Ministry in the Milieu: The Discipleship Model Works

For seven years I worked to get as many volunteers as we could get. The needs were great and the workers were few. The more I saw the more my heart yearned to help those that walked in our doors. It was heart wrenching work.

When I wasn’t working to get volunteers and serve clients I was working to raise funds. It was one of my main jobs. We needed money to maintain operations and we needed money to expand services. We didn’t want money just to have it. We wanted it because we saw needs that needed met and we knew we didn’t have the resources to meet them.

Looking back now I often wonder if we had the wrong model. We are a nonprofit and we meet the needs of specific groups of people with a set of resources. It’s a noble pursuit. Because there are so many needs a lot of nonprofits spring up. People have personal stories and they drive them to help others in the same situation. Yet, Jesus gave us a model of ministry that is more effective.

What if nonprofits spent time equipping others to meet needs. Jesus equips His saints to help mankind and His model of ministry doesn’t require a lot of money. Equip yourself with the skills and knowledge of the gospel and then go out and touch the lives of others. A simple model to follow.

When we can’t meet their needs then we can find them resources that do. That’s what nonprofits do. We pride ourselves on referrals and having partnerships with other organizations. When we can’t meet a need we connect people to others who can. A simple model of ministry.

I recently started as a chaplain for a local company. I visit the company for a couple hours a week and make connections. If someone needs to talk or support I can provide it. I am available if they want to pray. I can also do a hospital visit or go to a funeral for them. It hit me when I was on one of my visits that an equipped saint touching the lives of other people is the most effective model for helping those in need.

We sought to help women who were pregnant and in need of support and resources. We helped with parenting programs, material aid, counseling, mentoring and by connecting them to resources to meet their needs. I don’t know why anyone couldn’t do the same thing with people they know.

Only Jesus can be the all that people need. So don’t worry about meeting everyones needs, but see where you can be effective. Look for resources that will help the people you know. Remember that the goal is to get people living and working on their own. Functioning in a healthy way. The goal is not to make them dependent on us, but to help them for a time so that they don’t need us.

Every week we come into contact with people that we can help. Those people need us to be ready to help in the way that we can. They need someone to love them, listen and pray. They need someone to say hard things to them and steer them back into life. Isn’t that the goal? To keep going, persevering through trial when we deal with the disappointment and pain of life.

Sometimes we simply get off the path and we need someone who can help us get back on it. We don’t need a nonprofit to help us do that. We need you. We are all living in the milieu together. Let’s equip ourselves with the knowledge of how to use God’s Word to help others, how to listen and communicate, and how to coach others over obstacles and challenges and back into life.

When you go back to work this week there will be people that you can help. Are you ready? No one organization or even many can meet the needs of the people that we have in our lives, but we can do our part to. Together we can make a difference. It’s our way of giving back what has been given to us.

Marcy Pedersen


Attention Nonprofit Organizations:  I Don’t Have Time for You

Tomorrow morning, I will get up and start another week of work.  I work full time, have a second part-time job, and am a full-time student.  In between everything I try to fit in some time at the gym, a good mystery movie, taking care of my family, and reading.

I know that there are people in the world hurting.  I understand there are organizations working to meet their needs.  In fact, I served as a nonprofit director for seven years.  Serving and helping people was my life.  I remember being so entrenched in helping others that I couldn’t understand why more people weren’t on board with our cause.  An underlying frustration grew.  How come it was so hard to get donors, board members and volunteers?  How come people couldn’t see what we see?

Being back in secular employment and having interests far removed from the nonprofit world I understand the challenge that we faced.  We were a mere blip in the busy schedules of people.  We struggled to maintain a strong presence in people’s minds because we lacked the finances and resources to conduct large and consistent marketing campaigns.  People didn’t see the need because there were removed from it.  When we did connect with people and help them see the need they became engaged and our donors, board members and volunteers increased.

As I drive to work tomorrow my mind will fill with the worries of starting a new career, what we are having for supper, how I am going to get my homework done, and a hundred other concerns.  I might hear a commercial on the radio that will remind me of a nonprofit cause or event, but as soon as I get to work I will forget.  It’s not because I don’t care.  It’s because I am forgetful and have a hard time understanding how to fit something else in my day.

