Business will save us! (Mollie)

I keep a Google News Alert out on the word “Lutheran” which yields many amazingly boring stories about church fundraisers and basketball games. But one story, a news release, caught my eye the other day:

CHARLESTON, S.C., Feb. 3 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — Blackbaud, Inc. (Nasdaq: BLKB) today announced that The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) will partner with the company on a multi-year project to change the organization’s strategic approaches to constituent relationship management, financial management, and online collaboration. With the aid of Blackbaud’s solutions and services, the LCMS will develop new business processes, procedures, and information systems to support a holistic view of the constituent.

It’s always nice when a press release reminds you of the, well, Inc. in LCMS, Inc. And I find it very funny that the C in CRM has changed from customer relationship management to constituent. That’s something that’s happened industry-wide but it tells you about the manner in which Synod operates. It treats its operations like a business.

It does sort of force the question of how that business is being run at the executive level. I mean, I don’t believe in judging “the church” by business standards. But if you did . . . how is it going? Or let’s just look at Ablaze(TM) and how much money is being spent on the program, how little is being raised in its support, and how ineffective it is. I wonder if LCMS, INC. thinks that CRM is the answer.

More from Dan at Necessary Roughness.


Business will save us! (Mollie) — 31 Comments

  1. Without doubt, the worst thing you can do for your C’s is to alienate and discount them. Second worst thing is to try to pry more money out of them and then waste what you have.

  2. More consultants. Yippee.

    How many more millions of what are euphemistically called “mission dollars” will be spent on this?

  3. Well, on the bright side, the partnership with Blackbaud may help provide new euphemisms and business fad buzzwords to replace the 6-to-12-month-out-of-date phrases typically used in LCMess publications and articles.

    On the other hand, the phrase, “holistic view of the constituent”, suggests for protection, when reading the latest synodical press releases, one should be wearing these.

  4. It would appear the “the Company” is flailing madly around to discern a reason for it’s own existence. Theoretically our infatuation with the Purpose-Driven Fad should have given us clear answers to this, yet, it goes to show how little meat is actually in that particular movement, especially with regards to “Why on earth is Church here?”

    Synod once existed solely for the purpose of mutual accountability to a common norm of the faith. Common missionaries and seminaries grew out of this organic relationship. But this purpose, clearly, can not be promoted, much less allowed anywhere near the current structure, as too many have willfully departed from it never to return. To drive for a real concordia will without question create an exodus (to Egypt, I might add.)

    So, they search and flail like any failing company to find a new product to justify it’s existence and to keep the non-liquid assets from vanishing out from under their feet. The deep and sad irony is that in searching for purpose, the company will only pursue more of the erring rabbit trails that got it to where it is now, and so, like MacBeth, who seeks to avoid his prophesied future, only achieve the actual bringing of it about.

    I, for one, cannot lay this solely at the feet of one man or one administration. This is a historical trend (which has washed over much of our country’s institutions, from churches to industry to the very government itself.) That Missouri has attached herself to the sinking American ship is a relic of an earlier generation than our own – no doubt unintentional, but real all the same.

    There is only one answer, and it will only emerge locally: teach the Word, in season and out. Rebuke, reprove, exhort, correct. Guard your life and doctrine closely. And don’t forget the prayer of the Church in every age: Lord have mercy …on us all.

  5. And herein lies the problem. If you are going to run a synod on the basis of a profit motive, efficiency, target markets and such things as that why call yourself a Church? The main purpose of the synod is to spread the Gospel and make disciples in all nations. It is doctrine and people oriented not profit and money oriented. I suppose on occasion, if you are trying to stay faithful to your calling you might have to operate in the black. It is the most absurd of things to try to run a Church like a business. They are not anything alike and never the twain should meet. East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet. Business is Business and Church is Church and never the twain shall meet. Sorry for my redundantcy (sp?- do not want to look it up)but it was intentional- we do not get it.

  6. I want to start by saying that I consider this trend 20 miles of bad road. Christ does not require His church to be successful, but faithful. Still, any Confessional w/ a mind to be as shrewd as a serpent could possibly use this language to get their Schwärmer DP off their backs:
    “Sir, I believe that I can build loyalty to the LC-MS brand, and stop backdoor losses by serving the niche market for more traditional spiritual services in our circuit. This could be a big win-win for the district. By providing a place w/ in the LC-MS brand for more traditional consumers of spiritual services we would retain their loyalty and resources, while facilitating your continual product-innovation by removing reactionary elements from your more seeker-focused communities.”
    Their purpose-driven hearts would melt, and their eyes brim over w/ tears, as they thankfully approve your “new business plan” to be a Word and Sacrament, cross-focused, Lutheran Congregation. It could happen.

