Poor Talk: Is it Poisoning Your Ministry?

By on November 1, 2004   /   Leave a comment

Question: What do college students standing in line at the dining hall have in common with a group of Christian ministry staff sitting around the coffee shop? Answer: They’re all complaining-one group about the food and the other about finances. Many Christian ministries are infested with people who are constantly whining about how much things cost, what they don’t have, or how tight their budget is. They’re drowning in an ocean of discontent and don’t even realize it!

This pity party called “poor talk” surfaces in the form of joking (“Maybe we’ll finally get to go out to dinner at the marriage feast in heaven!”), in hinting (“We’re hoping to get the air conditioner fixed when our support increases”), and in comparing (“Sure would be nice to send our kids to a Christian school like the Newtons do”).

I giggle when I hear a poor talker respond to compliments with their brand of disclaimers. They feel compelled to tell us their new shirt was on sale, their new camera was bought with tax refunds, and their vacation was because of an internet coupon!

And instead of using our ministry newsletters to communicate vision and changed lives, we’re tempted to manipulate the sympathies of our donors by sneaking poor talk into the “Prayer Request” section: (i.e. Pray that God would provide for our kids’ dental needs. Pray someone would give us a computer. Pray our mission funds come in by December 1st, etc…).

This “poor me” attitude robs us of the dignity of our position and casts us as beggars in our supporters’ eyes. Instead of just going out and inviting others (face to face) to invest in us and our ministry, we rationalize, blame our circumstances, and slip into denial. This is usually when the credit cards come out! Other toxic consequences include:

1. Poor talk poisons ministry morale:
When people are more focused on saving pennies at the grocery store than they are winning the world to Christ, they have lost sight of the vision.

2. Poor talk poisons our view of spirituality:
The opposite ditch from the health and wealth gospel is the “being poor is more spiritual” perspective. This kind of theology is why some Christian workers are still driving that broken down ’69 Subaru-and bragging about it!

3. Poor talk poisons staff recruitment:
The fastest way to drive off potential staff candidates is for them to get a small (yet lethal) dose of poor talk from your co-workers. Most people want to join a team that is strong spiritually, emotionally-and financially.

I know there are stresses and pressures in living on support, but the solution for you and your staff is to set a healthy budget and then go out and raise 100% of the funds in order to fully support your family and win this spiritual battle we are engaged in-and then do away with all poor talk!


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