Thursday, November 29, 2012

Tell the Story!

One of the things I used to teach my clients when I was a consultant was that one of the best ways of promoting your business to a potential investor or client is to tell the story!   I would have my clients practice their ‘elevator story’, which was a way of getting to the point of the story in the amount of time you would have to talk with someone on an elevator.   Similarly, one of the best ways to reach a neighbor, friend or co-worker for Christ is your personal testimony. You personal testimony is a story; it is not theology but simply how your human condition was changed when you accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior.

We just need to tell the story.  We likely don’t have all the answers. Telling the story doesn’t mean you have perfect recall of the theology the woman at the well said "I don’t know. Come and see. You tell me.. Is he the Christ?"  Consider also the blind man who was miraculously touched by Jesus. The religious establishment who were the supposed experts in theology was grilling him.  The once-blind man just gave a simple response: "One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!" (John 9:25, NIV).

If you note, while the Apostle Paul was extremely gifted in Hebrew and Greek and understood the wonderful theology that today has become our New Testament often he simply used his personal testimony when sharing the Gospel. You would think that this anointed and special Apostle,  a scholar who understood the scriptures would use logic and theology when sharing the gospel.  However, over and over again, before Roman governors and Jewish leaders, the Apostle Paul would simply tell the story of how he came to know Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord.

Note that Paul always talked about his condition BEFORE, the impact of a crucified and risen Jesus Christ and his life AFTER.

Paul gives a simple summation of this process in 1 Timothy 1:12-15:

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work. He considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve him, even though I used to blaspheme the name of Christ. In my insolence, I persecuted his people. But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief.  Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus. This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.

What is your story?  Learn to be able to relate the sinner that you were, the condition that all men and women are in when they don’t know Christ.  The realization of the power of the Cross to forgive, redeem and restore and the impact that Jesus has had on your life.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Budget Time

Some firms budget better than others and while there are a lot of good things we can say about budgets, budgets are never fun.

While I’ve made a transition from the for-profit side of organizations to the non-profit side, I haven’t been able to escape some responsibility for the budget process.

Budgeting at the large multinational corporation I was employed with was a very exacting process. The controller’s office was constantly aware of both revenues and expenses and about every way performance could be measured; it was measured and measured frequently.

At the same time, the actual time spent by non-finance people working on budgets was minimal. As a manager I was responsible to review and submit my budget for approval; however, the size of my budget was rarely a consideration. We grew our budgets when revenues and the business plan dictated that we had sufficient opportunity to use the resources productively.

This is typically not true in our non-profit organizations. I’ve found the process to be completely different. For years I’ve struggled trying to determine why budgets in non-profits and our churches can be so frustrating and then I finally stumbled on the reason: It has nothing to do with competency as we have some fine financial types and plenty of bean-counters in the nonprofits. The difference is related to the nature of the non-profit and how fundamentally different it is from the for-profit.

I’m not talking about taxes or whether there is stock given to owners. No, the difference between a non-profit and a for-profit is all about revenues and expenditures.

Let’s take a for-profit organization first. Let’s assume we are talking about a pizza shop. In a pizza shop, like all other for-profit companies, there is a direct correlation between the sources of revenue and the expenditure of funds. The pizza shop buys dough, tomato paste, fresh ingredients; hires cooks and delivery employees; invests in ovens, menus, advertising and assorted other things; and rents a building to sell pizzas. All of the revenue that comes into the shop is a result of the sale of their pizzas. Easy!

This is not true for the non-profit. In most non-profits, revenue comes from contributions. In a church, that would be tithes and offerings, and in other non-profits it’s donations. The non-profit, however, needs to determine where to allocate the funds that are received. Often this is a completely subjective process despite being carefully considered. This process is often continually on the agenda through the year and there is a strong and often healthy competition for the limited resources that are provided. Since the needs and the mission of the organization are broad and typically never ending, there is a never-ending desire for additional revenue to meet organizational needs and mission desires.

The vast majority of the non-profit organizations are very careful with expenses, often getting great mileage out of every dollar spent. However, because there are few linkages between successful fund raising and the resourcing of projects and activities, much more effort and thoughtfulness is required on the allocation of the money through the annual budget process.

Reprint from ChurchExecutive Magazine October 2012 

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