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Developing Standards for Excellence

April 2002
By: Tom Lothamer
Having parked her car three blocks away, Becky finally reached the Celebrate Life Pregnancy Center. She was a little out of breath and was growing impatient. With only an obscure sign in one window, the center had been hard to find. What's more, it provided no parking spaces. Now she had to pick her way through trash littering the doorway. Once she was inside, no one greeted her at the reception desk, so she crossed the waiting room. The furniture had that well-worn, garage-sale look. Scattered about were broken, dirty toys. Voices carried through an open office door. Becky couldn't help hearing the conversation. Just as she realized that she was eavesdropping on a tense counseling session, an unpleasant voice behind her demanded, "Do you have an appointment?"

As a ministry outreach grounded upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ, your pregnancy care center would be loath to present a client such a nightmare scenario. Most PCCs are dedicated to providing compassionate counsel and care to women facing unplanned or unwanted pregnancies in an atmosphere that reflects a desire to provide high quality facilities and services.

This doesn't mean every PCC must maintain an expensive office complex with all the latest amenities. But it does mean that when they come, clients should find a clean, safe environment that respects their privacy and considers their needs. Every aspect of PCC ministry—staffing, board governance, physical plant, etc.—is a telling statement about Whom we serve.

As high-profile evangelical ministries, PCCs are under close scrutiny by individuals and organizations that do not share pro-life values and beliefs. Consequently, it is critical to conduct day-to-day operations with professionalism and attention to detail. We must avoid shortcuts in organizational practices, whether they are in the area of finances, hiring, or facility maintenance.

In the world's scheme of values, running a top-notch organization brings an individual praise and attention. That's not our motivation. The goal of PCC ministry is to offer quality care that earns us the opportunity to share the Good News with clients.

Many of us have been in pro-life ministry a number of years. Many centers are nearing the quarter-century mark. As our PCCs mature and achieve a measure of success, veteran board members and directors may be tempted to rest on past laurels. We may become entrenched, unwilling to reevaluate old programs and reluctant to venture into new ones. The stagnant status quo breeds mediocrity. So, what will prevent the above horror story from happening at your center?

In a word, vigilance. PCC leaders must guard against weariness in well-doing. Whether a center's annual budget is $10,000 or $1,000,000, whether the center is in a small town or a major metropolis, leaders and volunteers periodically must ask hard questions and implement needed changes. The smallest detail is worthy of attention.

How can your organization become first class in operations and practices? Life Matters Worldwide has a tool for you called Standards for Excellence, a manual that aids centers in reviewing client services and facilitating change. Although it employs standards similar to those established for health care providers by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Organizations (JCAHO), this manual was designed with busy directors in mind. It features a comprehensive self-assessment form that will help a center's leaders get a feel for how well their center is doing.

The self-assessment seeks input from the director, staff members, volunteers, and board members. Once the input process has been completed, a comparison of the results will reveal differences in perspective and highlight the center's strengths and weaknesses.

The rest of the manual is in two parts. Part One offers guidelines regarding clients' rights, organizational ethics, initial and ongoing client assessment, procedures and testing, client and family education, and availability of services. Part Two addresses issues pertaining to the protection of the organization as a whole. It includes suggestions for improving organizational performance; leadership; management of human resources; management of the environment; management of information; and the management of health matters.

Every ministry ought to be willing to put itself before the mirror of self-evaluation. Doing so can lead to improvements and greater success in outreach. Pursuing growth in ministry will generate more opportunities to share the love of Jesus Christ with women and families in crisis.

Tom Lothamer is President of Life Matters Worldwide in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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