FINANCES & The LESSON From the Leadership Exercise on Restricted Funds

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 4/21/16.

There is an important leadership lesson from the leadership exercise titled: FINANCES & A Leadership Exercise on the Dilemma of Restricted Funds.

Don’t worry if you didn’t get it right the first time.  Most people don’t.

You see this lesson is … that we tend to look at such dilemmas from the viewpoint of the organization and not the individual.

Most leaders describe how they would explain to the donor the needs of the organization. Very few of leaders in this exercise delve into the donor’s needs and reasons for the donation.

  • Perhaps the donor himself had been impacted by youth ministry and it had changed his life.
  • Or perhaps the donor had a misspent youth and didn’t want other young people to experience the same thing.

In most leaders’ responses the focus is on explaining to the donor the good reasons why the organization needed his money. Often responses revolved around the leader trying to justify that, “if the boiler is not dealt with, there would neither be church nor youth meeting” (a student’s own words).  Sometimes leaders even seem to be offended if the donor didn’t relinquish control and wished him well in another church if he did not agree with them.

But we need to be reminded that the church is people and it could still meet in another locale, as could the youth.  The boiler was chosen by me as an example because it directly represents the “physical” needs, not the “spiritual” needs of a faith community.  Both are important and linked, but the latter trump the former.

In our rush to feed the organization, do we miss feeding the spiritual needs of people?

Not many of my students get the right answer and their grade often reflects that. They understand that’s only fair … and they wouldn’t want me to grade any other way.

Now, you might argue that Paul says in Romans 12: 8 that “If your gift is encouragement, devote yourself to encouraging. The one giving should do it with no strings attached. The leader should lead with passion. The one showing mercy should be cheerful.” (CEB)  And Paul is certainly making the point that we should strive for these behaviors because such behaviors are signs of spiritual maturity.

But, what if the donor isn’t spiritually mature yet? Are we really helping him mature by trying to get him to relinquish or change he designation?  Wouldn’t it be more helpful to go to him, listen to him and learn what motivated his gift?

Thus, I hope you will take away from this case study our lesson: that lesson is that we tend to look at such dilemmas from the viewpoint of the organization and not the individual.

If this lesson sinks in (and I know it will for most who read this) then in the future…

  • You would go to the individual spend time with him.
  • You would learn about what he wanted to accomplish with the donation.
  • You would spend more time listening and less time explaining.
  • You would spend less time considering this money the church’s money and more time understanding that the Holy Spirit was at work in this donor’s heart.
  • And you would probably end up with a more spiritually mature donor.

This is a much better and I think more Christ-like approach.