One of the functions of an Executive Director/CEO of a pregnancy center is venturing into the community to tell people about our ministry. Every not-for-profit organization faces the challenge of getting information about its specific services to its targeted customers. Agencies spend billions of dollars annually helping to connect their services to consumers through brand-name recognition. Pregnancy resource centers are no different. In order to reach potential clients who are in need of pregnancy-related services, we must communicate to the public about who we are and why women and men should consider seeking what we have to offer.
In working with organizations seeking to market their brand, I have seen the inner workings of putting nice packaging on the outside; however, the real need is to focus on what is inside. My concern is how we are "packaging" our pregnancy center movement today.
While researching pregnancy center websites, I came across an article that presented a distinct shift within the pregnancy center movement to change the packaging of the services pregnancy centers provide. The article makes a distinction between the PRC (Pregnancy Resource Center) and the PMC (Pregnancy Medical Clinic) and suggests that these two are exclusive - not necessarily the same. This put my head into a tailspin!
When I speak in churches and to individuals in our community, I explain that we are a PRC. One of the values I see in this brand is that it accurately portrays us as having many resources — including the medical piece — for those who are in crisis. I see medical services as one of the best tools in our tool kit. However, after reading this article, I understand that some would have us see this as being the only tool in our tool kit.
The Marketing Plan
Being concerned about this new "packaging" concept, I spoke with proponents of this new way of thinking. They believe that women with unexpected pregnancies no longer want to rely on counseling and resource centers but are more likely to trust their needs to a professional at a medical clinic. It appears that some would like to see every center that has added medical being referred to as a PMC — having a name change and a new way of doing business. It is a detailed marketing strategy.
Is this to say that all centers that provide valuable counseling services, parenting programs, post-abortion recovery programs, and other needed resources are unprofessional and not credible to clients? Clearly, this marketing strategy would seem to indicate that intent. This step will brand us as purely "medical" and remove our center from providing other vital resources. I cannot perceive that this step would make us reach more people. In fact, I see many problems with opting for this transformation versus the marriage of all services approach!
The Marketing Plan
One consultant responded that this re-packaging includes outsourcing our resource services to local churches instead of providing them at our centers (clinics). It is a focus to bring predominantly medical services directly to the community. They say that some centers do not have community resources to make this referral; therefore, it is essential that we begin to work in the direction of outsourcing everything but our medical services.
It can be difficult to refer clients to outside service agencies when they have already bonded with our staff. In the atmosphere of our pregnancy center, clients find friendship, love, and support throughout their pregnancy. For many, this is the first time they have ever received such detailed support. They bond with our life-affirming advocates who shower them with godly compassion. To send these precious individuals somewhere else for this assistance is like rejecting them and leaving them out in the cold alone. Experience shows that few will make that secondary connection with another organization. The mentoring that exists in our parenting programs produces incredible fruit in enhanced parenting skills, which translates in ministering to the family itself.
We cannot outsource our resource services to churches. Very few of our clients will go to a church for these resources. While we always work to introduce our clients to a local congregation, many individuals first experience the concept of "church love" in our center. Many have been wounded by "religion" and would never contact a church body that they believe could hurt them further. If we were purely medical, this godly fruit of our ministry tree would disappear.
If we outsource our resource services, must we also outsource our responsibility to share the Gospel with clients? I am concerned because this seems to be the next step in the paradigm shift. Some say that since our primary responsibility is medical services, we don't have to be like the church. Yes, we need to be careful in how we present the Gospel. We should ask the permission of every client to pray with him or her. We can utilize our prayer to present a Savior who loves them and wants to intervene in their lives. We want to be loving and gentle in our presentation to this person in crisis.
The very best treatment is to respond to the whole person. Leaving out our responsibility to proclaim Christ is tantamount to denying Him. Clearly, we all must meet the physical needs of these clients. We want our clients to know why we are involved in the first place. It is because of Christ, our Great Physician, that we offer intervention, healing, and education. We want to glorify our Father in Heaven (Matthew 5:16) by our good deeds. That is our call and responsibility.
It raises another question as to whether or not churches can handle the many programs that are required to help pregnancy-related needs. Since we accept "missions" funding from many churches, this step could actually reduce our budget. These churches rely on our center to assist them in addressing these needs within their congregations.
The Marriage Proposal
I have seen the value of the medical piece and would share the truth that ultrasound services are a powerful tool in influencing the abortion minded/vulnerable towards a life decision. However, I have also seen the value of vital programs like post abortion recovery classes giving the pro-life movement a greater voice in the community. In addition, I am pioneering efforts to reach male clients in unplanned pregnancies. We believe men are half of our client base. With the same depth of information about the abortion options that we provide the women, we are influencing a high percentage of men who may otherwise encourage women towards aborting their babies.
