If there's any truth to the power of positive thinking, the financially strapped Promise Keepers organization should have nothing to worry about.
Augusta-area men who have attended events sponsored by the evangelical Christian group are unfailingly optimistic about the organization's prospects -- even as it heads into a year when it has promised to pass the hat rather than charge admission to rallies, despite the layoffs of more than 300 staff members.
"Because we are so committed, I don't think they will have a problem," said Dick Miller, a member of Grovetown United Methodist Church who attended the Promise Keepers national rally in Washington last year. "I think the good Lord will put his hand on us and keep us going. If every one of us is willing to give 10, 15, 20 dollars -- if everyone who was at that national rally gave just $5, you're looking a a million dollars, plus."
Leaders of the organization announced at the Washington rally that the group would stop charging admission this year to the regional events the group sponsors. That was before the news broke last week that Promise Keepers is nearly broke and would lay off 345 employees.
Area men involved with Promise Keepers still think it's a good idea to make the rallies free, because it will attract men who previously couldn't afford to attend, they said.
"I believe this is going to have a major effect," said Mike Maddox of Grace Baptist Church. "It's going to reach more people. I think it's a great idea."
The organization, which holds rallies across the country for men seeking to strengthen their faith and relationships with their families and other Christian men, plans an event in Columbia on Oct. 2-3. Since the first rally in 1991, almost 3 million men have attended the events, which are usually held in sports stadiums.
Randy Cook, a member of Baker Woods Baptist Church, sees the plans to lay off employees as an attempt to head off further financial problems as the organization offers free attendance at the rallies. Attendees who can afford the donations will be asked to offer the former price of admission -- $60 -- plus extra to cover those who wouldn't have been able to pay, Mr. Cook said.
The hope is that better publicized events will draw more men this year -- in the past, many have been unable to make plans because they were unsure of where or when the rallies would be held, he added.
Volunteers will be asked to do the work previously handled by employees.
"I think this is going to be a great example of having faith in what God can do," Mr. Cook said "It's a matter of stepping out on your faith."