Trey Oakley often tells people that love is what brought him to Methodist Children’s Home.
“At that time, the love was not yet for the rich history of MCH, the amazing people connected to this ministry or the appreciation for the generous friends who make it all possible,” Oakley said. “I have developed those over the years. No, what originally brought me to MCH was the fact that I needed a job so I could get married.”
In July 1999, Oakley was attending George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University when he came across an ad in the local newspaper for a part-time librarian at MCH. Oakley needed a stable job before proposing to his then-girlfriend, Karen. He submitted an application and received a call from the Rev. Travis Franklin, former MCH chaplain, offering him a position as the assistant director of religious education. Oakley accepted the offer and proposed to Karen shortly thereafter, and the couple was married later that year.
That phone call opened the door to the next chapter of Oakley’s personal and professional life. Oakley worked in religious education, as assistant director then director, before transitioning to the Development department as a fundraiser in 2002. Oakley was promoted to vice president for development in 2006 where he led his team in fundraising, public relations, spiritual development, donor information management, and alumni relations. Oakley became the 11th president and CEO of MCH on July 1, 2019.
“Little did I know the decision to reply to that newspaper ad would change my life and the way I saw ministry,” Oakley said. “Twenty years later, I now have this honor of serving as president, which gives me the opportunity to witness and share story after story of God’s amazing grace through this ministry.”
A Search For A Successor
I feel like he is the best person for the job because he is also a man of God. It seems like a good fit because we are a faith-based place.” – Joseph, 17
After Tim Brown announced his retirement as MCH president and CEO in early 2019, the Board of Directors launched a national search for his successor. Candy Mallonee, Board chairperson, said the search committee looked at many applicants with a variety of backgrounds and experiences.
“We were seeking someone with vision and excitement for the mission of MCH,” Mallonee said. “We believe we found that in Mr. Oakley. He articulates a respect and understanding of our past and a desire to be open to a vision for our future. He brings great energy and enthusiasm. Having known him for several years, I am confident in his commitment to MCH and to the children and families it serves.”
Dr. Clifton Howard, Board member and part of the search committee, said they have faith in Oakley’s capacity for leadership of MCH.
“I see more good things in MCH’s future,” Howard said. “I think we can expect that while Trey will continue what has worked well at MCH, he will also challenge us to consider new and different approaches and efforts for the sake of our mission.”
During his time at MCH, Oakley has been instrumental in building strong relationships with MCH alumni, churches, United Methodist leadership, and supporters. He collaborated with Board leadership, the Executive Team and campaign consultants to create and manage the Building Hope capital campaign, the first comprehensive capital campaign for MCH in more than 50 years with a total fundraising goal of $23 million. As vice president for development, Oakley and his team continually exceeded fundraising goals while also reducing fundraising costs.
Oakley coordinated and wrote an internal study on the effectiveness and structure of faith-based, social service boards. His work led to a significant restructuring of the MCH Board of Directors in 2006 and was used as a resource by other agencies.
Throughout his career at MCH, Oakley has maintained strong connections to the childcare program. As religious education director, he developed and led programming for worship services, discipleship and mission trips. He also coordinated a volunteer program with Baylor University students that was recognized as the Volunteer Group of the Year by the United Methodist Association in 2000.
Oakley also created an innovative spiritual development program that meets the unique needs and expectations of a diverse congregation of children and youth. He has always emphasized the importance of providing opportunities for MCH youth to share their testimonies to churches and at agency events, and he preaches regularly in Sunday worship services on the Waco campus and speaks at summer camps attended by MCH youth.
Brown worked closely with Oakley for the past 20 years, and he is confident in Oakley’s ability to lead the ministry.
“Trey is rooted and grounded in his faith,” Brown said. “He firmly believes in our mission. He will challenge our staff and leadership team to continue to learn, grow and be innovative as the needs of society change. He is good at planning and solving problems, and he values integrity, character and transparency. Trey builds healthy relationships personally and professionally, and he maintains a proper balance between his family time and work.”
A Desire To Lead
He’s really nice and cares about the kids. I was excited because I know he will do great things. He has great intentions and will be committed. His encouragement to staff reassures them even on the bad days. He’s a joy.” – Christina, 15
During his tenure at MCH, Oakley has worked with three presidents: Dr. Jack Kyle Daniels, Bobby Gilliam, and Tim Brown. He is grateful each president took an interest in placing him into positions where he was trusted with making key decisions for MCH.
