OPEN: Tad Ernst + Family

Story by Jason Curry, Photos by Merissa Humes | Oct. 31, 2023

These have always been Tad Ernst's stomping grounds. He grew up right around the corner from or went to school at practically every location that has held significance for Discovery in the years past and present. His story of growing up, moving regularly, and meeting Savannah (his wife of ten years and counting) has involved a planting and a grounding in the community that used to find him causing some major trouble as a youth. To know Tad is to know what it means to invite and include. Everyone he meets is just moments away from hearing a bit of his story and/or getting an invite to church. His house is home to not only his core family of four, but also to four dogs, three cats, and numerous geckos (I'm sure there is a specific number, I just had no interest in spending any time with the lizards to confirm ranks.) Neighbors, neighborhood kids, and people simply passing through see the Ernst home as a safe harbor. That's exactly how he hopes people view it. Tacoma is his mission field. But INTERNATIONAL missions? Now that's another story entirely...

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What brought you here to Discovery?

My sister Heather told Sav and I about Discovery. I was looking for a church that would feed me and my family. We were newer to our faith and wanted to grow in a supportive community.

What has kept you here?

Relationships (Discovery has literally become my family), encouragement, growth (discipleship), teaching, and community outreach.


Discovery Community Church: You do A LOT at Discovery, but I rarely see you take a break! Do you experience burnout, and if so, how do you deal with it?

Tad Ernst: A very good question and one that I’ve been reflecting on more this past year than ever before. It’s hard for me to say no when it comes to serving. I’ve wrestled with this for years but it came to a breaking point this past summer when I realized that I needed to step back. I found myself serving constantly but for the wrong reasons. I have come to understand that it’s not about how much I do but rather what my motivations are. I needed create margin for time with my family. I was serving so often that I was missing intimate time with them. My priorities have to be… God must be first, then Savannah and our marriage, followed by my kids. Church and other ministries come after those. I have to remember that my first commitments are to honor God and the family He gave me.

DCC: What energizes you most about serving others? Have you always been this way?

TE: I’m most energized to know that what I’m doing positively impacts my neighbor… Jesus said love your neighbor as yourself and that motivates me. It’s crazy how self serving I used to be. I was constantly trying to get an upper hand. Work some angle. In the end I was never happy. Serving others makes me truly happy.

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Have you always liked your name, Tad?

Not at all! I caught hell for it as a kid. Especially after my dad gave me a nickname and made a song about it! Mortifying. Later on I came to appreciate it as I became a Christian and learned that Thaddeus was a disciple and apostle of Jesus. Tad’s a nickname for Thaddeus even though I’m just TAD!

DCC: Evangelism is such a loaded word in a lot of Christian circles, but I know you don’t see it as so daunting. What does evangelism look like for you?

TE: For me evangelism is pretty natural. Jesus always finds a way into my conversations. I speak to someone and usually the situation to share presents itself. I just have to be willing to say something.

DCC: How do you connect best with people?

TE: Over coffee, Face to face, One on one time. Group settings are great too but I find it easier to connect when it’s more intimate. I love to hear people’s stories and generally people are willing to share if you’re willing to listen.

DCC: That “willing” part you mentioned earlier is where I think a lot of us struggle! For those of us who are uncomfortable with the concept of evangelism, what encouragement/advice would you have for us?

TE: It’s important to use your strengths/God-given giftings. When we work inside of those areas it’s not difficult. It’s also important to be patient and attentive to His Spirit inside you. He’ll prompt you when the timing is right. I think people have a hard time sharing about Christ when they force it out. His timing is perfect.

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How did you and Savannah meet?

Sav (aka Boo) and I first met at Gault Middle School, 24 years ago! That’s crazy to think. I’d just moved in with my dad and was entering 6th grade that year. We had a few classes together. During 7th and 8th grade we were both placed in the same highly capable classes. No romance between us during these days. Sparks flew much much later!

DCC: Now, Savannah…I know you and Tad are…different personalities, let’s say ☺️ Your inclination isn’t necessarily to approach a stranger and invite them to church. But, you’re clearly a missional FAMILY! And that’s not all Tad! So what do you see as your role/part in all of this?

Savannah Ernst: My role/part in this is support. I will always be there for him in any capacity that I can. His personality type makes him incapable of not helping and being extremely high-spirited and my personality makes me want to nurture that for him but from a support role as I tend to not be as energetic and vibrant as my husband can be.

DCC: So, what does that support look like, as a self-proclaimed introvert? I don’t think a lot of us see introversion and outreach going hand-in-hand!

