LOOKING BACK: ENDURANCE
The 2011 summer conference was called "Endure." We picked the theme in 2010, before any of us knew that Rebecca Fort would be gracefully leaving her post as Executive Director, or that the Great Recession would hit Wheatstone that year, or that we would experience rapid staff fluctuations until 2012. We needed endurance. We were preaching it to hundreds of high school students, and we found ourselves put to the test. Could we practice the endurance we preached? Would we work hard, keep our heads down, and trust God, plodding onward?
Ryan Swindoll and I led Wheatstone together through 2011. During that year, we cut over $200,000 from Wheatstone's annual operating budget without cutting services. In fact, from 2010-2012, teams led by Rebecca, by Ryan, and by me tripled our services while working with a smaller staff than Wheatstone had traditionally kept. It was in 2010 that The Examined Life began, that Partnerships were raised from a subcategory of Marketing to be one of our three main offerings, and that we developed a sustainable fundraising strategy. In 2011, we doubled the number of people we impacted through events during the year, we increased our social media presence, we formed new partnerships, and more. It was good, hard work.
2012 IN REVIEW
Yet when we entered the new year, we were still financially pinched, still understaffed, and still growing. The hard work wasn't going to let up. I was named Executive Director in January, and we buckled down.
It kept being hard. We moved office locations and saw more excellent staff members gracefully go to create new families or to pursue old dreams. We had to maintain our extraordinary fiscal caution. Yet, perhaps because of how difficult 2012 turned out to be, God's providence and the support of the broader Wheatstone community were made amply evident to me. Volunteers were available at key moments. Donors and sponsors gave just what was needful at just the right times. What might have been a year of organizational contraction or confusion became instead a period of consistent, compelling growth.
Here is a selection of what we accomplished:
- We completed our suite of four-year Honors Bible Curricula, and saw it approved for University of California a-g elective credit at our testing school.
- We designed and successfully executed a Faculty Training Retreat that will serve as a prototype for Christian schools.
- We designed and successfully executed our first ever Partnership event just for and just about parents.
- We designed and successfully executed a 3-day student event that will serve as a prototype for Christian schools.
- We designed and launched a new website in-house, including a new, integrated registration system; a new, integrated hiring system that promotes transparency and excellence; two new email communication systems; a new blog by John Mark Reynolds, From the Founder; and much more.
- We hosted the first annual Wheatstone Staff Summit.
- We hosted the first annual Sponsorship Gala.
- We expanded the Academy summer conferences to two new constituencies: Educators and University students, and received an astonishing piece of conference feedback: 100% of participants said the 2012 Academy was a valuable experience.
- We became certified to grant ACSI Continuing Education Units.
- We secured 3 units of optional college credit for our summer conferences.
- We brought on Chad Glazener as Director of Operations and Partnerships Director, and Lisa Oka as Communications Manager.
- We approved an ambitious, attainable five year plan.
- We raised approximately $15,000 in monthly gifts.
- And, for the second time almost in our organization's history, we ended the year solidly in the black without needing to ask for additional, unexpected gifts from our generous major donors.
2012 was very good. For three years, we've (sometimes painfully) "Endured," and God has given us good fruit. Praise him!
Now, you may have noticed that we titled this year's conference "A Noble Risk," and, sure enough, over the next three years we intend to take a few as an organization. We're charting a path characterized by strategic, hopeful risks for increased kingdom work. Perhaps you can help.
2013: STRENGTHENING TIES AND PREPARING FOR GROWTH
At the beginning of a new year, we're looking ahead with hope and fortitude. We intend to make 2013 another year of growth, and of revitalization. Here are some of the big goals and challenges we forsee, and some ways in which you can help us.
FOUR BIG, NEW GOALS
In addition to improving the monthly email introductions to The Examined Life, we're eager to communicate with donors, staff, contributors, and partners in personalized, consistent ways. The Director's Desk is a first step in this direction. You'll be able to come here monthly for an organizational update. Soon, if you're in one of the groups listed above, you won't even have to check here at all because you'll receive an email tailored to your relationship with Wheatstone that includes it.
Focusing Partnerships in California, Arizona, and Texas.
After three years of consolidating our resources and playing to our base of Partners, we're planning to reach out strategically to build new Partnerships in key locations. We'll focus on the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, and Phoenix, and refer new Partners to the L.A. summer conference; and we'll build new Partnerships in Houston and refer them to the Houston summer conference. If you work at a school, church, or Christian community in one of those areas, and would like to begin a conversation about developing a new long-term Partnership with Wheatstone, contact us soon.
Securing major organizational partners in new locations.
We're currently working hard on forming two major organizational partnerships that will increase our capacity for ministry across the nation, and we're eager to pursue even more such organizational partnerships. It is our hope that, through these organizational partnerships, Wheatstone will begin to be nationally recognized as soon as this year (rather than simply being regionally recognized), and that in 2015 and on we will be holding a third annual summer conference in a major cultural center in the Northeast. If you have connections that you think would help us reach these goals, please contact us soon.
