July 2011


Have You Met Your New Director?
By John Ashmen

Jim Harriger from Springfield Victory Mission stopped at the AGRM office recently. In the course of our conversation, he shared with me a statement he had heard a speaker make to an assembly of clergy: “Five years from now, your church will need a different pastor than the one it currently has. You can either become that pastor or your congregation will get a new one.”

Hearing something like that makes traditionalists reach for the Rolaids and tug at their tightly buttoned collars.

As we look at the faith-based landscape, we see unprecedented changes taking place in all areas of culture, secular as well as Christian. One has to believe that the statement made to clergy also applies to the CEOs of ministry organizations, including rescue missions—or maybe I should say particularly rescue missions.

There’s a great line in Scott Rodin’s new book (mentioned further down) that punctuates the importance of constantly reviewing operations and generating relevant programs. Rodin says, “This is a bad time to get good at doing old things.”

Here are just a few of the areas in which things are rapidly changing before our eyes. The underlying issues are what demand “new” directors step in.

Changes in public attitude
It used to be that godly values were embraced by all, and then they were tolerated most, and now they are opposed outright by many. Public opinion on the things that we hold dear is at the mercy of popular politicians, entertainers, and business leaders who know how to manipulate news media or have mastered social media.

Andy Bales from Union Rescue Mission (URM) in Los Angeles just sent me a link to some of the stuff he’s dealing with. Basically, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA)—a county-city joint government agency that oversees multi-millions in federal funds for emergency shelter and housing—apparently does not want the URM to take homeless families in from off the street. LAHSA Executive Director Michael Arnold said the authority wants homeless families to stay on the streets in their communities, so the communities will become aware of their need. In fact, LAHSA has blamed URM for adding to the homeless problem in Los Angeles County.

Like many of you, Andy has new issues that won’t be solved with old PR methods. He has to become that “new” director his mission needs. (Judging by what Andy does with social media alone, he is moving that way very quickly.)

Changes in politics
We received good news last week that President Obama will likely defend religious hiring. Caps on charitable deductions are another story.

On my desk is a summary of the oral argument Luke Goodrich of the Becket Fund made two weeks ago before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of the Boise Rescue Mission. What’s at stake is whether a homeless shelter (i.e., mission) should be considered a residence and thus have to comply with the mandates of the Fair Housing Act.

Yes, there have been legal hurdles in the past that mission CEOs have had to leap, but AGRM Government Liaison Rhett Butler will tell you that never before have the hurdles been so high and so close together.

Bill Roscoe at Boise Rescue Mission is having to become that “new” director who is legally astute and politically savvy. And many of his colleagues, like you, will have to navigate similar waters.

Changes in evangelicalism
Marcie Pally, who spoke at the last City Mission World Association conference, just wrote America’s New Evangelicals: Expanding the Vision of the Common Good (Eerdmans, 2011), which will be available this fall. The publisher writes, “Hardly a day goes by when religion is not in the news, often associated with oppression and terrorism. In this book, Marcia Pally rebuts this bleak and superficial view by offering the first in-depth look at ‘new evangelicals’—those who have moved away from the Religious Right toward a broadened focus on economic justice, environmental care, and democracy. The far-reaching effects of this shift—in the U.S. and abroad—ask us to reconsider religious stereotypes and refine our political thinking.”

A lot of people don’t want to hear about this because they think evangelicals focusing on social work and social justice threatens the traditions that represent their faith. But as my octogenarian friend Lloyd Mattson says, “God is perfectly capable of taking care of himself. Might be there is light and fresh air beyond our trusted traditions.”

I’ve always been a proponent of reading the times and understanding where things are going. The “new” directors of rescue missions need to know how God is changing the hearts of many who are called by Jesus: They have repented, taken up their crosses and headed after Him in a direction that seems to some to be off course. “New” directors are noticing, tracking, and making adjustments in their missions to coincide with this interesting orthopraxy. I could name many of you who have become “new” directors in this regard.

If we had time, we could talk about the changes in fund raising and stewardship, emerging leaders and personnel management, technology and communications, and on and on. If you’re not seeing them, you might not even have five years.

