Dealing with Tough Financial Times: Money, Morale & Momentum, Part 5

money-churchHere are Driscoll’s final 5 suggestions for maintaining morale and momentum in lean economic times –

5. Budgeting

Eat what you kill and have a monthly and quarterly budget that you watch so you do not get too far behind. If you do, and you then lay people off, their severance will cost you for months, which will put you even further behind financially than if you had the financial data to make cuts earlier. The days of an annual budget are gone. Things are changing so quickly that ministry leaders need to carefully track income and spending weekly, comb over monthly reports, and not make budgets in anything other than pencil beyond a quarter in advance. Changes to the budget need to be made quickly; otherwise poor reporting and slow responding will sink the ministry financially.

6. Wants

Communicate what you want for your people and not just what you want from them. During this time we want them to work hard, budget well, live generously, share with one another, grow in faith, live within their means, learn contentment, and grow as stewards in all of life.

7. Opportunity

This is a good harvest time because the god of money has been killed and is not resurrecting, so people are searching for a new god and are open to the gospel, community, and service. This means it is a great time, for example, to have budgeting seminars and such to teach people biblical principles about wealth and stewardship. Guys like Dave Ramsey can be very helpful in this area.

8. Financial Planning

Have a financial planner meet with staff members annually at your expense to get them in order personally and ensure they are being wise stewards. If your staff members do not have wise budgeting and stewardship plans, they will not influence others in the ministry to do the same. It is wise to ensure that coaching and help are available for the staff members to be the first fruits of good stewardship.

9. Safety

Sometimes it is the overlooked small things that ruin everything. So, as budgets are cut, such things as human safety cannot be cut. One tragic example is a church that opened a new children’s wing, and somehow a small screw was left on the floor; a child swallowed it and died. Too few churches have good security, cleanliness, and safety, and there is no excuse for cutting these kinds of things.

Interesting stuff.

The idea of quarterly budgeting is a tough one. Most churches struggle to pull together an annual budget. But if you are in a community with high unemployment (andwho isn’t?), it may well be prudent to tell your staff not to commit funds too far in advance. They may not be there when needed.

Point no. 6 is an area where church leaders frequently fail. I mean, we elders know how to tell our staff what we want (although many an eldership is weak in this area, too). We rarely spend time thinking what we want for the staff. It’s a good discipline to adopt. Is our staff making friends in church with people their age? Are they in a supportive small group — or did we dump the group full of “extra-grace Christians” on them? Are their social and spiritual needs being met? Are their kids going to a good school? Do they have what they need to grow in their faith? Do they have a book allowance? A budget to attend lectureships?

No. 7 is a great point. Among Churches of Christ, Steve Diggs does a great job. I’m sure there are others. If your church will put on a financial planning and budgeting seminar, I guaranty you high attendance from among your own members. They need it, and so do their friends from outside church. This is a great time to help people who truly feel the need — by showing them spiritual principles that will truly help them in a difficult time.

I agree very much with no. 8 — especially if a church can’t give raises or even has to impose pay cuts. Make sure the planner can work in confidence. He or she probably ought to be from another congregation, so the ministers feel comfortable sharing their financial problems honestly.

And it’s, of course, critically important that our churches continue to follow their anti-abuse policies and not scrimp on safety issues.

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About Jay Guin

I am an elder, a Sunday school teacher, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a lawyer. I live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of the Alabama Crimson Tide. I’m a member of the University Church of Christ. I grew up in Russellville, Alabama and graduated from David Lipscomb College (now Lipscomb University). I received my law degree from the University of Alabama. I met my wife Denise at Lipscomb, and we have four sons, two of whom are married, and I have a grandson and granddaughter.
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