The board member was stumped. He was speaking at a supporting church on behalf of his pregnancy care center, and someone asked how the center would advise a victim of rape or incest. Fumbling for an answer he said, "Well, I suppose abortion would be acceptable in those instances."
It took two years for the director to undo the damage and win back that church's support. The center lost more than money from this board member's failure. It lost the goodwill of folks who shared the center's true stance and an opportunity to educate audience members.
It's every board member's responsibility to faithfully represent the ministry. Pregnancy Care Center (PCC) board members must first know what their center stands for before stepping into the public arena to articulate its mission and purpose. How can you become an effective ambassador?
Educate yourself. Request a copy of the center's training manual and read it, or participate in the next training seminar. Become familiar with the center's policies and procedures and ask questions about anything you don't understand. Read the center's newsletter and all communications from the director. Curiosity never killed anyone, but ignorance makes more work for weary directors.
Invest yourself. When considering support, many donors want to know that every board member has made a financial commitment. You can't expect others to become excited about the center or contribute to its cause if you've not given your own time and money. Lead by example.
Once you have prepared to be effective, you can use the following ways to serve as an ambassador for your PCC:
Represent the center. Accept speaking engagements on its behalf. Under the direction of the PCC director, you may be asked to speak in worship services, classrooms, club meetings, fellowship groups, etc. Be prepared!
Speak well of the center. Take advantage of informal occasions with friends, coworkers, neighbors, church, and club members to talk about the good your center is doing. Do they know it exists and that you're involved? Do they know what the PCC offers? Do they understand how many clients it serves and that its services are free and privately funded? Do they misperceive something about it or about the pro-life movement? You can build relationships for your PCC with your explanations.
Properly relate to the media. Normally, a center will designate one person as media spokesperson—typically the director or board chairperson—to speak authoritatively about its ministry. Questions from the media should be directed to the spokesperson, but the rest of the board should "sing the same tune." Discuss in advance what position the center will take on various matters and formulate policy to guide the spokesperson in answering inquiries.
Listen and learn. Ambassadorship works both ways. Serve as a sounding board for the community to speak back to the center. Keep an ear open for how the center is being perceived by others and notice additional needs the center might meet. Keep your eyes open for new locations, new sources of funding, and new board members. Multiply the director's ears and eyes.
Share your network. Fundraising is a director's responsibility, but you help by introducing the director to your circle of influential church members, business acquaintances, etc. Arrange meetings for the director with potential contacts. Open your home for informal get-togethers so friends can meet the center staff.
I have been blessed with knowing board members who have reached out in these ways. For example, our former board chairman, Tom Ritchie, remains an excellent ambassador for Baptists for Life, both here and around the world. Having studied the issues and invested his time and money in the organization, he is passionate about what we do. Whenever I can't fulfill a speaking obligation, I know I can count on Tom to represent us well. I wish every PCC had a dozen Tom Ritchies on board. As you labor toward becoming an effective ambassador for your PCC, I am sure that you will be a blessing, too.
Tom Lothamer is President of Life Matters Worldwide in Grand Rapids, Michigan.