If you had half a million dollars, what would you do with it?

In my last post, I mentioned a “confidential” report that was commissioned in conjunction with the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance.

The “confidential” report is referenced on pages 17-19 of the Final BRTFSSG Report (PDF) that was released by President Kieschnick’s office last October.

The Task Force noted, “In July 2007, the task force engaged Bredholt & Co. and Epley Research & Consulting to gain a better understanding of the church body’s perceptions of the need for change— particularly in the areas of organizational development and process improvement. This study was in addition to research previously conducted by the task force.”

However, other than four recommendations listed in the Final BRTFSSG Report, no one other than President Kieschnick and the task force members had seen what the consultant had actually said. People familiar with the report say that it is not all favorable to President Kieschnick’s recommendations for the Synod. In fact, the consultant notes that some of President Kieschnick’s recommendations for the Synod are “wedge issues,” meaning that his recommendations are more likely to divide the Synod than unite it. I hope to report much more on this by this weekend.

I also managed to get a hold of the invoice for the special consultant (click here to see it for yourself). Synodical leadership spent nearly $500,000 for a 132-page report that provides recommendations (many of which President Kieschnick and his task force ignored) on how to “sell” the BRTFSSG to the Synod. President Kieschnick frequently talks about reducing waste and increasing efficiency for the sake of Missions. I agree with him about that need. I just don’t see how spending $500,000 on a confidential report in order to figure out how to sell an undesired change to Synod achieves that.

And, sad to say, this $500,000 doesn’t even count many of the other costs associated with the BRTF. The final report was produced by a different consultant, for instance. And there were how many regional district gatherings where delegates spent days being encouraged to accept these proposals? And then there were a few years worth of periodical meetings (including airfare and lodging) for just the members of the task force itself. They also hired another consultant to sort of develop the proposals and there was a lot of internal time spent at the International Center as well. I’m sure there are also untold expenses associated with campaigning for passage and selling the final proposals just at the national convention itself.

And now that they’re in the final push and have seen tremendous pushback from all these districts, circuits, boards and individual congregations, who knows what Kieschnick and Co. are spending on “toning down” the proposals and moderating them to make them seem more palatable (and, perhaps, save their own hides)?


If you had half a million dollars, what would you do with it? — 27 Comments

  1. sadly, if I had half-a-million I’d probably buy a nice (but rather modest) house on Long Island. 🙂

    but, yes. A few missionaries (or tuition for about 30 seminarians) vs. (essentially) political consultants.


  2. Let’s ask a theologian (e.g. Matt Harrison?) what he would do with $500,000.

    I just finished viewing the Christ Have Mercy companion DVD. I don’t remember anything about needing outside consultants to tell him how to do anything.

  3. I would like to see a grand total that Synod has spent on consultants and lawsuits in the past 9 years.

  4. I just got back from “A Congress on the Lutheran Confessions’ held in Bloomington, MN. I believe I have this correct: It was said that the Synodical Mission Board would not be giving $10,000 to the Lutheran Seminary in Ghana leaving it and their 17 students in a bad situation. … Rev. John Fehrmann told us Confessional Lutheran Education Foundation has an opportunity to publish Luther’s Small Catechism in ALBANIA(!) Projected cost: less than a dollar per copy. … I wish I had some of those consultant fees just for such projects. What Mollie has uncovered saddens me. … Pastor Harrison spoke and was just great. When he talked about what our seminaries could be doing for world Lutheranism; everyone stood and aplauded! And rightly so.

  5. Monday is my “day off” from the pastoral responsibilities. While I am on the golf course, I’m going to make a phone call to ask for a copy of the Bredholt & Co. report. Perhaps it might be a good idea for a few people to do this.

  6. Likewise Monday is my day off and I too would call but I cannot hold the cell phone, hold my cigar and drive the golf cart all at the same time.

    BTW – Bethany, Naperville is such a wonderful place. One of the secretaries has a friend who is a cigar officianado. The other day she gave me a $15 cigar that she got from him. It’s a tough job but somebody has to do it.

    BTW #2 – Congratulations to Pastor Ball who just became a “daddy” again on Monday.


  7. President Kieschnick frequently talks about reducing waste and increasing efficiency for the sake of Missions. I agree with him about that need. I just don’t see how spending $500,000 on a confidential report in order to figure out how to sell an undesired change to Synod achieves that.

