Mennonite Health JournalArticles on the intersection of faith and health
Reflections on the Changes Ahead
Paul D. Leichty
from Mennonite Health Journal, Vol. 17, No. 4 – November 2015
Mennonite Healthcare Fellowship (MHF) is well into the fifth year since its founding in June 2011 when Mennonite Medical Association (MMA) and Mennonite Nurses Association (MNA) joined to form a new organization open to all Anabaptist healthcare professionals. At its October 2015 meeting in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the MHF Board met with consultant LaVern Yutzy for a strategic planning workshop on the future of the organization.
The key issue for the Board is the fact that the projected membership growth among a new generation of diverse healthcare professionals has not kept pace with membership attrition among those who were formerly members of MMA or MNA. That means that the revenue to support the operations of MHF has just barely kept up with expenses, which, in turn, does not allow for an internal debt incurred in the transition process to be paid off.
MHF exists to help healthcare professionals integrate their faith and professional life. The Board believes that quality programming that ministers to the diverse generations and expanding healthcare professions will enable MHF to fulfill its mission. Thus, the key question has become how MHF through its Board and staff intervenes into a classic chicken and egg dilemma.
- Developing quality programming that fulfills a need and stimulates financial support.
- Raising the financial support to develop quality programming.
Related questions involve the best use of the time of MHF’s two part-time staff to focus on activities that will stimulate this growth and energize an enlarging group of volunteers.
All of this will depend on two factors:
- The commitment of an increasing number of people to MHF’s core mission.
- The transformation that it will take to reach out in new ways to a new generation of healthcare workers as well as the church as a whole. This transformation will be both personal and corporate, both structural and spiritual.
The MHF Board is embarking on the following actions in order to demonstrate its commitment to the transformation needed:
The Conversations Initiative
Over the course of the next six months (and maybe longer), Board members, joined by other supportive MHF members will be inviting Anabaptist healthcare professionals, both members and non-members, to a “Conversation” in their home, office, or church. This is an attempt to build relationships with a more diverse group of healthcare professionals, find out what their interests and needs are, and attempt to bring resources to bear upon the true felt needs of MHF’s larger constituency.
A Funding Model for the Future
The current funding model for MHF relies on a combination of assumptions under an old model of operation along with uneasy adjustments to a newer reality. The Board is leading the way in examining the functionality of the old models and assumptions in light of an ever changing 21st century Anabaptist context. Questions being contemplated include whether the concepts of “membership” and “dues” are still useful and whether a dichotomy between “operations” and “missions” is still valid.
A Shift in Program Planning
In the start-up phase, the Board and particularly the staff of MHF assumed a large measure of responsibility for program planning, especially for events like the Annual Gathering and Regional Meetings. Now, MHF must find ways of serving more people than just those who are able to attend one of these meetings. This will be the new thrust of the work of the half-time Executive Director. In turn, there will be more reliance on members themselves in planning for Annual Gatherings and Regional Meetings. This has already begun with a group in Colorado and Kansas taking responsibility for the planning of Annual Gathering 2016.
Healthy Future 2
MHF emerged from a transition period and its first full year of operations with a $40,000 debt. In 2012-13, MHF raised a little over $40,000 through a Healthy Future Campaign. However, with a $20,000 shortfall in regular giving, the debt was only reduced by $20,000. A similar projected shortfall toward the end of 2013-14 was met with a smaller campaign which kept the debt at the same level. However, despite budget cuts and a very successful Annual Gathering, the overall shortfall in 2014-15 has added another $10,000 to that debt, so it now stands at about $30,000. The Board has resolved that any new funding model as discussed above needs to be accompanied by a concerted multi-year, above budget effort to eliminate this debt.
This is an opportunity for Anabaptist healthcare professionals who are committed to the holistic mission of Mennonite Healthcare Fellowship to step up, offer their input into the Conversations Initiative, support MHF financially as they are able, and be open to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit as together we reach out to a new generation with this holistic Anabaptist vision of health.
This vision is expressed in the theme for Annual Gathering 2016, June 17-19, 2016 at the YMCA of the Rockies, Estes Park, Colorado: Wholeness and Holiness: Views from the Mountaintop. We hope many of you can come to this important and exciting Annual Gathering! We hope many more of you will gather in homes, congregations, and regional gatherings to join the conversation! Please let us know what you are thinking! God’s blessings be upon you!
About the author
Paul D. Leichty, M.Div. was the first Executive Director of Mennonite Healthcare Fellowship (MHF), serving from Sept. 2011 through May 2020. Paul has served as a pastor, church musician, computer support person, disabilities advocate, and administrator/organizer of a number of church-related ministries. In addition to responsibilities at MHF, Paul is Executive Director of Congregational Accessibility Network and was formerly Director of User Services at Mennonite.net. He is a member of Agape Fellowship of the Mennonite Church in Williamsport, Pennsylvania where he lives with his wife, Twila Charles Leichty.