Q&A: The United Methodist Children’s Home New President and CEO Talks About the Present and the Future

Rev. Hal Jones, who has been the President and CEO at The United Methodist Children’s Home for just two weeks, starting on August 17th, shares enthusiasm about his new role and insights into the future of the ministry.   This interview was conducted on August 30, 2016 by Lisa Simon, Director of Marketing and Communications at The Children’s Home.     Q: What excites you most as The United Methodist Children’s Home new President and CEO? A: I can answer this question from so many personal perspectives.  When I turned in my resignation at Emory, I reminded my boss of the dream I’ve had for many years of being able to take the experiences, learnings, and skills that I’ve had the blessing to accumulate in various healthcare leadership roles across the country, and transfer and leverage them in a context that was more directly involved with the ministry of The United Methodist Church in North Georgia.  When I received the first phone call about the position at The United Methodist Children’s Home, I immediately felt like God had turned my dream into a real opportunity. The mission of The Children’s Home excites me!  I am joining an organization with an incredible and deep history of ministry and service. I am joining a team that continues to have a tremendous impact on the lives of children and families across North Georgia.  And I’m excited about where we are right now in that history, as we continue to build on and strengthen the partnerships we have with individuals, with churches, and with the state.  These partnerships will lead to even greater depths of ministry and service to children and families.  And…I am excited about the energy and commitment of all the members of The Children’s Home team, who are just as excited as I am about continuing to strengthen those partnerships that lead to a better, more secure, and loving future for children and families     Q: The community at large is very eager and excited to meet you. What upcoming public events sponsored by The Children’s Home and/or other organizations are you planning to attend the remainder of this year? A: I am very eager to meet the community at large as I attend several events throughout the remainder of this year.  I’m looking forward to meeting with The Children’s Home Auxiliary who supports our very popular flea markets.  I am also speaking at my home church, Hamilton Mill United Methodist Church, where my wife is the Associate Pastor to speak about the upcoming Amazing Grace Offering.  I am looking forward to the myriad of events, big and small, over the next several months where I can meet as many families, children, and supporters as possible.  Pose this question to me again in six months as I’m sure the team and the churches will recommend more future events.       Q: The Children’s Home is committed to expanding its foster care ministry from serving approximately 100 foster children per day to serving 500 per day by the year 2020. This commitment is evident by way of the current No More Hotels campaign. Please share your ideals and aspirations for the No More Hotels campaign. A: I compare my children’s childhood experiences to the 150 children each month who are spending the night with a stranger in a hotel.  A stranger…  I think about this in terms of the 30 times each week that we have to tell representatives from the state that we do not have enough loving and nurturing homes for the children who so desperately need and deserve them.  There are too many children who are in crisis right now.  I believe when children are in crisis, we should all experience it as our crisis.  My hope is that, together, we will address and end that crisis.     Q: Hal, when a leader arrives, people expect change. What do you expect will change at The Children’s Home, and what will remain the same, under your leadership? A: Our commitment to children and families will remain the same.  The Children’s Home is committed to partnering with local churches across North Georgia, state programs, and other people who support the ministry with time, gifts, and donations.  That will not change.   I sometimes tell the story of visiting my brother, Frank, at the Officer’s Club when he was a Major in the Air Force.  Everyone inside the club was playing games and enjoying food and drinks.  A pilot entered the club and everyone in the room stopped what they were doing and offered this pilot their place at the game tables, their food, and their drinks.  It was an impressive, collective reaction.  I knew Frank outranked the pilot, but it was also clear he was one of the many who offered this collective and immediate deference to the pilot.  When I asked him about it later, Frank explained, “There are two types of people in the Air Force.  First, there are the people who defend the country. They are the pilots.  And then there are all the rest of us, regardless of rank, whose job it is to support the people who defend the country.”  I believe the moral of this story applies to our ministry too.  Across North Georgia there are the people in our churches, on staff at The Children’s Home, in State government…the people who are directly involved with meeting the needs of children and families.  Then there are the rest of us, regardless of rank or role, whose job it is to support  people who are directly involved with meeting the needs of children and families.  We will continue to build on this understanding.  That will not change.   “How do I think The Children’s Home will change?” Ask me this question again in six months or so. I come from the healthcare environment that experienced tremendous change over the last 10 – 15 years. One of the current changes in healthcare has been a movement towards prevention and partnering with patients and families to keep people healthy, a movement to meet patients and families “where they are” in their communities.  I suspect we will see a similar dynamic with our ministry to children and families, particularly as we are out in the communities and finding ways to become more present and working together with the churches, families, and children we serve.     Q: As The Children’s Home currently celebrates 145 years of serving children in need of a loving and nurturing home, how do you envision the ministry’s future? A: I think our future will continue to build upon the incredible history that we have and it will continue to focus on serving children and families.  I think the future encompasses two of The Children’s Home core values – we are agile and we are ready for change.  There are things we control, and there are things we don’t control.  Our future will be one of being good stewards of what we can control, and being agile and ready to address those things we can’t control…and we will do that in a manner that reflects our faith and our commitment to our ministry.  I envision a future of continuously partnering with and strengthening our relationships with the churches across North Georgia.  We will continue to be open to new ways of seeing, new ways of hearing, and new ways of responding to the needs of children and families across North Georgia, as well as new ways of partnering with local churches and the State.     Q: What are the benefits for churches and the community at large to become more involved with The Children’s Home? A: I’d like to reframe this question.  I believe our opportunity at The Children’s Home is to continue to become involved with the ministry of churches in North Georgia.  It is the strength of that partnership that has allowed us, and will continue to allow us, to best serve children and families. I believe this kind of partnership, this joining together in service and ministry, is not only redemptive for the families and children we serve, but it is also redemptive for The Children’s Home team and for churches and their members.