    Pax Christi,
    -Matt Mills

  7. “change the organization’s strategic approaches to constituent relationship management, financial management, and online collaboration…. the LCMS will develop new business processes, procedures, and information systems to support a holistic view of the constituent.”

    So… much… jargon… (slumps over unconscious).

  8. Matt Mills (#6),

    That is absolutely brilliant! Maybe your approach will even wake the slumping Wilken.

    Pastor Rossow

  9. John Y asked: “If you are going to run a synod on the basis of a profit motive, efficiency, target markets and such things as that why call yourself a Church?”

    Actually the LCMess is not a Church, nor did it originally call itself a Church.

    At an 1847 Chicago organizational meeting of various German Lutheran congregations and pastors from Missouri, Ohio, and other states, the organization decided to call itself, not surprisingly, “Die Deutsche Evangelisch-Lutherische Synode von Missouri, Ohio und andern Staaten” (The German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States).

    In 1917 with WWI anti-German sentiment in the U.S., the Synod adopted the name “Die Evangelisch-Lutherische Synode von Missouri, Ohio und andern Staaten” (The Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States).

    In 1947, the name was changed to a confusing English phrase, “The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod,” which is more properly translated, “The Missouri Synod of Lutheran congregations and pastors” (Sorry, Ohio and other states.) Often, the synod is simply identified as the “Missouri Synod.”

  10. Carl,

    I guess I do not get your point. Are you saying that not calling LCMS a Church was intentional? Or, the governing structure of the Church was incorporated as a business for a variety of reasons and then should be run as a business? Was the governing structure set up as a business and is it separate from the local congregations? Or, is that a loophole that the current leadership in the synod is using to their advantage?

  11. “Hello, my name is Pastor Dave, and I’m a recovering consultant.” “Hi, Pastor Dave!”

    It’s true; before I went to the seminary, people used to pay $2,200 per day for the benefit of my considerable experience and impeccable wisdom to analyze their organizations, re-structure their operations, streamline their processes, and all that other nifty stuff that makes a business “more efficient” and more competitive in their marketplace. Heck, I’m still burning off frequent flyer miles.

    Then, seminary. One thing I learned there (and it seems many in the LCMS have forgotten or choose to ignore) is that while we are certainly to be good stewards of the temporal resources God provides us, we are also to remember that the Church is God’s holy people. That’s “holy”… as in “set apart” from the pagan masses and the ways of the world. Church is to be unique and different from the secular world in sight, sound, smell, feel, and attitude. We are not to position and market and sell (out) the Gospel for the sake of being more appealing to people–whether inside or outside the Church. We instead PROCLAIM the Gospel, in all its mystery and irrationality and offensiveness, and trust that God the Holy Spirit moves hearts to faith as He determines.

    Two points to make about the hiring of the Blackbaud folks, who I’m sure are quite competent at what they do and shouldn’t be guilty by association:
    1. It’s a shame that so much additional money will be spent to determine how to cater to (read: placate) our consituencies when there is so little money being effectively spent on providing “the one thing needful.”
    2. Trying to figure out our shortcomings and opportunities as an organization doesn’t require outside consultants–the LCMS already has both the theological and the worldly talent in-house to do that. The trouble is: Too many don’t want to hear what those problems are and to deal with them, because it’s not the answer they seek.

    Some phenomena I dealt with regularly as a consultant were: (a) organizational leadership who spent large sums of money on their pet activities which had little hope of providing results that were meaningful to the organization’s purpose; and (b) a refusal to listen to those inside the organization who presented information or ideas contrary to their personal preferences or agendas. Ironically, we as consultants often could identify the disgruntled or suppressed constituencies within the organization, learn of their valid concerns and ideas, and (as “outsiders”) enlist their support and package and present their ideas in a way that became acceptable to the leadership. I’m not confident that’s a likely scenario in the case of the LCMS, however.

