Ask George Bush Sr. why you need to be careful what you promise. The elder Bush when he ran for president the first time made this promise. Then after he got into the White House guess what? He had to raise taxes! Many believe this broken promise is what cost him the re-election. As leaders we must always be careful what we promise. Every time we make a promise that we cannot fulfill we empty the change out of our pockets.
All leaders are given the benefit of doubt at the beginning of their tenure. Constituents want the leader to succeed. As such we begin with a small about of change in our pockets. Each decision that helps our constituents puts more change in our pocket. Fulfilling what we promised puts lots of change in our pockets. Being persons of integrity puts still more in our pockets. Those decisions that are more unpopular or difficult take change out of our pocket. As a leader you always want to have change in your pocket. This is especially true as you approach a capital campaign to raise funds for some new venture. Sadly many leaders expend the change needlessly so that when they need to pull some out of their pocket it is empty. Having an empty pocket could result in raising far less than you need.
How can we avoid emptying out our pockets of the spare change we so desperately need?
Be decisive but not rash. While your followers are looking for leadership they want to know that they can trust you to make good and wise decisions. It is too easy to want to do something and thus do the wrong thing. As one friend of mine once said, “You need one foot on the accelerator and one foot on the brake!” The times we live in call for action. Make sure the actions you take are not knee jerk reactions that will only cause matters to get worse. Doing nothing is not an option but neither is doing something simply for the sake of doing something.
Be careful what you promise. Remember people have memories like elephants when it serves their purpose. That includes church members. Promises that you make will be remembered by your constituents. Each promise that you break robs you of spare change from your pocket. Over time they trust you less and less. I find that ministers are especially prone to make promises that are hard to keep. When you ask people to read your lips and promise one thing only to do another you lose change. What is at stake is your integrity. Integrity once lost is almost impossible to regain.
Never use the word never. I once worked with a church that had an elder board that many years ago said they would never take out a loan for anything. Consequently as they were nearing the completion of their new sanctuary many years after this statement the new board of elders took out a line of credit to finish the project. The result was a group in the church accused them of breaking their word even though they were not the elder board that made the commitment. While the new sanctuary is open and being enjoyed by everyone, even those that are angry about the short term loan, the church now has discord.
Remember never is a long time. Be careful what you say and what you promise. You never know what the future holds.
Decisions made in the past have long term affects. As the illustration above demonstrates you might live for years with the results of a bad decision. In my nearly twenty years in this industry I can tell you from experience that what often dooms a capital campaign are problems from past decisions that were never resolved. Like a rock thrown into a pond your decisions have a ripple effect.
Honesty truly is the best policy. We learned that saying as children why do we so quickly abandon it? I am a believer in full disclosure. You never have to back up from the truth. There is no other way to put change in your pocket with the people you lead than by simply telling the truth. While some things do have to be kept in confidence when it comes to matters like church finances I have found that full disclosure puts more change in leaders pockets than any thing else.
Almost daily we are reading about the hypocrisy of politicians in Washington. With every breaking story the public gets a little more cynical. Sadly we in the Christian world have our dirty laundry as well. Yet I find that on the local level people truly want to believe in their church and their leaders. With a little effort you can help build and restore confidence to this generation of believers. All it takes is keeping a little spare change in your pocket. Be a person of integrity and you will find that people will follow your lead.
So, be careful what you promise!
Mark Brooks – The Stewardship Coach