Three faith-based organizations in Colorado Springs are lauded for remaining true to their Christian callings in a new book by the CEO of a Pennsylvania-based group that works to fight poverty worldwide.

In his fourth book, "Mission Drift: The Unspoken Crisis Facing Leaders, Charities and Churches," HOPE International CEO Peter Greer addresses a tendency among nonprofit organizations to shift focus as they grow and professionalize. Compassion International, Young Life and The Crowell Trust are held up by Greer as teachable examples of groups that haven't veered from their founding goals, despite exponential growth.

"All leaders will face the problem of straying from their original mission," said Greer, in a press release about the new book.

An ideal model

Greer's own faith-based organization provides business, financial training and microloans to break poverty cycles and encourage entrepreneurship.

"Mission drift is the natural course for industries and organizations," Greer says. "Having a clear founding identity, a strong purpose and zeal for the cause are all insufficient safeguards. It takes focused attention to sustain your mission."

Greer wrote and researched the book with the help of fellow HOPE employees Chris Horst and Anna Haggard, including anecdotes and case studies of organizations that avoided drift by maintaining a firm commitment to core Christian beliefs. Compassion International, the worldwide child-sponsorship organization, is considered by the authors to be an ideal model of a "mission true" organization.

Making tough choices

Mark Hanlon, Compassion's senior vice president of global marketing and engagement, said his group was honored to be included in the book for its commitment to stay the course, which hasn't always been easy.

"As an organization we have faced many pivotal moments in our 62 years where we had to decide whether to stray from our original mission of rescuing children from poverty in Jesus' name or go another route. But thanks to great leaders who came before us, we have stayed true to our original calling," Hanlon said. "Sometimes standing up for - and staying true to - the mission that God has called you to is difficult. But when you make those tough choices to stay true, I believe God honors that."

Other groups lauded

The Springs-based Crowell Trust was established in 1927 by Quaker Oats founder Henry Parsons Crowell to fund projects that teach and spread the gospel of evangelical Christianity. Crowell's original directives remain and grant applicants must be in agreement with the trust's doctrinal statement, which is based on scripture. Greer devotes most of a chapter - "The Secret Recipe to Quaker Oats" - to Crowell.

"With conviction and insight, Peter and Chris share with us their journey of discovery as they address the timely and pivotal question of mission drift," said Candy Sparks, the trust's executive director. "Their quest to get it right, not only for their personal integrity but for the longevity of the work in which they are engaged, informs our lives and our work as we endeavor to stay the course, finish well and leave a legacy which continues to reflect kingdom values."

Greer also writes about Young Life, the evangelical para-church ministry focusing on youth outreach. The group was founded in Texas in 1941 and moved to the Springs five years later. As of June, Young Life had established ministries in 5,937 schools and other community locations, with the express goal of introducing adolescents to Jesus Christ.


Contact Stephanie Earls: 636-0364


"mission drift" launch party

When: 5-6:30 p.m. Thursday

Where: Acoma Community Space, 3220 S. Acoma St., Englewood

When: 5-6:30 p.m. Thursday

Where: Acoma Community Space, 3220 S. Acoma St., Englewood


Stephanie Earls is a news reporter and columnist at The Gazette. Before moving to Colorado Springs in 2012, she worked for newspapers in upstate NY, WA, OR and at her hometown weekly in Berkeley Springs, WV, where she got her start in journalism.