Church Leader: 7 financial actions to take right now
Updated: Sep 23, 2020
To be honest you probably should have already done these, which is why you need to get on them as soon as possible if you have not. I could put number one here in the introduction, but let's make it one of the actions and jump right in.
Stop ignoring finance Finance should not drive mission. However, you cannot ignore it either. You are a steward of the resources God entrusts to you. Burying your head in the sand is irresponsible and disobedient. There is a balance I won't go into details on here, but faith based spending can be reckless. I believe it is more often due to a lack of faith than full of faith.
Pray How can we set the mission of the church without first seeking the Lord? God knows what He is going to do in and through us. Prayer is our opportunity to align ourselves with His mission, protect against pursuing our own mission apart from God, and center our focus on Jesus.
Revisit the mission After praying, we need to revisit the mission of the Church. What has God called your local expression of the body of Christ to do? Is He confirming or leading in a new direction? The mission we've been called to has to be the center of any financial plan that is put in place. As I mentioned under point #1, finance doesn't drive the mission, it supports and gives resources to accomplish the mission.
Make, implement, and adapt a plan (ie - budget) Without a plan, we are sure to fail. Don't set out to make the budget without doing step #2 and #3 first. Finances will always show our priorities. What we put resources towards is what gets accomplished. If feeding the homeless is #1 after you do steps two and three above, then it should get significant resources during this step. If hosting christian sports in your church isn't on the list, then why should a large portion of the church finances go towards supporting it? Once the plan is set, follow it. If it needs adjusting, make adjustments. It's not a static plan, it changes and adapts with new realities and God's leading.
Make the Ask Jesus himself said, ask and you will receive and that if we ask anything in His name, He will do it. James told us that we have not because we ask not. So many churches seem to avoid teaching on giving, tithing, or finances in general. Jesus spoke about and used money in parables more than any other subject. Why are our leaders afraid of it? I believe it is because American culture has seeped into the church and caused us to avoid this topic. Invite people to participate in God's kingdom through their giving. Let them know of the needs. Let them know of the opportunities. Ask people to give. Teach them what the bible says about giving. Do not use guilt or shame. Teach them how to be cheerful givers.
Enter the 21st century If you don't accept online donations, find out how and do it now. Very few people are using cash and even fewer are using checks. They want to give online or by text. They want to set up automatic giving on a weekly or monthly basis. Help your people give to the Lord by removing barriers. If our current pandemic and lack of in person gatherings hasn't made this one obvious, then any encouragement I give here likely won't help you make the jump either.
Protect your people As believers we know better than anyone that we are sinful people. Yet, we often expect fellow believers to not be tempted or to always do the right thing. I'm not worried here about protecting the resources so much as I am about protecting your people. When people have pressure (a large medical bill) and opportunity (lack of controls) then they are quite capable of rationalization. Implementing financial controls is necessary and it is also the loving thing do. Cash should be counted by two people and never in the possession of a single individual, bank accounts should be reconciled by someone who doesn't have the authority to sign checks or make disbursements, etc. We trust our people, but we also protect them.
As a church leader, you have legal responsibilities and you have fiduciary responsibilities, but more importantly you have spiritual responsibilities. You have been entrusted not only with your people and the mission of your church, but also with the financial resources within the church. Steward all of them well.
Read more about me. I enjoy helping individuals with their taxes, businesses (including nonprofits and churches) with tax or accounting and other finance related questions, and I also enjoy helping people resolve tax debt, liens, levies, or other tax help you may need. I live in Lake Nona in Orlando, Florida, but I serve clients all across the country. Schedule an appointment if you need assistance and take a look at the resource page.
*The blog posts (as well as the YouTube channel) are my personal opinions and thoughts about a wide range of topics. They are not meant to apply to individuals specifically and should never be relied on as tax or investment advice. You should contact a professional for specific advice before taking action.