    I love Brother Mills’ idea to draw together those who wish to focus on being scriptural, confessional congregations… we could become the “Saturn” of the LCMS (vis-a-vis the Chevy/Pontiac/Buick/Cadillac of the other bunch). Where this analogy breaks down, however, is that the rest of General Motors actually learned something from the Saturn model of running a car division, but the overall auto company is still foundering today because it continued to move down the path of trying to be all things to all customers instead of focusing on the essentials and doing them well.

  12. “Constituent relationship management”

    Does that mean us pewsitters?

    All the CRM’s I know presently, are confessional Pastors who have been forced out of their parishes. There are too many.

    Has anybody told Jerry that there is no bailout for “misery” members whose jobs are shaky or already gone?
    Blackbaud has ensured itself a contract, but who is going to be borrowed from to pay them?

  13. I love the comments! This is the best ever! Now if only someone in the Purple Palace would tell the emperor and his sycophants that he has no clothes on.

    My poor additon to the conversation would be this: If the LCMS were to be judged by business standards it would file chapter 11 and request a government bailout money. (I mean, if porn folk and request it why can’t religious Incs.?

  14. constituent |kənˈsti ch oōənt|
    1. a member of a constituency.
    2. a component part of something : the essential constituents of the human diet.

    The congregations and pastors of the LCMS are now mere parts. LCMS Inc. is the whole.

    Completely backward.

  15. Put in my place again!
    Not a “constituent” but just one of the [dumb] blokes who is expected to pay for the consultant…and all else at the Violet Vatican.

  16. I’m with Pastor Wilken on the jargon.
    I nearly failed a business class in college for lack of understanding of all the business jargon. I naively expected someone to translate it for me.
    Oddly, not one could.
    Or maybe, if they explained it so I understood it, they’d have to kill me.
    Would it be too much to simply ask this new ‘partner’ [Blackbaud, Inc. (Nasdaq: BLKB)]: WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

  17. “I guess I do not get your point.”

    My point is, “Actually the LCMess is not a Church, nor did it originally call itself a Church.”

  18. There’s an article advertised on the LCMS website’s home page about how St. Louis has declared LCMS,Inc. one of the top employers in the St. Louis area re: best perks, best benefits, and best upward mobility.

    On the same home page is an article telling how Lutheran Blind Missions is having to suspend many of its projects due to a decrease in funding.

  19. “There’s an article advertised on the LCMS website’s home page about how St. Louis has declared LCMS,Inc. one of the top employers in the St. Louis area re: best perks, best benefits, and best upward mobility.”

    From the article itself, a quote from the CAO of LCMS Inc.:

    “As an organization, we have a very nurturing environment. Since we focus on caring for people, we also care for each other. The whole concept really comes through as a corporate culture,” Schultz said.”

    AND, from the LCMS website treatment:

    The LCMS was named one St. Louis’ top employers in the category of “Best Company Culture.”

    The LCMS Inc. portrayed in the article and at the website bears no resemblance to the corporation that employed me for 9 years, nor to the corporation that is presently threatening to sue me.


  20. [Nasdaq:BLKB] only means that their stock is traded on Nasdaq; you are supposed to be impressed. [Maybe you should; it’s gone up when Wall St went down lately.] 🙁
    Bank patrons were still “customers” last August in the Bankers’ Association magazine.

    “‘Treat people the way you want to be treated’ is not only an ethical way to operate, it can yield a payoff” –Fred Reichheld, Bain’s Loyalty Practice

    “With strong top-down commitment, you can institutionalize putting you and the customer on the same side. You can do well by doing good.” –Dick Bettinger Schwab
    Article: “Measuring customer engagement.” Bielski, Lauren, ABA BANKING JOURNAL Vol.100 No.8, Aug. 2008

    They sound more ‘Christian’ than some Christians (but they have both eyes on the bottom line). 😉

  21. Where was all that brotherly “caring” when CPH fired 13 just before Christmas?

    (Yes, I know, we were supposed to be too busy shopping their catalog to notice, but one was a personal friend. No, not the one who talked to the TV cameras.)

  22. Pr. Wilken: The LCMS Inc. portrayed in the article and at the website bears no resemblance to the corporation that employed me for 9 years, nor to the corporation that is presently threatening to sue me.

    Didn’t the administration get a resolution passed at the last convention saying that lawsuits are a gross violation of synodical bylaws (which could result in discipline of members)? Does that not apply to them too?

  23. Carl,

    I do not know enough about non-profit service organizations to comment further. And I really do not know enough about this whole mess to comment intelligently. But I do know that Church’s get themselves in trouble when the business aspects take precedence over their main mission. The order should be mission first, business concerns second.