As I travel around to rescue missions, I encounter many leaders who are quite proud that their organizations are still doing things the way they were done back in 30s, 40s, or 50s, when the ministries were founded. One leader told me, “Jesus doesn’t change; He’s the same yesterday, today and forever. And I don’t see any problem with our mission following His example.” Talk about misplaced piety!

Indeed, the gospel message doesn’t change, but our methods must. “New” directors know this to be true.

I just finished teaching a Christian Leadership Alliance webinar, attended by more than 130 organizations (with multiple people listening in at each organization). It ended with a question and answer session, but participants were told to email questions to me if theirs didn’t get read during the webinar. One that I just received and answered was this: “The director of my organization is in his late 50s. I am one of eight [people] on his team who are under age 35. There are several amazing opportunities we have that could powerfully change the direction of this ministry, but [our director] is reluctant to pursue them. He says it’s too much of a risk. I think what he means is that it is too much of a change from what we have been doing for so many years.”

The questioner went on to say that he was torn between being loyal to a godly leader and seeing the longstanding ministry marginalized, or stepping away and forming a group of people to take advantage of the opportunities and make a significant impact in the local population. (If you want to know what I told him, send me an email.)

His is an organization that needs a “new” director. I’m not saying it needs a new person…unless the one in charge is unable or unwilling to read the culture and adjust to today.

A roster of the people joining David’s army can be found in 1 Chronicles 12. Verse 32 lists one band and adds an interesting descriptor that the others did not get. It says: “From the tribe of Issachar, there were 200 leaders of the tribe with their relatives. All these men understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take” (NLT). They were “new” leaders.

Have you met your new director yet? Is he or she you?

            are readers  

The Third Conversion (Kingdom Life Publishing, 2011)
My book recommendation for this month goes hand-in-hand with the topic above. In the days immediately ahead, it will not be enough for mission presidents/executive directors to be versed in fund raising; they will be expected—no, required—to be specialists in the field. Scott Rodin’s new “novelette” on the subject is what I call a refreshing and entertaining narrative on biblical stewardship, filled with why-dos and how-tos. It’s appropriate for CEOs as well as board members, development professionals, and even donors.

  The AGRM CEO Summit
The response to AGRM’s CEO Summit at Glen Eyrie, August 23–25, has been excellent. Because of the numbers, today we made arrangements to move our meeting room from Bighorn to the Great Hall, located in the Castle.

Below are the CEOs already registered. If you thought you were registered but don’t see your name on this list—and based on recent conversations, we know there are a few of you—call Lisa at (719) 266-8300, extension 107. If you haven’t yet registered but still want to come, please sign up by Monday, August 1. It is very likely we will have to cut off registrations by that date as we may be out of sleeping rooms. In fact, even now new registrants might have to have roommates or stay just off campus.  You can get all of the details and register online. Click now; don’t delay.

  • Allen Harden
  • Andy Bales
  • Bill Brown
  • Bill Dodge
  • Bill Roscoe
  • Bill Russell
  • Billy Fox
  • Blake Barrow
  • Bob Gehman
  • Brad Meuli
  • Candace Gregory
  • Chico Daniels
  • Clair Weaver
  • Dan Parsons
  • Dan Rogers
  • David Berry
  • David Bugher
  • David Treadwell
  • Dick McMillen
  • DuWayne Sipper
  • Ernie Mills
  • Greg Stetski
  • Herb Johnson
  • Herb Smith
  • Jeff Lilley
  • Jere Shertzer
  • Jim Lewis
  • Joe Vazquez
  • John Ashmen
  • John Welter
  • Ken Peterson
  • LaCount Anderson
  • Linda Vaughan
  • Lynn Daniell
  • Marilyn Farmer
  • Marilyn Vyzourek
  • Mark Donnelly
  • Mike Rideout
  • Perry Roberts
  • Reid Lehman
  • Rex Baker
  • Rich Trickel
  • Rick Alvis
  • Rick Redding
  • Roy Tullgren
  • Steve Whitaker
  • Terry Wilcox
  • Tony Cooper
  • Tony Marciano
  • Wayne Fields
In addition to this list, four AGRM staff members, four consultants/speakers, and five special guests will join us.

Association of Gospel Rescue Missions l www.agrm.org