from executive director to executive vice president of WLC, he meets the daily challenges of the academic realm head-on. His initial taste of academia began with what he calls the “hardest and most rewarding” job on the planet: teaching. His work teaching second-grade students led him to pursuing his M.Ed. at Regent, which, interestingly, led him to the School of Law. During the education program, Holser was required to take a course in school law, which piqued his interest in law. With the encouragement from faculty members, Holser took the Law School Administration Test (LSAT) and enrolled in Regent’s School of Law just after receiving his advanced degree in education.
Holser’s short-lived teaching career served as a springboard to eight years as a successful practicing attorney. During the back end of this professional season, he found his niche while representing small businesses and nonprofit organizations — including churches.
“That’s how I ended up in this seat,” says Holser, speaking of his role at the leadership college. Wave Church had been Holser’s church home for more than 10 years, but he never imagined joining the team that would secure accreditation for the Bible college and help to build a thriving school.
“Now I can see, literally, the perfect coupling of those degrees from Regent and my experience with nonprofits—it was all leading up to this.”
Dr. Stephanie Iaquinto, WLC’s academic dean, is a self-proclaimed forever-learner. “I can’t be passionate about my students’ education if I’m not passionate about my own,” she says.
Her diverse interests trace back to her first job outside of her undergraduate school as a reporter in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“Writing and reporting really was my first love,” she says. Her decision to pursue a law degree at Regent came as a way to set herself apart from competition in the journalistic field — at least, at the start.
Though it was never her intent to practice law, she decided to “give it a shot,” after completing her law degree in 1996, working at two firms during her legal career. She took a break from practice when she and her husband were expecting their first child.
In 2001, Iaquinto returned to the Regent community when she was offered an adjunct position teaching a secured-transactions class in the School of Law.
“It was a challenge,” says Iaquinto. “But I love challenges.”
What she loves more, it seems, is teaching — something that’s practically part of her DNA, thanks to a long family line of teachers. This passion brought Iaquinto back for round-two as a Regent student, completing a Ph.D. in Communication—this time, with the goal of pursuing a career in higher education.
And, in perfect timing, Iaquinto, a member of Wave Church for several years, was invited by Holser to join the WLC executive team. The cautiously adventurous Iaquinto accepted the challenge. In addition to helping the college design a high-quality, Christ-centered curriculum, she is also key in hiring faculty members and ensuring that the college meets academic accreditation requirements.
“I wasn’t trained in administration, but I knew that I had been given so much opportunity and a fantastic education to share,” says Iaquinto. “Regent is about Christian leadership and changing the world, and this is my time to lead in a new way to help Wave Leadership College students take their calling to the world.”
Jason DeVerna, former executive vice president of WLC and instrumental pioneer in leading the college to accreditation candidacy status, recently returned to his home state of Ohio to plant a Wave network church. DeVerna says that, when he left Ohio more than 10 years ago to begin his M.A. in Practical Theology program at Regent, his theme for that year, oddly enough, was one he’d soon discover was etched into every one of the university’s programs: leadership.
“I loved the Regent experience,” says DeVerna. “I received
incredible Bible knowledge and ministry knowledge by being involved in my local church. The relationship between what I was learning in the classroom and being able to directly apply it in church life was beneficial to me.”
DeVerna’s education was a gentle push and pull between the “book smarts” of a ministry degree and “street smarts” of practical ministry experience he picked up during his internship at Wave Church. Though he began working with the college at an official capacity in 2005, DeVerna’s history with Wave began almost as soon as he entered its doors soon after relocating to Virginia Beach.
“When my wife and I walked in to church for the first time we just sat in the back row and let God work on us,” says DeVerna. “I remember that service so vividly; and my wife and I knew then that this would be home.”
As a Regent School of Divinity student, DeVerna eventually served as an intern at Wave. It was his experience with the church’s leadership team, combined with his studies at Regent, that made him the perfect candidate to take on the task of growing WLC into an accredited academic institution.
DeVerna, who came to Regent fully intending to earn his degree and then immediately return to church ministry in Ohio, served on Wave’s team for nearly a decade. “I never imagined that I would have run a Bible college in any way shape or form,” he says. “The opportunity definitely came out of left field. But I loved it. I love what God’s been able to do.”
Connecting the Dots in Leadership and Life
Since the merger of this unlikely Regent triad at Wave Leadership College, Iaquinto coined the leadership college’s pulse-phrase for its students: Come with a vision; Leave with a mission.
“It’s all about making sure our students have the tools they need to walk out God’s calling for their lives,” she says. “It’s also about giving them a solid educational foundation.”
And while the leadership college’s predominant student persona is an individual who hopes to enter full-time ministry, DeVerna says one of the most gratifying parts of his work was helping prepare his students for success in life — in whatever field they would ultimately be called to.
“We believe God is going to raise up people of influence to be a voice in whatever community God places them in,” DeVerna says. “And to demonstrate that the life-giving local church is the hope of the world.”
The coursework at WLC, while emphasizing scholarship, also encourages the application of personal prayer life and service within the church. This, according to Holser, serves as a means of character building during a potentially muddled season for students seeking direction for their lives.
“We all wonder what our purpose is here on this earth; it’s a very human thing to do,” says Holser. “You may spend some time in life unable to connect the dots, and you find yourself asking questions like, ‘Why am I here in this season? What purpose will this serve?’” The accomplished Holser says he’s no stranger to asking such questions himself.
He encourages his students to trust God’s process and proceed with patience. It’s a character quality that many find hard to wrestle with — and it’s an element that, coincidentally, binds his story together with Iaquinto and DeVerna.
Together, they have learned that education is a tool God uses to prune His followers into leaders for His kingdom. And as they continue to mold lives, Holser, Iaquinto and DeVerna are leading through a terrain they’ve already navigated: understanding that success isn’t measured by accolades, finances or even having a clear picture of what the future holds. It’s measured by the faithfulness to Christ displayed throughout their journey.