    It seems to me that the whole scope of LCMS should be rethought and those involved should become more knowledgable and concerned about the legal ramifications of how the incorporated synod functions. Clear boundaries should be set for the synod and those whom the synod governs.

  24. “Constituent relationship management”

    In light of the example of Pastor Wilken’s and Jeff’s treatment by Synod, Inc. I am not sure I want to be a constituent of a synod who manages their relationships this way. If they already think their corporate culture is so good, I doubt that it will change with our without more consultants. The only hope is that Christ can change the hearts of those with authority in this corporation. I pray they repent and that they don’t harden their hearts more than they appear to have already.

  25. In the news release discovered by Mrs. Hemingway it states that the LCMS “supports more than 800 missionaries in nearly 90 countries around the globe”. 800 Missionaries? I thought we were bringing more and more missionaries home.

    Also from that news release it said the LCMS contact person was Vicki Biggs [[email protected]]. I e-mailed her asking:
    What is the cost (how much money) for the project with Blackbaud, Inc?
    How many years in the multi-year project?

  26. J.R.,

    The LCMS runs something called missionary tourism. These are usually something like week-long trips that people pay for themselves and during their visits to, say, Poland, they might teach a class on how to speak English.

    And then the LCMS counts them as missionaries.

    I think there are like 600+ of these.

    There is only a small handful — a few dozen — of missionaries doing actual word and sacrament ministry. The rest are tourists, long-term English teachers, medical support, etc.

  27. Mollie, thanks. Rather shocking misrepresentation for a press release from a church. I wonder what the real statistics–or metrics, as I think lcmsINC calls them–on the categories of what they call ‘missionaries’. What we could be doing (see Matthew Harrison’s ‘It’s Time’, p.5 for example) and what we are apparently doing…is simply painful.

  28. I just found this on “Board Briefs, Vol.2, No. 7 Oct. 2008”
    Total expense of $4,509,000 to Blackbaud’s was/is mainly to purchase new softward for fundraising. I didn’t understand that from the press release.

    I can’t find things till I just stumble upon them. And then I don’t know what it means. Is this reasonable? I have not idea.

    “New Computer Software Systems
    Because the current fundraising software being used by the Synod is at the end of its life cycle, and because
    “constituent relationship management” is critical for the Synod in obtaining the necessary financial and human resources to carry out its mission, the Board of Directors
    reviewed and adopted a proposal for the implementation of new software for fundraising and other needs. The total cost of $4,509,000 includes software for fundraising ($3,571,000),finance ($707,000), and human resources and payroll ($231,000). Blackbaud’s fundraising software,
    Enterprise Constituent Relationship Management, was selected for purchase because of its capability to extend and expand the ability of the Synod to serve its donors and constituents and engage them personally, prayerfully, and financially.
    Blackbaud’s finance software, Financial Edge, was selected for purchase because it will provide full integration with the fundraising software system and will improve basic
    finance management functionality for the Synod.
    Ultipro’s human resources and payroll software, Ultimate Online Ultipro HR/Payroll Service, will improve functionality and reduced technology and payroll support costs.
    The purchases and utilization of the new software will result in an annual expense increase of approximately
    $200,000, including annual depreciation for the capitalized costs.”

  29. I imagine this is a dead thread but…I got an answer from Vicki Biggs…today…a remarkable quick answer compared to my past experiences [2/8 – 2/12]:

    Fees for the recently announced multi-year project with Blackbaud to replace aging LCMS business systems and implement more efficient and effective systems will be $4.5 million. For a breakdown of this figure and a comparison to current expenses, please read more about this project in the LCMS Board of Directors minutes here: Look for the header “73. Action Items” and “A. New Constituent Relationship Management, Finance, & Human Resources Software Systems” in the middle of page 9 in the document.

    Timelines and project plans are still being completed, so it would be premature at this point to specify a number of years from start to finish. The project is multi-faceted and each system or piece of the project will operate on its own timeline — systems will be replaced and new ones implemented in phases rather than linear calendar years.

    There is more information about this project in a Reporter news story here:

  30. From experience such costs are in-line for the product. Why Synod, Inc. needs the fundraising equipment of say a Red Cross or AARP is beyond me when the only funds should be coming from the congregations because the congregations WANT to support Synod, Inc.

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