Member Spotlight: Mark and Jill Savage of JAM Savage Ministries

Marcia Krahn  ·  Dec 31, 2017

If you walk up the steps to Mark and Jill Savage’s 100-year-old farmhouse, they will swing wide the door of their home and their hearts to welcome you. Their “Accept Imperfect. Embrace Real Life” message is not an empty mantra, but is their way of life, hard-won through years of meeting the imperfection, challenges, and just plain messiness of life full on. And they invite you to do the same.

Mark has pastored and now runs a home repair and remodeling business, SawHorse Homes Inc. Jill founded and was CEO of Hearts at Home, an organization that for 24 years ministered to thousands of women through annual conferences. She now devotes her time to writing, speaking, and coaching. Together they lead JAM (Jill and Mark) Savage Ministries, which centers on their No More Perfect message, especially on the most recent No More Perfect Marriages book, which they co-authored, and their marriage coaching, seminars, retreats, and intensives.

Their passion has become authenticity. In the 1990s, Jill was leading a mom’s group in their church. When the topic was marriage, Jill felt she’d be a hypocrite if she taught the entire lesson without admitting that she and Mark were struggling. The fact that Mark was their pastor complicated the decision. After praying together, they decided she would share they had started marriage counseling to work through some challenges they were facing. Jill braced herself for rejection, for being asked to resign. Instead, for days she received calls from women thanking her, women who thought they were the only ones struggling. For Mark and Jill, it was an eye-opening moment, proving the value of being authentic.

Further proof came when Today’s Christian Woman published Jill’s article on sex and put her on the cover. The stacks of letters in response to that article launched Jill into writing No More Perfect Moms. Jill began voicing some of her strongest messages: “Never compare your insides to other people’s outsides,” and “Stop trying to find perfect, and embrace authentic.”

After No More Perfect Moms came No More Perfect Kids, co-authored by Dr. Kathy Koch, another Samaritan member. They recommend studying to become an expert on your child. “Raise the child you were given, not the child you wish you had.”

In addition to their four biological children, the Savages adopted internationally and faced their adopted son’s severe attachment issues. Mark and Jill share openly about their journey with a child having mental illness and the painful road of watching a child spiritually wander. Once again, their authenticity has opened doors to help many other parents who face these or similar parenting challenges. “We will all fail,” Mark says. “We need to trust the Lord to fill in the gaps in our parenting.”

Through the years, Mark and Jill continued to have periodic struggles in their marriage. They did the date nights. They learned their love languages. But they couldn’t seem to pull all the pieces together to feel they had a thriving marriage.

Mark decided to leave their marriage, first emotionally, then physically. Faced with his abandonment and betrayal, Jill prayed. And prayed. The Lord worked in both their hearts, giving them the understanding they needed for their marriage to heal. The cure required large doses of humility and vulnerability, forgiveness and grace, hope and love. The result is a marriage beautifully restored, lives transformed, and ministry renewed.

 Realizing the Lord had shown them vital truths they hadn’t pulled together before, Mark and Jill wrote No More Perfect Marriages for couples to “Experience the Freedom of Being Real Together.”

Life may not look like way we want, but Mark affirms, “Live in reality.” They have watched unrealistic expectations fuel discontentment. After discontentment, soon disillusionment sets in, bringing a disconnect in relationship. Mark and Jill work with people to head off discontentment. “Our heartbeat is to embrace imperfection, instead of expecting our view of perfection,” Jill says. “Certainly God wants excellence, and we want to pursue excellence, but when excellence trips over into perfectionism, it robs us of joy.” But when people “live in reality,” contentment and joy increase.

In all their No More Perfect messages, Mark and Jill share their reality honestly and openly so “people understand they are not alone, that the challenges they face are normal, and there is hope and help along the journey.”

 The Savages believe the journey of the Christian life is to become more like Christ every day. Jill sites her own need to learn more compassion. She reflected on her life history, not to excuse or blame, but to “learn where the lie was planted and replace it with God’s truth” so she could “grow in compassion instead of relying on buck-up strength.” Accepting and understanding her past brings vision for ways to grow in compassion and in accepting others.

Mark says, “We should form a partnership where we accept ourselves with our own limitations and strengths, and our partner’s limitations and strengths. That becomes a powerful package.” We learn to see our partner’s strength as our strength and their weakness as our place of burden bearing. In this way, he adds, “The Lord makes everything beautiful, even what we have marred.”

Jill experienced the Lord beautifying the imperfect when she surrendered control on her cancer journey. She lost her hair, and Mark shaved his head to identify with her. “How do people who do not base their value on the Christ who never changes deal with the drastic change in their appearance?” she asks.

“There’s been a false message in the church that our lives will be perfect,” Mark says,  “and then, when the imperfect hits, we feel like we’ve failed. When life hits us hard, we learn the power of our flesh to rise up, and we sometimes listen to it or the influence of Satan instead of listening to the Lord.”

But, according to Jill, when we base our value on Christ and listen to Him, we “recognize God uses what we consider failure or hard circumstances to do His best work.”

“This world is messy, and being a believer does not take away the messiness. If we expect life to be imperfect, challenging, and messy, we won’t hide our reality from others, because we won’t feel like we’ve failed. Sharing the imperfect, challenging, and messy is the stuff of life. It’s normal, and it’s not lost on us,” Jill jokes, “that we live in Normal, Illinois.”

“Every book was written to be read,” Mark reminds us. “Your story is meant to be shared.”

Jill agrees. “When someone is struggling, we have a responsibility to steward our stories.” she says. For the timid, Jill emphasizes that it’s “not about you, it’s about what God did in you, what He taught you. Get your eyes off you and onto His glory. Learn to do it scared. Fear won’t go away. The enemy wants to shut us down, so he whispers lies that we are going to be judged, but God will take ground when we share our stories.”

The heart behind sharing their stories is the Savages’ welcome to people struggling with life, feeling like no one understands. Mark and Jill want us to know we are not alone, that we can find “hope and help in the Lord for our imperfect, challenging, messy lives.”

If God allows us to be that hope and help for others,” Jill says, “then our pain and challenges have been leveraged for God’s kingdom purposes and His redeeming work in lives.”

Find Jill on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.