Moody About Money

Yesterday I had the opportunity to hear a presentation given by Dr. John C. Green, director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron.  Widely quoted in the New York Times, Washing Post, NPR, and CNN, Dr. Green’s latest books is titled, The Faith Factor: How Religion Influences American Elections.

On this occasion, Dr. Green was presenting to our group the top four descriptions of today’s public mood based on his social science research.  Interestingly enough, he stated that public mood tends to sway with our economic times, so here are the unsurprising results:

A mood of crisis: Today’s Americans are in a state of panic seeing the turnover of banks, car companies, and mortgages.

A mood of criticism: Today’s Americans are blaming anyone they can “above them.”  From government officials to religious leaders, the “ones in charge” are at fault.

A mood of distrust: Today’s Americans are having a hard time trusting any form of government or “big institution.”

A mood of complexity: We have a dichotomy of those that want intense, drastic change, and those that desire little change, going back to the “way things use to be.”

Green’s answer to how leaders should navigate through these tense waters? He gives three responses:

Patience: Take your time with small, precise changes, not trying to “oversell” a false, hoped outcome.

Pragmatism: Focus on small, tangible, and achievable results.

Clear Priorities: Stick to achievable and easily understood objectives, having nothing too stretching or incomprehensible.

Interestingly enough about four days before I sat in on this presentation I was wandering the halls of my church community, when I was stopped by two congregants asking why we had recently purchased about 35 large flat screen TVs for each campus, to better communicate information.

They felt it was a misuse of funds in these hard economic times, wondering why their “giving dollars” had been used in such a fashion (thereby questioning their intent of future giving).

So what do you think?  In light of today’s economic times, and Green’s remarks about our current reaction to criticize leaders & distrust institutions, how should organizations like churches go about making spending decisions?

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~ by Dave Smith on March 17, 2010.

6 Responses to “Moody About Money”

  1. Since you brought up the TVs, what was the thinking behind them? While I know they are there, I have to say I don’t even notice them. I would imagine that my demographic (and younger) is comfortable getting their church information from the website. Are the TVs a transitional measure (much like the 9:00 service 🙂 ) to assist in keeping the technologically challenged (and presumably older) folks in the loop without continuing to send out the hard copy newsletters, etc. but looking towards the day when the overwhelming majority get their church news on their iChapel app?

    Not sure I would have voted for spending the money, but in a church that size, I assume not every dollar I give is going to go exactly where I would prefer.

  2. These observations are interesting in light of the battle that’s going on in our denomination—the ARP Church and Erskine College and Seminary.

    I wonder, though, if the mood of the times is in some ways the appropriate time to go ahead and make a decisive change that may be unpopular. In other moods, you’ll always have the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” naysayers.

  3. These observations are interesting in light of the battle that’s going on in our denomination—the ARP Church and Erskine College and Seminary.

    I wonder, though, if the mood of the times is in some ways the appropriate time to go ahead and make a decisive change that may be unpopular. In other moods, you’ll always have the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” naysayers.

    Andy

  4. (gasp!) Someone is complaining about how the church is spending its money!?

    How many TV’s do these complainers have at home?

  5. I don’t think it is bad for people at a church to question where the church spends money but obviously there is balance. The church is trusting its members to give faithfully and in turn the membership is trusting the church to spend money with wisdom. I think there is a natural tension in this type of setting because it requires trust on both sides. To stay on topic I am not sure churches should make different spending decisions in order to look more sensitive as purpose and mission should always drive spending decisions. Perhaps in times such as these, all organizations just need to focus on the communication of their spending decisions to their members (or employees) in order to build up that trust that is so necessary. This would actually be helpful in two ways because it would also force the organization to review spending rationale.

  6. Excellent feedback everyone. Some good balanced remarks about about the inevitable, negative responses from some congregants when spending is conducted, as well as the need to use cautionary and well-communicated purchases for certain items and/or initiatives. Thank you.

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