For Leaders Only: Are You Silent About Money? (Part Two)
Let’s go back 2400 years to Nehemiah, the Wall-builder, for a second lesson on leadership and money. You know Nehemiah’s first lesson: Timber for his workers! He boldly appealed to King Artaxerxes of Persia for timber to build the Jerusalem wall. But soon bad stuff happened.
After building the wall, Nehemiah remained in Jerusalem for 12 years and then returned to Persia to report to Artaxerxes (Nehemiah 1:1 and 13:6). While he was gone, the Jews married foreign women, started buying and selling on the Sabbath with fish salesmen from Tyre, and a sneaky Ammonite named Tobiah (Nehemiah 2:19) set up office in the temple storage rooms—built by Hezekiah 250 years previous to store tithed grain and oil.
When Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem, he found one more problem. The Jews stopped giving the tithe to the Levites. Nehemiah 13:10-12 says,
My underlined words denote three lessons about Nehemiah’s leadership:
Nehemiah dug into the financial details to find that the tithes were not being given to the Levites—the tribe appointed by Moses to serve the temple full-time. Nehemiah does not explain why they stopped, but he considered it a serious problem.
Is it also a problem today? 2400 years later a shroud of silence surrounds mission funding—maybe from shame? Be like Nehemiah! Drill down—get the details. When your staff say, “We’re doing fine in funding,” smile, but don’t stop. Get their metrics. Ask also about the emotionsof funding: “How do you and your spouse ‘feel’ about your finances?” Bring a Kleenex.
Lesson: Do you know the financial metrics of your “Levites” (and conventional-income staff)—are they up to full budget?
Nehemiah didn’t “let it go” when he heard that the Levites had drifted back to their fields. The word “reprimanded” is also translated “confronted” or “I told them they were wrong.”
Lesson: Are you bold enough to say that low funding is “not okay.” If your staff suffer in funding, they cannot give their best. They will “go back to their fields” (find other income streams).
After the Levites were restored, the people were motivated to bring the tithe once more. Why give the tithe when wicked Tobiah was running the place?
Lesson: Do people know how to support your staff financially? Can they do it on-line? Do your staff have a good reputation with donors?
Conclusion: Nehemiah championed the Levites! And so must we. Silence about funding is not acceptable. Start asking questions and talk about fundraising. Listen to “O’s” story:
“O,” a National Director of The Navigators, periodically visits his staff around the country. When he visited “F”, rather than sitting in the coffee shop talking about ministry, O suggested they go together on fundraising appointments—doing ministry together!
With fear and trembling, F set an appointment with a lapsed donor. At the meeting O spoke proudly on behalf of F and asked about the donor’s lapse in giving. The donor admitted he’d neglected his giving, but he appreciated the reminder and the update on F’s ministry—an encouraging visit for all.
How to champion your staff—go on funding appeals with them! Listening and talking in the coffee shop is good, but doing funding ministry together touches a deep need.
P.S. Bonus! The next day the lapsed donor friend sent 100,000 local currency for F’s support!