Cliff Amos is having lunch with 14 women at once. At 59, he’s probably the youngest in the bunch. He’s certainly the only one to order rice and beans. He’s definitely having the most fun.
Since Nov. 1, the Rev. Amos has been sharing his love of meeting people at a new place: In fact, it's Asbury Place, where he is the organization's first-ever director of philanthropy.
Officially, his job is to direct and implement fundraising for the four Asbury Place retirement communities affiliated with Holston Conference -- in Maryville, Kingsport, and Johnson City.
As the preacher with a business head sees it, his job is also to meet people.
"This job is about raising money, but it’s more about getting people to invest in taking care of those who served us for so long or who’ve been in our churches,” Amos says, referring to the high number of retired pastors, pastor spouses, and church members who live in Asbury cottages and assisted living apartments.
“People love it when you spend time with them, when you call them by name. Everyone wants to be called by name. By the way, do you know we’ve got 18 members here from Broadway church?”
Just three miles from the Holston Conference headquarters in Alcoa, Tenn., Asbury's home office is in Maryville. Amos spends more than half his work week in Maryville, often lunching at the on-campus restaurant, “Bistro at Ann’s Place,” located a few yards from 36 new retiree apartments under construction.
Amos spends the rest of his time in Asbury’s Kingsport offices or visiting Holston members and churches. He's a member at St. Paul UMC in Knoxville's Fountain City, but he spends most Sundays as a guest preacher in other pulpits. In the past five years (he previously served as director of gift planning for Holston Conference Foundation), Amos has preached in 205 of Holston’s 897 churches.
"I’m still going to churches and talking to people, and I always stop to get in a commercial for Asbury,” he says.
Amos has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Cincinnati and a master’s degree in divinity from New Orleans Theological Seminary. Prior to serving the Foundation, he was vice president for development at Holston United Methodist Home for Children. His home is South Charleston, West Va.
Since his arrival at Asbury, he’s raised $40,000 for a new 15-passenger bus. He's headlong into raising $100,000 to enclose the patio at the bistro, where he enjoys teasing the residents and bragging on staff.
In all, Asbury has 665 residents and 489 employees. The preacher is working on meeting them all – if not over rice and beans, then perhaps at bedside, in an easy chair, or on a golf cart.
Sometimes it's just about being friendly, but he's never shy about asking people to give back a portion of what God has given them.
“This is kingdom work. This is my ministry,” says the man who was known in the conference office for unflinchingly asking staff members if they tithed.
“I love being on the front end of the great works of the United Methodist Church, where somebody had the forethought to say, ‘We need colleges to educate our young people and homes to take care of our seniors.’ And that takes money."