Integrity has been defined as doing the right thing when no one else is around. I attempt to live my life with integrity. I try to do the right thing in everything I do as a husband, father, friend, coach, church leader, and church consultant. Integrity is huge in my business as everyday I talk about two of the three things you are not supposed to talk about in public; religion and money. To borrow one of my colleagues quotes “I am suspect before I get out of my car in the church parking lot.” If you are going to work with churches and help them with their stewardship/generosity needs, you better have integrity and references to back it up.
Circumstances beyond our control often times yield challenging decisions. I was working with a church last fall to guide them through their operating budget emphasis and their budgeting process. This church had been establishing their budget with an unhealthy percentage of the next year’s budget relying on non-pledged giving. There is nothing wrong with counting on non-pledged giving, but there should be some evidence of prior giving to support the percentage. This church was counting on $100k of an $800k budget from non-pledged giving with no evidence to support $60k of it.
I asked about this and challenged them to establish their next year’s budget based soley on pledged giving and non-pledged giving that could be substantiated from prior giving. This was a huge leap for this finance team but they took the challenge. The campaign went great, their pledges went up (including many from people who had never turned in a pledge card) and naturally their pledged dollars increased. The pledged dollars increased enough to meet their basic ministry needs for the following year, but their budget remained tight. It was tempting for them to increase the budget beyond this and hope for the best because they had other ministry needs they would “like” to do but were not considered essential. They were ok with this as they were able to keep all staff and essential ministry opportunities all the while making a radical shift in their budgeting process and approach to stewardship. Good stuff right?
It was good stuff, but there is a small caviat to this story. This particular church had also wanted to do a debt reduction campaign following the budget campaign effort. We had agreed to continue to work together if the budget campaign went well and there were funds to continue the contract. The budget campaign went well, but they were committed to adhering to their newly created budget. In the past they would have borrowed against the budget to pay the rest of their contract with me, but based on my counsel during the budgeting process to not use that practice in the future, they chose not to proceed with the debt reduction campaign at that time.
I worked myself right out of a job! The counsel I gave this church was definitely the right counsel. They needed to get their budgeting process more streamlined and realistic; we did that. While giving this church the counsel about their budget I knew there would be a real chance that the rest of the contract could be suspended, but it was the right thing to do. My integrity cost me dollars, but the church received tools and skills to be replicated for years to come as they grow their givers hearts and the Kingdom in their area.
Has your integrity ever cost you anything? I’d love to hear your feedback.