By Conrad Martin, Director of Finance
In Church life, the focus is on ministry and often reviewing finances is not a high priority, putting many churches in financial distress, according to Art Rainer. Churches worry about how they will pay staff and other bills and still be able to do ministry. Some don’t even know how they got into such a position.
There are some common themes for these churches, all of which are preventable. Based on the signs of a financially deteriorating congregation, here are some things a church can do to work at financial stability:
- Preach and teach stewardship. This may be avoided if the pastor is afraid they would be considered a church leader that abuses their platform for personal financial gain. Maybe the church leaders are afraid of reducing attendance. Whatever the reason it to avoid it, congregations need to be preaching and teaching on financial stewardship.
- Be mindful of how much debt the church is taking on. Many in financial distress overextended themselves. Some built too much or too quickly. Often a huge chunk of the tithes and offerings were sucked away by the debt payment.
- Be transparent with finances. When transparency is lacking, skepticism can grow about the finances being used properly, leading to a decline in giving.
- Focus your dollars to reach and minister to the community. Churches found to be in financial distress focused the majority of their funds on themselves and internal needs. Little money went toward outside efforts.
- Embrace multiple options for giving. Online giving and other nontraditional methods of giving (in-kind donations, stocks and mutual funds, etc.), allow for a broader participation, especially from younger generations.
- Regularly evaluate how funds are spent. To be a good steward of the money the church receives, it is important to evaluate how that money is being used and ensure there is no significant waste, preventing forward movement in the budget.
- Take wise steps of financial faith. Church budgets should be based on reasonable mathematical projections, not just on staff/congregational wants. While God provides for the work of the Kingdom, throughout scripture God also instructed his children to be wise stewards.
- Be mindful of relying on a few big givers. When these givers either die or leave the church, the church’s financial viability is then left in jeopardy.
It’s sad to see a church in financial disarray. It’s also sad to see the staff struggle with cash flow and making budgets. Perhaps it is worse to see the ministry struggle, especially, when you know it could have been prevented.