Transformed by Christ, Transforming Healthcare
10 MINUTE READ
Over the last two years, the CMDFA Board has engaged Dunham+Company, a professional marketing and fundraising company, to run an effective social media campaign. Our two main objectives were:
- to increase our support and membership basis
- to speak as a Christian voice in healthcare matters
Utilising digital technology (specifically the Facebook algorithm) proved to be highly effective in achieving the latter. Within six months of launching the social media campaign, over 100,000 people have seen our Facebook ads, and over 760 potential membership leads were generated.
Likewise, within six months of launching the Luke’s Journal Facebook campaign, we were able to reach almost 70,000 individuals with several topical Luke’s Journal articles, with over 6,000 links to the articles having been clicked. Likewise, the anti-euthanasia campaign and the COVID-19 vaccine video have generated a large number of reaches and views. I was much involved with the latter, and this was a very humbling and rewarding experience for me; praise God for all the good that came out of it.
All the above points to the fact that without the wonder of digital technology (available to us at our fingertips) it would not have been possible to speak our Christian voices in healthcare matters with speed and efficiency. Despite all its accompanying drawbacks, digital technology is a fantastic tool that can be used for His glory.
HOWEVER, the social media campaign was unsuccessful in increasing our membership base. Despite over 760 potential membership leads, only a handful became members. If they become disengaged, the renewal rate will likely be dismal.
We currently have around 470 paid members with just over 50% regular (basic) members, ie. those who pay a full-membership fee. The student numbers (free registration) have dwindled in the last two years to around 120, likely due to COVID, but only as recently as 2019, we had 283 student members.
“… one could estimate that there are well over 8,000 Christian doctors in Australia. This means less than 6% of Christian doctors in Australia are CMDFA members.”
Putting CMDFA membership in context; in 2020, there were more than 104,000 medical practitioners in Australia.1 Assuming 8% as a ballpark figure for active Christians (whatever that means!) based on the data that approximately 8% of the population regularly attended church in Australia in 2013,2 one could estimate that there are well over 8,000 Christian doctors in Australia. This means less than 6% of Christian doctors in Australia are CMDFA members.
As recently as 2019, less than 10% of graduating student members elected to become financial members. In addition, a high number of lapsed members is a yearly issue. Likewise, we only have around 30 dentist members, compared to over 16,000 dentists in Australia (less than 1.25% of Christian dentists in Australia are CMDFA members).
The above statistics have not changed for at least a decade. I believe these are conservative estimates as I have added retired CMDFA members in the calculation, and I may have underestimated the percentage of Christian doctors. I am sure most Christian doctors and dentists you know are not involved with CMDFA.
So why should a Christian doctor or dentist join CMDFA?
In some ways, this is a fundamental question, since “Why would one pay an annual membership fee when there is no apparent benefit?” Virtually all our resources are available to members and non-members alike, and with the digitalisation of Luke’s Journal, members do not have any substantial advantages over non-members. One does not need to join CMDFA to have fellowship with other Christian health professionals. Many hospital or regional Christian medical fellowships, or prayer groups have been organised independently of CMDFA. For most junior medical doctors who are too busy, the burden of membership fees when there is no apparent benefit needs serious justification.
To put it bluntly, there is ‘nothing in it’ for many Christian doctors and dentists. Many former and current State committees and Board members have sought to tackle this dilemma. I am aware of various proposals, ranging from free membership to limiting available resources to non-members. I am not suggesting that we measure ‘success’ with numbers, but the harsh reality is that we have not solved this dilemma if we simply use membership numbers as a key performance indicator.
One of the things I love about the way Jesus interacts with people is His ability to bring clarity to tricky questions by asking questions that really matter. Could it be that ‘Why should a Christian doctor/dentist join CMDFA?’ is the wrong question? After all, we do not expect to personally get anything out of supporting a cross-cultural Christian ministry. Likewise, we do not help marginalised Christian brothers and sisters overseas for personal gain. Yet, we give because the Lord loves cheerful givers (2 Corinthians 9:7). So perhaps the better questions are, ‘What is God’s plan for CMDFA?’ and ‘Is He calling me to support its ministry?’
