I’ve been taking a look at the dangers of denominational work, which my father outlined back in the early 80s. Last time we talked about the temptation of getting absorbed with denominational politics–which I feel was a very keen topic. I’m already feeling that temptation in just 6 weeks on the job. Let’s keep taking a look at this subject today.

Here’s #6 in the list of “Dangers of Denominational Work”:

6. To be wasteful. A lot of what we do here is somewhat similar to the local church but on a larger scale. In a church you might print 50 bulletins for Sunday’s service. Here, we might run 5000 copies of a newsletter. Though the work is similar, the scale is expanded tremendously. To run off five extra bulletins did not seem like a waste when you were in the local church… even though it’s 10%. If you bring that same principal into your current work you will be running 500 extra copies of a more expensive product. Throwing away five bulletins seems minor. Throwing away an entire carton of newsletters or books can easily add up to hundreds or thousands of dollars. One of the dangers of denominational work is to quit being frugal, and spend money wastefully. If you look around and notice others making expenditures which seem wasteful to you, it makes it a little easier for you to do the same. This is a danger to resist.

Response:

I hear this one bigtime. It does seem like in most denominations, there are “perks of power” associated with high level leadership that are expected, which come at a premium. And while the printing cost spoken about above are less the issue now (everything is more digital now, and printing costs have decreased), I do see the waste created. The reason for this is a lack of trust and accountability. We’ve been attempting to ramp up the accountability for all roles at all levels –but much of the accountability we are asking for is self-inflicted. Nobody really wants to take the time to keep their leaders accountable. And of course many leaders in the past have signaled that they don’t want it–so it might be hard to accept that we want it now.[quote_right]Click here for the previous installments of this series on the Dangers of Denominational Work:

Part 1 – Spiritual Coolness  |

Part 2 – Getting Out of Touch   |

Part 3 – Thinking Department Growth = Church Growth  |

Part 4 – Overestimating Your Influence  |

Part 5 – Getting Absorbed With Politics | [/quote_right]

Resolution:

One of the things that is helping me on this front is something I have in my desk. The church I left to come to my current role was a large church which paid a good deal in denominational assessment. As Executive Pastor one of my roles in the financial system of checks and balances was to be a check signer. Each and every month I would sign that check that would go to pay for district, education and general denominational assessment–what many pastors call a tax. It was nearly $12,000 a month. Every time I signed that check I wondered if my church might be able to do so very much more for the kingdom with that money than would be done with it. I honestly thought of that EVERY time I signed the check. There were some months that it grieved my heart deeply to send that money off.

One of the last checks I signed at that church was that assessment check. I took a photocopy of it and I now keep it in my desk in the General Superintendent’s Office, there in the desk of the Chief of Staff… my desk. Everytime I open that drawer, for a pen or post-it, many times a day, I see that check and it reminds me to not be wasteful. When I have a decision about how to use the precious dollars that have come from the local churches–I am reminded of constantly questioning whether the money would be better spent at the local level. Here’s my view of that drawer each day:

I’m not saying that my church shouldn’t have sent that money. In fact… every single month for years we sent it–never missing our obligation. I signed checks for more than $650,000 to be sent up for denominational purposes in my tenure at my last church. I’m not saying that money was wasted in any way. But I sure do think twice when I open that drawer to ensure I’m not wasting it!

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