Friday, December 12, 2008

Pastor for Sustainability

In the special issue of The Economist: The World in 2009 Daniel Franklin, editor, writes a fascinating article about sustainability in uncertain times. Of course this article is written from the perspective of corporations and profit-driven entities. With reduced cash flows, what goes and what stays? What things are non-negotiably at the core of an enterprise and what become more optional? Is a company's commitment to being green economically viable? How about ethnic diversity? Franklin argues that some of those qualities that could come under the knife of the accounting department must be protected because those qualities drive the essence of the organization and will attract or, if the are eliminated, discourage the best and brightest new leaders and customers.
This is the tough time of the year in churches when leaders build 2009 budgets before 2008 income has fully come in. It's when we worry, hope, speculate, and prognosticate about what the future will be. We, like many churches, do not have a formal "pledge drive" where we get statements of intent from our members and friends. We keep the names and amounts of what people give anonymous and project (maybe guess) where our giving will go the next year based on attendance growth (or decline) and program growth (or decline).
The question I ask myself is "how do we sustain viable ministry?" How do we keep budgets responsibly trim without becoming organizationally anorexic and self destructive? How can we run as close to a "flat' budget as possible and still keep momentum and enthusiasm? One trend I am noticing is the higher priority on gathering and relationship building, community time versus equipment time. I sense that we will travel less to far away conferences and invest more in pot-lucks and picnics.


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