I don’t feel like I have time for you.  You need to show me that I do.  You need to show me how my donation can help you accomplish your mission.  You need to remind me over and over because I am busy and forgetful.  You need to give me short opportunities to volunteer and engage.  Maybe I can update your social media, help at an event in three months, or write thank you letters for you.  Maybe you could give me a call and just share what is going on.

I worked with women everyday who were hopeless, helpless, and lacked the resources to change their lives.  I gave my life to helping them for seven years and if I am able to forget the importance of what you are doing then you can bet people who have never worked in the nonprofit world will to.

Remind me what you are doing.  Over and over again.  I am forgetful.

Give me a call and share with me what the needs are.  One day I will have more time and will be ready to give more.

Help me see how my donation can really help.  Why should I give to you?  What makes you stand out?

Find a way to impact my busy life.  I listen to the radio, I check social media, I check email and I notice posters at work.  If you can impact my 9-5 you have a good chance of getting a donation and volunteer.

Remember, it won’t be enough to know you exist.  I need to understand what the need is, and how I can help meet it.  When you can show me that you will get me on board.

Marcy Pedersen

nonprofit Work

Net Present Value & Net Social Value=Why We Need Finance People on Our Nonprofit Board.

Nonprofits need more people, money and resources. As a nonprofit leader I often heard how important it was to strategically choose board members according to what we needed. I knew we needed to connect to people who could help us with our fundraising events, we needed more donors, and someone to take the treasurer’s position.

My current MBA finance class taught me that we needed something else. Someone who had a good understanding of finance. Not just someone who could help make a budget, but someone who has some understanding of net present value and how to use it to make decisions about purchases.

We did review purchases and made decisions based off of whether they were helping us fulfill our mission, but we did not have a set required rate of return on expenditures and didn’t calculate future cash flows. I wish I had known to do these things, or had someone on our team to help us calculate these numbers and help us make even better decisions about the future.

According to an article by Daniel Bauer and Keith Richardson, Is That Expense Justified?, there is a way to calculate net present value for a nonprofit expenditure to determine if an expense will pay off in the long run. Bauer and Richardson recommend calculating net present social value and adding that to the NPV.

Net present social value represents the return to the nonprofit in social dividends. The expenditure needs to help the nonprofit accomplish it’s mission which means that the organization needs to ensure that they have a clear mission statement in place.  The organization will add the net present social value to the NPV and if that number is greater than the cost of the expenditure than the organization should make the purchase.

This method would be so valuable in sharing information about expenditures to donors and community stakeholders. Donors would appreciate if a nonprofit took the time to calculate the value of an expenditure and report that in clear financial terms they could understand. Donors invest in a nonprofit so that they can help them meet needs and nonprofits should give them professional financial information to help them decide if an expenditure and organization is worth their time and money.

A good financial person on our board can help us to calculate ratios and figures that we can use to present our cause to donors. It can help us stand out in the milieu of nonprofits and can communicate to future investors that we take our expenditures seriously and want to ensure that their investment is used to accomplish the mission.

Marcy Pedersen

Bauer, D., & Richardson, K. (2002). Is That Expense Justified? Nonprofit World, 20(5), 26.

Five Lessons I Learned From my MBA Finance Class: Lessons for Us All

I can make a budget. Heck I led a nonprofit for seven years. Finance won’t be a problem. A couple weeks into my finance class and I was struggling. This has nothing to do with budgeting. I need to do what? A little math. I remember now, all those nights that I didn’t study for Algebra class in high school.

In a few weeks my grade was less than an A. In fact I was barely passing. Something my pride couldn’t take.  I want to achieve perfection. What is going on? The epiphany came when my professor emailed and asked me why my assignments were late, again? My assignment was late? Again?

In a panic I searched through my syllabus. Hmm. Nothing. I was getting things turned in by the dates I wrote down. Late? I checked the online course information the professor posted. Ahh. I wrote down the wrong dates and never looked back. My grade was dropping because of my late assignments not due to a lack of understanding the material though it was challenging to me.

I contacted my academic advisor to discuss whether I should re-take the class. The consequences of doing so would mean my current schedule would have to be completely re-arranged. We determined it was best to push through. To suck down my pride and admit I had made a mistake.

