Sharing the Vision:
An interview with MCH President Tim Brown

This story was first printed in the Fall 2010 issue of Sunshine Magazine.

Photo of Brown Family, Methodist Children's HomeTim Brown, seemingly filled with the vast knowledge of a library, is an open book when it comes to talking about his faith, family and future plans for Methodist Children’s Home. In this three-part interview with Jill Anderson, public relations officer at MCH, Brown discusses how he was led to the Home and the field of social work; how he views his role as President; and how he has led his life through what inspires him.

Just like an old friend, Brown sits comfortably in his chair with a smile, ready to chat. A look around his office reveals who he is: pictures of family, stuffed teddy bears, wood-carved figures, books on social work and religion, and inspirational poems. In the first part of this series, Brown discusses how he discovered his passion for working with at-risk youth, including the influence of the Holy Spirit on his calling.

Why did you decide to work in the nonprofit sector?
I went into banking for about a year after coming out of the Air Force. I didn’t see any growth there, so I decided to apply at IBM. I saw that the company was coming to Austin and the job seemed interesting. After training at IBM, the company decided to make me a national and international parts order clerk. Within a matter of weeks of coming back to Austin, I had the chance to work as an administrative assistant for the director of technical operations at the Austin plant. We trained customer engineers from all over the world. I guess I did pretty well at that job because I was recruited in customer engineering. I was inspired by the head of engineering services in New York, who was the vice president for IBM. He ended up taking a sabbatical to work with a mission group to help disadvantaged kids and their families in New York City. I thought if he could do it, I would too. It was also an opportunity to finish my education, which I had not done at the time. And that’s when I came to Methodist Children’s Home.

Tell me about your history with the Home.
Shortly before Christmas in 1971, I began as a homeparent in a home with 22 girls. I was a homeparent for three-and-a-half years while I finished my undergraduate degree at Baylor University. I left the Home and went to Austin to get a social work job at the Austin State School because there weren’t any available social work jobs at MCH at the time. I worked at the Austin State School for about a year until I received a call from MCH about a recreation director’s position they had open. I came back to the Home for that position. Over the course of my time at the Home, I’ve held positions as a foster parent, division director, an assistant administrator for child care, vice president of child care and finally vice president of community services. I left the Home in 1991 to become CEO of the Lee and Beulah Moor Children’s Home in El Paso, Texas. I returned to MCH in 2000 as its vice president of child care.

It sounds like your career went in a different direction than what you had originally intended; from wanting to be in social work and be more hands-on to taking administrative positions. Are you happy with that path?
Yes. As a division director, I was able to get involved in the social work aspect in many ways. There was a lot of social work in that position, as well as opportunities to work with staff and training. One of my favorite parts of that job was taking youth on trips and spending time with them. They especially enjoyed going to the Dinosaur State Park in Glen Rose and camping at Inks Lake near Austin. As an administrator, I had the opportunity to influence legislation and keep tabs on what was going on in Austin. I was able to be involved when licensing was changing and make sure we had an alliance with other providers. In my experience with the Home, I’ve had opportunities to work directly with youth and help shape the programs for our youth.

Why have you chosen to spend the majority of your career at Methodist Children’s Home?
MCH has always had the potential to do great things for kids and families, and it has had the resources, quality, competence, and leadership to make good things happen for kids. And, we have such a variety and diversity of opportunities within the organization; from recreation and play to clubs and extracurricular activities. Youth have the opportunity to be exposed to things that they may never have had exposure to otherwise. The Home is mission-driven. MCH has always been an organization that has supported and included spiritual development and growth as a vital part of any child’s development.

Did you always have a passion for at-risk kids?
Yes and no. I had always worked with kids in Sunday school, church, and in youth group activities, but I never really saw myself as a youth care worker. I just knew I wanted to do something more with my life than fix typewriters or copy machines. I had thought about going into the ministry, and by going to seminary I would get the education in Bible and theology I needed. But at the time, seminaries didn’t train students to counsel people or to work individually with people who come to pastors for advice or counseling. Through the seminary program, I would have been trained to lead a church or teach theology. Wanting more of an education in counseling, I decided to get an undergraduate degree in social work. And, I knew that if I ended up going to seminary, I would get my theology training at that point. However, once I started working as a homeparent at MCH, I really got hooked on working with kids.

How did you find peace with the direction you were heading in your career?
Putting it in spiritual terms, it’s like being called by the Holy Spirit. I knew I was being led into Christian service. Once I got there, my spirit agreed with the Holy Spirit and everything fell in place. I began to feel complete and inspired, and I had meaning, purpose and value in my life. I recognize it’s a gift God has given me.

At that point, did you begin to see yourself as a leader of a children’s home? And what experiences influenced that sense of calling?
I always wanted to know whether or not I had the qualities to be a leader, and I think over time I had opportunities to discover those qualities in small ways and to gain confidence. One of the most helpful things was receiving affirmation from the people I led or worked with as we made good things happen for kids. Our decisions led to more discoveries, more risk, and more research, and it challenged us to try new things with kids and our staff that didn’t harm them or put them at risk.

Part 2 in this series will appear in the Winter 2011 issue of Sunshine.

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