Green Eyeshades and Rose Colored Glasses

By Dan Hotchkiss

Congregational budget-makers frequently divide into two camps that approach the task in different ways. The first camp is likely to include children of the Great Depression, experts in finance, elementary school teachers, and persons anxious about their own money situation. Their first priority is to make sure that the budget balances and that the congregation makes no plans or commitments it is less than 100 percent certain it can meet. They squint over budget sheets like bookkeepers of old with their bright lamps and shoulder garters—I call this camp the Green Eyeshades.

The second camp typically includes young clergy, upscale decorators, Baby Boomers, college professors, and commission salespeople. They firmly believe that with God (or even without God) all things are possible. They say, “We are a congregation, not a business.” This camp can be identified at budget meetings mostly by their absence. When shanghaied into talking about money, they glaze over. Staring at a distant sunrise, they float over the surface of numerical reality—I call them the Rose-Colored Glasses.

The division between the Eyeshades and the Glasses is as old as Mary and Martha, Moses and Aaron, Job and Job’s wife. It is as deeply rooted in our culture as the duality of secular and sacred, temporal and spiritual. There is nothing wrong with it, so long as people see themselves as members of one team and value one another’s contributions. But too often, the division becomes rigid—one group always thinks of ways to spend more money; the other always says we can’t afford it. It certainly forms part of the tension between clergy called to transform lives and boards elected to control purse strings—especially when they understand their roles that way.

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Alban Institute article | May 2009

About the Author

Dan Hotchkiss

Dan Hotchkiss writes, consults, and speaks widely for congregations and other nonprofits. His specialties include board governance, strategic and financial planning, clergy transition, and fundraising. As a senior consultant for the Alban Institute for fourteen years, and now as an independent...

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