Monday, January 16, 2017

Storytime with Allen: The Biggest Bang for the Buck

When describing Sowers4Pastors’ operating procedures, Allen likes to toss around a couple of terms: “sweat equity” and “skin in the game”. Just to make sure we’re all on the same page regarding the meaning of those terms, let’s go over the definitions.

For a definition of sweat equity, I’m going to turn to the organization that is probably the United States’ biggest proponents of the term. Habitat for Humanity has defined sweat equity as “the ownership interest, or increase in value, that is created as a direct result of hard work by the owner(s).”

Skin in the game is a term frequently used in sports and business. It is often used to refer to a situation in which high-ranking insiders use their own money to buy stock
in the company they’re running. A more general meaning simply means someone is personally invested in something.

Basically, when Allen talks about sweat equity and skin in the game, he’s talking about why Sowers4Pastors doesn’t give things away for free. I’ve heard him speak on this before, but he just gave me two stories that really drive his points home. So, sit back. It’s storytime!

The Medicine Story

A group traveled to Honduras to operate a medical clinic. People would show up and ask for medicine and the good people running the clinic would give them the medicine free of charge. They were seeing a lot of people, but the staff began noticing much of the medicine was being dropped on the ground outside the clinic.

One day, a doctor stepped outside and witnessed a man throwing his newly acquired medicine on the ground. When the doctor asked why he was tossing it aside like garbage, the man replied, “The medicine must not be any good. You gave them away for free.”

The group reevaluated their procedures and began selling the meds for a fraction of their actual cost. They didn’t charge much, but it was enough for people to believe the medicine had value.

The Bible Story

When another visiting group arrived with good intentions and a large supply of Bibles to give away, Allen wisely suggested they charge people a stipend for each Bible. He thought a quarter would be a good amount. The group, however, felt strongly that the Bibles should be given away for free. Now, I’m sure we can all understand why the group felt that way, but Allen understood some things about the Honduran culture that the group did not. The group continued handing out the Bibles.

About a week and half later, Allen was out and about when he paid a visit to an outhouse. That’s when he saw it--a Bible, with pages torn out of it. People were using the free Bibles for toilet paper! If they had purchased the Bibles, they would have seen them as things of value. Plus, only people who truly wanted a Bible would have paid for and received one!

The Story of Sowers4Pastors
When people have to work and sacrifice to gain something that is beneficial, they value and care for it more. The Sowers try to never give anything away for free. They know that people will accept anything that is free, even if they have no use for that item. If it’s something of monetary value, the recipients will often turn around and sell it. The Sowers try to make sure the ministry’s limited resources go into the hands of people that will advance the Kingdom. Trish pointed out they use the method they do because they believe in “skin in the game,” plus giving is simply a bad choice in so many instances.

Because Sowers4Pastors operates with a sweat equity/skin in the game philosophy, they are able to stretch their resources. Here are some examples:

  • If they had purchased land, supplied labor and materials, and built church buildings from the ground up, they would have helped ten churches. Instead, they took that money and helped 120 churches get new roofs!

  • Instead of giving 110 pastors new motorcycles, they have been able to help 180 pastors buy a motorcycle. (Plus, each pastor has demonstrated he can afford to maintain a motorcycle.)

  • Sowers4Pastors could have purchased horses or mules for 35 pastors, if they had been responsible for the entire cost. Instead, they helped 70 pastors by paying for half of the cost.

  • If they were personally running the feeding centers, Allen, Trish, and Russell might be able to run three centers, which provide meals twice a week. That would seriously cut in on the other work they do. Rather, they help 140 pastors operate feeding centers!

  • Perhaps the most impressive number has to do with planting churches. If Allen and Trish had decided to become church planters, they could have planted one church in the ten year period they’ve been in western Honduras. That church would be a “gringo” church and, if the Sowers ever leave, there would be concern that the church would shut down. Instead, they have helped 50 pastors a year plant churches. That is 500 church plants in the ten year period they’ve been there!

This is the part where someone would normally say, “The End,” but where this storytime is concerned, this is more like, “The Beginning.”

- posted by Christi

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