Ministry Today magazine cover

High-Tech Bondage






Are you using technology, or is it using you?
As a television producer and media consultant, I've spent years trying to translate solid business and leadership practices into church and ministry life. There's no substitute for productivity, no matter what your goals, and much of the current business and leadership thinking can apply directly to challenges we face in the church and non-profit world.

However, the more I worked with religious organizations, the more I realized there was a side effect to the business principles I was teaching. In some cases, the techniques didn't get the same results they would have produced in a secular company, and in others, I was worried we were turning pastors and non-profit leaders into entrepreneurs—more concerned about bottom line thinking than mission thinking.

Certainly, I advocated better leadership, more disciplined organizational structure, accountability and more effective management techniques. Over the years, we began to see a much more professional attitude in many churches and ministries. Employee performance tightened up, finances were used more effectively, ministries became more effective and the perception of the organizations improved in the local community.

However, I also began to notice other more disturbing signs. I watched pastors transform themselves into corporate executives. I saw church and ministry managers become PDA zombies, walking through the day with their eyes glued to their incoming e-mail, and a growing corporate mentality that prioritized financial results over mission.

Recently, on a visit to a large church, I spent the day with the pastor evaluating and advising them on media ministry issues. But from the time the pastor picked me up at the hotel for breakfast, until he dropped me off late that night after the evening service, he was held in bondage to his PDA. Every 10 minutes he would glance at his e-mail, as if driven by some strange, voodoo spell. During the day we attended planning meetings with his top-level staff, attended a youth service and even looked in on a family during a counseling session (with their permission of course). But no matter how intimate, serious or critical the moment, he continually allowed himself to be interrupted by the "ding" of an incoming e-mail message.

I wanted to rip it out of his hand and scream at him that human contact was far more important than those little digital messages!

I began to see "mission drift" in these organizations as the focus went from "community" to "commodity." When things and results generated the same concern and value as people, I saw a distinct shift in the direction of pastors and ministry leaders. I watched bookshelves that had previously been filled with volumes of theology, church history and doctrine now filled with the latest best sellers on business motivation and sales.

In the executive-driven world of many pastors, that critical distinction gets lost. But what does this mean for a typical church or ministry?

First, businesses are often driven by money, but non-profit employees are driven by meaning. I'm certainly an advocate of paying people what they're worth when possible, but the truth is, in most applications, non profits just can't compete with the salary scale of corporations.

So, instead of constantly worrying that you can't afford good employees, shift your search to people searching for meaning. They're out there, and they want to make a difference. If you have a strong vision and a compelling mission, chances are there are people willing to work for a fraction of the money, in order to be part of a greater project in life.

Second, learn to quantify the results of your mission. It's easy for a business to evaluate financial returns, but it's much more difficult for a church or ministry to quantify the results of mission. Working with gangs, feeding the homeless, evangelism, youth work, medical clinics, spiritual development, family counseling, teaching and training—these are much more difficult to apply to a chart and track progress, but it can be done.

In the old days, national ministries like those of Billy Graham, Oral Roberts and others kept detailed records of men and women converted at their meetings. They were very careful about recording that information and keeping it in front of their supporters and employees. Those men knew the value of qualifying their mission—not from the perspective of building their egos, but from the perspective of evaluating the results.

Begin working with your leadership team to set benchmarks for mission. Fund-raising and product sales will always be important, but fund-raising results will always be more difficult without mission results.

Third, understand the difference in funding. With a business, income results in the sales of widgets. Certainly investment income, tax strategy, long term planning and other strategies play important roles, but the engine that drives funding is sales. But with a non profit, funding often comes from a wide variety of sources—individual tithing, large donors, grants, fellowships, partnership, product sales, capital campaigns and more.

One of the constant challenges for non-profits is funding, and the most successful ministry leaders are the men and women who understand the importance of casting a wide net.

Technology is a remarkable tool, but don't let it control your life. Keep the focus on "mission," because our task is not to impress the culture with our success, but to embrace the culture with the grace of a loving God.


Phil Cooke is a media consultant to ministries and churches worldwide. He publishes a free monthly e-newsletter, Ideas for Real Change. Find out more at philcooke.com.

Your Turn

Comment Guidelines

Subscribe to Ministry Today

Subscribe to Ministry Today magazine

Ministry Today Digital

More from Ministry Today

http://ministrytodaymag.com/modules/mod_image_show_gk4/cache/banners.300x250MNT_Version2newsimage1.jpglink
http://ministrytodaymag.com/modules/mod_image_show_gk4/cache/banners.300x250MNT_Version3newsimage1.jpglink
http://ministrytodaymag.com/modules/mod_image_show_gk4/cache/banners.300 x 250 NICL Locations 3-18-14newsimage1.jpglink
http://ministrytodaymag.com/modules/mod_image_show_gk4/cache/banners.NICL Test 300x250newsimage1.jpglink
«
»

Newsletters from Charisma

Stay in touch with the news, bloggers and articles that you enjoy.

a