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Revolutionary Ideas Intended to Spark Change
Christian leader Glen Pitts takes on the challenge to help breathe renewed life and vitality into the 100-year-old Canadian Bible Society.

When Glen Pitts was asked to consider taking over the role of national director for the Canadian Bible Society (CBS), his first inclination was it wouldn't be a good fit. "I saw myself as much more entrepreneurial, versus what I perceived the Bible Society to be," he reflects, "[which was] something a little bit more traditional and even stodgy."

… financial challenges are not new to Christian ministries.

Now Pitts is hoping to rework some of the traditional trappings of the Bible Society—including its bookstores—in a bid to reallocate some much needed money.

At 59, Pitts has both the energy and ambitions of a younger man. His favourite hobbies, downhill skiing, travel and motorcycling, reveal more about him than simply his interests. He is clearly a risk taker and adventurer. So, it is not surprising he agreed to take on the challenge of breathing new vitality into the 100-year-old organization last December.

Now in his seventh month on the job, Pitts remains enthusiastic for new initiatives he would like to implement, around which he says he sees "the future vision of the Canadian Bible Society really beginning to gel."

But economic realities have also set in.

"In our last fiscal year, we probably saw a four per cent decline in direct mail giving [alone], which makes up about 50 per cent of our total income," Pitts says. "And looking at the pattern thus far in this fiscal year, it's going [to be] about the same; a three to four per cent drop in direct mail income."

Those percentages translate into stunning numbers. The Society's total revenue for the fiscal year ended February 28, 2003, was $11,283,000; a decrease of $938,000 (or 7.7 per cent) over the previous year. Such financial challenges are not new to Christian ministries. But Pitts likes to think he brings a new approach to the problem.

Reallocation of funds

"As I look at the financial situation, most people would say, there are only two ways of addressing your slumping income," he says. "One would be to increase revenue. The second would be to decrease expenses. But, there's a very important third dimension to this," he adds.

"And it's a dimension we all need to look at, especially in these critical times. It's what I call the reallocation of funds. It's taking existing dollars and making them work better for you, so that they're really paying higher dividends in terms of what you're trying to accomplish in ministry."

The reallocation Pitts has in mind is, in Bible Society terms, nothing short of revolutionary.

None of these downturns are taking Him by surprise.

The CBS mission statement indicates the organization exists to promote and encourage the translation, publication, distribution and use of the Scriptures. Pitts says the society has operated Bible bookstores in fulfillment of that mandate, "forever." But now that could change.

"What we are engaged in right at the moment," says Pitts, "is an evaluation of the viability of our Bible bookstore operation. It is a fiscally driven exercise, but it's also a philosophically driven exercise."

Emotional issue

It's likely also an emotionally charged one. Formally founded in 1904 the CBS today owns and operates 15 bookstores as well as one book depot, through 16 district offices across Canada.

Pitts and his colleagues have set themselves a deadline of September to collect all the data necessary for their evaluation.

"The Canadian Bible Society were really the first ones to actually have Christian bookstores in Canada," Pitts says. "They're the ones that got in the business. At that point, they were serving the Bible cause by making the Bible available through these stores, but now, there are many other people that are doing a far better job than we are.

"My contention is, 'let them do their job.' We're not in competition with them. There are other ways we can engage in the fulfillment of our vision that is not costing this kind of money and taking up this kind of time.

"So I'm saying, 'We served our purpose for the time, but it's time now to off load that responsibility to others who do it better."

It remains to be seen whether the CBS district directors agree. In the meantime, Pitts won't be losing sleep over the issue. "I take the position that God has called me here for a specific reason," he explains, "and I'm hanging onto it loosely.

"I remind myself all the time that, number one, this is God's work, not mine. He ultimately is our resource; our source [and] supply for everything. None of these downturns are taking Him by surprise.

"After we've done the best that we can, we have to operate within our means. It's just that simple."

Patricia Paddey is a freelance writer from Mississauga, Ont. She can be reached at

Originally published in Christian Week, July 8, 2003




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