Income + Expenses = Tools

by Jeremy Moore, ECCU Ministry Development Officer
(Originally published as a post within ECCU’s former e-publication, The Buzz.)

I spend most of my week with ministries. And most of my time with ministries is spent talking about money. Today, I want to break down these hours-long conversations into a simple discussion of income and expense optimization. I’ll obviously be oversimplifying, but here we go…

Additional Income

Some ministries get very creative, doing things like opening businesses or leasing property to increase income. My advice here is always to be cautious, because anything that takes your focus off the main goal of your ministry (hopefully reaching and discipling) has the potential to take you off track.

Stewardship/Capital Campaigns. Many firms are getting away from the idea of traditional three-year, need-oriented campaigns and going to various other models. However, some form of special need-based fundraising is usually viable when you’re looking to do a facility-related project. Many churches are still able to raise more than twice their normal annual giving through a multi-year campaign.

New Giving/Givers. The national averages are staggering. Even if your church is above average (of course it is!), it’s very likely that not everyone in your church is giving as much as they should or could. Looking for ways to increase this is almost always worthwhile, especially when you’re considering an expansion/building project. Ways to tap into these givers vary, but some things to consider include:

  • Do at least three messages a year, either a single series or separate messages, on stewardship and the importance of giving.
  • Offer personal finance classes from Crown Financial, Dave Ramsay, or others.
  • Offer additional ways for people to give (like online and ACH).

After you’ve ensured that people have been given resources that help them maximize their giving, the other side of the coin is ensuring that you are being a good steward of those resources, that you…

Control Expenses

The two primary expenses for most non-profits are facilities and personnel. While it varies from one ministry to the next, it’s not uncommon to see these two budget categories account for 75 percent of total expenses. So any effort to control expenses must start and end with an eye on the people and the place. How can we maximize efficiency and good stewardship here?

Don’t hire for positions that your volunteers can do. Some churches rely heavily on volunteers to do everything from lead worship to clean the facilities, while others hire for any task that needs to be done reliably. I would suggest that this is going to vary depending on a lot of things, but when looking to control costs always ask: Are we paying for someone to do something that a volunteer might gladly do just as well?

Pay by the project or hire consultants. Many churches have institutionalized roles that could be done better and cheaper by outside firms. Bookkeeping, web design, media, and other areas have turned into full-time positions at churches when they could often be done BETTER for LESS by hiring a professional firm. Outsource it!

Utilize facilities fully. After you’ve done all you can to modernize your facility by adding insulation, low-flow water fixtures, and more efficient lighting, which will all lower utilities and sometimes even lower your insurance rates; the next step to better stewardship of your facility is to consider how many hours a week is it available for other uses. This is where many churches start a daycare, after-school program, counseling center, or other ministry that allows for additional income and facility usage when it would otherwise be sitting empty. In my area, several churches have even opened up Sunday time for other ministries to hold services that reach people they might not be reaching.

The better your ministry gets at stewarding the financial resources people entrust to you, the more they will give. All of this is only important if we remember why we do this to begin with. It’s not about raising funds, controlling expenses, or utilizing buildings. It’s about reaching and discipling a lost world. We simply have an obligation to use the financial resources we’ve been given as a tool…wisely.

Jeremy Moore is a ministry development officer with ECCU, serving ministries in the eastern United States. This article is reprinted with permission from his blog.

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