Most ministries have a mission statement, and some have vision statements and identified organizational values. In today’s world, the message that is being sent to the world by Christian organizations is coming through our actions, our inactions and our attitudes much louder than in our print or electronic materials. Good, bad or indifferent, as soon as an organization identifies itself as faith based, the public develops a perception of the organization. That perception is based on the individual’s belief system, personal values and past experiences. And while we may not be able to control perceptions, we need to ask ourselves if we are delivering the message that we want to share with the rest of the world. Are we representing Christ well?
Far too many organizations operate in a scarcity mindset. When we operate out of a scarcity mindset, we tell the rest of the world that we are afraid that God will not provide…that there is nothing different about us. A scarcity mindset often carries forward into the way we make decisions; choosing to stretch staff too thin or using antiquated systems because we are fearful to spend money. Or, even worse, failing to make investments in the organization because we are fearful that by investing in the organization we won’t have enough.
When we have a scarcity mindset, we often act as though the resources the God has blessed us with are ours instead of recognizing that we are simply stewards, that all of our resources are God’s. One of the best ways that I have seen organizations move out of a scarcity mindset is to give back. For nonprofits and ministries, giving back often comes in the form of service. Could your organization plan a day of service where its employees serve at another local ministry? Getting out of our environment and serving elsewhere, we become aware of what we have and our mindset begins to change.
Building a Firm Foundation
The parable of the house built on sand describes many of today’s ministries. This parable, found in Matthew 7:24-27, tells us that the foolish man builds his house on the sand while the wise man builds his house on the rock. Ministries and nonprofits that are built on sand are those that that are not built on the firm foundation of Jesus. Many organizations look good on the outside and seemingly “have it all together” but they have failed and continue to fail to build a strong foundation. For many of these organizations there is really no difference between them and secular organizations.
How does an organization build a strong foundation? Through its board of directors, its systems, and its relationship with Christ.
- How are board members selected? For their ability to make a significant financial contribution, or to make the “right” connections? Since an organization’s board of directors represent the organization, it is important that their lives reflect a relationship with Jesus Christ and a commitment to the organization. Christian organizations will want to delineate expectations in an annual Board Affirmation Letter and in its job description for board members. A commitment to the organization is more important than the capacity of the individual to contribute to the organization. (If someone’s heart is not committed to the mission of the organization, it really doesn’t matter how much money they have, they will only give a token gift).
- What systems does the organization have in place? Does it have a system for ensuring that donors receive acknowledgement for their donation in a timely manner? Is a strategic planning process used to map out the future of the organization? Putting structure in place ensures that the vision of the organization continues beyond the immediate.
- How is the faith of the organization shared with the board, staff and its constituents? Is it hard to recognize the organization as a Christian ministry or does the love of Christ shine through in everything the organization says and does? Start each board meeting with prayer inviting the Holy Spirit into the meeting to guide and direct the decisions that are being made.
Christian organizations have a responsibility to serve and represent Christ well. “Whatever you do… do it as unto the Lord,” Colossians 3:23 KJV. For organizations identifying themselves as a Christian ministry, it is imperative that the organization serves well and loves well. This message of service and love starts with the board of directors and flows throughout the entire organization, its staff and volunteers. There should be no doubt to the outsider that the organization has built its foundation on Jesus Christ.