World Vision U.S. President Rich Stearns announces retirement

Rich Stearns, World Vision U.S. president, poses for pictures with a group of village girls who have come to collect water in southeastern Ethiopia. (©2009 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren)

After nearly 20 years as World Vision U.S. president, Rich Stearns announced on Jan. 9 his plans to retire. A national search to select a new leader and the subsequent leadership transition process will take place over the course of 2018.

Rich joined World Vision U.S. as its fifth president in 1998 after a successful 23-year corporate career. Through previous roles as CEO of both Parker Brothers Games and Lenox, the fine china and crystal company, Stearns led the organization into a season of dramatic growth and improved operational efficiencies. During his presidency, the organization’s annual revenues grew to more than $1 billion as it expanded its work to serve even more children.

Among Stearns’ greatest contributions are his urgent calling to the church in America to respond to the global AIDS pandemic in the early 2000s and the widespread influence of his first book, The Hole in Our Gospel, winner of the Evangelical Publisher’s Association Book of the Year award in 2010. In recent years, Stearns has boldly challenged the church to engage in the global refugee crisis and to follow Jesus into the most difficult places in the world to alleviate human suffering and care for the world’s most vulnerable children.

Rich and his wife, Reneé, have been supporters of and passionate advocates for, the work of World Vision for more than 30 years. “We will always be a part of the World Vision family,” says Stearns.

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Serving as World Vision U.S.’s president for 20 years has been an honor for me. Reneé and I have enjoyed this remarkable journey, seeing first-hand the depth and breadth of God’s love for the world. We’ve had the great honor of meeting thousands of children and families, being welcomed into homes, and hearing stories of faith and courage. And I’ve had the privilege of leading an organization that transforms the lives of both the wealthy and the poor in profound ways.

Today I want you to be among the first to know I have prayerfully made the decision to pass this important responsibility to a new leader over the next year.

I’ve been working with the World Vision U.S. Board of Directors for some time now to ensure a positive and orderly transition of leadership. And the board and I have already initiated the process to select my successor. We have retained the services of Carter-Baldwin, an executive search firm that specializes in Christian ministries. In coordination with our board search committee, Carter-Baldwin is immediately embarking on a candidate search process to support the board’s selection.

Dr. Joan Singleton, our board chair, wanted you to know this: “The World Vision U.S. Board of Directors is committed to diligently seeking God’s will in selecting the individual whom God has prepared to lead World Vision in this next season. Rich Stearns is the longest serving president in World Vision’s 67-year history and finding his successor is our most important responsibility as a board. We are confident that just as God called Rich twenty years ago, he has also prepared a new leader for such a time as this. We covet your prayers as we seek God’s will in this important task and we are grateful for Rich’s commitment to continue to lead World Vision U.S. until the new CEO/president has settled in.”

Along with our board, I also ask your prayers for this transition over these next months. The decision our board will be making will have profound implications for the future of World Vision. God has strengthened our organization in remarkable ways in recent years: We just finished a year with our strongest growth in a decade, raising funds to help children and families; we are on track to help 30 million children by 2022; and God has helped us do all this while reducing our overhead rate to historic lows.

I’m as excited as ever about the future of World Vision. With the leadership of our board, our senior leaders, our faithful staff, and our army of donors, we will continue to pursue our inspiring mission “to follow our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in working with the poor and oppressed to promote human transformation, seek justice and bear witness to the good news of the Kingdom of God.”

It continues to be a privilege for Reneé and me to serve with World Vision. We’ve been donors for more than 30 years ourselves and we will always be a part of the World Vision family. We have met and become friends with so many amazing supporters and partners over these past years, and we have had the joy of serving alongside tens of thousands of committed World Vision staff members who wake up every day with a passion to serve the most vulnerable children in the world in the name of Christ.

We thank you in advance for your prayers as we enter this season of transition. And you can be sure that the board and I will keep you informed of important developments in the coming months.

World Vision U.S. President Rich Stearns is the author of The Hole In Our Gospel and Unfinished. Follow him at twitter.com/richstearns.

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