No matter who I’m talking with, from the largest to the smallest of the churches, pastors and leaders live with the daily tension of funding. The playing field is level – every ministry struggles with managing limited resources. That includes large churches with large budgets – so don’t daydream of a larger church in hopes that will solve the financial pressures!
Today the pressure to manage limited funds is increasing exponentially with the rising cost of oil. All of us have seen how that’s impacted gas and diesel fuel, the cost of utilities, food at the grocery store, construction materials, etc. Add in the severe winter weather which forced many churches to cancel services and the result is either dipping into limited savings or choosing which bills will be paid this month. In some cases, pastors are feeling a double pinch because their paychecks are being shorted while at the same time it takes $50 more to buy gas for their vehicle than the same month a year ago. (Surprise him with a special gift for gas this Sunday!)
What can we do to cope?
One of the “sound bites” that I took away from the DRIVE Conference was: Creativity always trumps budget.
In other words, don’t let the lack of $$ stop, delay, or slow down ministry; get creative.
A new sound system in time for the Christmas program would be nice but maybe you can borrow one. And full color program folders would be beautiful but having children use crayons to color them is a zero-cost option. The church van the youth leader wants to purchase? Try renting from a local dealer only for the days the van is really needed. Too expensive to keep the church heated and cooled all week just for the pastor’s office? For $800.00 or less you can purchase and install the kind of unit found in most hotel rooms that both heats and cools a small area. The local utility company may even offer rebates or special financing for installing such a unit.
Here are some words of caution when looking for creative solutions:
Don’t try to be creative all by yourself. The kind of creativity that overcomes the lack of funding occurs most frequently in a group of 5-7 people who are already involved in that particular ministry. Get together and set a time limit of 1 -2 hours. No more. List every idea and then begin to evaluation and prioritize – robbing the bank is not a viable solution!
Don’t succumb to the temptation to pay for things out of your own pocket. If you have extra, give it to the Lord – the Sunday Morning Offering. There is nothing more discouraging to pastors and staff who are struggling to live within budgets than to see a Sunday School class that has a new video projector just because someone purchased it with their own money. Buying a projector for that class was a very low priority compared to being 3 weeks behind on the pastor’s salary!
Make sure you’re working from an accurate budget. Guessing isn’t good enough and “just paying the bills is being reactionary instead proactive.
Remember, budgets are not spending mandates – they’re guidelines. Don’t create a budget crises by spending $$ just because its allocated in the budget. Learn to discern what real needs look like.
Stewardship is recognizing every dollar I spend belongs to God, not me. This means every purchase within the life of the church must be carefully evaluated. More importantly, this requires us to be overly generous rather than stingy when determining salaries and benefits. Pay your Pastor well not only so he can properly care for his family but to promote a generous reputation within the community.