Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.
Methodist Children’s Home has ministered to children, youth and families for 130 years. Throughout its rich history, MCH has adapted programs and services to stay in tune with the needs of society and in faithfulness to God’s calling. Demonstrating a willingness to change enabled MCH to build a strong foundation of ministry to withstand the tests of time.
MCH began the next chapter of its legacy with the unveiling of a three-year strategic plan in July. The theme of the plan is “Building on a Strong Foundation.”
When Trey Oakley became president of MCH in July 2019, he charged Bryan Mize, vice president for strategic initiatives, to oversee the year-long planning process. More than 170 employees, Board members and Commissioners, who serve as volunteer church representatives, participated in focus groups during the first phase.
“The strategic planning process gives us an opportunity to evaluate where we are and where we could be,” Oakley said. “We have been intentional about providing opportunities to hear many perspectives throughout the planning process. Our strategic plan will push us forward while allowing us to always remain in a state of ongoing evaluation to identify and address priorities.”
Focus groups addressed organizational culture and communication, funding and stewardship, external factors and trends, and continuum of care, which refers to the programs that enable MCH to serve children and families throughout various stages of their journey.
Focus group feedback was analyzed through a SWOT analysis, a tool commonly used during strategic planning to determine an organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The SWOT analysis was compiled by Rebekah Powell and Jean Wright, strategic initiatives officers at MCH, who assisted with organizing and facilitating the planning process.
The SWOT analysis was used by the strategic planning leadership team to develop priorities and goals, some of which were new while others were carried over from the previous plan. The leadership team consists of the president, vice presidents and lead advisor to the president.
“The accomplishments of our last strategic plan showed us we can dream big and think big,” Oakley said. “They set us up to make sure this new strategic plan is more than just words on a page. Like the plans in the past, this strategic plan will lead to challenging but achievable outcomes for MCH.”
Following the development of goals, 48 employees worked in planning groups to formulate action step recommendations to help MCH achieve the goals. Recommendations were evaluated by the leadership team to finalize the plan, which was presented and approved by the MCH Board of Directors on June 26 for implementation on July 1.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the planning process, it only altered the way groups communicated, Mize said. MCH utilized its technology resources to develop the plan completely through online collaboration.
“I am proud of the way agency leadership and employees responded to the challenge of developing a strategic plan during COVID-19,” Mize said. “We never considered postponing the planning process even though we faced the social distancing mandates and other limitations that prevented employees from meeting in person.”
The strategic plan includes three priorities and eight goals to guide the ministry in the coming years. New vision and mission statements for MCH were also introduced. MCH last updated its mission statement 15 years ago and the ministry has experienced significant growth in that time. The vision statement reads: “We empower all we serve to experience life to the fullest.” The new mission statement is: “We equip children, youth and families to flourish by offering hope through Christ-centered relationships, services and support.”
The term “empower” was chosen for the vision statement because MCH works to give those it serves tools to become stronger. “Life to the fullest” stems from John 10:10 in the Bible: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
“This is a difficult time to be raising children,” Oakley said. “The world promises many remedies and escapes. Our vision is to meet all we serve where they are and trust in God’s unfailing love that can bring about real change.”
An initiative consisting of four strategic commitments, called “ONE MCH,” is also a component of the strategic plan. Oakley said ONE MCH is a way to bring staff together by developing a culture necessary to achieve the important outcomes contained in the strategic plan.
“For me, ONE MCH shows that we value diversity, the need for different opinions and a variety of expertise,” Oakley said. “No matter your job description or experience level, these commitments are made across our ministry. These are things that bring us all together. It is our approach to carrying out our vision and mission – our commitment to each other, those we serve and our supporters.”
The four commitments of ONE MCH are: Five-Star Service, Authentic Accountability, Focused and Flexible Ministries, and Culture of Learning.
Five-Star Service refers to the commitment MCH makes to serve at the highest level by giving people personal attention.
We commit to serving others at the highest level. We provide personal attention and expertise from the point of contact until the need is met – regardless of job title and role. We commit to going above and beyond to meet a family’s needs. We serve others in ways that reflect how Christ models service for us.
“When a person contacts us, they may be in crisis and it should not be up to them to figure out how to navigate our system,” Oakley said. “We need to make sure we walk them through the process, handing them off from person to person until they arrive at their ultimate destination to make sure their needs are being met. Even if MCH is not the place that can help, we want to connect the family to those who can best meet their needs.”
An extension of Five-Star Service is the recent addition of the Staff On Standby (SOS) team. Employees who work in administrative departments volunteer to perform additional duties to support the childcare program. MCH awarded a Five-Star Service Bonus to 15 employees nominated and then selected by a committee of their peers for going above and beyond their duties during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The second commitment, Authentic Accountability, continues an important trend of transparency at MCH by measuring outcomes, setting goals and documenting successes for daily operations.
We commit to measuring outcomes to hold ourselves accountable for identifying areas of improvement while celebrating our strengths. The MCH Core Values and Life Skills are guiding principles for our interactions with supporters, colleagues and those we serve. As a learning organization, we are committed to continuous quality improvement to achieve strategic and intentional growth.
“If we are always hitting our goals, then our goals of service and ministry are not big enough,” Oakley said. “We are serving in areas where our work can be difficult, and we do not always get to see the fruit of our work. Our ultimate goal is to make ourselves better for our children, youth and families. This type of goal is often hard to measure in a graph or annual report.”
Oakley believes this commitment to always improve can help ensure that MCH strives to build on current strengths and learn from unforeseen or new opportunities. The knowledge gained during COVID-19 shows great value, and necessity, in having this mindset, he said.
The next commitment, Focused and Flexible Ministries, describes efforts to be open to adjusting programs and services as needed, while making sure MCH stays true to its vision and mission.
FOCUSED AND FLEXIBLE MINISTRIES
We commit to achieving our strategic plan, guided by best practices, to ensure we remain focused on our vision and mission. While we are committed to planned change, we are blessed with expertise and resources that enable us to respond quickly to unanticipated challenges and new opportunities in communities throughout Texas and New Mexico.
“We do not chase every opportunity that comes our way,” Oakley said. “However, we developed a strategic plan that allows us to be flexible to the changing needs of society and children and families from diverse communities in Texas and New Mexico. We are proud of our 130-year legacy in ministry, but we also understand the importance of being able to adjust and adapt quickly to meet emergency needs or rapidly changing trends in our communities, schools and churches.”
Finally, MCH is committed to creating a Culture of Learning to remain relevant by continually striving to improve and collaborate with likeminded agencies to meet unique needs and challenges families are facing.
CULTURE OF LEARNING
We commit to being relevant as we continually learn and collaborate to meet unique needs and challenges of families and communities in Texas and New Mexico. We seek diverse insights and opportunities to grow in our mission. There is no chain of command on ideas at MCH in order to create a free flow of learning.
“For many years MCH has taken pride in being a leader in the childcare field,” Oakley said. “While this is still in place, we also recognize how much more there is to learn from other agencies, community partners and new upstart ministries. This mentality drives our ministry to always learn so we remain introspective, continually evaluate ourselves, find ways to get better, and never become satisfied with where we are.”
The strategic planning process involved more participation than other strategic plans developed during Oakley’s 20 years at MCH, and he is excited about where the ministry is headed.
“We are grateful for the commitment of time and honest feedback from our employees, Board members, Commissioners and other supporters throughout this process,” Oakley said. “This level of participation and the creativity of our staff have me confident that this plan is going to be a great resource for us to become who God is calling us to be as a ministry.”