Friday, December 12, 2008

Exercise Faith, Not Fear

“Have faith in God," Jesus answered. "I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mark 11:22-24, NIV)

Tough economic times build character. It causes Christians to balance faith with wisdom, without falling into fear. Christians must understand that a massive component of the message of Christmas is the message to “fear not.” It is human nature to fall into the fear trap. I know God, and He is capable of handling the world’s economy. In fact, I believe God is helping all of us more clearly understand the weakness of the god of materialism.

With that said, God expects us to use wisdom in managing his ministries. As leaders, we need to be talking to those closest to us and seeking broad input of wisdom and experience. If you are a pastor or CEO of a nonprofit, talk to your Trustees, finance teams, etc. and have a clear knowledge of the state of your ministry. Make sure your organization has covered the practical necessities.

Know your credit rating. If it is weak, look for ways to strengthen it. If it is strong, you can benefit from this with negotiating interest rates on loans and credit cards.

Give priority to paying bills on time. Develop a list of every vendor that charges a late fee and make sure these vendors are paid on time to avoid late fees. These fees add up and create an unnecessary expense for nonprofit ministries. Consider paying online, as this can also reduce cost and ensures quicker receipt of payments to avoid late fees.

Practice good debt management. Having unnecessary lines of credit with high limits can cause you to pay higher interest rates. Look for places to reduce expenses and debt.

Evaluate all operating procedures. Ask the hard questions. Is this a necessity? Is this a negotiable agreement (contract)? Is this the most efficient method? Is there a better more cost efficient way to accomplish the same goal?

If your ministry invoices members/clients, look for ways to streamline your invoices (even pledges). Most invoices can be sent electronically. If you invoice for services, offer a small percentage discount for early payment.

As contracts come up for renewals, take 3-5 bids and negotiate hard for the services you need at the smallest cost. Be willing to consider competitors of your current vendors and let them know you are seeking other bids; tell them up front that they must continue to earn your business. One word of caution, make sure you have all vendors bidding on the same apple. Some vendors use a technique of offering a slightly different bid based on one or two items they feel to be superior to their competitors, thus justifying a higher bid. You do your homework, determine the spec sheet, and have all vendors bidding on the exact same bid. Recently, I negotiated a $70,000 savings for an organization on a project using this method.

Collection is essential to your success. Whether you are talking about an offering plate or about collecting accounts, you must be able to keep the cash flowing.

Do not stand around like a deer in the headlights waiting for the economy to run you over. Lead in faith, be proactive, and soar with the eagles!

Prayer: “Lord, help me to avoid the fear trap. Help me to keep my eyes firmly upon you and to keep clearly focused on the mission and purpose of the ministry you have given me to lead. Help me to lead responsibly in faith, not through fear. Amen.”

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