Financing a Culture or Funding a Vision – “The Courage to Melt the Iceberg”

It was possibly the most “real” and sobering speech I’ve ever made to any group, large or small. Because of the Meetings importance, I asked the entire Executive Committee to join me as I addressed the Executive Council’s Budget Review Committee last week in their first session. After a few minutes of preliminary niceties, I referenced the significant presence of the entire Executive Committee, and said, “Gentlemen, I think it’s obvious that we are not here for a Tupperware party.” Then for most of the next hour, I articulated my most optimistic observations, but mixed those with my very realistic conclusions. Since the tithe of tithes reduction process first began in 2010, the Executive Council has methodically and gradually had to work through a financial reduction process that over time has brought our operational budget down from $27 million per year to $19.4 million. The tithe of tithes reallocation process has resulted in a reduction of $7.6 million dollar each year. The cumulative impact over the past eight fiscal years equates to more than $50 million that is no longer available for operational purposes at the international offices. I should also point out that these figures do not include reductions incurred by Church of God World Missions. Please understand, I’m not bemoaning the fact, I’m simply stating information. Either as part of the Executive Committee or as Director of World Missions, I have been directly involved during this entire reallocation process. There is no doubt that I can testify God has helped us with His amazing provision. Major adjustments had to be made, and the international offices continues to try to do more with less. Thankfully, revenue is slowly growing again. The good news is that the more than $50 million that didn’t go to the international offices because of the reduction in the tithe of tithes stayed in local churches for ministry, to be used under the immediate oversight of that local church body. Without going into a lot of details, let’s just say that adjustments had to be made and we did what was necessary to keep our fiscal ship floating and moving in the right direction. Certainly, it was a major decision when the 2008 General Assembly passed the tithe reallocation provision, ultimately allowing more funds to stay in the local church and for the possibility of greater local impact. In my opinion, it was, and remains to this day, a responsible decision that requires even greater accountability. Financial Realignment I believe that with this decision, the General Assembly was essentially calling for greater commitment to Kingdom consciousness and Great Commission alignment and that we prove it manifesting by a focused purpose of all church resources. In essence, I personally believe a vote was taken and the measure passed to change the way things are done. In other words, it is my humble thought that at least in some ways, a decision was made to greatly defund a managerial culture that at least some believed to no longer be entirely applicable for doing ministry in today’s world. it is my humble thought that at least in some ways, a decision was made to greatly defund a managerial culture that at least some believed to no longer be entirely applicable for doing ministry in today’s world. However, while we may have voted to reduce the funding for one culture, have we yet entirely transitioned to one more accommodating of the Great Commission? Are we still trying to get at Kingdom business the same as we did before, only now with a few less people and a lot less dollars?” I won’t even begin to try to unpack everything I’m sure those questions conjure up, except to say that a culture powered by an engine that worked in the 1990’s and into the mid-2000’s is not always going to be efficient or effective today. Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not speaking to doctrine or to our core values as a movement. I most certainly am not speaking to disparage in any way the amazing people we’ve called upon to labor in various capacities of service. I am, however, speaking to that invisible thing that we sometimes refer to as “systemic culture.” While it is not necessarily bad, it can often be counterproductive to vision and mission. When attempting to address and change a culture, keep in mind the size and power of an iceberg. It is easy to change visible artifacts, but doing so won’t automatically change expectations or underlying assumptions. In fact, because organizational culture can be so resilient, true change can take years, depending on the size and age of the organization, its structure, and the nature of the organizational systemic nuances. Understanding and managing organizational culture is no easy task, but if we want to be effective in ministry, the hard work will be well worth the effort. Understanding and managing organizational culture is no easy task, but if we want to be effective in ministry, the hard work will be well worth the effort. Peter Drucker famously said, “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” He was not diminishing strategy. He was simply recognizing the overwhelming influence culture has on people. If the culture of a church is at odds with the values or vision of the church, the culture typically wins. The unstated message speaks louder than the stated one. So here was the crux of my speech in last week’s Budget Review Committee meeting. I emphasized that a budget is not just a collection of numbers, but an expression of our values and aspirations. As we move through this process, we must ask ourselves some obvious questions: “Will we budget for culture or vision?” “Will we sacrifice mission on the altar of convenience?” “Will we simply press the reset button and move around institutional furniture or can we be bold enough to ask, ‘What Great Commission purpose does this budget item hope to fulfill?'” Vision Driven Finances With those questions in mind, the Budget Review Committee began its work, aiming for a more vision-driven budget. In just a few days, I will present that budget to the Executive Council when it meets in late April. I do not presume that the proposed budget is in it’s most perfected or completed form, and it most likely does not speak to every interest. It can’t, and I can live with that. However, this budget and every budget to come, both at the international level, the state/regional level, and the local church level must speak to and contribute to completing the Great Commission. That is when the numbers really add up. And completing the Great Commission is all that matters!! Tim Hill

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