Crossroads casts renewed vision

BURLINGTON, ON—Crossroads Christian Communications founder David Mainse is excited about the future. At 73, Mainse is crisscrossing Canada on a farewell "thank you" tour, meeting with clusters of pastors and holding public meetings for viewers and supporters of the long-running "100 Huntley Street" daily television program.

But the real story, he says, are the big changes currently occurring at the Burlington-based charity and television station. "I'm excited about the transition and the new vision happening under the leadership of Don Simmonds," he says.

Simmonds, a successful business entrepreneur and active Baptist churchman, joined Crossroads as chairman and CEO last fall while the organization was weathering a particularly troubling time.

"God put us through a huge shakeup last year," acknowledges Mainse. His sons, Ron and Reynold, are prominent figures on the network who were forced to "step down from their duties" last June when they were implicated in a Ponzi scheme. (Ron has since been reinstated as spiritual director at Crossroads and chief producer of "100 Huntley Street." Reynold is doing mission work in Kenya.) The board has also been revamped; only three of nine members remain from a year ago, says Mainse.

The turmoil doesn't bother Simmonds. "These are the kinds of challenges I like," he says. "My response is to cast a courageous vision."

New momentum

Now firmly ensconced as CEO, Simmonds is launching an ambitious $20-million "Loud and Clear" capital campaign to ensure that Crossroads is well positioned to meet the next wave of media challenges. The new vision calls for Crossroads to double the amount of original programming it produces, triple its viewership and continue its care services, offering spiritual support and resources for viewers who call in.

According to Simmonds, the average 17-year-old is exposed to more hours of media time than to school, family and church combined, and that the traditional shapers of character are losing ground. That's why he feels it is so important to develop good faith and values media content and make it easily available across a wide variety of platforms. "In three years, 50 per cent of our viewers will be seeing us on something other than TV," he says.

"We have no alternative but to make God's love compellingly clear," says Simmonds.

Mainse is overjoyed to see the new momentum, even if his family's prominence in the ministry is waning. "I'm glad the day of big time TV evangelists is over," he says. "It's good to see the whole body of Christ joining in.

"Crossroads never was a family ministry," he continues. "From day one I resisted advisors who wanted me to establish the David Mainse Evangelistic Association. And when my sons wanted to join the ministry as 16-year-olds, I told them, 'I'll never give you a job, never give you a promotion and never give you a raise.' But they wanted to be involved in the ministry. Anytime they were discussed at the board, I'd leave the room."

Mainse also likes the symbiotic relationship he sees developing between Simmonds and Ron Mainse. "There's the organism and the organization. Ron is the organism, the spiritual director in charge of faith content. Don runs the organization. They're like peas in a pod."

Future focus

For his part, Simmonds is managing to keep other familiar faces on board as he leads the overhaul of the organization. Jim Cantelon will be looking after the opinion and talk segments. Bruce Stacey is back with a large mandate as chief content officer. Lorna Dueck is working to set up a daily news and current affairs program.

As they move ahead, the team at Crossroads is establishing a student internship team and a consortium of citizen journalists as they seek to develop in six specialty areas (news, opinion and talk, youth and young adults, children, family and entertainment/specials). They'll be aiming to "own the seasons" (Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving).

Realistically speaking, it's fair to ask what ripples the little drips of Crossroads' programming will make in the vast media ocean. "The way I look at that," says Simmonds, "is to remember that when a young boy brought five loaves and two fishes to Jesus, a multitude of people were fed. We will bring what we can, knowing that God can multiply its impact.

"Few people can produce professional content like Crossroads. We will keep doing that. We'll trust God to bless it. We will reconfigure it across many platforms. We'll play where everyone else plays and trust the Holy Spirit to multiply it."

The capital campaign, explains Simmonds, is to modernize technology ($4.6 million) and provide seed funding for new content development ($15.4 million). The business plan calls for the refined vision to be self-sustaining in five years.

He is optimistic. "The 'alligators' of 2009 are rapidly dissipating," he says. "The new vision is invigorating. We were stalled; now we're moving." And although he doesn't wish the trials of the past year on any organization, he sees the recent experience at Crossroads as "God's way of effecting change."

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