Promise Keepers Canada is looking forward to a better year after what its national co-ordinator describes as having been a financially “rough” 1997 for the national ministry to men.

“This is going to be a great year for us. We have the faith to believe that,” says Ken McGeorge. “Nineteen ninety-seven was a challenging year for Promise Keepers throughout North America.”

Promise Keepers U.S.A. gave layoff notices for the end of March to its staff at headquarters in Denver, Colo. Meanwhile, staff at the Canadian office in Burlington, Ont. are dealing with a suspension of salary payments until losses of almost $200,000 incurred during 1997 are cleared.

Promise Keepers was founded in 1990 by former U.S. college football coach Bill McCartney with the purpose of calling men back to the church and to exhibit lives of integrity before their families and the community. It became most well known in recent years for staging massive stadium conferences that drew tens of thousands of men. Last October, it staged Stand In the Gap, a rally in Washington, D.C. that attracted hundreds of thousands of men.

The elimination of the Canadian organization’s debts is not likely to happen until Promise Keepers Canada stages its first major event of 1998 – a conference at Saskatchewan Place in Saskatoon April 24-25 that is expected to draw 13,000 men. McGeorge is hoping that the income generated from that event will see the ministry escape from the red.

McGeorge cited a number of factors for the recent financial shortfalls. The Stand In the Gap rally last year likely siphoned off attendance from stadium and arena conferences which used to sell out within days, and provided a good portion of Promise Keepers’ revenue. In 1997, the stadium and arena conferences drew only 30 to 60 per cent of capacity south of the border.

On the Canadian side, McGeorge said scheduling conflicts hindered attendance at conferences in Hamilton and Winnipeg. As well, he said men were not keen on going into arenas during the summer months and would have been much more apt to attend an event held outdoors.

“We had marketing challenges also,” McGeorge added. “This year, we’re trying to change all that. We’re improving our marketing and our scheduling so we don’t run into conflicts in any way. And, we’re doing fewer conferences in arenas that are dreadfully expensive.”

Aside from the Saskatoon event, Promise Keepers Canada has larger-sized conferences scheduled for Memorial Auditorium in Kitchener, Ont. Sept. 18-19 and Vancouver’s Pacific Coliseum Oct. 24-25. Meanwhile, smaller, church-sized conferences are set for yet-to-be-determined venues in Montreal and Grand Prairie, Alta. in November.

A change in format this year will see the larger conferences move from being half-day events to ones that begin on a Friday afternoon with a meeting for clergy, and conclude Saturday evening with a gathering patterned on the Stand In the Gap event. All the speakers will take the stage and call men to repentance, confession, healing and a seeking after God.

“We want to send men out sombrely, thinking seriously about what transpired in their hearts and minds over the day and a half,” said McGeorge. “We want men to go back to the local church and become part of the discipleship process … We will not rest until every church in this country has a vibrant ministry to men.”

The conferences will also feature free admission, with a freewill offering, in order to reach out to men as widely as possible and remove finances from being a hindrance to anyone’s attending.

Recent changes by Promise Keepers Canada have included a move of the head office from Surrey, B.C. to Burlington, Ont. in order to be in a more central location, and a board shuffle that saw Bob Roebuck replace Dr. Tom Iwama as the organization’s chairman of the board. Roebuck brings to the job his experiences as a former president of Jergens Canada, current president of the International Bible Society for Canada and a board member of World Vision Canada and World Vision International.

McGeorge said other priorities for the ministry include the expansion of the board of directors to 12 members and the appointment of a president. In the meantime, McGeorge said Promise Keepers Canada is in need of donations to see the ministry through to this year’s conferences, and the revenue
they will bring.