Ministry Requires Money
The question every Replanter must answer is, how much? In some situations a church in need of replanting may have resources adequate to fund the work of revitalization. In most cases, they do not.
Often, churches long in decline have averted financial crises by subsidizing ministry form cash reserves, the sale of property or gifts of estate from long time faithful members.
On the surface things may look adequate but a simple examination could reveal financial flaws.
In some cases the church has been able to maintain their facilities. While they may be outdated stylistically or in need of new carpeting or fresh paint—the overall condition is serviceable. In more dire situations you’ll find roofs that must be replaced, entire HVAC systems that are either inadequate or nonfunctioning and entire rooms or buildings that have been shut off for years and an elevator that has become a financial black hole.
Long time staff members, who have served faithfully for years, are often compensated at levels which were appropriate for a church of 400 but not for a church of 80. The salary package being offered to you could be 20-40% lower than your predecessor received.
How can a Replanter address these financial realities?
Adjust the Existing Budget: many churches have adopted the “do the same thing as last year with less” approach in budgeting. Likely, there are budget lines you will no longer need and levels of funding that are no longer appropriate for your current size. Look at everything line by line and reallocate accordingly. Review Every Contract and Commitment: over time relationships with service providers become comfortable and a function of habit. You might find that the copier in the office is old technology and more expensive to lease and operate than a new one. Your lawn care company is not really competitive and the literature subscriptions haven’t been adjusted in years. Expect Losses: those who voted for you saying they want change really do—until they don’t. While they might not protest publically they can and sometimes do voice their objections by withholding their giving. In our first year we saw a decrease of 10-15K followed by another 20K the next year—your experience may be different but you will encounter a decrease in financial contributions as long time members depart when changes are made. Deal With Designated Funds: once a way to get things funded and done—designated gifts made special ministry initiatives possible. Yet now, they have become untouchable accounts where money has gone to die rather than do ministry. Challenge your finance team to free up restricted funds and redirect designated gifts. In some cases—the designation of funds may not legally qualify as charitable gifts when the donors determine how they are used. Develop Ministry Partners: the movement of Replanting and Revitalizing Churches is gaining ground. It makes financial sense to redeem and restore the multiple millions of dollars of property for the sake of gospel influence. Denominations on all levels (national, state, local) are beginning to see the importance of investing in Replanting. Additionally, other Churches are becoming more open to sending finances and people to help in the revitalization efforts. Get clear on the level of funding you need, write a clear prospectus and share it with potential partners. Raise Personal Support: you are not in ministry to get rich but you have bills to pay and your kids need to eat. If the church can’t afford to pay your entire salary develop a strategy to raise support to offset the salary deficiencies. Do this for three years to relieve the burden on the church. Work hard, wait for growth and re-evaluate. One of the best books on fundraising is People Raising. Also, you might consider working bi-vocationally in the community you are seeking to reach, the benefits are multiple. Hugh Halter has a good resource for those open to this option. Propose New Priorities: money flows toward vision. Pray, plan and promote God honoring priorities. Make sure your priorities are leading you toward the future and reaching new people, not simply funding ministry to those already there. Launch Online Giving: younger congregants are accustomed to paying bills online. Many do not carry checkbooks. Adding online giving provides an additional way for people to contribute to gospel ministry in ways that are consistent with their everyday practices as well as providing opportunities for members to give when they miss a weekend. Share Vision/Updates: don’t hesitate to celebrate giving in your gatherings. People are encouraged to give when they hear how their gifts are making a difference and meeting needs.
Trust God: our experience has been that He always provides what we need. I’d like more resources and sooner, but God seems to do it differently than I want. But I can say in our replanting adventure, we’ve never gone without and always had exactly what we’ve needed when we needed it.
Need help with a funding plan or prospectus? Use the contact form for questions or requests.
Published April 8, 2015