tMichaelB is the web site for Tom Bengtson, who writes about business, religion, family and politics.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Too much faith, not enough reality?

A while back, the local alternative weekly newspaper ran this interesting feature about a woman who opened up a storefront Prayer Center in North Minneapolis. The article describes the center as a spiritual oasis in an otherwise rough-and-rumble part of the city. I read it and thought, "good for her," referring to Jariland Spence, the woman running place.

Earlier this week, this little item ran on a local TV station. Seems the Prayer Center fell behind on its rent and the landlord is evicting Ms. Spence. Understandable, but seems kind of sad.

I think this is an interesting story, because so often non-profits divorce themselves from financial reality. It works for a while, but reality always catches up with you.

I have been involved with non-profit organizations where the mindset was "We are doing God's work; God provides." They used that thinking to avoid developing a viable business plan -- one that limited expenses to actual revenue, or raised enough revenue to cover expenses. I would argue that we needed to work harder to match expenses and revenue, only to be accused of lacking faith. I don't really know whether my faith is sufficient, I just know that you can't outspend your revenue for very long and expect to stay in business.

So I wonder about Jeriland Spence's case. Did she not take the fund-raising aspect of her venture seriously enough? Is the landlord a bad guy for booting out someone who is doing God's work? Did Spence rely too much on faith and not enough on donations? Can you have too much faith? Is God not providing in this case? Or does He simply have some other plan for Spence and that store front?

I don't have the answers but I am fascinated by the questions.

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