I have come to see being a PRC and a PMC as a marriage rather than a marketing strategy. When we bring the best of our community's medical professionals and other experts who provide amazing resources and programs for those who are wounded, we maximize our ability to reach those in our community with pregnancy-related needs. We don't want a marketing term to affect our ability to serve as the Lord leads. Do we need to tell others about who we are? The obvious answer is yes, but we can reach many more by being a PRC or PRMC.
What can we say about their value? Are they making a difference? Are they reaching abortion-minded and abortion-vulnerable women and men? Are they helping to relieve the hurt and crisis of many who are struggling with unexpected pregnancies? Yes, we are making a difference because God has blessed us in this capacity. Many of us who lack medical backgrounds continue to be highly effective in ministering to the needs of these clients.
Does this brand marriage suggest that we do not need to offer medical services? Obviously not. If a center can convert to a medical model and continue to offer these related services, it can be an added blessing to our clients.
The Problems with the Marketing Plan
Who will direct our centers? Will we remove the need for Executive Directors? How will our centers be funded? Many centers cannot survive on donations alone and must rely on income from major annual fundraisers. Who will give direction to fundraising?
If PMCs only utilize directors to focus on fundraising and organizing resources outside of the center, this is a huge paradigm shift for directors of pregnancy centers. What will happen to the marriage that should exist between the Executive Directors and Medical Directors? What protocols will be put in place to bring harmony in the direction of the center? Who will answer to the Board of Directors? Will the Medical Director, who is often a volunteer and has limited time in his/her busy schedule, be able to direct the center? Most have another calling on their life and offer these services to centers in their spare time.
How will these new PMCs operate without the unpaid volunteers that typically staff pregnancy centers? If we are striving to replace these volunteers with medical personnel, how many communities can spare enough of these volunteers to run a center? What will be the cost to the centers in training medical professionals after former staff depart based on the typical "burnout" that many realize in our pregnancy work? Are we diminishing our capacity to meet the most needs in our community by limiting ourselves to be a PMC?
This emphasis to brand ourselves as medical has some value, but why PMC? Perhaps many of us can be called PRMCs (Pregnancy Resource Medical Clinics). Through this terminology, a marriage of medical and other vital services makes us unique among the many other "clinics" out there. Is mirroring the non-faith based clinics the route we want to take? Does that necessarily make us better?
Perhaps the types of clinics that our movement has borne provide many more resources that, when combined with medical services, makes us much more provisionary than our secular counterparts.
Nearly one half of our client base is already post-abortive. In making a subsequent life decision in the next unplanned pregnancy, addressing their past abortion can be critical. When these individuals arrive in our ultrasound room and view their unborn child, their denial over their past abortion can be immediately broken. Many realize for the first time that in the previous abortion they did not lose a "blob of tissue" but rather a formed human being. Are medical professionals trained to address the emotional needs of these clients who can emotionally collapse in front of them? Would they be successful in referring them to another organization at this point? Our non-medical team is fully versed in the needs of the post-abortive / abortion-vulnerable client. They come alongside our medical team in addressing this pain and helping transition these clients into our abortion recovery efforts.
It is very tragic for PRC medical personnel to bond with an unborn child that is then aborted. According to Sydna Massé of Ramah International, an expert on secondary post-abortion trauma as it exists in pregnancy centers, the medical professional's grief issues are often unaddressed and can lead to their swift resignation. She outlines, "These nurses did not realize how they would bond with unborn children who can still be aborted. That pain is very unusual in our medical world today. Medical professionals are rarely equipped to address the entire need of the abortion-determined or the abortion-vulnerable client and need others to assist with these efforts."
When nurses leave the PRC in brokenness over these ongoing deaths, it costs thousands in both time and money to train the next staff person who could then experience the same pain. Our post-abortion recovery efforts are often specifically focused on helping our medical personnel address this pain and recover to become more effective in their life saving efforts. If we are not here to address the emotional needs of our medical team, who will be? I know of no church that could or would seriously consider reaching all of these needs in our community. Our centers must be the spiritual, psychological, physical, and emotional support system in our district to those who are either considering an abortion or struggling with a past abortion choice. If you add the needs of those struggling with secondary post-abortion syndrome, that service is offered at the PRC.
One leader in the pregnancy center movement said," If someone wants to reduce their services to only offering medical services and go by the PMC title, whom are we to judge them? Clearly it is their own leading, but this model will not work for everyone." I would suggest a marriage, not a marketing plan.
If you have resources and are medical, you are a PRMC. We can provide all of the resources that are needed for those who hurt in our community and work harmoniously with our medical volunteers.
Dr. David Whitaker is CEO and Executive Director of Pregnancy Choices Clinic in Union City, California. He has joined Sydna Massé at Ramah International through workshops providing information to pregnancy centers regarding the need for ministry to men and teen fathers.