Calvert Hall College High School, the top ranked high school lacrosse team in Maryland, competes against St. Mary’s High School (in blue). Frank Kelly III was involved with Cru® and Athletes in Action® as a student at Cornell University, where he played football and lacrosse, and he still uses Cru resources to share the gospel with his employees.

Living With One Foot in Business and Another in Ministry


Frank Kelly III starts this particular morning at 7:30 with a Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting at Calvert Hall College High School in suburban Baltimore, Maryland. He leads eight students through an icebreaker, followed by watching and discussing a video of U.S. Olympic athletes discussing their faith. At 8:00, he checks his watch and passes leadership of the meeting to an FCA staff member.

Frank then hops in his dark blue SUV and battles rush-hour traffic to get to a board meeting for an educational non-profit in Baltimore’s scenic Inner Harbor. He’s out the door as soon as the meeting ends. Frank grabs his phone to make a call and returns to his car. From there, he drives to his company, KELLY, just north of the city.

Baltimore’s scenic Inner Harbor is the city’s main tourist destination. Attractions include the National Aquarium (at right), as well as sports venues Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium.

Frank and his wife, Gayle, co-chair Helping Up Mission’s $61 million campaign to build a women’s and children’s shelter. Here, they are excited to report about the amount of money already raised through the campaign.

He parks and speed-walks to his office to sort through business. When guests arrive less than an hour later, he steps out to give them a tour of KELLY’s sprawling campus. His executive assistant stops him on the way out the door so he can address and seal two packages. Both contain copies of Bill Bright’s book on the Holy Spirit, The Secret. He jots quick notes of gratitude and encouragement to the two recipients, barely slowing down. The tour resumes. He guides his guests through the office, greeting many of his employees by name and expounding on the history of the organization, which his parents started over 40 years ago.

Frank finishes his day at the office and drives home.

This densely packed schedule is business as usual for Frank Kelly III, a man whose years of experience have taught him how to leverage his professional resources to expand his opportunities for ministry.

Frank speaks with a client while he visits KELLY’s administrative services department.

Frank visits Bernel Cooper, who works on a sales and service team, volunteers on the company’s spiritual health and wellness committee, and voluntarily chairs the company’s prayer team.

Frank speaks with Craig Horner, chief financial officer of the KELLY Companies.

A private offering

Frank’s professional and spiritual journeys began during his time as a student athlete at Cornell University. At first, he focused primarily on his studies and moving up the ranks on the football and lacrosse teams. Parents and friends had shared the gospel with him, but he was relatively uninterested. He had grown up attending church and reciting prayers, and he didn’t feel much need to change that. Looking back, he says that he had “most of the pieces of the puzzle” but that he needed help putting them together. Initially, Frank excelled in both scholastics and athletics — not an easy task at an Ivy League school. Soon, though, crisis struck. Frank found his position on the teams in jeopardy.

During a series of drills at practice, Frank’s performance was subpar. Multiple injuries from his time on the football team flared up, and Frank couldn’t keep up. He could tell that his coach’s chastisement alluded to a potential cut. Frank recalled the advice his father had given him many times: “Until your life is centered on your relationship with Jesus Christ, you won’t know true peace.” Frank remembered the God he had heard about many times, and so he asked Him for help, whatever that meant. He was afraid of being cut from the team, but more than that, he realized his need for the peace that Jesus brings.

Frank’s family plays an important role in Calvert Hall’s lacrosse program. In addition to Frank’s son, Joseph Kim, known as JK, playing on the team, Frank’s brother Bryan is the head coach.

Frank often fields business calls from the sidelines of JK’s lacrosse games.

Frank and his wife, Gayle, greet their son JK after Calvert defeated St. Mary’s.

On the sidelines of Schoellkopf Field, with tears in his eyes, Frank said, “Lord, I need You. I don’t know what it means to receive You, believe You, trust You, follow You. I don’t know what the words are. Just come. I don’t care if I ever play football or lacrosse again; I need You.” Frank chose that day to follow Jesus, whatever that might mean for him.

