Children’s Homes president, CEO reflects on new rolecomment (0)
May 10, 2012
By Julie Payne
Rod Marshall, president and CEO of Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries (ABCH), paused to examine the painting on his office wall. The richly colorful picture, with the arms of Jesus stretching out to a small crowd of smiling, joyous children, almost seemed to come to life.
“I want to be reminded of why we do what we do, and I came across that painting and felt like it would be a good visual reminder for me,” Marshall shared. “So of all the paintings I saw of Jesus and the children, that’s the one that best served to remind me why I get to come to this office every day. … When I’m writing thank you letters or approving budgets … that stuff is important, but what’s really important is helping children to see Jesus. And many of the children we serve are the Matthew 25 ‘least of these,’ so it’s especially important that they know that God loves them.”
Since taking over the ABCH president/CEO role Feb. 1 from now retired Paul Miller, Marshall has carried on the ministry’s mission to “protect, nurture and restore children and families in need.”
He has displayed other visual reminders of this mission in the building as well, like the enlarged canvas photographs in the conference room of the ABCH Camp of Champions event. This camp at Shocco Springs Baptist Conference Center in Talladega is one close to Marshall’s heart, partly because it is the only time each year the statewide ABCH ministry network converges in one place.
“Camp of Champions is a wonderful event that we have once a year, usually in June,” he explained. “Last year we had about 500 campers — that is all the kids in our care, all of our foster parents and all of our group home parents.” Marshall shared that Camp of Champions feels like a “family reunion” and it provides a time for the children to have a summer camp experience complete with Bible studies and recreational time.
Since assuming the president/CEO office, Marshall said there have not been any sweeping changes at ABCH, mostly due to the former leadership of Miller. “Paul Miller … did a real good job of leaving the house in order upon his departure,” Marshall said, adding his plan for his first year of leadership entails a “listening” role.
“I’ve met with employees all across the state. I’ve met with pastors. I’ve met with Baptist leaders. I’ve met with some of our trustees. And [I] really want to be a good listener and then be very intentional when we begin to implement changes and implement long range planning … beginning in 2013,” he noted.
Regarding the current state of ABCH, Marshall’s report is positive. “We’ve experienced growth both in our foster care and our counseling program in recent months,” he said. “Our Family Care programs for homeless mothers with dependent children are in great demand. We continue to have strong and steady referrals for our group homes and our campuses. It’s really been a great blessing to follow an effective leader and carry on a tradition of excellence.”
Marshall desires to see increased partnerships with congregations to train and support foster families so that ABCH can provide Christian homes to children in need.
One way he hopes to cultivate this partnership is through the concept of “a 1–1–1 congregation.” The idea involves three points: one Sunday each year the pastor preaches a sermon focused on ABCH ministries (or invites an ABCH speaker to preach), every congregation has one family involved in foster care (or in larger congregations 1 percent of families) and every Alabama Baptist gives $1 per month to the ministries of ABCH.
“That would really allow us to meet our current demands for services, expand our programs where the need is great and plan for further growth,” Marshall explained. “If we could get more congregations to do those three things, that would radically reshape our future.”
He added that with more than 3,200 Alabama Baptist churches — and 6,400 children in need of foster care — the state of care for the fatherless in Alabama could be significantly redefined if two foster families were represented in each congregation.
Throughout the last 17 years Marshall has worked with ABCH, 13 of those spent as director of Pathways Professional Counseling. The ministry has set record numbers each year. Even so, his goals reach further than the statistics. “I struggle because I know there are 8,000 children who could use what we have to make their life better … so in that sense I probably would like to see the numbers grow. But as a ministry, I don’t want us to define our success by the numbers.”
When Marshall thinks about his “heroes” and those who have made an eternal impact for the ABCH mission, a particular group of people immediately comes to his mind. “Our foster parents and our house parents are my heroes,” he remarked. “They are heroes of the faith. The sacrificial love they show to these children is just awe-inspiring. And even those folks ... who send us a check every week — for whatever reason they may not be foster parents or house parents — [they] are dramatically and significantly impacting the life of a child by their consistent, generous support. … One body, many parts and no part is more important than the other.”
“The Children’s Home heritage is incredibly rich,” Marshall reflected. “I think our best is yet to come. I’m very proud of where we’ve been and I’m very proud of where we are, and God has used this ministry to touch countless lives. But I’m really excited to see what God has in store for us for the next 20, 30 or 40 years.”