(Indianapolis, Ind. – DNS – Sept. 30, 2009) – Two Disciples women are giving a sacrificial gift to a ministry they love by retiring from their jobs, then serving as volunteers to help balance the Disciples Home Missions (DHM) budget.
Both Adonna Bowman, Executive Director of the Office of Disciples Women, and Bonnie Gearlds, Administrative Assistant to Bowman, will retire within the next several months from Disciples Home Missions. Bowman will retire on Dec 31 and Gearlds will retire on Jan. 31. They see their departures as an important way of helping to erase red ink from the DHM budget.
But that’s only part of their story. In an unusual twist, the women also will work in their former positions as volunteers for periods ranging from six to 14 months.
“When Adonna and Bonnie came forward after a recent staff meeting and told me they had a plan that might help us, I was almost speechless,” said Ron Degges, DHM President. “Once they told me what it was, I told them to go home and sleep on their decision. But the next day they came back and said ‘We still want to do this.’ ”
Degges had involved the DHM staff in thinking through the financial issues facing the ministry for months. DHM’s budgetary issues stem from a decrease in Disciples Mission Fund dollars and a decline in investment returns. In addition to grants, DHM is funded approximately 55% from Disciples Mission Fund and 45% from United Christian Missionary Society and other investments. Over the past several months, the staff had discussed a number of ways to ‘rightsize’ the budget, including a discussion to reduce the work schedule of each of DHM’s approximately 35 staff members.
But most of those discussions had taken place without knowing the true extent of needed reductions. It was only recently that executive staff concluded that about $185,000 would need to be cut from the 2010 budget.
“When we had enough information to pull together the projections, the extent of the shortfall was just staggering,” said Degges. He shared that information with DHM staff at a meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 22 and once again asked for suggestions.
“I think it’s Ron’s openness and transparency that encouraged us to make our decision,” said Bowman. “Ron has talked to us for months about these issues, and the focus has always been on how can we all do something to live through the situation. So after the meeting, Bonnie and I sat down and talked about some options.”
Both women had already made their retirement plans known. Gearlds, 62, had indicated that she would take an early retirement, leaving in July 2010 and Bowman, 63, had stated she would retire by February 2011. But the women moved up their plans once they heard the full details of DHM’s financial woes.
They are insistent that the work of women within DHM not be diminished in the reallocation of resources, which is in part why they are choosing to work as volunteers for a period of time.
Gearlds will stay on through July 2010 to ensure that plans for the Quadrennial, the women’s gathering that takes place every four years, are successful. Bowman also will spend significant time in the months ahead working toward a successful Quadrennial. In addition, she will represent women on such groups as General Board and the Mission Alignment Coordinating Council and will lead the 2010 Woman to Woman Worldwide trip to Turkey and Greece.
But will there be any momentum lost in women’s ministries by their actions?
“We want to ensure that doesn’t happen,” said Bowman. “We see our actions as not only a gift to the church, but as a call for the women of our church to prioritize the big pieces of our work.”
“What we are doing is part of our ministry,” continued Bowman. “I believe if that we weren’t doing this, there would be ministries cut. I hope our actions are part of a rallying call to the church – and to women – to get out and talk about the significance of giving to the church.”
The two women’s positions will not be cut from DHM staffing. Instead they will remain unfilled for now. Their retirements will certainly not erase the full $185,000 deficit from DHM’s ledgers, but Degges says it will help toward balancing the budget.
“We are grateful that we are not going to lose their ministry,” said Degges. “Their gracious actions give us a reprieve.”
Disciples Home Missions, based in Indianapolis, works closely with congregations in such areas as leader development, congregational transformation, faith formation, and Christian vocations. More information about the work of DHM can be found by going to its website: www.discipleshomemissions.org
By: Wanda Bryant Wills