ETHICS & Becoming a Leader After God’s Own Heart #ChurchLeadersMBA

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 2012 (excerpted with permission from The Church Leader’s MBA: What Business School Instructors Wish Pastors Knew About Management, eds. Mark Smith and David Wright, chapter title “Becoming a Leader After God’s Own Heart” by Bob Whitesel).

Today we are having the most lively ethics discussions since ancient Greece more than 2.300 year ago… – Geoffrey P. Lantos, Professor of Business Administration[i]

A Well-intentioned Misappropriation?

“They didn’t train me for this in seminary … the rules about ethical business decisions were never addressed.”

Jim, a pseudonym, was leaving the community food bank for which he had served as director. His career had been shaky from the start, but Jim felt over time he had grown into the position. Just a year before he had told me, “this (job) is where I think I’ll stay until I retire.” Now, only in his mid-40s, Jim was leaving to pursue a career in business. He had been stung by perceived ethical missteps, which eroded his credibility, and eventually eroded his support among the food bank’s board. “They didn’t train me for this in seminary,” complained Jim. “The rules for parsing verbs were explained clear enough. But the rules about ethical business decisions were never addressed.”

The ethical landscape can be a minefield for the Christian leader. Differentiating between what is appropriate and what is illicit can be daunting. Jim had learned the lesson so many church leaders learn the hard way, that high expectations are placed upon church leaders, and ethical missteps, even minor ones can be ruinous.

What was the fiscal blunder to which Jim succumbed? In the midst of trying to keep a floundering food bank afloat, he appropriated money designated specifically for food purchases and used it for office expenses. When the benefactor learned money designated for food stuffs, was now going to buy a copy machine, they demanded their money be returned. Standing upon shaky ground, Jim could not refund the money without jeopardizing the daily operations of the center. The board decided that in order to make ends meet, Jim’s salary would have to fill the gap. And thus, Jim was unceremoniously dismissed.

Jim had rationalized, that if he didn’t apply the designated money to the non-designated needs of the office, then food bank would lose its few already overworked employees. Certainly this is not what the benefactors would want. And thus, he made a judgment call. However, it was an ethical decision that the wealthy benefactors felt crossed the line of propriety. What Jim needed was some sort of system, or procedure for effectively grappling with these ethical questions.

Defining Ethics

Fred David in his seminal book on planning, tenders a common definition of ethics. David writes, “ethics can be defined as principles of conduct within organizations that guide decision making and behavior.”[ii]   This definition is good, even in its brevity, for it reminds us that ethics are not a set of hypothetical decrees, but principles that actively affect daily action and attitude. Ethics are powerful and dynamic ways of thinking that determine our choices, our actions, and our future.

In today’s world, ethics play a central role. The media is full of accounts of moral breaches of ethical behavior. And a continued barrage of ethical issues is being thrust upon businesses and churches by the pervasiveness of sexual harassment, religious prejudice, and ethnic discrimination.

Therefore, due to the dynamic and strategic nature of ethics, let’s begin our investigation with a look at how ethics are practiced in the business world. We begin with the business realm, because is it the venue where most laypeople become acquainted with ethical decision making…

Download the rest of the chapter here > Ethics_Whitesel_10.09.

[i] Geoffrey P. Lantos, “Motivating Moral Behavior,” Journal of Consumer Marketing (Arvada, Colorado: np, 1999), Vol. 16, No. 3, p. 222.

[ii] Fred R. David, Strategic Management: Concepts and Cases, op. cit., p. 20.

ETHICS & Video intro to Praxis 2 assignment for LEAD 600 by Prof. B

Commentary by Prof. B: For my students I often record weekly “introductions” to prepare them for upcoming submissions. This 5-min video explains the Praxis 2 assignment “Developing a Ministry Ethics Policy” for LEAD 600: Missional Leadership.

©️Bob Whitesel 2017, used by permission only.

ETHICS & Harvard Researchers Discover Most People Selfless – Until They Think About It

“Selfish behavior comes from thinking too much, not too little. Rand recently verified this finding in a meta-analysis of 51 similar studies from different research groups.2 “Most people think we are intuitively selfish,” Rand says—based on a survey he conducted—but “our lab experiments show that making people rely more on intuition increases cooperation.”

Selfishness Is Learned: We tend to be cooperative—unless we think too much.

by MATTHEW HUTSON, Nautilus, 6/9/16.

…In 2012 he and two similarly broad-minded Harvard professors, Martin Nowak and Joshua Greene, tackled a question that exercised the likes of Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Which is our default mode, selfishness or selflessness? Do we all have craven instincts we must restrain by force of will? Or are we basically good, even if we slip up sometimes?

They collected data from 10 experiments, most of them using a standard economics scenario called a public-goods game.1 Groups of four people, either American college students or American adults participating online, were given some money. They were allowed to place some of it into a pool, which was then multiplied and distributed evenly. A participant could maximize his or her income by contributing nothing and just sharing in the gains, but people usually gave something. Despite the temptation to be selfish, most people showed selflessness…

This finding was old news, but Rand and his colleagues wanted to know how much deliberation went into such acts of generosity. So in two of the experiments, subjects were prodded to think intuitively or deliberately; in two others, half of the subjects were forced to make their decision under time pressure and half were not; and in the rest, subjects could go at their own pace and some naturally made their decisions faster than others. If your morning commute is any evidence, people in a hurry would be extra selfish. But the opposite was true: Those who responded quickly gave more. Conversely, when people took their time to deliberate or were encouraged to contemplate their choice, they gave less.

