Cutting Costs in a Changing Economy: Part One

(Originally published as an article within ECCU’s former e-publication, Ministry Banking Today.)

According to a recent survey published by Christianity Today International's Your Church magazine, tithes and offerings have declined in the past six months for 40 percent of the churches surveyed. The good news: Limited funds are challenging churches to rethink how they do ministry—with surprisingly positive results. Here are some of the creative ways ministries like yours are thriving while staying on budget:

“Just because 25 people show up for an event, does that mean we should do it?” Dave Patchin, executive pastor of Hope Community Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, asked questions like this to help his leadership team think strategically as they reassigned priorities. After re-evaluating what was truly important, they ultimately decided to cut some programs that were not significantly advancing the mission of their church. The decision was met with little opposition and funds were freed—allowing other areas of ministry to grow.

“Please take money out of the offering plate.” On the first Sunday in March, after the stock market hit a new low, Pastor Toby Slough of Cross Timbers Community Church in Argyle, Texas, made the following announcement: "If you need money today to feed or house your family, please take money out of the offering plate, rather than putting money in." His example of generosity and love not only met real needs in his congregation, it also resulted in the biggest offering the church had received.

“If you’re out of work, consider volunteering.” Many churches and ministries are seeing a spike in volunteers as the economy slows down. Faithful supporters who’ve experienced job loss are donating their time back into ministry. Tapping into volunteers can help reduce expenses (from janitorial services to accounting)—and sometimes all it takes is asking.

“We began looking outward.” A newfound emphasis on generosity has encouraged many ministries to shift funds from an inward focus to outreach. Monies once designated for fellowship or building projects are now being reconsidered for food and clothing programs or to meet the needs of families impacted by unemployment. Churches are also working together more closely to help minister to their communities more effectively: If one church runs a food pantry, another church can help collect food from its congregation.

Need more ideas to help you stay on budget? Next month, we will take a look at how ministries are reducing costs to help fill the gap between income and expenses.

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