Ted Pittenger hands off Samaritan leadership to Mark Zander

By Samaritan staff  ·  Aug 30, 2021

Almost 30 years to the day since Ted Pittenger presided over the incorporation of Samaritan Ministries International, he will be handing the reins of leadership over to Mark Zander, who has been serving as Samaritan’s Senior Strategic Planning Advisor. 

Mark will become Chief Executive Officer and President effective September 6.

After seeing God work through Samaritan Ministries these past three decades, Ted is confident that direction will continue under Mark’s leadership.

“I’m trusting God and would like all of you to trust God to lead Samaritan Ministries,” Ted said at an August 12 staff meeting at which the transition was announced.

Ted will remain chairman of Samaritan’s Board of Directors, working with the Board to provide governance and oversight supporting Samaritan’s faithfulness to its mission for decades to come. Mark will be President and Chief Executive Officer of the ministry.

From the beginning, Samaritan Ministries has been a community centered on Jesus Christ, and Jesus will continue to be at the center of everything Samaritan does. 

“Our mission is to redeem health care by helping the Body of Christ love one another through sharing each other’s health care burdens while experiencing authentic Biblical community,” Ted says. “By God’s grace we’ve been doing that for all these years, and that’s what we’re going to keep doing under Mark’s leadership.”

Mark sees his leadership as continuing this mission. 

“I’m really fortunate because Ted has done an amazing job building this ministry,” he says. “The Lord has used Ted to build a really solid foundation and Christ-centered culture.

“The way I’m looking at this is that Jesus is the leader of Samaritan Ministries,” Mark continues. “My role as CEO is to serve Jesus and our amazing members and staff in every way I can. I think if that happens, the challenges that are inevitable in any organization will take care of themselves, because, ultimately, Jesus is at the wheel.”

I promise to members that we’re going to always operate with Jesus Christ at the center of everything we do, and that our staff will always bring a servant’s heart and Christ’s compassionate love to everything we do.

Mark Zander

Mark was hired at Samaritan as part of a CEO-succession process that started more than three years ago. Through this process, the Board decided to hire Mark but, initially, not as a replacement for Ted. Since Mark was an external candidate, the Board wanted to see beyond his resume, references, and interviews.

“We felt like Mark had the business acumen that we were looking for, the humility and the commitment to Christ—and that he was the right choice,” Ted says. “This was also a major decision for us—perhaps the biggest in the past 30 years. We really wanted to discern the Lord’s will, and the Board recognized that they didn’t know Mark as well as they wanted in order to select him as CEO. So, we actually invited Mark to come on staff in a different position among our senior leadership team, while I remained serving as CEO. That gave us an opportunity to get to know Mark better.

“When Paul talks about deacons in 1 Timothy, he says to let them first be tested and then let them serve. Bringing Mark on staff in a different role gave us an opportunity to see what he could do in terms of the business and ministry acumen and then see what his spiritual life was like in practice.

“He’s the real deal.”

Mark says that he took a job at Samaritan with no assumptions about becoming CEO.

“I just knew very strongly in my heart that God was calling me to serve Him here at this ministry and it’s like, ‘OK, Ted offered me this role and I’m taking it,’” Mark says. “I knew I wanted to be here and I really thought God wanted me to be here, so I just put my head down and went to work.”

During that time, the Board was able to get to know Mark better and see how Samaritan’s senior leadership team served and led together with Mark as a peer.

Shortly before this year’s June Board meeting, Ted sent out an email to the Board suggesting it may be time to revisit Mark’s role.

“I was talking to Anthony Hopp (Vice President of External Relations) one day and told him that maybe it was the right time to put Mark forward again. I started asking the Board members if they thought it was the right time.”

The Board voted in June to make the change.

Mark Zander and Ted Pittenger

Although Ted will no longer be CEO, he won’t be going very far. Mark says Ted will keep his office at Samaritan’s headquarters, and, as a Board member for life, he’ll also continue to be involved in setting the direction for the ministry.

As Chairman of the Board, Ted says he would like to be more involved in cultivating relationships with donors to the ministry and finding ways to help increase donations to various funds in Samaritan.

“God has allowed Samaritan Ministries to do so much good for the Body of Christ, and I want to get that message out to more individuals and organizations who can join this work financially and in prayer,” Ted says.

He also will continue to work on Board development, focusing on Board recruitment, education, and governance.

“One of the things I started a number of years ago is visiting the Board members in their ‘habitat,’ their home setting,” Ted says. “I might continue to do that as well to look at some ways we can do additional spiritual and leadership development with the Board members.”

Mark says that as CEO he will benefit from what Ted has achieved since Samaritan was incorporated on September 11, 1991.

“Samaritan has a purpose, mission, and values that aren’t just words on a wall or words on a plaque like many of the places I’ve been,” Mark says. “Samaritan actually has people everywhere—in our hallways, in our meetings, in all our interactions—who are trying to live out that purpose, that mission, those values. That is so unique compared to everywhere else I’ve worked in my life. It’s amazing to be at a place where it’s actions, not just words.”

Knowing that only God knows the future, Mark hesitates to make promises, except for one:

“I promise to members that we’re going to always operate with Jesus Christ at the center of everything we do, and that our staff will always bring a servant’s heart and Christ’s compassionate love to everything we do.”

But he also is confident that the members will continue to carry out their part of Samaritan’s mission.

“The essence of the Great Commandments, which Jesus talks about in Matthew 22:37-39, is loving God and loving our neighbors,” Mark says. “The thing that’s so great about Samaritan Ministries is that I see those Commandments lived out across our membership. Every day, Samaritan members are loving each other through difficult times. I see our staff loving God and loving each other through challenges. It’s real. It’s not just words on a page or on a website. God is at work throughout the ministry. 

“Coming in to any organization, you don’t really know what you’re going to get, but to experience this has been simply amazing.”

Despite the social challenges of COVID-19, Mark has been able to listen to almost 100 members talk about what they like about Samaritan and what they see as opportunities for improvement. 

When asked what may change at Samaritan, he says that “it’s easier for me to predict things that aren’t going to change.”

“One, God and His Word are going to continue to be at the center of everything that this ministry does,” Mark says. “My role is to ensure that happens.

“The second thing that’s not going to change is this ministry’s wonderful member-to-member ministry—members directly caring for other members, directly sharing each other’s burdens. It’s who we are and what we’re all about.”