God chose to bless Frank’s athletic career and use athletics to grow his faith. Six months later, he joined a Bible study on his campus that was connected to Cru®.

Going public

Frank was not yet ready to be known as a Christian on campus, especially among his teammates, because being a Christian in that time and place was rare. He snuck out to the weekly meetings for the first month, hiding his recently dusted confirmation Bible under his jacket. He was embarrassed early on for struggling to find Bible passages. He furtively glanced at others’ Bibles until he discovered the table of contents. His mother later sent him a Bible with tabs to help.

A few weeks later, Frank felt an undeniable push from God to invite a friend and teammate to the study. He was hesitant, but he asked his friend Kevin to come along. That night, Kevin also decided to follow Jesus. This planted a seed in Frank’s heart: an enduring passion and excitement for sharing Jesus with others.

Cost–benefit analysis

Not long after Kevin came to Christ, he and Frank approached their Bible study leader with the idea of gathering other athletes for a study in their fraternity house. A week before the start of the study, the leader said to Frank and Kevin, “You lead it.” Frank had attended eight weeks of their study at that point, and Kevin had attended fewer. So they hesitated. But in spite of that initial hesitation, they agreed.

The growth Frank witnessed among his fellow athletes led him to consider joining Athletes in Action®, Cru®’s sports ministry, as a full-time staff member. He had spent his summers during college working in sales at KELLY, but he couldn’t deny that God was powerfully using his ministry in the world of student athletes. Of course, Frank’s options were plentiful. He was on course to graduate with a business degree from a prestigious university.

To complicate things, Frank’s dad, “Big Frank,” asked him to join him at the family business after graduation. As KELLY had been a family business from the start, Big Frank was eager to keep the company in the family moving forward.

About 450 employees work at KELLY’s corporate office in Sparks, Maryland. Another 40 people work elsewhere.

Baltimore’s Washington Monument towers over the nearby Mount Vernon-Belvedere neighborhood, a location not far from Frank’s office.

Frank had also begun dating Gayle, a woman whom he had known after his freshman year. Becoming a staff member of AIA could mean being sent anywhere in the country for his ministry assignment, and he was in no rush to leave Gayle behind.

Frank struggled to find the best path forward.

Globalization and localization

Frank’s indecision came to a head while on a summer mission trip with AIA in Japan. One day, while on a beach in Okinawa, his now well-worn Bible open in his lap, Frank prayed for guidance concerning his next steps. He had already applied to join AIA, but he was open to whatever God called him to.

In that moment, bathed in the glow of the sun over the Pacific Ocean, Frank read Acts 1:8, which says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Frank joins other professionals for an Operation Timothy Bible study at a diner in Timonium, a Baltimore suburb.

Operation Timothy, part of the Christian Business Men’s Connection, facilitates discipleship and Bible study among business professionals.

Frank pauses to talk with a friend after their Bible study at the Baltimore Country Club.

Even as he sat on a beach that, for Frank, represented the end of the earth, he felt God calling him to begin his ministry in his personal “Jerusalem,” his hometown of Baltimore. Furthermore, along with this verse, God brought to mind five specific spheres of influence, many of which still define his ministry to this day: business, high school, lacrosse, parents’ friends and personal friends.

A diversified portfolio

With the ink still wet on his degree, Frank boldly approached his parents’ friends with the gospel. Among the local elite, both in the political and business worlds, Frank and his parents saw many longtime friends grow closer to Jesus and helped train them to share their faith with others.

Frank’s call to business meant giving his father at least one year of his life post college. Perhaps knowing more than Frank did at the time, Big Frank said that, after one year, Frank was free to “go save the world” with AIA or any other ministry he chose. Frank began as a phone marketer, selling employee benefit plans to companies in the food and beverage industry, specifically focusing on liquor stores, bars and taverns. As unglamorous as it seemed to him, he worked hard. All the while, he witnessed the deep care that his father and mother showed the employees at KELLY.

