On Getting It Right, Instead of Just Being Right
I had a bad experience at a church one time over how much money to give to outreach. So, here’s what happened: the church I was serving had a tradition of giving 20% of the budget to outreach—a practice for which I actually have great respect. The problem was that times were lean. We were going to have to propose a deficit budget, which included a freeze on staff salaries. But some of the people in the congregation were adamant that we hold to the 20% line item for outreach, despite the freeze.
I argued that holding to tradition on this practice just because it was a tradition communicated the wrong thing. Essentially, I tried to say that what the staff (and the rest of the congregation, for that matter) couldn’t help but hear was that revering the congregation’s legacy counted for more than taking care of the people who had given so much already to keep the congregation running as smoothly as possible under difficult conditions. I argued that congregations need the flexibility to revise traditions when those traditions wind up inadvertently causing harm.
I was indignant.