SE: Partnering with Tad means being a little uncomfortable for me specifically….and probably for at least one of my kids! He pushes me to be in community and because he wears his heart on his sleeve I am always thinking of how my actions make other people feel. It also means that I won’t see him much unless I partner with him, because he can’t help but say yes to everyone that asks or needs help! 🙂

DCC: That’s a good point! It’s a bit more about showing up than it is taking the lead, I’d imagine. What excites YOU most about all of these opportunities for Tad and your family?

SE: I’m excited that my husband is showing my kids and myself how easy it is to step out and love on people. He pushes us to be better and because of that I feel more comfortable volunteering with Disco Kids and attending women’s events like IF:Table. We have created a small group that has become family and relationships that go beyond anything I could have created on my own without my husband and without God at the center of all that.


How long have you been married?

It’s been 10 years!!! So stoked! We renewed our vows this past May.

(Disclaimer: In the following sections, several names are left out and/or initialed on purpose to protect the identities of friends/partners in the mission field in sensitive parts of the world. We don’t want to compromise them or their work, but want to honor them and thank them all the same.)

Shifting gears specifically to missions work now… Tad, what got you involved with missions at Discovery?

TE: Ultimately, the very same family we just launched into full-time missions work this past month 🥹. Seeing them live out a missional life for Jesus was an amazing opportunity. They were the reason I joined the course: Perspectives which opened my eyes to God’s heart for all peoples of the world. This led me to joining missions at Discovery. They encouraged me all the way, helping me to see the importance of global missions.

DCC: You’ve now been to Eternal Anchor a couple of times, right? Tell me about a time there that was particularly impactful to you.

TE: I’ve been twice with my son Weston. Once when he was 8 and then this past summer after he turned 10. There were many impactful moments throughout these two trips but the one that stands out is having dinner with one of the E.A. students’ (Issac) and his family. We shared a delicious meal and then sat and listened to this family’s amazing story. We learned about the struggles and the victories as they found Eternal Anchor and Issac bloomed into a happy and confident young man. Before we left we played soccer with Isaac and his little brother. The time was intimate and sweet. I was honored to experience that.

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Which of your kids is most like you? Which is most like Savannah? Would she agree?

Hard to say… at first I’d say Neva is more like me and Weston more like Savannah, but they’re both like each of us in a way. Weston has some dad tendencies too, wearing his emotions on his sleeve and a quick temper (I’ve been working on mine, promise!). Mom is reserved and calculated. She plays here cards close. Neva is a bubbly social butterfly. She’s always game to hang with friends and make new ones—that’s my extrovert personality. Weston takes awhile to warm up to people as does Sav. She and Weston are more introverted and she’d agree.

Savannah, do you, in fact, agree with this assessment?

(Savannah) Yeah that sounds just about right! 😂

DCC: You are just about to head out on a mission trip for a few weeks. How did that come about?

TE: While taking the Perspectives course, I was asked to complete an integrative project as my final assignment. I chose to focus on one of Discovery’s mission partners that I knew worked with unreached people groups- J&P. It was my goal to mobilize Discovery to pray for the specific people groups within this region. While working on this project, the Jones’ connected me with J so I could ask him questions about the people groups he served and their needs. Our relationship grew after I completed Perspectives and joined the Mission Council of Discovery. Each mission partner of Discovery has a point of contact on the council and as I had already been establishing a relationship with J&P it felt natural to become theirs. Then it occurred to me/was placed on my heart that I would love the opportunity to see what they did first hand. This would be an opportunity to encourage them, letting them know that we are cheering them on and to share with Discovery the amazing work they are doing for the Lord.

DCC: Were you a yes right away? How did you get to yes?

TE: I never thought that I’d be doing anything like this… the concept was rather terrifying to begin with. I often thought, I’m not equipped for this. It was the constant encouragement from my church family and my desire to walk faithfully that pushed me to the decision to go.

DCC: If you can tell us, what will you be doing there?

TE: I was told that I will be used as an English language partner, but other than that I will just be observing and hopefully submerging myself into this culture.

DCC: How can we pray for you while you’re there?

TE: This will be the first time I have ever traveled internationally on my own and for such an extended period of time.

I pray that… God would provide for this trip financially.

That travel would go smoothly and safely.

That I would follow God’s promptings and step out of my idea of comforts

That while I am away, Savannah and the kids would be cared for/provided for

That God would give me discernment in how I can be a good ambassador for Jesus and Discovery Community Church

That I could be an encouragement to J&P as well as the community they serve

That upon my return, I would be able to adequately convey the things I have witnessed

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