By Chad Napier, Crosswalk.com
Just as the believer is charged to be a good steward with what God has blessed him or her, the church should likewise be mindful of wasting its financial resources. In Luke 14:28-30, we are warned to make prayerful preparations when Jesus questioned, “for which of you, desiring a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘this man began to build and was not able to finish.’”
The church is to have a focused mission and then allocate its resources in a reasonable manner to achieve this purpose.
The Christian has the responsibility to bring tithes and offerings to the localized church. Charitable organizations and bodies are exempt from having to pay taxes because the government does not assist nor has a responsibility for their upkeep and maintenance. The community and church members are responsible for the financial stability of the localized church. The church, in turn, has the task of fiscally managing these resources.
Just as with our individual or family household budgets and incomes, the church has both times of prosperity and periods of questioning whether the budget will be met for a certain month. In Proverbs 27:23, we are told to “know well the condition of your flocks and give attention to your herds.”
The local church should regularly analyze and take heed to any unnecessary or wasteful spending. Here are six areas of consideration:
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1. Church Literature
Sunday School quarterlies and other literature are a great and vital source for knowledge and spiritual growth, but they are also a source of much expense for the church. A few years ago, our church did an audit of our Lifeway account and found we were throwing more quarterlies in the trash than were actually being used by Sunday School attendees. We estimated that we ordered 40% more than what we actually needed.
Sure, the church has to be prepared for growth, the possibility of visitors each Sunday, or a regular attendee losing or forgetting his or her materials but ordering more than 20% of the amount actually needed is wasteful.
Many times, the left-over booklets can be donated to local hospitals, facilities for the elderly, or other churches for their benefit. However, most of the time these extras are thrown away and put to no use at all. In John 6:12, Jesus made use of all of the leftovers as we are told, “and when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, ‘Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.’”
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2. Church Bulletin Covers
Those colorful and picturesque covers for the church bulletin catch our eyes each Sunday morning. They also come at a cost to the church. The odds are great that your church prints at least 25% more bulletins than are actually used for the number of members attending the service. Unlike church literature such as Sunday School quartiles, a church bulletin is only good for one Sunday and must be “trashed” thereafter.
Most of the information contained within the bulletin is only good for a week or even a month. However, it is not advisable to discontinue the church bulletin altogether. Many of the older members of the congregation will revolt such a tradition.
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Screens, projectors, tablets, websites, mobile apps, and other technology are sources of great expense for the local church. Tens of thousands of dollars can be spent on these means of “production.” These modern “necessities” make me wonder how Charles Spurgeon and Dwight Moody preached to thousands without the benefit of them. The church must question whether these devices are used as a substitute or a supplement to the message.
The church cannot be dependent upon technology to satisfy our personal obligations. Matthew 6:21 reminds us that, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Much of these items are done for the eye-candy of the congregation in the hopes of mainstreaming the delivery of the message and to reach the community in a different fashion. Unfortunately, many of these “upgrades” are either not used or underused by the church. I wonder if our church uses 40% of the possible features with the software which generates our visual media on the installed projector screens.
Just as most of us with our smartphones don’t use or even know how to use half of its available features, the church buys many devices and programs which aren’t beneficial. The church needs to consider how often said equipment will be utilized and for what purpose. If you are considering buying an expensive piece of technology solely for one event, the church should consider renting or borrowing from a fellow church in the community.
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Because of the reality of our society, insurance companies are placing fearful caution by offering riders for violence and sexual abuse within the confines of the church. The church should prayerfully consider the needs of these coverage options. If your church has a pastor who does not normally counsel and does not have an active youth program, it is probably safe to say your church doesn’t need the extra protection of the “sexual abuse” insurance rider.
Just because an insurance company is offering a new product, it’s availability does not necessitate your church upgrading to a new policy.
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5. Denominational Organizations
Many churches place great financial emphasis on donating to the state and national denominational associations. The local church feels an obligation to assist these associations. The church, however, must consider any realized benefit in relation to the expense. Consider 1 Timothy 5:8, “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Thus, we should be persuaded we have an obligation “to take care of our own.”
We cannot neglect the members and the needs of the local church in order to satisfy any outside organization. Our church paid into our state association for many years. Until we petitioned the body for a low-interest loan for construction, we did not realize the support was one-sided. Additionally, the church should analyze the amount remitted to these associations or organizations. The church has the primary responsibility for its own financial stability.
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6. Salaries and Benefit Packages
Some churches, which once thrived in attendance and giving, are now floundering and struggling. The membership numbers have changed, and the current members have had changes in their finances. Pastors and other ministry leaders received the benefits of this bounty when things were good. In many local churches, the salary scales have remained in place, but the level of giving and the number of available tithers within the church have dwindled. It is advisable for a church to make the paid “employees” of the church cognizant that salaries can and will be revisited in the event the financial condition of the church changes.
In the event of growth, the pastor should also be compensated for the increased responsibilities. We are reminded in Proverbs 3:27 to “not withhold good from those to whom it is due when it is in your power to do it.” Conversely, the pastor should understand that a reduction in salary is possible in the event the church is not serving as many members or has a reduction in participation in its ministry opportunities.
The local church should value its financial resources and the generosity of its membership. It is mindful for the church to annually consider the budget and make alterations and amendments where necessary. Many of these changes are rather evident, but rest assured, they can still be emotionally painful for the effected member who is associated with the reduction.
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Chad Napier is a believer in Christ, attorney at law, wannabe golfer, runner, dog lover, and writer. He enjoys serving his church as a deacon and Sunday School teacher. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and at his golf devotion par3sixteen.com. He and his wife Brandi reside in Tennessee with their canine son Alistair.