CHHSM President and CEO Michael J. Readinger: Taking a Purpose-Driven Ministry into the ‘What’s Next’ of Retirement

Mike Readinger and the Rev. Darrell Goodwin (CHHSM board member and executive conference minister of the UCC Southern New England Conference) share a moment during the Annual Gathering celebration of Readinger’s career.

Outgoing President and CEO Mike Readinger may be leaving his work with CHHSM over the past 17 years in the care of others, but one ingredient that has defined his tenure will go with him — living a caring, compassionate, purpose-driven life and ministry.

Readinger was hired in 2005 as vice president of the UCC’s Council for Health and Human Service Ministries, and became president and CEO in 2014. He says that coming to CHHSM was “the culmination of a lifelong dream to serve as a nonprofit leader where I felt called to my passion, my mission, my vocation, and my profession.”

“This call to CHHSM helped me understand my purpose in life,” he adds. “This ministry has changed my life in that it has made me a better leader, a better Christian, and a better man.”

Readinger says that among the things he is most proud of in his time with CHHSM are helping to shepherd through the organization’s new Value Proposition statement; recrafting its Mission, Vision, and Values statement; restructuring CHHSM’s governance structure, rewriting its articles of incorporation, and personnel manual; and rebuilding the staff into a “crew of amazing leaders.”

CHHSM staff at the selfie booth during the Annual Gathering.

But his fondest, longest-lasting memories of the past 17 years have been in his relationships with colleagues. “The relationships I have developed with my staff and contractors, my board, my Leadership Institute participants, my UCC partners, my Interfaith Roundtable peers, and my corporate partners have been authentic, deep, profound, lifelong and life changing,” he says. “I cannot believe how much they changed me, shaped me, and made me a better person!”

Readinger says that serving as a Nollau Leadership Institute faculty member also has been a high point of his work. He relates a particularly meaningful story from a “purpose exercise” session he has run for participants.

Annual Gathering attendees show Readinger their appreciation for his leadership.

The exercise helps each class of serving leaders hone in on how the intersections between passion, mission, profession, and vocation create one’s life purpose. A pre-school teacher from one of the CHHSM agencies — one who had barely spoken during the all-day session — was one of the first to volunteer to read her purpose statement. Readinger says that while he doesn’t remember the exact words, she said something close to, “My purpose in life is to be the light that draws the children I teach to long for life-long learning.”

That example illustrates what Readinger has learned about himself from serving CHHSM. “My main takeaway is that I am a good leader, a good teacher, and a good learner,” he says. “I feel like I accomplished a lot in partnership with all those I was privileged to serve alongside of all these years. We have really moved the needle towards creating a just, caring, and compassionate world.”

Readinger and his spouse, Bob Vinkler, following their marriage ceremony.

After April 24 — his official retirement date — Readinger says he has several projects on the docket. “I will serve on a few boards and also take on a consulting gig or two,” he says, and the Palm Springs, Calif., condo he and his spouse, Bob Vinkler, own needs extensive renovation. “But I am really planning on taking care of myself (physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually), my family, my home, and whatever else tugs at my heart.”

However, he says with emphasis, “ I will NOT be taking a new job!”

In a final moment of reflection, he adds, “It has been an honor and a privilege to serve CHHSM all these years. I cannot possibly imagine a better place to end my full-time work career.”

Watch the brief video from the Annual Gathering celebration of Mike Readinger’s ministry with CHHSM.

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