Barna Group president to take leave of absence following death of wife

David Kinnaman
David Kinnaman, author and president of the Barna Group, speaking on a Focus on the Family program posted to YouTube on Sept. 29, 2020. |

The head of a prominent evangelical Christian polling group will take a leave of absence following the death of his wife.

Barna Group President David Kinnaman announced on Monday that he would be taking bereavement leave for a few months, with Chief Financial Officer Todd White temporarily taking over his duties.

“I’ve decided to take a number of months of bereavement leave: to grieve, to serve and love my children (Emily, 21, Annika, 19, and Zack, 16), to read and rest, to paint and work with wood and to allow God to fill me up in the many places I feel hollow and empty,” wrote Kinnaman.

“That means I’ll be off the rest of 2020 and into the first month or so of 2021. I may pop up here and there to work, as it provides connection and gives me joy. For the most part, though, I’ll be out of pocket.”

In addition to White serving as interim president, Carey Nieuwhof will continue hosting the ChurchPulse Weekly podcast, which Kinnaman contributed to.

“To be honest, it feels weird stepping back, slowing down and resting when there’s so much at stake for the Church,” continued Kinnaman.

“Yet I’ve come to realize with startling clarity that it’s exactly for this reason that rest and renewal are critical to me as a leader and for the long-term health of the company.”

Last month, his wife, Jill, passed away at age 46 after battling brain cancer for 41 months, having halted treatment six weeks earlier. She left behind her husband and three children.

“We all knew that her demise was coming, and we’ve been saying and planning goodbyes for what seems like 41 months, but waking up to her being gone is so very difficult. There are never enough ways or words to say goodbye, for now,” stated a message signed by her family.

“So, we are devastated by the loss of her, but we also take great comfort that she’s with Jesus now. A few weeks ago, I told Jill how proud of her I was and how courageous she’d been through 41 months. I told her she could bravely go to the next life when she was ready. We cried as we held each other.”

In February, Larry and Krista Wolf launched an online fundraiser aimed at helping the family, with the Go Fund Me page getting more than $71,000 as of Monday morning.

“We have decided to keep the Go Fund Me account going for the next few months, as people are asking how they can still help,” they stated in late October.

“100% of the proceeds continue to go to the Kinnaman family to help cover accumulated medical bills, funeral costs, and care for the family and kids during this time.”

Earlier this month, at a memorial service held for Jill, Kinnaman gave remarks in which he said that “her contribution to the kingdom has always been about nurturing the people and places, including the plants and pets, closest to her.”

“Truly, homemaking was her gift. And that included every part that I could possibly imagine: meals and vacations and generosity; hospitality to others and taking (I’d say hoarding) pictures; and especially carefully nurturing the sweet souls that God entrusted to us,” he said.

“Since her death, I keep thinking about the power of a home well-built, well-loved. Home. A few nights ago, I went to the Scriptures. The rich imagery and stories of households and homes show up all over … Jill is home.”

In addition to being a reporter, Michael Gryboski has also had a novel released titled Memories of Lasting Shadows. For more information, click here.  

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