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This week, news broke that the State of Tennessee commissioned design firm GS&F to create a new logo for the state. Coming in at a price tag of $46,000, the project was said to be an effort to consolidate the state’s various programs and organizations into one consistent brand.

Unfortunately for Governor Bill Haslam, the state’s new logo was not well-received at all. Echoing the sentiments of watchdog.org‘s Chris Butler, the headline in the Chattanooga Times Free Press called the logo something “a fifth-grader could make.” Butler also issued a challenge on Twitter to make these thoughts a reality:

Just for fun, today I decided to race the clock and see how long it would take me to recreate the logo. I was able to get close in about two minutes.

It’s important to note that any discontent at the logo shouldn’t be aimed at GS&F. With any creative product, the agency may give its opinion on what is best, but the decision ultimately is made by the client. The client – in this case the state of Tennessee – made the final decision and approval on the new logo.

While I haven’t worked for the state before, my wife has worked in higher education since 2006, mostly at state-funded schools. As a minister, I haven’t had my salary paid by taxpayers before, but it has been paid by the generosity of other people. In this way, there’s a lot of similarity between ministry and government employment, as both have their salaries paid by others.

With this being the case, here are three things I’ve learned from having others pay my salary and fund my budget:

  1. Expect accountability for your spending. As a minister, it is completely reasonable for church members to keep tabs on my spending. Budgets are publicly published, and from time to time, people have asked me questions about where the money goes. Obviously this can get out of hand and people can sometimes have unreasonable expectations, but it is completely reasonable for people to keep an eye on how I spend money.
  2. Steward money wisely. As a minister, I’ve had numerous big ideas of how I could improve things at a church. When leading a worship ministry, it would have been nice to spend thousands of dollars to retune the auditorium and make it sound exactly perfect or purchase the best speakers money can buy. As a student pastor it’s been tempting to go all out on big events and spend a lot of money in doing so. Each time, however, I always have taken special thought to the importance of being wise with money. This doesn’t mean I always take the cheapest option, but I ensure the money I spend is being done so wisely. Every dollar spent should have a clear purpose.
  3. Be willing to be wrong. Yes, anyone hired to a job is expected to be an expert in that particular area. As a minister, I’m expected to know how to manage that area of ministry competently. However, that doesn’t mean I’m the only one who knows anything. When others question my decisions, I don’t always give in to their requests or demands, but I do listen. I’ve changed my mind many times because of the wisdom and insight I’ve received from others, and these decisions have often enabled me to be much more effective.
  4. Be completely transparent in all financial matters. Whenever I have a budget to manage, I’m not only open to answering questions about where money is going but I’m also proactive in making sure information is readily available.

With a potentially ugly situation on their hands, Tennessee’s executive branch has an opportunity to make matters worse or put the state’s taxpayers at ease. I do believe Governor Haslam is generally a wise person. Hopefully his response to this situation reflects this wisdom and he handles it well.

How do you think Governor Haslam should handle this situation? What would you do if you were in his shoes?


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