3 Things the Gulf Oil Spill Can Teach Us about Managing Ministry Money

by Jay Sherer, ECCU Marketing Supervisor
(Originally published as a post within ECCU’s former e-publication, The Buzz.)

Birds covered in oil. Black sludge sitting on white sand beaches. Plant and marine life struggling to survive. The Gulf oil spill is a tragic example of what happens when warning signs go unheeded. The effects of such negligence are far-reaching and devastating. The spill hurts the environment, the local economy, and the families of the eleven men who died on the rig when it exploded.

It might be a stretch to compare ministry money management to an oil rig, but what lessons can ministry leaders learn from the tragedy in the Gulf?

1. Infuse accountability into your ministry’s finances.

Let’s face it, the oil spill could have been prevented—warning signs, proper maintenance procedures, and appropriate emergency protocol were disregarded. Ignoring the fact that good people can make bad decisions is costly.

People are human, and even the most spiritual, trustworthy human beings aren’t perfect. Protect people by making accountability part of the equation. Set up dual custody and separation of duties so that ministry funds remain secure. (For more information on how to do this, see our white paper on handling cash).

2. Be prepared for the worst.

Repairing disasters costs money. When reserve targets start to slip, small issues can quickly become calamities. Setting aside enough funds to make it through a year or more of famine is critical.

If disaster does strike, don’t point fingers or leave others to cover up the ministry’s mess. Ensure the ministry can take care of the problem. For more information on establishing an appropriate reserve target, call us to set up a consultation or check out our whitepaper, Cash Reserves: How Much is Enough?

3. Stay focused on your ministry's mission.

Whether your ministry is thriving or struggling (and we know a lot of ministries are still struggling based on our Ministry Advisory Panel findings), God is still in control. And either way, He has called ministry leaders to lead. You are where you are for a reason. Maybe it’s to learn something specific, or perhaps it’s preparation to help others through difficult times. Whatever your situation, you have the opportunity to give glory to God while relying on Him.

Ministry leaders are often called on to clean up messes like the one in the Gulf. They help fix broken marriages, repurpose wasted lives, steer misguided youth, and heal their communities. The result of such intentional, Christ-focused work is nothing short of miraculous.

That’s why ministries need to keep after their financial practices, so that we can avoid “oil spills” and keep our focus squarely on ministry.

Retaining a strong focus on what truly matters while supporting that laser-like focus with excellent money management principles allows ministry leaders to avoid disasters. In the meantime, our prayers are with everyone affected by the oil spill in the Gulf. Let’s hope we can get God’s Creation cleaned up soon.

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