Before Your Church Calls the Bank

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

Most of the first calls I get from ministries start with the pastor saying something like this: “We need to borrow money, we’ve looked everywhere, and Pastor Smith said I should give you a call. Please help!”

The problem is that in cases like this, the pastor has often set expectations with his congregation already, and now I’m being called on to help him save face rather than to figure out what is truly best for the church long term. Of course, after some discussion and a look at the church’s financial statements, I can pretty quickly arrive at the proper course of action. Unfortunately, it’s often not what the pastor had in mind when he picked up the phone.

If this sounds strangely similar to your church’s situation, don’t freak out. This is the norm. But let me offer some questions to ask—before you call the bank—the next time you start considering a church expansion project.

Why now? Will the church be negatively impacted if you delay this project? How are attendance and giving today? If down, is now really the time to ask for more? The most common argument for pursuing a construction project is that “your project will never cost less than it will right now.” I’ve heard this standard line for ten years, and it hasn’t always held true, as we are seeing with the current dip in costs. While prices do tend to rise over time, a negative project is worse than no project at all.

Why this? Will a new building really be the best use of funds to expand ministry? Are there other ways to get the same results without the capital expense of an expansion project? What about additional worship services, alternate venues, multi-site, or church planting?

If the answers to these questions suggest that your project should be done now and in the way you’ve envisioned, I’d suggest bringing in some fresh eyes for a second opinion. There are at least two solutions to almost every problem, and in church facilities today, there are often even more possible fixes to facility constraint issues.

Once your team decides that the way forward is facility expansion, whether by constructing a new building or purchasing an existing one, the next step is to determine how much to budget and how to fund it. This is another time when it’s crucial to have some outside guidance. Too often I see ministries come up with plans in a vacuum that doesn’t take into consideration the current economic climate, amount of funds available internally, property values, or even the church’s ability to repay.

When establishing a project budget, you have to start with money on hand and the church’s regular income, then look at all the possible ways to raise additional funds and cut unnecessary expenses from the project. Again, these are all things you want to know before you call the bank.

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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