Modern Societies and Infrastructure
Modern societies require a huge amount of infrastructure. So much so that it is often taken for granted. Many unseen aspects of a prosperous society are absolutely essential to that prosperity. They include such things as the electrical grid, roads, bridges, railroads, gas lines, water mains, communication cables, towers and much more. Because much of this infrastructure is hidden away, at least from the casual or untrained eye, politicians often ignore the repairs to, and expansion of this very important sector.
One of the things I have appreciated about Israel is an amazing commitment to infrastructure. The Galilee region is being developed with many new roads that will allow expanded Jewish settlement. Our Prime Minister has committed himself to a good road system and to railroads connecting every significantly large town. Though it has taken a long time, we hope in three years to have a fast rail link between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv (30 minutes). All of this is essential to the economic prosperity of Israel.
Ministries also have infrastructure. What is infrastructure for a ministry? First of all, this is a capable staff. When I began our ministry in Chicago, in a small congregation, Patty and I were the staff. We did the newsletter together, used the old metal plate addressograph machine, mimeo-machine and more. Does anyone remember those technologies? In Washington, with a larger congregation and working as president of our national union of congregations, we needed a quality administrator-secretary. Two of those who filled this position were outstanding. Sadly, one was extremely incompetent. In just one month of incompetence, problems were created that took many months to solve. We were in deep trouble for a season. What a lesson!
Tikkun International as a corporation came into existence as a service organization to establish Eitan Shishkoff and Asher Intrater in Israel. This was a new direction for us. I was not totally unfamiliar with some of the aspects of it, since we did some degree of this management for the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations when I was the General Secretary (1985-88). However, we now had a more consistent monthly newsletter to send. We also chose the best mail management system we could find.
Being the pastor of Beth Messiah, leading a small network of congregations and also working as the Director of Operations for Tikkun International was crushing for me and inefficient. At that time, Ted Simon, the Messianic Rabbi of El Shaddai Congregation in Frederick, Maryland came with a word of warning concerning my health and the intensity of the burden. It was imperative that I give the job of Director of Operations to someone else. But how could I afford to hire such a person? The ministry was growing. Other emissaries were joining us and moving to Israel, Russia and Ukraine.
Then the most unexpected thing happened. John Kelly, the leader of the Antioch network of churches met with David C. Rudolph and I. John gave David a prophetic word that he was to put his ministry (Gateways Beyond) on hold and become my first Director of Operations with a very limited salary package. David is a prophetic brother and does not thrive in administration, but he gave himself to it. He was given a special grace to do it well and oversaw a staff of four full and part time people! However, I needed to learn one more lesson. That lesson was to fund an adequate income for operations to keep an excellent staff with sufficient morale to do the job with gusto. I needed more training.
We soon connected to a ministry called Calvary International in Jacksonville, Florida. Calvary had great influence through planting congregations in Russia, Ukraine and South America. These dear folks under Daniel Williams and George Myers received us with open arms. They offered to train our new emissaries for their friend-raising work and to prepare them for the pressures of foreign service. George imparted his wisdom to us concerning the necessary infrastructure to serve the emissaries.
There are certain things that must be done to serve the emissaries well. Their funds need to be managed with quality and integrity. (We were already committed to quality audits.) The mail list of each emissary needed to be tracked efficiently so that each emissary could be aware of, and stay in touch with his supporters. Office equipment and technology needed regular upgrading. In addition, mailings, receipting, communication and office contact all required admin staff that could manage these tasks with excellence.
Calvary International studied many ministries and found that doing the work of operations cost on the average of 20% per emissary. Calvary required 10% of funds from each emissary to perform these services. George raised the other 10% for operations. He noted that business people understood this and would give to it.
Tikkun now has its fourth Director of Operations since my days as this role. Today, this role belongs to my son Benjamin. He is really bringing us up to date through the best technology for mailing, web management and so much more. His years in the business world were excellent preparation. Our staff is flourishing under his leadership.
Don’t Skimp on Operations
Since our time with George, many have written on the foundational importance of quality infrastructure to enable all the emissaries and ministry leaders to succeed. Recently, Tikkun was approved as a member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. This wonderful organization has published very good articles on the issues of operations. They urge ministries not to skimp on infrastructure or operations. To do so is to lose out on income growth for the ministry over the long haul. Better Business Bureau accepts that 30% of income is reasonable for such operations. For the last several years, we have done the work of operations at 10% of income. This is amazing. Yet, we are stretched and if overall funds decline in recessions, then we are on the edge. Somehow God has always come through for us
The operations portfolio is the poor child of many ministries. It is essential, but in the background. It is not charismatically exciting. People want to give to support the evangelist, the planter, prophet or a great teacher. Yet operations are so essential. I would like to see more of a cushion. We have been spending reserves this year. We are not alarmed or afraid. However, it would be a real blessing if some of our donors would give some extra, just for operations. Such gifts serve all the ministries and emissaries connected to Tikkun. It is a step of ministry maturity to embrace operations in a deeper way!
If you are familiar with my monthly articles than you know this is a very unusual article for me to write. My brothers on the Tikkun International Board encouraged me to write you and inform you of our need, and I have consented to do so. We are very grateful for all of your support, why not consider a special extra gift just for operations.