I did that. I am one week from finishing the class. Here are some valuable lessons that I have learned:

1. My future success is not based off of my current mistakes. If anything it will be more likely because of them. No one will ever have to remind me to check vital facts again. I learned that lesson. Successful people make mistakes, and learn from them.
2. Don’t quit. I was embarrassed and wanted to drop the class and run. I will just start over. A new professor and a new start will work. I have learned more from persevering than I ever would have from starting all over. I am building character that I will need to be a successful business person.
3. Don’t quit. I have had an extreme amount of life and career stress during this class. I have had one set back after the other. Problems with computers, competing priorities, life crisis, career crisis, challenges with kids, home and car repairs. I decided I was doing this. I am going to get through this class. This attitude has motivated me to try harder, read more, and put more effort into my education. I am learning more this way than I would have if I hadn’t made a mistake.
4. Don’t quit. As Christians we are called to persevere. It’s a characteristic of our relationship with God. If I had quit then I wouldn’t have given others the opportunity to see a key characteristic of my faith, given God the opportunity to work in my life, and would have missed the blessing of watching the Holy Spirit strengthen and teach me.
5. A healthy pride. In one week I will complete my finance class after overcoming many obstacles and do so earning at least a B in the class. I understand that I did this because God helped me and because I humbled myself, admitted my mistake, and continued despite the obstacles. I am proud of my B. More proud than I would have been getting an easy A. I did it! We did it! I know we can do it again!

I know more challenging classes are coming. I know that there will be obstacles and now I am not afraid of them. I understand that the real learning starts when we face our mistakes and learn from them. I understand that part of my education includes what we learn when we face challenges and overcome them. I look forward to what’s next. Economics?

Marcy Pedersen


We Tried That, It Didn’t Work: Things Founders Say


As a new director of a nonprofit I was asked to bring about change.  I had no idea at the time the depth of change that the board wanted, and that was needed.  A founding board member wanted to get some classes going.  She was hoping we could finally get a program off the ground.  She said let’s try again?  Sure why not.

So we set the date, time and location.  We sent out some fliers and then naively waited for participants to come to class.  We had a beautiful table full of helpful resources waiting, coffee brewing, and refreshments.  We were ready to serve others and help meet their needs.

No one showed up.

No one.

We tried, it didn’t work.

About three years later when I began to have a better understanding of community programs and services I could start to see what we did wrong, or the many things we did wrong.

  1. We gave up. You can’t judge something on the first try.  We shouldn’t have given up so easily.  Had we kept trying we could have a strong class today.
  2. We didn’t analyze what we were doing. God wants to help these people. So we are going to help them.  We actually never took the time to research how similar groups started, how they were maintained, how much they cost, and how to start them.  We just had it in our heart to do something.  Good research and even a casual analysis of what we were doing would have done wonders to ensure success.
  3. We didn’t even add it to the budget. Please don’t laugh.  Please.  I didn’t know what I was doing that first year.  I didn’t realize the obvious.  Doing things for God costs money.  If it’s important it needs to be added to the budget.  The process of making a budget will help us take some good steps towards creating a great program.

It’s the Communities Fault?

Someone said this.  I found myself saying this a few years later when I became frustrated.  This just doesn’t work in our community.  I am not convinced  that is true.

Perhaps our community wants this service, but offered in a different way.  We do need to consider our culture, but it’s not the community, or a competing social service organization’s fault that no one is coming to our class.

There are always more steps we can take towards success.  People we can network with to learn from.  Time we need to take for development.  Resources we need to build.  Rarely can we say we did everything we could.

Jesus own ministry is a wreck.  His followers are weak and fail Him.  They don’t show up for His meetings, and rarely provide the financial resources needed for the ministry.  He doesn’t give up.  Neither should we.  Keep trying, and in the meantime take some practical steps to help develop a strong program that will meet the needs of people for many years.

Marcy Pedersen



Incorporate Who You Are Into What You Do Regularly: Then Where You Are Won’t Make A Difference.

He walked into our office with a smile. He walks into the office everyday with a smile. Everyday.

He is accomplished but in a position that is beneath him. He is wise yet humble. He is smart yet listens. He is mature, knowledgeable and finishing up a career in a job that offers less responsibility and the ability to do an aspect of his work that he loves.

