“You spent money on what?”, he screamed at me over the phone!
One of the challenges for people who raise funds for ministry is the delicate balance held as ministry money is managed. I deal with this daily. Let me see if I can put this balancing act into perspective.
I run a household….(more commonly referred to as a mega-household), multiple ministries, and my “personal money”. I don’t receive a salary, however, I do have some money designated to my needs and other money “exclusively for Mark”. But the lines are blurry because I live at the Youth Ranch Home. 90% of the food that I consume is bought, cooked, and eaten along with the boys. I don’t pay rent or electric because that’s all part of home expenses. I even use ministry toilet paper, toothpaste, and soap which could be considered graft and fraud….any lawyer want to correct me?
Each day I must decide where to spend ministry money. Every penny is thought out. But when it comes to traveling to Guatemala City, do I use my funds, or ministry funds? When I invite a boy out to eat, is that personal or ministry? Is it a wise use of a $30 donation to purchase a fan to cool down my loft, or is that money better spent buying a boy a pair of shoes? Do I splurge and buy the boys ice cream on Sunday, or instead buy cement blocks to complete a boy’s room….or help Henry (our builder) put another sheet of sheet metal on his house….or help the Ortiz brothers buy food for a week for their mother…..or change the oil in the pickup truck….or purchase another four laying hens…..or pay the internet bill….or……
Some days I find myself stuck. Some days I can’t make a decision like this by myself and I have to call for help from a board member. I’ve tried to ask “What Would Jesus Do?” However, often this doesn’t help much either. Jesus didn’t have internet or a pickup truck. (Not sure he had toothpaste or toilet paper either?) Any theologian want to help with this? Many decisions lead to 1. Invest, 2. Survive, or 3. Help someone in need. But often for every donation we receive, there are a couple dozen great choices on where to spend it. Is purchasing $30 of dark chocolate to keep me sane for the next ten days a “wise investment”, a “mental health need”, or “an obvious waste of ministry funds”?
I think that one of the greatest fears we face in ministry is that we will make a bad financial decision and be judged for that. When we lose money due to circumstances out of our control, we feel guilty, and that “we have failed the Lord”. When we spend money on something personal, we feel “we are cheating our supporters” or “misappropriating funds for personal use”. Today I am sitting at a cheap hotel on the beach, a much needed day of rest. And yet, I keep thinking of other ways I could be spending the money that will go to paying for food and a hotel room for the night.
I recently shared these thoughts with a friend and he gave me a simple response.
“Live humbly and share your life and love with others. When you feel God is leading you to help others, do so. You feel guilty about the 10% you spend on yourself, when you should feel honored for the 90% you spend on others. Don’t feel guilty about taking care of yourself once and awhile. Instead, be proud that you have dedicated a major part of your life, love, and resources on helping others in need”.
What I have said for years is that I am simply a conduit through which believers can invest in the lives of other people. I’m blessed to be given the opportunity to pour so much into the lives of young men in need. And I’m blessed each and every day with the resources that God trusts in my hands. I am so thankful for every person who joins this journey with the Lord and I and as we face each day’s challenges, and as we show HIS love and HIS hope through our lives.
“You spent money on what?”, he screamed at me over the phone! “ Yes, I spent $30 on dark chocolate and as of now, everyone at the Youth Ranch Home are still alive and well….but when the chocolate runs out…..you may have to have me institutionalized….and that won’t be as cheap as chocolate!”
Mark W. Wakefield is the International Director of Zona Juvenil Ministries. He is a motivator, an author, and the father to (today) twenty-two boys ages 8 through 24 who call the Youth Ranch Home in Western Guatemala, their home.