Creative Leadership

Leading Your Organization Through Difficult Financial Times

Some time ago, I received a call from The New York Times. The reporter was curious if I knew of any pastors or ministry leaders who were changing their tune because at that time, the economy wasn’t going so well. That call reminded me how much the world looks at our message as adaptable, changeable, and flexible. When it comes to those pesky issues like absolute truth, can’t we just change God’s principles to accommodate a changing culture, financial problems, or difficult circumstances?

So if you’re facing financial challenges with your organization, here are some suggestions:

1) Be Confident in the Validity of Your Message.  If you really feel God has given you a message for this generation, outside circumstances shouldn’t impact the essential truth of that message. In other words, don’t pull back on your core message – in fact, it probably should be stronger than ever. You can re-think the way we package the message, or how you present it, but don’t pull back from the message itself. Be confident in your calling, and bold in your message. You have this platform because your voice matters. Don’t allow fear to hold you back.

2) Keep results in front of the congregation or donors.  When it comes to cutting back their giving, most people start with ministries they believe aren’t effective. Is your ministry working? Are you doing what you said you would? Are lives being changed? Now more than ever accountability is important. Show the mission outreaches, give them results, and let them see where the money is going. We need to be creating those segments, spots, and features that confirm you’re making a difference and getting results.

3) Streamline Carefully.  When money is available, many pastors and ministry leaders start outreaches that aren’t part of the core calling of that leader. They may have been good ideas at the time, and maybe still are. But they aren’t really what you’re called to accomplish in this world. As a result, they become an expensive time suck, and draw vital resources away from the real focus of the ministry. Be tough. Find those non-essential areas and cut there first.

4) Don’t Cut Your Lifelines.  During a period of financial crisis, a major national TV ministry cut 1/3 of their TV stations to save money. But they didn’t realize they were cutting 1/3 of their donor contact. Within weeks, their finances dried up, and will probably never recover. Always evaluate methods, but keep communicating with your supporters, keep talking to them, and keep those avenues open.

5) Don’t panic.  Remember that the newspaper and evening news increase sales during times of controversy and uncertainty, because that’s what generates readers and audiences. It’s why they rarely show the positive side of what’s happening – on any subject. You should be using your pulpit or platform to be inspiring, and encourage people to see God’s hand working in a much more important way.  Because they sure won’t see it in the media.

Your goal this year is to discover new avenues your audience or congregation prefers to communicate through. We need to expand from simply TV and direct mail response to online, email, social media, and other interactive ways our audience can connect with you. This isn’t a fad, and it’s growing.  So focus on helping your organization navigate this divide.

Others can panic if they want to, but I’m looking at this year to be the year you breakthrough and impact the culture.

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