Can you be your spouse’s Superhero?

[Imagine here an impressive copyrighted photo of Christopher Reeve playing Superman in the namesake 1977 movie…]

I think Christopher Reeve had a pretty big impact on my life… Clark Kent is the “signature staff member” in the TNT sample database. Superheroes and fictional characters populate this teaching database, but the core characters are Clark Kent and those in his circle.

Christopher Reeve portrayed Superman and Clark Kent in the four Superman movies between 1978 and 1987. In some ways, this series launched the superhero movie genre which is now Hollywood’s top genre. (I’m listening to John Williams’ great Superman soundtrack as I write this.)

Reeve was an avid horseman. In 1995, at age 42, he was thrown from a horse and completely paralyzed. He and his wife Dana started the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. The foundation has distributed more than $138 million in grants “to finding treatments and cures for paralysis caused by spinal cord injury and other neurological disorders” (Wikipedia).

On Friday, October 8, 2004, the foundation’s leadership team held a routine planning meeting. They talked about some worst-case scenarios. They considered an action plan if/when Christopher Reeve died unexpectedly. One of the staff noted that it was morbid to even talk that way! After all, besides his paralysis, Christopher Reeve was a healthy 52-year-old.

Two days later, Christopher Reeve died unexpectedly of a heart attack.

That’s a distant story, but another one came closer to home.

Burt was a college student at my church when I was in middle school. He and the other college students involved in campus ministry were a real inspiration to me. Their influence led me to get involved in the campus ministry at my university, and then follow Burt into full-time ministry. We weren’t friends (he was 10 years older than I). I doubt he even remembered who I was. Some of my partners were also ministry partners with Burt and his family.

So it was with great shock and sadness when I heard that Burt, then 41, died in an accident on the way home from an out-of-state partnership development trip. Burt’s wife engaged in ministry in a new way and is still on our staff more than 20 years later.

You’ve probably known a handful of co-workers who died suddenly, either through accidents or a health issue. These unexpected deaths are followed by a chaotic scramble to figure out what the future holds or even how to produce a letter to pass this news on. The spouse is missing key information such as logins and passwords, financial accounts, newsletter lists, et cetera.

There’s NO best ratio of who does what. BUT… when one person does it all and the other is clueless, that’s a risk. If one person handled key things like managing the household finances, or doing partnership development, their unexpected death brings grief and chaos.

I’ll come right out and ask the difficult questions. If you died today…

  • Would your spouse know how to keep raising personal support?
  • Would she or he be able to produce your monthly newsletter?
  • Would she or he even be able to send out the very difficult first letter?
  • Would she or he know where the payroll forms are and the ministry reimbursement forms are? And how to prepare and submit them?

In our organization, we’re encouraged to create “The Red Folder”, primarily for personal finances. This should be our one place where all the most important family financial information is stored. When one (or even both) spouses die suddenly, those left behind should then have the ability to immediately engage in finances.
Consider how difficult it would be for your spouse to make financial decisions and do ongoing reimbursement and tax paperwork. Can he or she continue with MPD and communication with your team all while under a lot of emotional distress?

Be your spouse’s superhero by engaging him or her in your regular partnership development. At least expose them to TNT and how to do the basics.


  • This blog post came out of a conversation with a co-worker who has this exact concern because she is the one who does all of the admin for their family PD. She also gave extensive editorial assistance in producing it.
  • The story about Christopher Reeve is one I recall from memory; however that was 20 years ago… so my recollections may not be perfect.

Negative Gifts… Are you Positive?

I recently did something I have done only once before in my TntConnect history: I entered a negative gift.

It’s my guess that most TNT users have never contemplated entering a negative gift. Or maybe even bigger picture: Why would anyone ever enter a negative gift?!

Here’s how I’m writing this post:

  • I’ll share my own experience briefly
  • Expand more on negative gifts in general, then
  • Give the steps to do this

My own experience was fairly straightforward: A gift downloaded into TNT and was posted to a general partner account. This partner account is used for other gifts too so I could not simply link the account to the correct donor. I solved this by manually adding the gift to the actual partner, then manually adding a negative gift to the general partner.

