jonathan stone's blog

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what gets cut and who says so?

I was talking with Steve earlier today and he shared some very interesting things that sent my mind going in several different directions. Let me start this way. With the tithes down we already know that significant cuts are coming. CoG departments have been instructed to reduce their current budget by 5% and their projected budget for the next fiscal year by 20%. I’m sure these budget cuts will help departments sustain themselves, but there might be other ideas that the ministers have about cuts that help the overall organizational sustainability. I wonder why there is not more of an open discussion between administrators and ministers on this issue? Would it not be wise, from an organizational standpoint, to let your ministers come up with some ideas about how we should downsize in order to make ourselves a more efficient organization? Can you imagine what a pastor would encounter if s/he made all of the budget decision by her/himself? Yet, that’s exactly what the administration is doing by not consulting it’s ministers on more of these items.

For example, Steve was talking to a well-respected pastor the other day who expressed concern that we were “a small locomotive” carrying around a whole bunch of “extra boxcars.” He felt that we needed to cut some of that extra weight free in order to find organizational efficiency. So, Steve asked him what would be an example. His response was something like this: “Well, for example, consider International Evangelists. We support those positions with a package that costs $50,000 per position. The reality is that those positions are unnecessary, the current guys hardly ever leave the country.” This person is someone that has both the experience and information to be very believable in both the stats and assessment that he offered.

Now, from a broad point of view obviously $100,000 is not going to revolutionize our current spending structure. But what could we do with $100,000? Put in the right hands that same money can do quite a lot! Plus, this is just one small example. There must be hundreds of ideas like this one that are worthy of consideration. And what would the sum total of those be?

National evangelist are a bit of a different story…perhaps. They do not receive a salary per se. But they do receive a package that includes expenses and benefits. And, while I do not know how much the package costs the organization, it’s certainly possible that it approaches the same figure as mentioned above. There are six of them. So, now we’re talking about eight evangelists all together. The number starts approaching $400,000. While that’s still modest when you consider our annual operating budget, a lot could be done with $400,000.

I think the unwillingness on the part of the administrators to have a public discussion on these issues with ministers is one example of how the mistrust is not only going “up the ladder,” but “down the ladder” as well. In other words, it is a sign that the administration does not trust the ministers. They are afraid to let the ministers decide which budget items should be kept and which ones should be cut. I believe that if the next administration does not show a willingness to let the ministers discuss these types of possibilities then the discontentment among the ministers will be much worse in four years than it is even now.

10 comments on “what gets cut and who says so?

  1. Tom Rosson
    March 21, 2008

    There’s a big difference here, Jon. When cuts are made in the local church, its usually about programs with volunteers. Here we’re talking about individuals with salaries. There is a certain amount of discretion called for when dealing with people’s livelihood.

    Having said that, it seems that the Department of Home Missions and Evangelism has been singled out. And I must confess my ignorance here … but I’m not really sure what the department does. Am I the only one?

  2. Jonathan Stone
    March 21, 2008

    Tom, good point about the difference between organizational cuts and local church cuts. I think I had my church in mind, and that’s not your typical church. Most CoG churches only have wither one or zero paid positions.

    One clarification, I’m not calling for the termination of these positions (though I guess the person Steve was talking to was), but rather using that as an example to ask the question as to why there seems to be a hesitancy to have any substantive dialogue with ministers about possibilities. I assume there are “better, more significant” suggestions that would have a bigger impact on spending. As far as livelihood goes, I appreciate that concern (though I don’t think the two current holders of these positions would be set back by this). Still, at some point that’s the reality we are facing. We are going to have to cut positions and it’s not going to be fun for the individuals who are in the seat when those positions get cut. I think it’s either prune or be pruned. In other words, to continue running an organization with poor management principles will effect more people’s livelihood in the long run.

    As far as Home Missions goes. I don’t know? Anyone else?

  3. Jonathan Stone
    March 22, 2008

    Tom…or anyone else. I have a question. Are the “International Evangelists” with Home Missions & Evangelism or some other department?

  4. Tom Rosson
    March 22, 2008

    The international evangelists are not listed under World Missions. As far as I know, they hang their hat with the folks at Dep. of Home Missions.
    He’s a great communicator and seems to be well received in various cultures.

  5. Jonathan Stone
    March 22, 2008

    Thanks Tom. When you say, “He’s a great communicator…” Are you referring to Bob White or T.L. Lowery?

  6. travis johnson
    March 22, 2008

    I’ve had one overseer, who was incredibly forthright and friendly and open talk and confess directly to me in front of about 4 other people that their State Evangelism and Home Missions fund is not being appropriated in accordance with the General Assembly Minutes. I think that’s standard procedure. In fact, I don’t know of any state that honors the minutes in this area.

