Inspiring Mission CEO Retreat

Posted on February 27, 2012 by Dr. Jerry Rankin in Down Home in Mississippi

When I was elected as president of the International Mission Board in 1993, Bobbye and I had been overseas for 23 years. We had been in leadership roles but knew nothing about administering a large, global missionary-sending organization. We had had no involvement in the denomination and suddenly found ourselves immersed in a fast-paced task of budgets, board oversight, formulating strategy and directing a staff of several hundred people.

I happened to meet Steve Shelton who had just stepped into the role of president of Wycliffe International, the largest para-church mission organization in the world, after serving many years in Brazil. In commiserating with one another over the challenges and the steep learning curve we were experiencing, we decided to invite other mission executives to a time of sharing and fellowship so that we might learn from each other.

In order for this to be a personal, interactive kind of experience we limited the group to the 24 largest, evangelical missionary-sending mission agencies in North America. We did not want to spend our time discussing what our mission should be as at other conferences. We wanted to maintain a commonality among those who were large, global organizations, focused on sending and supporting missionaries and were committed to winning a lost world to saving faith in Jesus Christ.

Bob Cresson, Wycliffe Bible Translators - Greg Mundis, AOG World Mission - Jim Green, JESUS Film - Henry Deneen, Greater Europe Mission

There were several denominational agencies–Southern Baptists, Conservative Baptists, C&MA, Assemblies of God, Nazarene, Evangelical Free–but most were para-church organizations, including Campus Crusade, Navigators, YWAM, Operation Mobilization, SIM, Overseas Missionary Society, Wycliffe, AIM, TEAM and others. The para-church groups envied denominational agencies for the support base of constituent churches while the denominational groups envied the freedom of others to determine their strategies free of the oversight and control of thousands of churches!

Rick Hicks, Operation Mobilization - Steve Richardson, Pioneers - Peter Iliyn, YWAM North America

A unique bonding and fellowship emerged as participants felt an identity with each other in common roles and challenges. There was a transparency of sharing in a confidential environment that went beyond what one could share even with their own executive staff. We found that our burdens were common and vulnerability elicited encouragement from others. The trust level enabled us to gather and pour out our hearts from the beginning of the retreat as if we had not actually been apart for a year. We came together each year without any agenda. After formulating items for discussion, we seldom got through the list as the time dissolved into praying and ministering to one another.

It was originally intended that the wives would attend every third year, but once they got together they would not stay away. They had all been missionaries with significant roles and ministries, but once their husbands became the CEO their own identity was radically changed. Each one would testify that in a full calendar of meetings, conferences and travel, this annual retreat is their highest priority and most important event they attend.

David Long, OMS - Mike Treneer, Navigators Int’l - Steve Douglass, Campus Crusade

Of course, there is constant turn-over in mission leadership roles. Some serve for a tenured timeframe, others retire and some move on to other responsibilities after a time. This year was more emotional than usual as we gathered around four couples for prayer who were rotating out of leading their mission agency and attending for the last time, while we welcomed two new CEOs into the fellowship. There remain only three of the original group who attended the first retreat 19 years ago. Having initiated the first retreat and functioned as an ad hoc organizer over the years, Bobbye and I were asked to continue to serve as the convener and coordinate of the retreats each year; it is an incredible blessing that we continue to relate to these colleagues in retirement and find ourselves in an ongoing ministry among them.

We rotate to locations around the country and alternate host agencies in order to visit various headquarters and get an in-depth briefing on what different mission groups are doing and how they are organized. This year our retreat met in Atlanta, actually Peachtree City, where we were hosted by Operation Mobilization and African Inland Mission.

Leave a Reply

More News