The roller coaster ride known as Promise Keepers (PK) is back on top, at least for the moment, after recalling its entire staff that had been laid off fewer than three weeks earlier. Around 70 of its 345 workers had found other work before the April 16 callback.

PK seemed to have reached its zenith last October when nearly a million men gathered for the largest event ever staged in Washington, D.C. (CT, Nov. 17, 1997, p. 62). Yet the announcement at the Stand in the Gap "sacred assembly of men" that PK would drop its $60 registration fee at future stadium events had an immediate impact.

Switching to donor financing plunged the Denver-based organization into a cash crunch and spurred the March 31 layoffs of its 345 full-time staff members (CT, April 6, 1998, p. 18).

Yet, the news stirred 35,000 Christians who have seen the way the ministry has transformed the lives of men. More than $4 million has come in since the layoffs were announced. Around 95 staff members volunteered during the interim. Although salaries had been cut, benefits continued throughout.

"The body of Christ responded," McCartney told CT. "Men, women, and children sent in their checks, they sent in their dollar bills, they sent in their change. Many churches have sent in a thousand dollars." The generosity has enabled PK not only to reinstate staff but to pay off all vendors and to make stadium deposits for some of this season's 19 men's gatherings.

Paul D. Nelson, president of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, says PK has been cooperative in revealing financial figures.

"ECFA is watching the situation very carefully," Nelson told CT. "We've seen their internal documents, and they have maintained the ECFA seal throughout this process."

Until the recall announcement, many men had been waiting to see whether PK would be around before planning to attend a stadium rally. Freewill donations will be taken to cover each event, which costs $1 million to stage.

NO FUTURE CUSHION: McCartney, the 56-year-old retired University of Colorado football coach, took the team approach to both layoffs and rehirings. The recall took place even though PK has no assurance of meeting cash-flow demands past mid-June.

"We can't look beyond that," McCartney says. "But we felt the way that people are responding we had to call our staff back. And, even though we had anticipated it would be longer, we couldn't deny God's generosity in good faith to our staff, some of whom were really struggling."

McCartney is relying on the donations to keep the operation afloat. "It's God's plan to ask the body to do this together," he says. "If each church gives a thousand dollars, we'll be in business." So far, according to PK public affairs director Steve Ruppe, 1,500 congregations have given $1,000 or more.

But PK is relying on more than one-time gifts. Last year, the organization started a "covenant partners" program that has been growing steadily. Currently, 40,000 partners are donating an average of $200,000 a month, Ruppe says. In addition, PK receives a cut of the sale of every PK devotional, hat, and T-shirt sold. Promise Keepers has a $48 million budget this year, compared to $112 million in 1997.

Campus Crusade for Christ founder Bill Bright has been the chief PK cheerleader. His letters to pastors and lay leaders raised more than $500,000 "to help our brothers in their time of crisis."

Smaller parachurch ministries have also jumped on the bandwagon. During a two-day radio broadcast, FamilyLife Ministry in Little Rock, Arkansas—where PK will rally on May 22-23 for the first time—spurred listeners to send in $50,000 to Promise Keepers.

Children whose fathers have attended PK events have also eased the financial crisis. "We received letters saying, My daddy's never been the same, and the kid sends in a quarter," McCartney says.

NOW WHAT? During the next two years, PK will focus on stadium events. This year, 10 of the 19 gatherings will be in new locales, including several midsize cities such as Columbia, Missouri; Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Tucson, Arizona. The season's kickoff event, May 15-16 in the Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan, is expected to draw 50,000.

Stadium meetings are not on the agenda after 1999. McCartney believes PK has accomplished much of what God intended, including racial reconciliation, marriage restoration, healing of denominational rifts, and pastor encouragement. On January 1, 2000, PK is planning assemblies at every U.S. state capitol. Afterwards, the outreach will be global. "We're going to hand off the baton to the various ministries in churches, and we're trusting God to duplicate what he's doing with men in this nation around the world," McCartney says.

McCartney is certain the new financial plan will succeed. "God has never removed the anointing," he says. "He's showing up every time we invite him."

According to ECFA's Nelson, any Christian organization must combine prudent decision making with faith. "Ministries can only make payroll as long as God's people provide the means," Nelson says. "Promise Keepers has demonstrated that they're not afraid to take risk or be unconventional. They have demonstrated a track record of accomplishment."

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