In the last issue of The LOG we cast a glance toward the horizon, considering what might please God while serving our constituents in the coming decades. While prayerfully grappling with the possibilities, we have framed this in three questions:
How can we REACH more people?
How can we strengthen the IMPACT of our efforts?
How can we LEVERAGE the resources God has given?
This is the fourth installment of the Envisioned Future at Mount Hermon.
LEVERAGE can be a noun or a verb. It’s the power to get things done. The mechanical advantage gained by using a lever (a device, tactic or situation that can be used to advantage.) What does leverage have to do with the envisioned future of Mount Hermon? It’s all about strategically using the resources that God has entrusted to us to yield the best Return On Investment. In business, ROI is all about financial return; in ministry, stewardship is important, but it is measured as a value proposition that includes both wise business decisions and the calculation of intangible ministry returns, of eternal impact in the lives of our guests.
Over the last four decades the board at Mount Hermon has been aggressive in seeking ministry opportunities that have expanded our Reach and Impact. They have been slow to borrow, and did so only when strategic opportunities to expand, enhance and protect our ministry zones required it. None of Mount Hermon’s debt is from operational short-falls, and, from a business perspective, it is very manageable at less than 14% of assets. Every dollar was leveraged to acquire cabins that have enabled more guests to attend family camps, year-round conferences or church retreats, or to invest in essential facilities such as the Dining Commons or the Fieldhouse.
And yet, our envisioned future is one without debt. We envision a future where the $300,000 we spend annually on debt service (less than 4% of our annual budget) will be applied to our own “venture capital” fund that invests in new program initiatives while enhancing facilities. Sometimes a new idea takes a year or two (or three) to become fiscally viable. We want our programmers to take risks, to say “what if…” and not have to prove that they can be “in the black” right out of the chute.
Plus there are some programs that may never run a positive P&L statement. Our efforts to FIGHT Human Trafficking are a good example of programs that have eternal returns in spades, but may not show black ink on our ledger. This year our efforts to contribute on this front included our second conference to equip churches and individuals to respond to God’s call to fight against domestic and international human trafficking, to provide networking opportunities for ministries in the Bay Area, and a retreat environment where workers in this demanding arena could be refreshed in their relationship with God . Next year we’ll do the same, and also host a retreat for victims of human trafficking, nearly one hundred teenage girls from the Bay Area who are in various stages of recovery. Eradicating the debt at Mount Hermon makes significant ministry like this possible.
Leverage also means thinking creatively about how to preserve the assets that make ministry possible—cabins, lodges, and other essential buildings for the future. Funding depreciation through endowments will play a key part. We have big ideas, big dreams to develop each property to its full potential, but not at the expense of what we have already been entrusted with. Our future means taking care of what we have and carefully, strategically taking advantage of opportunities to grow, as we follow in the footsteps of those who envisioned the future that we now enjoy, as they went “forward in the dark, trusting our God.”