Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Leading in a Time of Financial Crisis 4

Rudolph Giuliani, the mayor of New York City during the 9/11 bombings, makes a telling comment in his book, Leadership. ‘By its very nature, budgeting requires one to predict the future’.

It has been our pattern at King’s to budget on the basis of past trends and taken into account our numerical growth. In the last 3 months I have reflected on this practice at considerable length, and although it is difficult to let go of a growth strategy that has proved successful, and even to go against one of our well-tried principles, ‘staff for growth or even over-staff for growth’, different times call for a different leadership strategy.

The future has become so much less predictable that we have to adjust to the new economic reality. Therefore, at Kings we have changed to a more cautious financial planning position. I summarize below.

Rather than staff on the strength of the current growth curve and past trends, we are operating on a new basis – ‘See the giving increase first, and then employ the new staff.’ This could mean we staff 12 to 18 months later than we would have done historically.

Research has shown that Christian giving holds up well in times of recession, as Christians give out of income, not from borrowing. However, in a situation where up to 10% of a congregation could be made redundant, regular giving to the church may plateau or even decline.

In the face of all this, I am no less confident than before that God will provide - we know that we always have a responsibility to play our part in stewarding His resources well. If we do this we can lead our churches through uncertain times and emerge all the stronger at the point where we begin to see all the economic indicators moving upwards – however long that might take. And it is our intention to revert to our original leadership strategy, 'staff for growth', once the economic climate improves!