“I took away things from each president and other mentors that have shaped my leadership style and how I will lead as president,” Oakley said. “I want to focus on relationships. Connecting people to our life-changing work is what I am most excited about in this new role. I look forward to connecting more with our supporters, staff, those we serve, and other like-minded ministries.”
After much discussion, Oakley and his family felt the time was right for him to pursue the presidency.
“I have a vision to further expand our great work and build on the strong foundation of ministry we have at MCH,” he said. “God blessed me with gifts to be able to match resources and talents with opportunities. The next several years will present MCH with important decisions so that we become even more relevant to communities and churches in Texas and New Mexico. I felt God was leading me to be that person and give my best, and God will lead the way to where MCH should go next to be all we can be for our children, youth and families of Texas and New Mexico.”
A Strong Beginning
I’ve known Mr. Oakley since 2016. He’s always been really nice. I think he will be great. You can already see some changes for the better.” – Nikkie, 16
Oakley launched his presidency with a “listening tour.” Before the November Board meeting, he plans to visit all 13 MCH Family Outreach offices, MCH departments and many key supporters.
“My plan is to hear what motivates and inspires staff and benefactors and experience more of the great work we do for children, youth and families,” he said.
Oakley has announced plans to start the process for a new five-year strategic plan that will involve input from staff throughout the ministry, those served, volunteer leadership, community partners, and supporters. The target start date for the new plan will be early 2020, and Oakley is confident the process will identify opportunities to strengthen the ministry and set the course for the future.
“MCH is serving on the front lines to support children, youth and families in these difficult times,” Oakley said. “Our services are relevant to families from all zip codes and backgrounds. Society’s pressures do not discriminate and people are trying hard to raise their children in a difficult world. Thanks to our many supporters, we are able stand up for and offer life-changing help to those who need us, regardless of their ability to pay for services. I love that about MCH. I also love our rich history. Our story is a shining example of what God’s people can do. We see a need, and we give of ourselves to be part of what God wants to do to save and change lives.”
The Oakley Family
Trey and his wife, Karen, met while attending Howard Payne University and were married on October 30, 1999. They have two children, Abby (16) and Brady (12), and call China Spring home.
As a family, they enjoy skiing and hiking together with favorite destinations including Wolf Creek, Santa Fe, Carlsbad Caverns, and Guadalupe Peak. Oakley said most of their family time revolves around their children’s athletic and academic schedules.
Abby plays tennis for China Spring High School and also in tournaments sponsored by United States Tennis Association and Universal Tennis Rating. Earlier this year, she advanced to regionals in girls’ singles and was part of the team that made it to regional finals in the state 4A tournament. She was also selected to the first-team all-district and all-academic teams.
Brady plays baseball for China Spring Little League and select teams. This year, Brady was chosen for the all-star team for the third straight year, and he was part of a team last year that won district and advanced to sectionals for the first time ever for his age group at China Spring.
Oakley admits he gets nervous watching his children compete and does a lot of pacing and watching from a distance. He is proud of the growth both have shown and the life skills they are learning through athletics.
“Both of my kids have experienced success,” Oakley said. “This is a result of their work ethic. We often talk how everyone shows up for the game and most come to all the practices, but what are you doing when others are resting? Sports also teaches about adversity. You learn a great deal about someone in those moments when things are not going their way. These are great life-lessons for success and apply to academics and relationships, and they will serve them well in the future. I am told both of my kids are coachable. I am most proud of this because their awareness that there are always things to learn and people who can teach them will help them in all they do. I hope they see this in how I approach my work and aspire to do the same.”
Karen is a talented graphic designer who has run her own business and assisted others in areas of public relations and marketing. Oakley is grateful for her dedication to their family as well as to the ministry at MCH.
“Karen volunteered as a Sunday school teacher that first year I started at MCH,” Oakley said. “We knew then this was special. MCH has been a calling for us. I look forward to see how God will use her to bless and encourage when we meet others through this role. This has been, and remains, a family commitment.”
Oakley has received good advice from previous presidents on balancing work and family life.
“MCH presidents and other mentors have said to find what will sustain me when times get difficult and find ways to take care of myself so I can take care of the ones we serve at MCH,” Oakley said. “My family helps me recharge when my professional and personal energies are low. They are a source of comic relief, my private consulting group on some new ideas, and my non-stop encouragers. To say I am blessed is an understatement.
“I often talk about the strong foundation we are building on at MCH,” he continued. “My faith and family are my strong foundation.”