With that in mind, I would like to explore the following points:
- CMDFA has a unique role to play in God’s kingdom
- Administration is a ministry
- The membership fee is part of Christian giving
CMDFA has a unique role to play in God’s kingdom
While there are other Christian fellowships for health care workers, I believe CMDFA is the only national and non-denominational Christian association that represents specifically medical practitioners and dentists in Australia. Without going into the advantages and disadvantages of this ‘narrow’ focus, I would suggest that it provides us with unique opportunities and responsibilities to be salt and light in the world.
“To put it differently, if CMDFA did not exist, would that change anything? I believe that it would.”
To put it differently, if CMDFA did not exist, would that change anything? I believe that it would. Firstly, conferences, student meetings, and state meetings will be challenging to continue long term. Currently, the majority of our meetings are organised by volunteers with varying levels of administrative support from the National Office. However, organising a national conference for hundreds to attend is extremely difficult without dedicated administrative support. This invariably involves large numbers of transactions, and it would not be wise for individuals to handle this without an organisational structure. We also need to consider maintaining corporate knowledge, liabilities, insurance, governance, etc, and these are extremely difficult to continue without an organisation.
“Secondly, as society becomes increasingly hostile to Christian values, having a unified Christian voice becomes more crucial. It is challenging to have a unified voice when there is no organisation that represents Christian doctors and dentists.”
Secondly, as society becomes increasingly hostile to Christian values, having a unified Christian voice becomes more crucial. It is challenging to have a unified voice when there is no organisation that represents Christian doctors and dentists. This was acutely highlighted in the recent engagement of CMDFA in advocacy.
If CMDFA did not exist, it would not be possible to engage in important ethical issues as a united group of Christian health professionals. For example, it is one thing for Professor John Whitehall to discuss the issue of gender dysphoria as an individual and quite another for him to represent a view to the public with the support of CMDFA. The latter is more complex in many aspects, but carries more weight and is harder to dismiss. Indeed, the success of our social media campaign in putting our messages in the public arena argues for the existence of CMDFA.
It is common for a graduate to relocate multiple times, especially during the training period. In that setting, networking for fellowship is an important ministry that CMDFA can provide and develop further. A Christian doctor/dentist who is new to a region or health service may seek other Christian colleagues for fellowship. Of course, the Lord can move in mysterious ways to bring His children together, but I believe the Lord will use CMDFA to bring His people together at the workplace if we step up to the task.
It is true that many regional and hospital fellowships exist independently of CMDFA. We should praise God that He has raised workers into the field. In some ways, this provides us with exciting opportunities to partner and work together to establish more vibrant hospital, local and regional fellowships.
The weekly Friday night Zoom prayer meeting is another example. The prayer meeting could have been organised independently of CMDFA, but by having an organisation support it and by utilising the existing email network, it can reach further and be more effective. As a result, we see amazing answers to prayers.
“… the vision of CMDFA, ‘Transformed by Christ, Transforming Healthcare,’ captures God’s desire for Christian doctors and dentists well. If this statement resonates with you, then why would you not support CMDFA?”
I believe that the vision of CMDFA, ‘Transformed by Christ, Transforming Healthcare,’ captures God’s desire for Christian doctors and dentists well. If this statement resonates with you, then why would you not support CMDFA?
If you think that we are not doing this well, and you may be right, I would like to gently suggest that we need more workers alongside us to achieve this.
administration is a ministry
If we want to have an organisation that represents Christian doctors and dentists in Australia effectively, it would not be possible without administrative support. It would be like running a busy medical practice without administrative staff. It could be done, but it would be highly inefficient and probably would not last long. Similarly, it would be like having a church with hundreds of members without any administrative staff. Again, it could be done, but it would be chaotic.
At the same time, I can understand that ‘high’ overhead costs have been a sticking point for many members over the years. When I say ‘high’, I do not mean an absolute dollar figure, but I mean a proportion of the generated revenue. Currently, administrative costs account for 60-70% of revenue, depending on how it is calculated. Whilst this is not ideal, it is not surprising given our annual turnover is smaller than a typical medical practice.
To draw an analogy, if your practice has unacceptably high administrative costs, how would you resolve this?
- One option would be to close the business. However, we have already established that CMDFA has a unique role to play.