    At district convention, I asked (submitted a written question, to be more precise) about the high cost of fundraising in the LCMS. His response was essentially that that’s how much it costs to raise money and that’s that. I would imagine that anyone on the task force would have much the same reply – and also point out that the consulting fees for the task force were covered by a Thrivent grant.

    Sometimes I wonder, as we examine all of these prices, if we aren’t like some of my neighbors to the south. I was talking with the owner of the restaurant in that little town the other day, and she was talking about some of the feedback she has received from her customers, how it is “highway robbery” for her to charge a whole $4 for a quarter pound cheeseburger and a basket full of fries – that meal was only worth $2! Do we really have experience in pricing these sorts of things that our Synod is spending money on?

    Then again, if we had the same cost margin on “fundraising” in my congregation as we do in Synod, we would be paying our financial secretary and ushers about $53,000 per year!

  8. Slightly off-topic, but….

    For the Ablaze! program, how were the consultant’s fees computed and paid by LCMS?

    1) A flat fee or series of fees

    2) A percentage of actual proceeds from the Ablaze! program

    3) A percentage of the target goal of the Ablaze! program

    And if it was a percentage, what was the percentage?

    In Hollywood, the agents take 15%……..

  9. With $500,000, one choice might be saving a radio station or two.

    I see Mr. Kuchta was copied. They surely needed the money from selling off radio channels for this report.

    Maybe there’s plausible deniability. I see these geniuses sent the letter to “1333 S. Kirkman Road”.

  10. Looking at the invoice,

    ” 3. This revision would also extend the amount of time Bredholt & Co. would be involved with the project. The current work calendar ends December 31, 2009. With this change the relationship with the Task Force would go through June 30,2010.

    This extension is just shy of the Synod Convention scheduled for the first part of July 2010. Perhaps a daily fee and expense arrangement for the time in Houston, Texas could be worked out if requested to be there. ”

    A “daily fee and expense arrangement for the time in Houston” is suggested??

    Does anyone know if the consultants are remaining part of the process currently? Are they in fact going to have a presence in Houston? Are they going to participate in the upcoming floor commiittee meetings?

  11. Hey thanks TR, Elijah Benjamin got himself baptized on Wednesday and the holy cigar smoke was all around (in the garage) afterward, along with cocktails of course. Sadly, he was in the house with his mother. All things in due time.

    Regarding the fees, it seems to me that the Board of Directors needs to be asked a few questions regarding these expenditures. You can’t go pleading poor all the time and then spend money in such a frivolous way. Imagine if the pastor and the church council did such things in the parish with “confidential documents” and such.

  12. It would be helpful to know to whom the names Epley, Taylor, and Schein refer. They share a total of ca. 20% ($100K) of the funding.

    Bredolt & Co. http://www.strategist.com/aboutus.html is based in Florida. The web site provides an overview of their services (see list below.) Possibly one of them might now be more relevant than the purpose(s) for which they were originally engaged.

    Leadership Development
    Succession Management
    Leadership Agenda
    Board Development
    Corporate Communications
    Executive Education Workshops
    Group Facilitation & Retreats

  13. Also regarding the BRTF’s contract with them .. it was evidently for $500,000 .. and they are reducing FY2009 by $42,000, so why does that give the BRTF the authority to spend another $42,000 in FY2010? If the contract ended 12/31/2009, why doesn’t it end then?

    Just askin …

  14. Board minutes of May 15-17, 2003: Resolved, That the Board observes the large increases in the President’s budget for travel, entertainment, and consulting fees, most of which will be covered by restricted gifts, and encourages the President in these days of financial stringencies to reconsider the large increases in these areas.

    I have tried from time to time to find out about the various consultants. I never knew the right things to ask in the right way. But it seems weird to me this love for consultants. And if half a million was spent on one..mainly for the purpose of selling the Synod on a program…that is sinful. I guess it is impossible to know all the various consultants and how much they have cost but it is time to end this costly addiction.

  15. How many men could be put through the seminary for half a million dollars?

    That much wasted cash could have covered my congregation’s entire budget for about four years.

  16. 500,000 $ could pay a professor’s salary at a Concordia University or Seminary for most of his or her career.

    I can’t wait to vote in July!

  17. Think of all the food, medical, spiritual and other humanitarian care that could be provided to those in Haiti without a roof over their heads. Stateside, there are many still affected by the economy and unable to provide food for their children. It seems like quite a distinction between the have and have nots.

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