30
Jun
10

Getting It From Behind in Missionary Position

I have a friend…no, really, it’s a friend. It’s not me.

I wouldn’t have the patience to do what she does, so it’s really not my situation I’m venting about.

Anyway, she runs a small not-for-profit agency that serves as a community center in an impoverished and crime-ridden area. Her board of directors cannot be motivated to do anything that would actually grow the organization (which is seeing much fewer church donations and grant funding, but a lot more utilization of services), nor to respect her abilities (though several board members speak highly of the male head of another community-based organization and praise him for his actions, while rejecting most of the suggestions of my female friend, even though hers are comparable, and she’s managed to run an organization on a shoestring with a sedate board while his board busts their asses to make sure he can actually afford to hire people).

What it always comes back to, every time that she tries to convince them to bring more business people onto the board (people with financial connections who can help bring in funds and other support), or to urge them to plan fundraisers (instead of relying on ever-diminishing grant and foundation funding), or she tries to push for actual staffing (since she’s the only person who’s a paid employee, and underpaid by far, at that)…well…

…well, they pull out their Bibles.

Metaphorically, that is.

She mentions that they need to focus less on bringing more Christians onto the board, and they remind her that the organization was originally founded as a church (which it failed at, given that there are plenty of under-attended churches in the area already, and people are more concerned about daily survival). Doesn’t matter that, as she points out, the YMCA and Salvation Army have a Christian foundation, but reach out well beyond that base.

She mentions that they need to raise funds by having events, and they suggest she reach out to more churches. Never mind that the churches that once supported the organization have reduced their donations year after year as needs have gone up.

She mentions that they need staff to work with the increasing number of people who come to the organization, so that she can focus on administrative duties, and they suggest getting more volunteers. Never mind that volunteers are often unreliable in terms of attendance and many who come to the center are kids, and want to have stable adult figures, not a rotating door mentality. Also, never mind that when she gets volunteers from local colleges that need service learning credits, their semester is almost over by the time she has them adequately trained, which means constant wasting of time on very time-limited resources. They suggest she ask more churches for volunteers. These would be the same churches that haven’t been giving any other support, of course, for years…and they want to send older people who complain about the lack of air conditioning and the plethora of kids and don’t come back. Great idea, huh?

My point is, they always come back to the argument that what this center really needs to be is what it was founded as shortly after the church idea fell apart: to be a Christian mission.

So they want more Bible study and proselytizing, even though what is needed is a safe place for people (the at-risk kids, mostly) to gather and a place for them to get food and possibly connections to other services, like parenting classes, job training, financial education, and the like.

They are so fixated on being a Christian mission program that they have totally lost sight of their Christian mission.

That is to say: Jesus taught about reaching out to the sick and the needy and to letting God shine through our actions.

My friend has a board that is so hell-bent on looking Christian that they’ve completely forgotten that we are largely to spread the Gospel and being beacons to bring people to Christ by acting like Christians. That is, following in the example of Jesus.

They aren’t a mission. Instead, they have a mission. One that had been delivered into their laps and which they ignore to hold to a gameplan that probably never applied and certainly doesn’t anymore.

An entire board of Christians has turned away from a crying need in the community. A calling, really. And why? So that they won’t lose their Christian roots.

How blind is that?

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7 Responses to “Getting It From Behind in Missionary Position”


  1. 1 Big Man
    June 30, 2010 at 11:17 am

    You need to tell your friend to point them to the book of James.

  2. 2 Deacon Blue
    June 30, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    Yeah, this strikes me as a “dead faith” kind of situation, too.

    Maybe she can organize a little summer Bible camp for the Board. 😉

  3. 3 Big Man
    June 30, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    I mean, she may just need to marshal her arguments and forcefully present her point of view. Has she done that, or does she just kind of disagree with them calmly on each individual choice? She might need to present the actual real picture of what’s going on and ask them what their mission truly is.

    Also, the post of this piece is very provocative.

  4. 4 societyvs
    June 30, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    I’ve seen this before, they’ll fizzle out almost and then realize she was right.

  5. 5 Deacon Blue
    June 30, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    @ Big Man

    Yeah, my headline is provocative, but she really is getting the shaft, and so is the community in many senses. It’s not a purposeful neglect or meanness, but the board simply won’t see the organization like a business (even though a couple board members are businesspeople) and think in terms of investing in the future, growing the funding streams, etc. Instead, they hope that money will appear to meet the growing needs, or that she will just spend more hours (beyond what she is paid for already, and at a very meager rate) digging up more money. If she wants a raise, or a bonus, or to get any staff, it’s totally on her to find the money…even though part of a board’s purpose is to network and find money and other forms of support. And whenever she talks about expanding the board, they are always looking first and foremost for people with church connections instead of those with more fundamental resource/money/support connections. Again, they focus on being a mission instead of meeting their mission.

    As I understand it, she’s been very direct with them. But they have NO drive to grow to meet the needs of the community they serve. They are content to plod along and, if money dries up, to simply reduce her hours and pay so that they can meet the bills. When she mentioned needing staff because of the growing number of kids, their suggestion was, “What if we just exclude the kids who cause problems?” Except that it isn’t necessarily that they are problem kids, but rather that they are at risk kids with slightly more notably kid behaviors. Turning them away is a horrible idea, as it simply puts them on the streets that the center should be getting them off of.

    And yet, when one of her male volunteers expressed a need for paid staffing, they paid attention. Over and over she made her case, and they didn’t give it much weight. But the moment a man working in the center expresses the same concern, they give it credence and discuss it a bit.

    It’s benign neglect and unconscious disrespect, but still neglect and disrespect.

    As for their mission, she’s also told them they need to make their mission statement more specific and descriptive, but they continue to focus on religion language with very vague sentiments about how they serve the community.

    @ SocietyVs

    Hopefully for her sake, they will realize something before fizzling, and take action, but I’m not so sure.

  6. July 4, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    hmmm and there is my argument again: gender trumps just about everything else.

  7. 7 Deacon Blue
    July 5, 2010 at 8:48 pm

    ‘Tis quite often the case, it’s true. 😦


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Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

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