MHS Alliance told that change is way of life
Mennonite values and church connections are critical for maintaining identity.by MHS Alliance
Areview of strategic priorities provided the focus for the board of Mennonite Health Services (MHS) Alliance during its meeting in Kulpsville and Philadelphia, Pa., June 9-12.
Jill Schumann, president and CEO of Lutheran Services in America, presented information about trends in society, in denominational life, in health and human services and in associations. She said that leaders can no longer talk about being in a period of great change––continuous change has become a way of life, and organizations have to adapt to survive.
Board members Valerie Rempel and Tim Wiens led the board in shaping strategic direction for the next several years. Key themes included information technology, health-care reform, maintaining identity in a pluralistic society, and the impact of demographic changes on retirement behavior and care of people with developmental disabilities. Further work will refine priorities in relation to the two primary stakeholder groups––member organizations and relating denominations.
The meeting was also informed by firsthand accounts of the challenges and opportunities encountered by member organizations in eastern Pennsylvania.
Peaceful Living of Harleysville, Pa., is a growing and thriving ministry that creates places of belonging for people with developmental disabilities. Peaceful Living is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and credits MHS Alliance for its current vitality.
Living Branches of Souderton (Pa.) was recently formed from the merger of Souderton Mennonite Homes and Dock Woods Community. CEO Ed Brubaker and board members Charlotte Hunsberger and Bill Longacre described how the boards of these two retirement communities decided to unite, an idea that had been considered for more than 40 years. Ultimately, the two organizations determined they could be more effective by operating under one board.
At Indian Creek Foundation, Souderton, Pa., board member Charlotte Rosenberger and executive director David Crosson described the challenge of working with staff members to communicate Indian Creek’s Christian mission since many staff members are not comfortable with the language of faith and ministry.
John Goshow, CEO of Penn Foundation at Sellersville (Pa.) and a member of the MHS Alliance board, arranged for the board to hear from a client who is receiving services in the drug and alcohol treatment center. The 20-something young man was drawn to Penn Foundation because it offers a spiritual focus. Goshow also reflected on his upcoming retirement after 33 years.
The following themes emerged from conversations with these leaders:
-Finding strong board members is a daunting task in a region saturated with dozens of Mennonite-affiliated organizations.
-Leaders who understand and support Mennonite values and church connections are critical for the future identity of these organizations. Boards and executives are concerned about strengthening the pool from which the next generation of leaders will be drawn.
-Executives value MHS Alliance as a place to connect with likeminded peer organizations.
-Staff and board leaders look to MHS Alliance for consulting services that address organizational needs through a faith and values-grounded approach.
-Organizations need resources that communicate Mennonite identity and values to employees in an invitational manner.
-Members organizations are reaching out to each other across disciplines for shared programs and services.
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