I can think of three common situations where a gift needs to be manually “moved” to another partner. In each of these cases, the actual gift and the actual partner are known to the missionary, which creates this need to move the gift:

  • The partner gave through a foundation, so the foundation is the actual partner account. In some cases the missionary can simply link the foundation to the actual partner. But if the foundation is a channel for multiple partners to the same missionary, the foundation cannot be linked to one specific partner. [See TntConnect Help for instructions on how to link a new partner account to an existing one.]
  • The partner gave through a church. The church may or may not have included a note to indicate the amounts attributed to individual church members, but at minimum the missionary does know.
  • The partner gave an “anonymous” gift, but it was anonymous only to the organization, not to the missionary. Sometimes partners want to remain anonymous to the organization to avoid receiving appeals for other projects in the organization. (This was my situation.)

Some organizations have the ability to assign a gift to both the tendering partner (foundation or church) as well as the giving partner. This is called a “Flow Through” gift in some systems, or a “Soft Credit” in others. But many organizations do not (or cannot) use a flow-through system. Or, as in the case of my Anonymous donor, the giving partner is not even known to the organization.

How to manage manually moving a gift
1. On the known partner, add the manual gift. You may want to write a memo that describes the gift. Also, make sure not to check “Available on Web” so that TNT is not expecting the gift to download.

2. On the common partner (foundation, church, ‘anonymous’), enter the negative gift. Again, write a memo to describe why you did this.

Now, I recognize this is extremely rare, for me this has only happened twice in 30 years. But for someone who has multiple partners who give through the same foundation, this could be a monthly task if they truly want the individual foundation gifts to be linked to separate partners.

Fresh year… Fresh start?

Buffalo, Minnesota • January 2, 2021 • Winter Wonderland

We awoke on January 2 to see the entire world outside bathed in a white frost (pictured above). It was surreal and magical, especially as the sun rose high in the sky and it all began to sparkle. We visit grandparents in Minnesota most Christmases, and usually we see a brown, snowless ground cheered only by sub-zero temperatures. This year we had fresh snow for Christmas and again for New Year’s. A great way to start the year!

Last week I received a blog post from Bob Tiede’s Leading With Questions blog titled “What is your ‘ONE WORD’ for 2021?“. The idea he describes (using content from a book on the subject) is to skip the long list of New Year’s Resolutions and select one word to frame your year. The timing was good because I had actually been thinking that same thing (more or less!).

In writing thank yous the previous week, I found myself writing the same thing to many of our partners who had given a year-end gift to our ministry. What I am hoping for and was writing about (without consciously realizing it) was Stability.

Whenever a catastrophe occurs (and we can label all of 2020 as a catastrophe), we naturally shift to Emergency Mode as we try to absorb and adapt. In some cases, Emergency Mode ends when complete normalcy returns. For example, during a hurricane here in Florida, life is disrupted, services often suspended (e.g., no electricity), and then a lot of cleanup. Then life goes “back to normal”. But sometimes there is a “new normal”—when the Emergency Mode is followed by a certain stability that is different than before. (For example, if our house was severely damaged or destroyed in said hurricane, normalcy might return at some point, but not the normal we knew before.)

As I look at my team’s efforts for this year, we will continue to be working remotely indefinitely. Now that’s “normal”, so I’m working with my team to make our plans in light of that normal rather than temporarily.

For my personal partnership development, I am taking the same approach. 2020 was a bit chaotic. By checking my history logs in TntConnect in October, I made the shocking (but not surprising) discovery that 2020 was my WORST year of reaching out to partners in recent history! I should have had more time to reach out to partners, but I did less… fewer calls, fewer thank yous or letters, fewer everything that represents personal contact (and of course almost no ‘appointments’).

Now, forgetting what lies behind and looking forward to what lies ahead (Philippians 3:13), I’ve scheduled into my calendar time every morning to write some thank yous or notes. I’ve also made a plan to update my personal ministry website this month.

As this year begins, let me encourage you to come up with one word to describe your partnership development this year. Or, maybe even better, just pick one thing this week and do it. 🙂