ETHICS & Honoring Promises in a Small Ministry (a case study)

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 9/2/15.

Once a student remarked that she felt she did not have to worry too much about equal procedures, protecting employee rights and rewarding employees for merit because their church only had a church secretary and a part-time janitor. I often get this question in various forms from my students because many of my students are leading a small organization. But, I shared with her an example that happened to me when I was pastoring a small church. It drove home to me the lesson #4 in my leadership course: Just Actions, honoring of promises.

You see, sometimes we fudge, exaggerate or ignore, and then our church can’t or don’t honor their promises.  I remember when I pastored that we had a local hardware store.  We had an account there.  And sometimes, for instance in the summer when attendance was down, we would get behind in paying our bills. I thought nothing of it, for we always paid the bill eventually and we also paid the extra interest.

But, one day the owner took me aside and told me that as a church we should be setting an example by paying our bills on time.  He told me that we signed an agreement to pay our bills on time, that late payments hurt the store, and that we were not honoring the contract we had signed to pay our bills on time.  I was surprised, for I thought paying late, and paying the interest was standard business practice.  But, I found out the hard way that the world usually holds us to a higher standard and that churches especially need to be careful to “honor” our promises.

If you are one of my students and reading this, do you have thoughts or insights? (This is an optional question for those students who would like to dialogue a bit more – but it is not required 🙂