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?