After graduating from Cornell, Frank returned to Calvert Hall to start a Christian group for athletes. That blossomed into a movement on 300 high-school and middle-school campuses in Maryland, with more than 50 full-time staff members. He also maintains close ties with Calvert Hall. He has sent all of his sons to the prestigious all-boys school, just like his father had done with him and his brothers. Frank also makes it to as many lacrosse matches as he can.

Frank (right) attends as many of JK’s games as possible. On this particular day, a TV crew interviewed Frank in the announcer’s box, and he had an opportunity to talk about his business and Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Frank speaks at a Thursday morning FCA meeting at Calvert Hall. He was instrumental in bringing a dedicated FCA lacrosse program to Maryland.

Lacrosse maintains a special place in Frank’s heart. He has played for semi-pro and rec leagues for much of his adult life and coached many traveling teams, primarily for FCA and AIA. Many of the coaches he competes against work alongside Frank as encouraging co-laborers in the ministry. Others act as a fertile mission field as people in need of the good news of Jesus. Even as adversaries on the field, Frank forms deep bonds with coaches and players he competes against.

Additionally, Frank makes it a point to develop and invest in deep friendships, both inside and outside of church. He and Gayle host a weekly Bible study in their home with as many as 20 couples in attendance.

Frank greets Sirena Alford, a Baltimore City FCA staff member, with a hug.

Frank speaks at a gathering of FCA leaders from across Maryland.

Frank’s office contains many allusions to his athletic interests, including a lacrosse trophy and a batter’s helmet signed by Orioles great Cal Ripken Jr.

Comprehensive benefits

As his promised year with KELLY came to a close, Frank faced another decision. Would he stay with the business or pursue a career in vocational ministry? Having seen God at work in his own backyard of Baltimore, and with his marriage to Gayle on the horizon, Frank decided to trust God to provide ministry opportunities locally. He continued his job at KELLY, working hard to climb the corporate ladder and was ultimately named CEO after 21 years of faithful service.

As he thrived in business, Frank leveraged his resources to also grow a personal ministry. Between offering scholarships to Christian marriage retreats with FamilyLife® and camps to his employees, encouraging employees to “adopt” children in need through World Vision with corporate matching, and using every opportunity to share about the difference that Jesus has made in his own life, Frank diligently labors to expand the kingdom of God.

Each week, Frank and Gayle invite 10 to 20 couples into their home for a Bible study group. Here, Frank explains how the men of the group can share their faith.

Business stresses and issues can plague Frank long after he’s home for the day. Here, two friends pray with Frank and Gayle about a pressing problem at work.

Frank and Gayle are deeply involved in one another’s work and ministries, including working together on mission trips and fundraising projects.

Federal Hill Park overlooks Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. A cannon stands as a testament to the area’s importance in both the War of 1812 and the American Civil War.

Still, Frank has made an annual tradition of reflecting on his career and future. He prays for guidance moving forward on the anniversary of his initial hire date each year. He asks God whether he should continue at KELLY or step aside for someone else to take over. Although his position comes with a heavy load of responsibility that results in a mile-a-minute lifestyle, Frank continues to hear God’s call to run his company as an act of worship. Even through the early mornings, late nights, and struggles to balance life at home and the office, Frank shows no signs of changing course any time soon.

Reach out

How do you seek to share the gospel with others through your work?

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Elliott Dodge
Words by

Elliott Dodge

Elliott is a journalist with Cru®. He grew up in South Carolina and graduated from the University of South Carolina (the real USC) with an English degree. He plans to visit every continent; so far he’s been 71 percent successful.

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Guy Gerrard
Photos by

Guy Gerrard

Guy isn’t much of a city person. Paddling down the Wda river in northern Poland with participants of a Cru® summer mission project describes a great place for him to photograph. He likes being outside, doing anything with water, and he enjoys making things with his hands. Guy serves as a photographer for Cru.

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Read more from the September 2019 issue


Saying Yes to Invest in a Generation

Sarah Romero Yetter discovered her passion for helping children flourish while she served through Cru®, and God moved her in a direction she couldn’t have anticipated.

September 2019

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