The researchers worked under the assumption that snap judgments reveal our intuitive impulses. Our intuition, apparently, is to cooperate with others. Selfish behavior comes from thinking too much, not too little. Rand recently verified this finding in a meta-analysis of 51 similar studies from different research groups.2 “Most people think we are intuitively selfish,” Rand says—based on a survey he conducted—but “our lab experiments show that making people rely more on intuition increases cooperation.”

Read more at …

PLANNING & A Better Option Than Just Trial-and-error (A Leadership Exercise)

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 9/8/15.

I created this exercise to help leaders see that strategy planning is often undertaken in the church in a emotional and imprecise manner (and that is something we must change).

And so in previous postings, I explained how to rate various plans with a simple SWOT analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Yet some readers and students (especially those with strategic/operational leadership leanings) sometimes find such quantitative analysis a bit tedious. (I did actually when I was in seminary.  But as I progressed through graduate school I came to enjoy research).

Thus for the above two reasons, sometimes those with strategic/tactical gifts and those with tactical/operational attributes will find this exercise helpful.

A Leadership Exercise

Let’s start by recalling that Baumhart asked business people “What does ethical mean to you?” (Church Leaders MBA, p. 29)  The following were the answers he received:

“What does ethical mean to you?”  Answers:
1)  What my feelings tell me is right.  50%
2)  In accordance with my religious beliefs. 25%
3)  Based on the Golden Rule. 18%

Now, let’s see if this also might be true regarding how Christian ministries pick their strategies (and select programming).  Here is an adaption of Baumhart:

How do churches usually decide upon programming?
#1:  What they feel is a good program.
#2:  In accordance with what other Christians and churches think about a program.
#3:  A program based upon a bible passage.

So, pick either #1, #2 or #3 and tell why it isn’t (or is) a good way to choose a strategic ministry tactic.  And, give an example if you know of one.

For example, you might explain why “relying on your feelings” is not a good way to choose a program.  And, you might site a personal example.  Or you might share why basing a strategy on a merely bible passage could be misleading.  Again, you could give an example from your personal history with the church.

Baumhart, R. (1968). An honest profit: What businessmen say about ethics in business. New York: Holt, Reinhart and Wilson.

Smith, Mark and Wright, David. W. (2011). The church leaders’ MBA: What business school instructors wish church leaders knew about management. Circleville, OH: Ohio Christian University.

ETHICS & Implications of Wesley’s quote: I would not tell a lie to save the souls of the whole world.

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 9/2/10.

John Wesley famously said, “I would not tell a lie, no, not to save the souls of the whole world.” So, I ask my students to grapple with this.

One student remarked that according to a book he read (written by two of my close friends, Gary McIntosh and Charles “Chip” Arn) that “the goal of your financial investing should be to make the greatest number of disciples” (What Every Pastor Should Know).

Subsequently, the discussion turned to a discussion if finances could be used in an unethical way because more people would be saved as a result.  As I mentioned above, I know the authors of the book and this is of course not what they are saying.

But, this reminds us that outcomes can (but should they?) be used to justify the means.

According to John Wesley’s writings, it has to do with our understanding of God’s foundational action in love. Here are some questions that will help our understanding of ethical actions:

  • Would God have us do something unethical to make the greatest amount of disciples (This is part of the question in the story of the “plank of Carneades.”)
  • In other words, should we do something that furthers benefit to ourselves or even someone else’s soul … when that action is unethical?
  • And finally, would God require such action?

What are your thoughts?  If you are a student of mine, you can reply in the discussion forums to garner more points.  For all others, this is a good exercise to keep your leadership team sharp when considering ethical dilemmas.

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 🙂

ETHICS & How Does Jesus’ Call to Self-sacrifice Impact the Plank of Carneades?

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 9/1/15.

In an earlier posting, I described the classic ethical dilemma of the Plank of Carneades.  Read this posting if you have not already done so read my introduction to the Plank of Carneades.  Then undertake the following exercise.

What Part Does Self-sacrifice Play?

When considering what he would do regarding the Plank of Carneades, a student shared the importance of self-sacrifice for a stranger.  He stated,

“If I managed to get to the board first, it would be very hard for me to let it go knowing that I would not survive. It would be different if person B was my wife, or someone else I cared for; I would gladly give them the board. If I could be in a Christian spiritual state of mind in that situation, I know I could give the board to any person B, but, I am just being realistic here, God would have to give me that peace to make that sacrifice. I do think I would be willing to ask God to give me that peace” (student, anonymous).

I especially think it is important to note that he said, “God would have to give me that peace to make that sacrifice.”  That is an important aspect.  And, Church History is replete with examples of persons who gave their lives for others.  And, that “peace” to give up one’s life for a stranger is a powerful and spiritual force.

I often give students a short (optional) exercise for anyone wishing to garner more points (or needs to 🙂 in my courses. This can also be an exercise for your small group or leadership team.  Here is the exercise:

  • Do a quick Internet search,
  • Cut/paste a story about a Christian who gave their life for another.
  • Focus on what it takes to have “peace to make that sacrifice.”

The Key is Preparation for Sacrifice

The reason I think this endeavor important, is because ethical behavior requires self-sacrifice (according to Hill 1997:50-51).  Therefore, how can be prepare for such situations? The key lies in a readiness to deny our self.  Because this runs against our human instincts (except when we have a close, e.g. family, relationship) we must look at how to address this if we are to prepare to act in love.

Thus, contemplating about how to foster self-sacrifice is a crucial part of regular spiritual formation.  I hope all of us will pray and seek God who can prepare us for self-sacrifice in His name.

Here is a verse that sums this up nicely this connection between acting in love and sacrifice:

My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.1 John 4:7-10 (The Message)