When Building a Team, Don’t Settle for Cheap Substitutes

By on March 1, 2008   /   Leave a comment

Before the days of Mapquest and GPS, I remember poring over a map and predicting I could shave 40 miles and 60 minutes off our road trip. Projecting supreme confidence, I exited the interstate to “cut the corner,” anticipating speeding along a lonely country road, and getting to our destination in record time. But, after spending two long hours crawling through dinky little towns, getting stuck behind hay trailers, and wearing out a set of brakes on a myriad of hairpin turns, I finally had to admit to my now frustrated passengers that I was a total idiot—and we were going to be an hour late rather than an hour early!

Why is it we seem to always seek out the easiest, quickest, and least painful way to accomplish something? Maybe you, like me, rejected your mom’s old-fashioned warning of “haste makes waste,” stubbornly insisting your way would be better and faster. Don’t feel alone; from Henry Ford mass producing Model T’s to the “get rich quick” tech stock day traders of the 90’s, we Americans want it, and we want it now! Sadly, many Christian workers have been lured into this thinking too, and instead of paying the price in time, money, and effort to diligently establish a deep, solid, long-term support team that will last a lifetime, they desperately look for shortcuts. They’re really just “cheap substitutes” that initially look good on the outside, but may very well bring disappointment down the road. Here are three examples:

1. Banquets
Everyone loves a good meal, speaker, and slide show. We’ve all experienced the heart-tugging appeal, the filling out of the commitment card, and the gregarious emcee shouting out the grand total raised. These are fun and can increase awareness, but some organizations spend more time planning funding events (banquets, golf tourneys, auctions, etc.) than they do fulfilling the witnessing and discipling goals of their ministry! I can promise you that spending 20 hours planning a big bash will not produce a fraction of the results that 20 one-hour support appointments will. And many of the same people who write the obligatory $75 “one-time” checks at banquet time would be the same ones who would commit to investing $100 to $150 per month if someone took the time and courage to meet with and ask them—individually.

2. Church Tours
Some Christian workers pack up their family and materials and go from town to town, church to church sharing about their ministry and needs. Their theory is that if they can just preach enough rousing sermons, apply to enough mission committees, and get enough folks to sign their newsletter list that full support is right around the corner; frantically praying, of course, the “love offerings” somehow cover all the fast food, cheap hotels, and gasoline bills! But instead of producing strong monthly support teams, these (6, 12, 18(?) month) ill-advised “vision trips” usually result in nothing more than worn-out kids, disillusioned spouses, and broken-down cars.

3. Pledge Cards
I know many Christian workers who mail or hand pledge cards to donors, but I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why. What is their purpose? Some say they act as a “silent reminder” continuing to make the ask on our behalf. But if, every single time, your M.O. is to meet with them face to face, ask them to come on your team, (if need be) call them back for a decision, and then come by and pick up the first check, please tell me what a pledge card does for you?!

Friends, here’s my admonition: Don’t ever do ANYTHING that substitutes for the personal, one-on-one approach. Don’t hide behind fancy banquets, whirlwind church tours, or colorful pledge cards. Think for a moment: How would you want to be approached and treated? Here’s a rule to go by: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.


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