Staff Spotlight: Chris Rutledge
As the mission’s program manager, Chris Rutledge serves as a mentor and source of encouragement for the men on their journey to recovery. It helps, he says, because he can identify with some of their struggles.
Chris grew up in a Christian home in the Denver area. His parents divorced when he was young. “Father figures were always necessary and really needed, but foreign and really awkward for me,” Chris said. “I had a few friends and usually they were people who didn’t challenge me. I didn’t really give people access to myself. There was no one to really call me out, and say ‘This is what being a man looks like. This is what being a Christ-follower looks like.’”
Chris searched for direction during college. “I never felt satisfied, and I never fit in perfectly. One of the ways I dealt with my social awkwardness was drinking a lot. I was stable, working and all that, but I was masking pain. There are so many coping mechanisms: eating poorly, shopping, drinking—all these things provide a nice little dopamine release. They prevented me from being vulnerable with people who are transparent and honest and real. I had walls up.”
But when a friend told Chris about her volunteer work at the Denver Rescue Mission, he was intrigued. He took an internship there and was hired on, becoming a chaplain and then Head Chaplain. “God started sewing mentor figures in my life,” he said. “I wasn’t just clocking in and out. I was really pouring myself out, being creative, taking risks.”
Chris married his wife, a mentor specialist for grade school-aged kids in poverty, in 2012, and the couple had twins in 2014. “They were premature and needed more care,” Chris said. “We were in survival mode for about a year and a half. It was tough, but we really learned how to take care of one another’s needs and rely on other people. It was a reminder from God to be vulnerable with people and that intimacy is important.”
Last year, Chris saw a job posting for a program manager at the mission. He and his wife had talked about rooting their family somewhere new, and they jumped at the chance. Chris has been in his post since November. “I feel like God wants me here,” Chris said. “I don’t dehumanize people living in addiction. Addiction is everywhere. Addiction is cell phones, video games, television, shopping. I see the ways that we get consumed by this stuff, and it gives me empathy. I’m able to relate to them in a deeper way.”