Cost Effectiveness in Christian Ministry
When attempting some sort of ministry, whether that be field operations, administration, training, teaching, preaching, equipping, etc., and the discussion turns to “cost-effectiveness,” we have to ask what we mean by “cost-effectiveness.”
You might say that this is obvious; everyone knows what “cost-effectiveness” means. So let’s test if it is obvious or not.
Think for a minute how you would define this term if you were on a game show and were about to win $1000 for giving the correct definition of “cost effectiveness in Christian ministry” in 12 words or less.
I’ll give you a minute…………
OK, how was your answer? Was it easy to come up with a clear definition? If you have the chance, I’d like to hear about what you gave for a definition and how it compares to the definition given in the Christianity Today article “Cost-Effective Compassion: The 10 Most Popular Strategies for Helping the Poor.”
The results that are given in this article are based on 16 individuals responding to a poll to rate the “most common poverty interventions to which ordinary people donate their money, in terms of impact and cost-effectiveness per donated dollar.”
What’s your initial reaction to that question? I don’t know where to even start with that, so let’s see if we can think about some of the problems in the question as a means of identifying any conclusions to what “Cost-Effective Compassion” might be.
Think through some of the vagaries of this with me:
1. Most Common Poverty Interventions:
- How is “most common” defined? By money? Number of people who do it? Number of people who donate to it? Greatest cost?
- Who decides what is common? What is common in New York might not be what is common in Seoul, Korea. With only 16 individuals, how did they determine what interventions were common?
- What exactly is a “poverty intervention?” Is there an income level? Is it normalized for the region of the world or country? What is the definition of poverty used here and what is the specific meaning of an intervention that I could put on this poll if I were answering?
2. Ordinary People: Who are ordinary people? Is this an income level? Does it mean some foundations that give to poverty intervention programs were excluded? An ordinary person in Germany or an ordinary person in Los Angeles? I’d really like to know how this term, ordinary person, was used to include or exclude potential answers to this poll.
3. Impact: Without a definition, what did these 16 individuals decide impact meant? Was there a collective agreement on a definition or was it left up to each individual to determine impact? How many interventions were left out because it didn’t meet some undetermined definition of impact?
4. Cost-effectiveness per donated dollar: How was this determined? Is there a table somewhere that lists all of the poverty intervention programs or ministries along with their cost-effectiveness per donated dollar? Does this include grant dollars or just individual donor dollars? How about organizations that have service-related income within their programs, are those left out because it isn’t “donated” dollar?
Really, those last two are the most important – what is impact and how does an organization determine its “cost-effectiveness” per donated dollar.
Keeping in mind that this is for Christian ministries, what would you say those terms should mean?