He has been in the marketplace long enough that he has learned the key to it all. This seasoned professional tackles entry level work just as he would managerial work. He does this by incorporating who he is into everything he does. The task might change, but he doesn’t. He knows who he is and is that person on a regular basis. This gives him purpose in his work. The work doesn’t define him, he defines the work.

I am a_____, not a _______

I am a MBA student, preparing to start an internship in my late 40’s (also known as close to 50), a mother, writer, wife and chaplain for a local business. My dream is to write, consult and teach. I devour books, am a foodie, love to travel, exercise, cook and enjoy spending time with my family.

I am a servant of God. I am a sinner. I am forgiven. I am tempted and over come. I am bathed in grace. I serve. I love and am loved. I follow. Someone died for me. Someone intercedes for me. Someone enables me.

We must keep in mind who we are. If we incorporate who we are into our life and work then it won’t matter what we do or where we do it. We will define what we do. We will not be defined by what we do.

Dr. C. Moore states in his book, From Failure to Promise, that “while selling shoes, I kept in mind that I was still a student on the path to becoming an engineer” (2014). Dr. Moore failed out of college and had to move back home to face his family and figure out what to do to become the engineer he dreamed of becoming.

Many of us are not where we want to be in life and work for many reasons. Yet we are not defined by our job. I am not an intern. I am a MBA student on the way to becoming a writer, teacher and consultant. The internship is simply a step to help me get there. I am also a servant of God and everything in my life has purpose. As does everything in your life.

You are amazing. You are not your job. You are a unique creation of God. Who you are is what defines you. Be that person everywhere you go. When you do success will always follow.

Marcy Pedersen


The Internship: An Unexpected Journey

In the summer of 2000 I was faced with single parenting four children ages 8 months, 2, 4 and 9. I had no way to support them and did the only thing I knew to do to equip myself to become the main breadwinner. I went back to college.

It took me seven years to earn my bachelors degree. Part of that was due to transferring colleges, and part because I couldn’t always swing a full time schedule and part-time work. I finished. Along the way my husband and I worked things out, but I was determined to never face the situation again where I had no way to support myself and my children.

Marriage’s don’t always heal quickly. We spent several years in pain and continuing to hurt each other. I spent years wondering if he would come home after work. At any moment things could sour and I would be faced with single parenting again. I planned on getting a nice job upon graduation. I wanted to put my degree to use and build some stability in my life.

I did a degree audit two semesters before graduation and realized that I had to complete an internship in order to complete my degree. Things at home were stable enough that I could do that, but where? I don’t live in a metropolis, and I still had four young children to take care of. I couldn’t afford to pay a babysitter while I completed an internship somewhere for little or no money.

God had plans. He had the most amazing plans.

A friend of mine invited me to be on a board of a nonprofit. A pregnancy center. She was a close friend so I said yes. I had no clue what a pregnancy center was and no idea what a board member did, but I showed up to the meetings. Around this same time I was able to review what would be required for my upcoming internship. I emailed my professor for the next semester and asked if I could complete the internship at the pregnancy center. It seemed like a good fit. I could complete all the requirements at the center. The professor agreed.

In August I began to volunteer at the center two afternoons a week. I was there to help and complete the work for my internship. As I look back I realize that God had a plan. A plan that I could have never imagined. I was clueless to what was getting ready to happen. God had me right where He wanted me, and I had no idea of the events that would take place that would completely change my life.

I want to write a series called The Internship. It has been ten years since I completed that internship, and now I am preparing to complete another. This internship is one that will help me transition to become a government employee. The story of how I got here today is not unlike the one before. I am four weeks away from starting the next internship and wonder what God has in store. If it’s like before then I know something amazing is about to happen.

I also want to write about what happened to me through that first internship. God took a hopeless sinner and used her to help others. He took a rebel and molded her into a servant. He took my independent heart and carved it until it became enamored with touching the lives of others.

God has us right where He wants us. That place might not be anywhere we had planned to be, but make no mistake that you are where you are for a reason. I am where I am for a reason. I look forward to sharing this journey with you. I hope it helps you with yours.

Marcy Pedersen

The Internship