Creating a major new event and resource: Discussion Training.
Discussion has always been at the heart of the Wheatstone model for education and maturation. So it's no surprise that for years youth pastors, teachers, parents, and students have asked us how they can learn to excel in discussion. They've asked us to train them so they can return to their communities and recreate the sort of experiences that keep Academy Alumni coming back to our conferences. Up to this point, we've said that the only real discussion training comes through years of trying, and we've pointed to our Academy mentors' 400+ hours of experience in dialectic learning. That's still true, but now we're also in the process of developing events and curriculum for jumpstarting that process. Through our new discussion training, we'll empower you to begin discussing well right away by:
- setting goals, and defining success or failure for a discussion setting,
- distinguishing the pedagogical goals of discussion from other pedagogical methods like lecturing,
- offering practical suggestions for creating an environment conducive to discussion,
- answering common concerns about education through discussion,
- sharing an experience of deep discussion with one of Wheatstone's trained mentors,
and much more.
If you are interested in this training, or would like to be part of a testing group, please contact us soon.
THREE BIG, NEW CHALLENGES
Bringing funding back to a comfortable, sustainable level.
We were able to cut Wheatstone's budget almost in half over the past three years and still expand our offerings, but in very little time, such austerity will hamper Wheatstone's ability to continue growing, or even to sustain its current level of ministry. We cannot continue on our path of growth and innovation without bringing our budgets back up to a normal level, and then matching our growth. For that reason, I've designated the next three to four years as critical for major fundraising. We need new benefactors giving $10,000 per year or more, and we need them as quickly as possible.
You can help. Wheatstone's staff is full of quick learners and hard workers, but this will be our first time attempting a fundraising drive at this level. For that reason, we're seeking a development professional to help us meet our growth goals, and we welcome any support or advice that you, our community, can give. Together, I'm confident we can fundraise for growth to advance Wheatstone's passion for bringing about renewal through maturity. If you can help in any way, please contact us as soon as possible.
Opening a Houston office.
Just as a single small conference in the Los Angeles area has blossomed into a ministry that serves people all over California and Arizona, we want to use our Houston conferences as a springboard for ministry to people all over Texas, Louisiana, and more. In order to properly serve those communities, however, we cannot simply fly in from California every once in a while. We need people on the ground who can meet with Partners on a moment's notice. For that reason, we're eager to open a Houston office as quickly as possible. That will require funding for staff salaries and supplies, an office space, and staff members. If you are interested in helping in any of these three areas, please contact us soon.
Expanding our reach.
Wheatstone provides valuable resources and ministry to an avid, small community, and we're grateful for that opportunity. But we believe the resources we produce and the events we put on are of such quality, and provide such an unprecedented service, that they could and should be seen and used by many more people all across the nation. We want The Examined Life to become a hub for Christian conversation in America. We want to find a national distribution partner for our Honors Bible curriculum. And that's just a start. In order to do those things, we need to find new avenues through which to tell people about what Wheatstone has to offer. If you can help by providing funding for print marketing, by offering advice, or if you have connections in radio or in the blogosphere, or if you can simply help by spreading Wheatstone's resources through social media, please do. Contact us soon, and we'll get started.
MAINTAINING CURRENT MINISTRY OFFERINGS
We'll pursue those new goals and face those new challenges without compromising on the quality of our current commitments:
Running two summer conferences.
Running as many Partnership events as we can managably execute.
Improving The Examined Life.
Advancing our suite of Honors Bible Curricula.
These goals are ambitious and, yes, a little risky. Maybe we'll fall short of a few of them. But we don't think that Wheatstone has come to this place in this year by accident, and we refuse to stop trying to form Wheatstone into a better and better image of Christ's kingdom. We want to grow for God's glory, becoming a unique, hopeful, winsome voice to the rising generation, and we can. Placing our trust in his guidance, and linking our hands with yours, friends, we can take the next few steps forward in the good work of drawing today's youth into lasting Christian maturity. Let's help each other think deeply rather than defensively, love greatly rather than categorizing, and serve our society rather than submitting to it. Let's bring renewal through maturity.
Visit our new donate pageto see current projects, and to give a gift. Consider making Wheatstone a part of your regular charitable giving by becoming a monthly donor.
Become a Benefactor by giving $10,000 or more. Details at the link.
Watch the 2012 summer conference video. Instead of creating a traditional promotional video, Aaron Smith smoothly layered footage and audio from the conference without any explanations or appeals from separate shoots. The result is an impressionistic representation of a transformative week by an artist. You'll get a feeling for the sweep of the conference, for its beauty, and for the close community it forms.
View the new page for the 2013 summer conferences, Here, in the City of Man.
Download the 2012 Ministry Report,
with details about last year's programs, response, and financial summary.
Download our short-form five year vision,
with details about our short-term goals and how we plan to achieve them.