This Week

Issue: "Focus on a family feud," Feb. 27, 1998

We're in this together

Promise Keepers founder and president Bill McCartney was in tears as he made the stunning announcement to more than 300 PK employees at an extended three-hour morning chapel session Feb. 18 in Denver: All staff will be laid off as of March 31, and unpaid volunteers would try to keep the financially troubled ministry going until things stabilize, he hopes by August. A series of stadium conferences in 19 cities (down from the 46 announced last fall), scheduled to start this spring under a new no-charge policy for participants, will take place only if "national sponsors" and local organizers pay for them, he announced. (Headquarters volunteers will help with preparations for the rallies, a news release said.) "I have a broken heart," the former head football coach at the University of Colorado told his staffers. But he held out hope for a financial miracle, saying God had told him to ask America's churches to send $1,000 each to save the ministry. "We have seen how God has used this ministry to change men's lives and lead them back to church. Now, as the fees to all events are removed, it is time for those churches to assist us in our mission to men." Gathered with Mr. McCartney on the dais at the downtown church used for PK's chapel services were PK's senior managers, most also in tears. A few in the audience broke down and wept as Mr. McCartney explained PK's plight, witnesses told WORLD later the same day. Hardly anyone in the auditorium, however, was caught by complete surprise. It was no secret that income had been shrinking steadily and the ministry had been struggling to make payroll of late. Some department managers had been informed of the announcement the day before, and word spread rapidly through employee ranks overnight, sources said. Reached at his desk following the chapel session, a PK mid-level executive summarized PK's predicament in two words: "We're broke." At the beginning of that week, another PK source said, the ministry potentially owed $5 million but had only $40,000 in the bank, a figure that could not immediately be confirmed. (In his chapel talk, Mr. McCartney pledged that all PK vendors would be paid.) In previous years, $60 registration fees for the two-day stadium events covered costs and provided a steady stream of income, accounting for about 70 percent of PK's revenues. Donations accounted for 10 percent, sales the remainder. Altogether, 64 conferences have been held since the first one in 1991 in Boulder, Colo., with more than 2.5 million men in attendance. PK grew rapidly its first four years. Too fast, says a retired ministry manager who has studied PK but asked not to be identified for professional reasons. PK was exceeding its ability to recruit enough capable administrators and give them time to test systems, consolidate gains, and track finances-a sure prescription for bankruptcy in the business realm, he told WORLD. Warning signals appeared in July 1996, when the 62,000-seat Superdome in New Orleans was only half-filled, and PK took its first big loss. Last year, 40 percent fewer men attended conferences than in 1996. PK's budget was a record $117 million, but income fell shy of $70 million. Perplexed, Mr. McCartney called for elimination of the conference fees so there would be no financial barriers to participation, and reliance instead on contributions to take up the slack. The PK board unanimously approved. PK leaders counted on fundraising appeals to bring in enough money to pay for the gigantic Washington, D.C., mall rally in October, which attracted hundreds of thousands of men (WORLD, Oct. 18, 1997), and to carry the ministry well into 1998. However, donors gave barely enough to pay for the $9.8-million rally itself. The chapel ended with the staffers dividing into threesomes for 10 minutes of prayer for each other and the ministry. In a sense, Mr. McCartney was making good on a promise. Last July, with red ink flowing heavily, PK reduced staff from 525 to 367 with early buy-outs and layoffs. Staff morale sagged as the crisis worsened following the Washington gathering. At a staff retreat in November, he pledged there would be no further reductions. "We're all in this together," he said. "If one can't get paid, then no one will be paid."

And the winner is

What would constitute a presidential dream team for Christian voters? A poll last week of 65 top leaders of the Christian Coalition yielded a surprising ticket: Sen. John Ashcroft (R-Mo.) and Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.). Such a ticket has several problems: First, nominees from neighboring midwestern states don't provide much geographical balance. Besides that, Mr. Huckabee has not expressed any desire to run in 2000. Nevertheless, the poll is interesting as an indication of the leaders some Christian voters may identify with most strongly. The third-place finish by Steve Forbes shows he's come a long way in rebuilding his appeal after largely dismissing Christian voters in 1996. Tying for third was Rep. J.C. Watts (R.-Okla.), who, like Mr. Huckabee, is popular with religious audiences but has no national organization. Dan Quayle, on the other hand, is building an organization and raising lots of money, yet making little headway. He finished sixth.

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