- Another option would be to cut the overhead costs by reducing administrative staff. However, just as running a practice without an administrative staff is extremely inefficient, running CMDFA without dedicated administrative support is unsustainable. The Board has sought to reduce overhead costs over the years, and there is a little room to reduce overheads further without compromising the function of the office.
- This leaves only the final option: we need to increase capacity and generate more revenue so that work can continue and flourish. I suspect this is what you would do in your practice if you faced the same problem.
Some have suggested that we focus on spending money on ministry rather than on administration. Ministry can be loosely defined, but I feel that the underlying assumption in this view is that ministries such as mentoring and teaching are essential, whereas administration is dispensable. However, it is interesting to note that ‘administrating’ is one of the gifts outlined in 1 Corinthians 12:28. Furthermore, ‘just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body,’ (1 Corinthians 12:12) it makes sense to see administration as an important ministry. Actually, we need to see administration as not just an important ministry, but an essential ministry for CMDFA, given the nature of our organisation. Indeed, we already know that administrative staff are essential to providing a clinical service, and likewise for CMDFA.
The membership fee is part of Christian giving
If we establish that CMDFA has a unique role to play in God’s plan for the world and that administration is a vital ministry for CMDFA, then it logically follows that we need to support it financially for it to flourish. From this standpoint, I would reason that we need to start seeing the membership fee as a way of supporting CMDFA, ie, as a part of Christian offering or giving. While this sounds obvious, it is somewhat counter-intuitive as one generally becomes a member of an organisation for some personal benefit. This may be why the question, ‘Why should I join CMDFA?’ is so natural. However, if we start seeing the membership fee as ‘giving’ and becoming a member as ‘supporting’, which it is, then we start shifting the focus from ourselves to God. We call it a ‘membership fee’ as this is written into our constitution, but we need to look beyond the ‘label’ and see it as giving.
As discussed above, CMDFA already allows access to most of the resources whether you are a member or not. Therefore, it makes sense to see the membership fee as giving since there is little personal gain. It follows that becoming a member is just as relevant for those who are too time-poor to attend an event or be involved in person – even if you cannot attend you can still support the ministry financially by becoming a member.
“… if you would like to support the ministry by becoming a member but have financial difficulties, I would urge you to get in touch with the office to discuss this.”
Conversely, if you would like to support the ministry by becoming a member but have financial difficulties, I would urge you to get in touch with the office to discuss this. I was graciously given a ‘free’ membership when I was overseas doing a PhD.
For those of you who are existing members, thank you for supporting the ministry of CMDFA and partnering with us. For those of you who are currently not members, I would gently ask you to consider supporting the ministry of CMDFA for the above reasons.
The high number of lapsed members is an ongoing issue. We tried recently to find out the reason for the lapse in membership with an online survey; despondently, our response rate was zero. Although we are all busy, and membership renewal is not the highest priority, prompt renewal is also a gift of ‘time’ for the administrative staff!
We have wonderful gospel opportunities with the digital technologies readily available to us. We can literally reach hundreds of thousands. This is an insurmountable task for an individual. Therefore, if we remain isolated and focus only on keeping our own candles alight, as important as it is, we risk becoming irrelevant.
Perhaps the solution to the membership dilemma in the digital age is not in membership; it is in seeing that CMDFA has a unique ministry for a time such as this and seeing that you can generously partner with us by becoming a member.
Hopefully, by God’s grace, we will bring our lights together to start a fire in the healthcare field that can be seen from miles away.
Dr James Yun Dr James Yun is a Christian clinical immunologist based in Sydney, NSW. He is currently on the CMDFA National Board as a treasurer and would love to see CMDFA helping other Christian doctors and dentists to be better salt and light in healthcare.
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- Australian Government DoH. Medical doctors and specialists in Australia [updated 25 November 202128 April 2022]. Available from: https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/doctors-and-specialists/in-australia
- Research M. Church Attendance in Australia 2013 [28 April 2022]. Available from: https://mccrindle.com.au/insights/blogarchive/church-attendance-in-australia-infographic/#:~:text=Australia%20has%20more%20churches%20(13%2C000,South%20Australia%20(1.6%20million).