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Lesson From Monkeys in Funding Your Vision (part 2)

Do you know how to catch a monkey?  West Africans have discovered that if you drill a hole into a coconut shell, barely big enough for a monkey to slide his hand in, and fill it with the kind of berries and treats that the monkey likes, he is easy to catch. How? When the monkey slips his hand into the hole and grab the treats, his hands naturally make a fist.  Now his hand is too big to pull back out of the hole.  When the monkey is approached by his captors, logic would be that he should simply release the treats, pull his hand out, and climb a tree to safety.  The problem is that the monkey is too greedy and refuses to let go, which, by default, restricts his ability to escape into the trees, thus becoming easy prey.  Greed is the downfall of a monkey!

Churches can be the same way.  They don’t think of themselves as greedy, but every time God gives them a fresh vision, the church's refusal to let go of the many programs they cherish hampers their ability to move forward. In the case of the monkey, it’s laughable as to how silly he is for not letting go, yet the monkey is so blinded by greed, it doesn’t seem logical at all for him to let go.  Similarly, any organizational strategist would chuckle at a church’s inability to let go of Aunt Mary’s ministry that is badly out of date, out of touch, and does nothing to further the gospel; however, to the local church, it often doesn’t feel quite so logical. 

Below is Part 2 an extensive series on funding a vision.  If this is your first time to this series, begin with Funding Your Vision Part 1

  1. Design a Vision Budget.  When I was a senior pastor, I required every ministry to come up with an annual plan based upon our strategic mission. We then made our annual budget. Of course, not everyone got what they dreamed for, but we began there.  I work from time to time with churches in helping them design an annual strategic plan that is tied to their vision.  It’s a sad state to see how many churches simply tweak last year's budget (or don’t even have one!) and then react by going into crisis mode every time the numbers get tight.  That is not only good stewardship of any budget, much less a church one!
  2. Partnerships Over Programs.  There is a new trend that, if we can get over ourselves, you’re gonna love.  We actually owe Millennials a debt of gratitude for this one.  Millennials want to see that we are in positive partnership with other organizations.  For example, rather than having a food pantry, they want to see a church have a partnership with a local homeless shelter.  Rather than being a church that does it all, they want the church to partner with other churches and play to each other’s strengths. Rather than coming up with community projects, call the mayor and ask her how we can serve her.  Now, this means we don’t get to have our name on everything, and we don’t have full control, hence having to get over ourselves.  This is ultimately more efficient, and contrary to popular belief, partnerships command more respect than when we try to accomplish everything in a vacuum. 
  3. Know Your Yeses, Know Your No’s.   There are a million things you can do.  There are a thousand things that you “ought to do”, there are two dozen things you really really should do.  There is only a few things that you actually can do, and do well.  Until you identify those few things, and they become your absolute “yeses”, you will never know what you should be saying no to.  I’ve seen way too many churches who don’t have a compelling reason to say no to the many bad ideas that they have heard because they have not identified their yeses. Clarity is one of the greatest pathways to effectiveness and freedom.
  4. Live in Faith, Be Wise Stewards.  There is a tension that churches have to manage: the tension between stepping out in faith and being a wise steward.   In fact, most leaders tend to default to one or the other.  Those who overdo playing it safe are operating out of fear or comfort.  Those who dive into risk are either projecting their own will onto God’s or have unrealistic expectations of what their leadership and enjoinment can handle.   Since no one individual, other than Jesus, is perfect, the importance of self-awareness and community is essential.  Know yourself, surround yourself with those who still believe in the vision but are wired differently than you.

In the next blog post we will focus on helping your congregation understand the theology of generosity. 



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