Sunday, June 24, 2012

Mars Hill Church Update "... it's just that we had an economic model that wasn't sustainable for our future".

"... it's not that anybody has sinned, or done anything wrong, or is in trouble it's just that we had an economic model that wasn't sustainable for our future."

Back in 2008 I privately shared a few concerns.  I left on mutually good terms, as longtime readers already know.  One of my concerns was about the lack of clear and consistent precedent and procedure in church discipline.  If that didn't get worked out there might come a case that blew up into a local scandal.  To put it mildly that came to pass in the form of Andrew's case.

Another concern I had was about the competence and good will of counseling pastors (long since called "biblical living pastor").  It wasn't clear to me whether some of the men installed as counseling pastors of various sorts were actually qualified for that work.  In the interest of not being too detailed let me just say that some folks seem to have been canned and at least one of them was in the biblical living division.  Two things I warned about in 2008 have, in 2012, turned into areas where Mars Hill found itself some trouble.

Another thing I shared was my worry that the constant pursuit of meteoric growth was a problem for Mars Hill.  Gaining campus after campus is not gaining assets but liabilities.  If you commit to expanding into site after site without being careful to sustain and cultivate a donor base sufficient to keep each campus operational you'll end up with an institution that runs on systemic deficits rather than having a long-term viable economic paradigm.

What has Driscoll just recently announced since June 12, 2012?  Curiously this third concern I privately shared with Mars Hill leadership has turned out to be a problem, too.  Folks, that's three for three on things I didn't want to see continuing at Mars Hill.  It took a while for me to see these as systemic risks between 2006-2008.  I shared my concerns and it seems that those concerns did not register with Mars Hill.  I'm just one person so it's understandable my concerns might not matter much for an institution as big as Mars Hill. Still, I gotta admit that this is still three for three on things I privately warned were risks that Mars Hill leadership did not seem to be taking seriously enough in the 2007-2008 period.

Last year Driscoll said Munson was always above reproach.  Okay ... but what's with this stuff about how Mars Hill has had an economic model that is unsustainable for the future?  Who formulated that economic model?  Whose vision put into place an economic model that turned out to be unsustainable?

If Mars Hill leadership can admit the economic model was not sustainable is this conceding a possibility of bad stewardship?  If Mars Hill leadership had budgeted for actual revenue on a weekly basis earlier rather than banking on the year end "bonus" could systemic lay-offs about every year have been avoided?  I don't know, I just remember that about every year people got laid off.  Some people I've known got jobs at Mars Hill only to get laid off eight months later!  And Mars Hill is a non-profit that I'm not sure has ever paid into unemployment.  If you've ever been laid off by a 501(c)3 you'll discover that in many cases you're not eligible for unemployment and related social safety net benefits.  What if a single woman has worked on staff at Mars Hill for years and gets laid off?  She's stuck.  Take it from a single guy who got laid off by a non-profit a few years ago, it's a bad spot and unless the non-profit pulls out the stops and has an amazing (for a non-profit) severance package things can get ugly.

A word of advice to folks in non-profit settings, it may behoove you to rarely ever take vacation and to not get sick, particularly if both sick leave and vacation pay get paid out in your severance package.

To those of you who may be Mars Hill staff, keep this in mind if you're reading this.  To those of you who were Mars Hill staff and got cut loose because the leadership at Mars Hill have been working from an economic model that has been unsustainable, you're in my prayers.  I know exactly how bad it sucks to get laid off from a non-profit and I'm not gonna lie, I think I was laid off from a far better and more accountable non-profit than I'm afraid Mars Hill is likely to be.  My hope is that you're able to land some work soon, where ever and who ever you are.  This is not a good economic time for non-profits by a long shot.  Development work is likely to be saturated.  A lot of places are hiring part-time no-benefits jobs.  You may be stuck trying to find work within the Martian and Acts 29 orbit.  Given the economic model that scene has had be prayerfully cautious about taking more work there.  I've known guys who have served faithfully for years who never had the same job for very long.  My hope is that you and your families are safe.  I don't have any way to help you myself because I'm in a perilously tight financial season of my own but I can certainly pray for you.


Anonymous said...

Mars Hill staff is used to this at least at Ballard. But when one kicks out the older sheep and relies on the young goats, finances will suffer. It's the Rick Warren model which is unsustainable as far as Christ Jesus is concerned.

Good post. As one who gave too much into a black hole...

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

"Mars Hill staff is used to this at least at Ballard". Wow, that's kinda sad even though I've known about systemic budget shortfalls and layoffs at Ballard for years. People shouldn't be used to those sorts of things.

Anonymous said...


This is happening now at some of the other campuses as well. Long time staff are being laid off. Is this the end of the fiscal year for them?

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Yeah, I believe their fiscal year is July 1 to June 30.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Now would be a really good time for MH to refrain from buying red cameras, the high end ones, anyway.

Might also be a good time to avoid renting the city of Ephesus for a day.

Of some note:

Jeff VanderGiessen, who was interviewed for the above article, has a LinkedIn profile showing he stopped working for Mars Hill in February 2012.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Of course I know one of those links is gonna be dead as presented.
May 2011 Church Production Magazine

Anonymous said...

The new employer: CSG (Church Solutions Group)
Just what the "church" needs, eh?
From the website:

"We believe churches need people like us who understand where they are coming from and people like us who can speak their language. CSG leaders are all former staff members from significant churches. "

Significant churches.

Pity the insignificant ones.