The Good Will to All Club

By Earl Rodd - November, 2016

Once there was a town which was the home of the "Good Will to All Club" or GWAC. The GWAC was formed generations ago to help the less fortunate in the town, to generally pull together to improve the town, and to use its resources for complex projects beyond the ability of individuals - projects to make life better for everyone. The GWAC had a membership of about 500 which changed very little over the years. Members were all active, which meant giving of their talents, time, and resources for the club's mission as well as participating in the decision making.

Over the years there were debates over the best use of the club's resources and the details of how various activities were to be done. There were intense elections for the club officers and for bylaw changes. In spite of the intensity of the debate, the members continued to believe in the club, its goals, its history and accomplishments. These were more important than differences in the details of how the goals were accomplished. Members rarely left the club even after intense debates and elections, because the members had good will to all including each other. In fact, after an initial period of demonstrating their commitment to the goals and work of the club, members were members for life.

Over time, the culture became more focused on what club membership did for the members and more on the details of club activities than its lofty goals and accomplishments. Younger members tended to lack the deep sense of shared purpose and the strong internal sense of what it meant to be a GWAC member. Many members drifted into inactivity - they remained members because it looked good on their resume, but they were no longer active in the "on the ground" work of the club.

Then, a small group of activists arose who strongly believed that they knew best what the club should do. They were very aware that if they controlled club leadership, great rewards would come to them by the ability to grant contracts and jobs to friends. Also they were aware that their status would bring them personal gain in business and in the larger community.

However, this small group could not gain election to club leadership. Among the active members who came to planning meetings, lead "on the ground" projects, and elected leaders, the choice of leadership remained those who held to the traditions of the club.

Then some in this small group of dissidents had an idea! There are many people who are still members but not active at all. These members knew little about the club's operation or its work in the town. Could they be easily swayed to come to the election meetings and vote in new leadership? The dissidents starting contacting the inactive members with personal contacts followed up with regular emails. They emphasized the need for "modern" ideas which would address the changing needs of the town. They avoided too many specifics and stayed focused on themes of being modern and compassionate.

Then came an election meeting and active members were shocked to discover that many in attendance were people they had not seen in a long time and some they did not even recognize as members, yet when the GWAC membership rolls were examined, there they were.

The dissident group won most key leadership posts in the election of officers. The direction of the club changed dramatically. Members who once did the occasional speech or interview were replaced by Professional public relations staff. Officers gave speeches with speaking fees to companies and community groups who hoped for partnerships with the GWAC. Projects were chosen for their value in raising the profile of the club, especially the status of the officers.

The effectiveness of club projects declined slowly over a number of years. The dissident group remained in leadership using the same strategy of recruiting the inactive members to show up for elections.

Even with the decline in the effectiveness of club projects due to management style and poor choice of projects, the club had built up such reserves of resources, financial and human expertise, that the decline was quite slow. Effectively, the club was living off its past accumulation of resources and expertise.

New projects were often ones that featured good social events giving opportunities for making social and business connections rather than ones that benefited those in need or the town as a whole.

One of the younger members whose parents and grandparents had been club members was enthralled with the wonderful history of the club. She came to understand how the mission and goals of the club were being compromised by the current leadership and their actions. She gained much support of the active members with her clear articulation of the vision of the club. She reached out to the inactive members, yet they knew so little about the club any more that this had limited effect. She worked with other active members to run with her for key officer positions. At the first attempt, she and her colleagues nearly won office but failed.

Then a brash man, a long time member, joined the team. He was a rather boisterous fellow who rubbed some people the wrong way. But he excited some of the more reserved of the active members who appreciated the work of the young lady who had articulated the vision of the club. He even won over some of the inactive members. By the next election, it was getting harder and harder for the current leadership to get the inactive members to come to the election meetings. They just saw no benefit to them.

The boisterous man won. But reversing the direction of the club was difficult. The dissident group and some long time active members were very concerned that even what remained of the direction set by the dissidents would be destroyed. Many had become comfortable with the dissident leadership. In the end, the decline was slowed or stopped, but not reversed in a significant way. Elections were close with some officers from both camps trying to mold the club in their direction.

Then after some years of the new, competent leadership, a move of God swept the town. The move crossed church and denomination boundaries. In some churches and home meetings, people spent long evenings in repentance before God and their fellow men and women and in prayer. Many good things happened in the town. But this parable is about the GWAC.

Within the club, some of the dissident group who had spent so much time in leadership, and still held some positions, were changed by God. Many inactive members of the club were brought to tears in realizing that a call on them and their families was to continue to be the work of the GWAC. By the next club election, many inactive members were now active, bringing fresh enthusiasm and God-given ideas for making the club more effective than ever in helping their town. The next election produced a team that no one could have imagined just a few years earlier. Resources, including financial resources and human expertise, poured in. There were debates about projects, methods, and resource allocation, but these often produced even more commitment to the "on the ground" work. It was like there was a a new GWAC.

Some of the dissident group left and renounced their membership when they saw that the club would require them to give of themselves with little benefit to them.