It's Not Cheating! It's Collaboration

Collaboration isn’t cheating. I blame my school system for misleading me for so long.

In one of the first TED conference talks, Englishmen Sir Ken Robinson spoke on the future of education. He stated that what schools prohibit and call “cheating” is most often called “collaboration” in the workplace.

Embarrassingly, from grades 6-10, I cheated in school. I had some elaborate cheating techniques, which I’ll provide to readers for a price. But it didn’t get me very far.

The $2 for lunch money I paid my smart friends to do my math homework worked really well until test time. I got an F which meant ineligibility for sports, detention more than once, and of course, grounding. (Meanwhile, the recipient of my $2 daily, Eric Stenner had plenty of money for baseball cards and ice cream sandwiches)

Those cheating techniques aren’t very transferrable to what I consider collaboration in my current work environment. I’ve discovered that having multiple brains is better than having just one.

You’re missing out if you don’t collaborate. Invite think tanks, solicit feedback, and request borrowed perception from others.

In a team environment, it’s not about getting credit or really even giving credit. If it’s mutually understood as a value, your church or organization will be better for it.

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How To Present A Compelling Church Budget

Our church’s budget has increased 172% over the last decade. That’s due to God’s blessing, but it’s also a product of good presentation (amongst other factors). To inform and compel, we have to continue finding new, creative ways to present our budget each year.

Some people will give financially either way, but our budget presentations are for the other people—those who have means to give but need a vision for their money, and also those who give very little and need a God-reason for their giving to increase.

What goes into creating our budget, and later, presenting it? Here are some key components to make it compelling:

•             Present a process that’s prayed over throughout its iterations.

•             Give people the opportunity to speak into the process and ask questions. We do this by presenting the budget drafts to multiple groups in order to get their thoughts. Two weeks before a congregational vote, we host town hall meetings to address questions. Read more about our church’s unique governance.

•             List easily identifiable categories and their budget amount. We do this at town hall meetings and on the web. We also list the previous year’s budgeted amount and the % change, if applicable.

•             Use multiple mediums to promote the budget and vote. We use two: a video and a printed brochure.

View examples for the 2015 budget: printed brochure and teaser video.

We strive to make the video story-based, while still providing clear numerical information. We give numbers, but also frame them in a way that’s helpful to tell the stories behind the dollars.

The printed brochure changes from year to year. It acts as an advertisement for how God uses our monetary gifts.

We’re blessed to have a great Communications Team who helps produce these. But the same things can be done for presenting small budgets, and it can fit to your church’s situation or scale.

The key is to appeal to as many audiences and learning styles as possible. Use figures for left brainers, graphs for visual learners, stories for all, and art forms for the artists. All of these can still point toward how the church is going to use the money God allocates to it through the givers.

Here are a few tips on how to plan your presentation:

•             Consider your different audiences at each point. Remember you’ll have to have communicate multiple times, in multiples ways, to multiple groups in order to get the message out. Your budget presentation has to be agile and contextualized.

•             Present broad buckets for those less inclined towards numbers, and use words they understand.

•             Be specific enough to answer most accountants’ questions. Town hall meetings can also help address higher level concerns.

•             Communicate how your dollars are accounted for. Refer to audits, finance teams, or whatever measures you use for checks and balances. Givers want to trust you. Make that easy for them.


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An Intentional Office | Guest post from David Fletcher, founder of

He was a Mega Church Executive Pastor, and I was in his office for the first time. His open and comfortable office had already impressed me. But then he did it…he set the tone and comfort level for the meeting by pulling over an ottoman, and slipping off his loafers.

Message received: I don’t have to be intimidated by you or your office.

He was intentional about having a work space that allowed for no pretense or intimidation. That one meeting has impacted my office presentation and productivity.

Dr. Fletcher agreed to add this writing to my blog. Whether you need tips on office productivity or how to make your office feel more pastoral and less CEO, it’s in here. I’m honored to have David Fletcher, Executive Pastor, and founder of guest post.

The Paperless Office, Not Even a Paperclip

Dr. David Fletcher


Julie was an endearing, young missionary who had a fantastic ministry that I was dying to learn about.  About fifteen years ago, Julie came into my office and was on the verge of tears.

“What’s wrong?”  I asked.

“Well, you said that you wanted to see me, and there you are behind that big desk … and I feel like I’m being called to the Principal’s office … and have I done something wrong?”

I pondered what I had done wrong, not her.  I kept coming back to her words, “that big desk.”  For a month, I asked people about it.  I learned that my height (6’3”) can be intimidating.  Put an imposing guy behind a desk, and I become formidable.  I wondered, “If I appear serious when happy behind the desk, how much more when I am perplexed?”

The Paper Question

I discussed getting rid of the desk and people always came back to the same question, “what are you going to do with papers and reports?”  Even without an answer, I got rid of the desk.  I opted for a couch, two comfortable side chairs, and a small coffee table.

With the experiment, people found me easier to talk with and get to know.  The change of furniture also helped me relax in the office, not being so “down to business.”  I began to pray more with people.

The “paper question” was with me until the era of laptops.  Then I had my answer.  I would go with a paperless office and carry all needed items on my laptop.

From people around the nation, I have gotten the same response that many of you readers are thinking right now:

Question:  In a meeting, how do you handle a report that is given to you?
Answer:  Read it and give it back to the person at the end of the meeting.

Question: What about vital reports that you need to keep?
Answer: Ask the person so send it to me in MSWord or PDF format.

Question: What about … and generally people don’t have a third question.
Response:  See how easy it could be?


Janet was the wife of successful president of a large mission agency.  She came with her husband for a conference in my office.  We were having a wonderful time, talking about overseas ministry.  All of a sudden, Janet let out a gasp and put her hand on her husband’s arm.

“Is this your office?” she asked me.  I nodded.
“Where are all the filing cabinets?”  I told her why I didn’t need any.
“You don’t even have a paperclip dispenser!”  I confessed that she was right.  In my office I no longer needed paperclips, staplers or a trash can.

Janet’s eyes bulged at the prospect.  Her husband’s office was littered with 5 drawer filing cabinets and paperclipped reports.  Perhaps for him, paperclips were like brooms in Goethe’s “Sorcerer’s Apprentice.”

Pending files either go on my computer in a special area, or are kept by my executive assistant.  The same is true for ongoing projects and long-term files.  I don’t leave work scattered in my virtual or physical office.  When I come into my space, I see a clean work-slate each day.  Ken Blanchard, the management guru, once said that people accomplish more when then arrive at their office and the desk is clean.  Yes!


Hundreds of Executive Pastors have heard of my answer to “the paper question.”  Lately it has even become fashionable to not have much paper and go “green.”

  • Go paperless for 30 days.
  • Put all work in folders and “hide” them each night: pending, ongoing or long-term files. Use automatic software to back-up your computer each hour.
  • Maximize relational time.  Listen to the needs of those who God brings into      your office.  Pray with superiors, subordinates and sheep.  When relationships are strong, business discussions go much quicker.

Be the master of your office.  Work efficiently.  Focus on people.

About David Fletcher

For over 30 years, David has served churches from 1,000 to 8,000 members. As well as being a pastor, David is a spiritual entrepreneur. He founded XPastor as a global ministry tool for leaders of churches of all sizes. It provides the website, the annual XP-Seminar, workshops and certification courses.


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