The Promise Keepers, an evangelical Christian men’s movement, is nearly broke and will lay off its work force March 31, officials said Wednesday.
The crusade’s financial troubles also could jeopardize a series of 19 revivals at stadiums nationwide this year, including a kickoff crusade May 15-16 at the Pontiac Silverdome, staff members of the Denver organization said.
A spokesman said 345 people would lose their jobs. Beginning April 1, Promise Keepers - which had a budget of nearly $90 million last year and drew 600,000 men to its signature stadium rallies - will become an all-volunteer organization.
“I have a broken heart,” said founder Bill McCartney, a former assistant football coach at the University of Michigan and former head coach at the University of Colorado. “But I don’t have a discouraged heart. I have a heart that is filled with hope.”
McCartney announced the layoffs at a staff meeting Wednesday in Denver and said he would ask churches nationwide to donate $1,000 each to his ministry because “it’s the will of God for churches to give this money.
“If the church fails to do this, they will have missed the heart of God,” McCartney said, according to staff members at the meeting. “If they’re a small church, that doesn’t let them off the hook. They need to ask a large church for the money.”
In a news release, Promise Keepers said the shift to an all-volunteer organization “represents a transition of a magnitude unique in the history of nonprofit organizations.”
“We were grass roots before, but now we’re really grass roots,” said spokesman Steve Chavis.
Promise Keeper’s stadium rallies feature Christian motivational speakers encouraging men to become better husbands, fathers and church members. Criticized by some as being antiwoman and antigay, Promise Keepers ran into financial problems last year when attendance at those regional revivals dropped by half because the men chose to instead attend the national Stand in the Gap rally in Washington.
Most of the Promise Keepers’ revenue came from charging men who attended the stadium events a $60 fee. The Washington rally was free of charge and cost the organization $9.2 million.
Then, McCartney decided to drop all admissions fees to the group’s stadium events in 1998 in a move to bring in low-income men. But the action dried up revenues and weakened the organization’s finances.
A Promise Keepers member said a staffer told him that this year’s 19 regional events, announced Tuesday, could be canceled unless local organizations find a way to finance the tents, equipment and other needed items.
The financial troubles first surfaced in July, when Promise Keepers was forced to lay off 100 employees.