Promise Keepers is expected to undergo major changes after co-founder Bill McCartney was brought out of retirement to once again head the nearly 20-year-old organization – arguably the most prominent among men's ministries.
McCartney, 68, returned to the helm of the organization, assuming his new role as CEO and Chairman on Monday, five years after having resigned. He also brought back with him former Promise Keepers executive Raleigh Washington to serve as president.
The leadership change comes as attendance has been declining at Promise Keepers events for years. The organization was going through a period of refocus and recalibration in recent years, scaling down the number of stadium-size events it holds annually and adding smaller local church events such as PKAdventure.
Former president and CEO Dr. Tom Fortson, who resigned last weekend, had told The Christian Post earlier that they were "looking for ways to have more impact at a lower cost."
"We will continue to offer a number of our larger arena events; but by offering new programs such as PK Adventure, PK Edge and pastors' workshops, and by incorporating satellite and internet technology, we provide a more robust PK experience that can impact men beyond the arenas," Fortson had said last month.
He noted that few men attend church on Sundays and that churches also struggle to maintain a vibrant men's ministry. Thus, Promise Keepers began placing more emphasis on equipping local pastors to better reach men and "to harness today's technology to reach more men with less," as Fortson stated.
Promise Keepers partnered with Church Communication Network to broadcast the local PKAdventure events this year to other host sites.
"Look at it this way: PK is growing with the marketplace of ideas and today's technology. Although the conference is important, it's just one of the many ways PK will now be reaching and equipping men worldwide," Fortson further commented to The Christian Post at the time.
Promise Keepers is best known for its large-scale conferences held each year across the country. At its peak in 1996, the organization held 22 stadium conferences and drew 1.1 million men. While the organization continued to hold almost as many stadium conferences thereafter, attendance dropped. In 2006, some 132,000 participated in the organization's 18 conferences.
The action to bring back McCartney, who had retired in 2003 to care for his ailing wife, was generated by former board chairman Sam Winder, who was retiring.
"It came to the position where he (Winder) felt like what he needed to do is put the ministry in the hands of the founder," Washington explained to The Christian Post. "As he was retiring, he wanted it and the board agreed."
"The coach (McCartney) basically said 'if this is a unanimous decision by the Promise Keepers board of directors, I will follow,'" Washington continued. "In light of that, Tom Fortson did resign."
General counsel Ed O'Brien said Fortson's resignation was voluntary, according to Rocky Mountain News.
Under its new leadership, Promise Keepers will be rolling out with a fresh new vision and plans over the next several weeks, Washington said.
This year's Promise Keepers events will continue as scheduled.