    When I pressed and asked why he wasn’t taking care of righting that wrong, he said he wasn’t in favor of cannibalism…he wasn’t willing to cut the human personnel and systems decisively to get this right.

    I guess the interpretation of that was that administrative waste and the good people that occupy those posts are somehow higher on the priority list than our integrity and honoring the mission of Jesus by putting those monies to work in our cities and honoring the mandate of the General Assembly.

    What needs to be cut? A lot…a lot of good stuff too. Too much of the good stuff is keeping us from doing the best.

    It looks like there will be no “everyman” invited to the process of talking about what cuts…just a resistance all the way to the surgery room where we’ll cut only God knows what…or does He know?

  7. Tom Rosson
    March 22, 2008

    Sorry about the missing reference. I was referring to Doug Small. He travels quite a bit around the world although he is apparently a “national evangelist.”

  8. Jonathan Stone
    March 23, 2008

    Tom, that’s kind of funny. It sounds like maybe Doug Small speaks internationally more than our international evangelists.

  9. Jonathan Stone
    March 23, 2008

    Travis, I have heard Lamar Vest talk several times in casual conversations about taking care of ministers and not fostering a system that abandons them when they begin to lose some of their virility. Although I never heard him go into specifics, it was always quite evident that he had seen quite a few nasty situations where ministers were “kicked to the curb” after dedicating their lives in service to the Lord as part of the CoG institution. I appreciate his heart in that. I appreciate it more because he’s a guy that really “gets it” in terms of the type of change that needs to happen in order to become a 21st century organization. (As an aside, that leads me to wonder why he gets it, why some people get it and others don’t. He is a voracious reader. That helps! And he is also a “history buff.” I think individuals that study history are less scared of change.)

    And I appreciate Tom’s concern on that as well. I’m sure he’s got a few specific persons/positions in mind, and it’s difficult to imagine if it’s really the ‘right’ thing to do. In public school we face the same issue. Some teachers (certainly not all) seem to lose their ability to teach as they approach retirement. And I have been personally and painfully aware of some terrible classrooms because the school administration, though the recognized that students were not learning in these classrooms, thought it better to wait until they retired. With lawsuits the way they are these days it’s probably not always the worst decision on the part of these school Principals. I guess I am saying that I really understand both sides of the issue.

    Having said that, I think I agree with you. I am sure that some specific situations would be extremely difficult. But certainly I would not want us to be guilty of losing sight of the whole reason we exist in the first place.

    My Christian Ethics teacher in college told used this analogy to explain legalism to us. Every law has a principle behind it. The principle behind speed limit laws is public safety. If a police officer pulls over a speeding car and discovers there is a woman in labor in the back that officer would not sit there and write up a ticket for 20 minutes. S/he would escort the car to the hospital so that they could “speed safely” and get there as quickly as possible. Why? Because to write that ticket would actually break the principle that caused the law to be put into place.

    I’m not saying caring about what happens to people when positions are cut is legalism. However, I am saying that I agree with what you are lifting up. While it seems like a caring “Christian” thing to do to just ‘wait it out’ and make changes after this or that person retires, we just might be breaking other more important principles by doing it.

    As far as the minutes go, that really bothers me. I don’t get the minutes. On the one hand, if an administrator has his (unfortunately there’s hardly such a thing as a female administrator in the CoG, though my mother has the current opportunity of filling one of the few exceptions) mind on getting rid of someone, suddenly the minutes become this hugely important set of guidelines. Yet, most of the other times everyone jokes about how no one follows those. Uhhh, isn’t that a problem? Well, that’s another post at another time.

  10. corum deo vida
    May 7, 2008

    here’s a radical idea: instead of cutting the already small amount the missionaries receive…what if some of our international leaders and state leaders took pay cuts. i mean, i know very little about budgets but i do know that the parking lot at COG headquarters was filled with BMW’s and Anatole gated community stickers and many (if not all) state leaders drive caddies or lincolns or SUV’s. by no means do i think they should receive nothing and i don’t mean to sound/be judgmental. i am just really longing for a leader who would find it more important to fund a missions even if that meant they had to take a personal pay cut. that kind of leader is what i know to be the heart of the COG…the heart of my home COG church with men and women who i have witnessed over the years continually make personal sacrifices in order to advance the Kingdom…maybe that would help with some of the distrust too?

    just a thought,

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This entry was posted on March 21, 2008 by in issues, sustainability.
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