Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Cows, Coffee Cans, & Paddles

      (Dealing with a church financial deficit)

You’ve just been hammered in your third consecutive board meeting about the church’s finances. You’re behind budget, the financial report is bleeding red, and your treasurer has lost the little hair he had. What do you do as an effective leader?
  • Count the cows.  During a deficit, people tend to panic. Do yourself and your leaders
    a favor, step back and take a deep breath. Look up into hills and count some cows.  In Psalm 50:10 God reminds us, "...for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills." Guess what? God is in control. Always has been. Always will. Don't tell your Board I said this, but God doesn't need our money. Seriously, he doesn't. So everyone take a breath and chill out.
  • Try asking. OK, this is Jesus' idea, not mine. In Matthew 7 Jesus says, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." There are two ways to attack a deficit: cut costs and increase income. It's amazing how our first and only reaction is to cut costs. How about increasing income. Try it. Ask God and ask his people for more income. You might be surprised at the results. 
  • Get rid of the coffee can. One of my favorite parables is the one about the three stewards in Luke 19. You know how it goes. One turns ten bucks into twenty. Another turns five bucks into ten. The third hides his master’s money in a coffee can and buries it in the backyard (BJV – Big Jim Version).  In the face of a deficit, your advisors will always urge you to be cautious, to play it safe. Heed your Master’s words, “Put this money to work until I come back.”  (Luke 19:13)
  • Preach it!   Get out your Bible and start preaching 2 Corinthians 9. It’s a great passage on generous giving. And while you’re at it, be an effective leader - smile and quit frowning over the deficit. If you haven’t heard, God loves a cheerful giver!
  • Pick up your paddle and get on your knees – Have you seen the cartoon of two people in a canoe going over a waterfall? One asks, “Should we pray or paddle?” Financial troubles are usually a combination of spiritual and situational issues. Financial troubles are spiritual in that they reflect the condition of our hearts. How does one address spiritual problems? You get on your knees. In the face of a deficit lead your people in prayer and the study of Scriptural teaching on finances and giving. But deficits are also due to situational issues – people leave, there’s a downturn in the economy, perhaps you simply did a bad job budgeting. You deal with situational issues by picking up your paddle and doing the hard work of making the wise financial decisions a good steward makes.
Have you ever faced a deficit in your church? What worked for you?

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