What if the Two Largest Givers aren’t even Members

A number of years ago, I had the honor of working with Pastor Howie Baird when he was serving Grand Forks Wesley UMC. If I recall correctly, a big concern of Howie’s was that about 25% of the church’s income came from three donors…all in their 80’s. At the time, Howie was working with one of the donors to have them redirect their giving to an endowment that would provide a source of income indefinitely to the church long after the donor had passed.

A little over three years ago, I met with Pastor Charlie Moore and his finance chair, Joel Metz. We discussed plans to get Sioux Falls Sunnycrest UMC on solid financial ground. Part of their plan was to contribute 3% of their offerings into an investment account so that the church would one day have an emergency fund…which is now fully funded.

The reason I share these with you is that a lot of pastors and church leaders wish their churches were better off financially, but rarely take the steps that could lead their churches in that direction. The future ministry of your church will be much brighter if you start planning and then acting today on securing your church’s financial future. This webinar, led by Sheri Meister, will help you get started today.

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SPRC: Personnel Policies

I’m actually not a real big safety fan…but my wife is. I remember the first time driving with her in the mountains of Montana, and she was kind of freaking out because there are a lot of dangerous curves in the road without any guard rails. I didn’t see the big deal. After all, you only need guard rails if you’re planning on going off the road. Of course my thinking is flawed, if you drive long enough, chances are you’re going to go off the road and wish there was a guard rail.

It’s easy for churches to see personnel policies as unnecessary, too. If we only hire good church people, we should never have any issue with our employees, right? If you have employees long enough…even good church people…you’re going to have problems. Our whole ministry model assumes that people are broken and prone to hurting themselves and others. A church pay check doesn’t change that.

The two places were I see the most hurt happening are:

  • Different Expectations: You need something in writing that helps the employee or pastor and the church agree on what success looks like (aka Job Description). Otherwise the pastor will feel unappreciated and the church will feel like their pastor is a dud.
  • Different Rules: It can sometimes be difficult to stay in compliance with written rules. Well, most church policies are unwritten, and it’s impossible to stay in compliance with unwritten and often shifting rules.

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SPRC: Being the Intermediary

A lot of pastors are put in an awkward position. They need a raise or work on the parsonage or time off for renewal. If they ask for they need directly, it can open the pastor up for criticism. They can sound selfish or ungrateful or lazy. “The previous pastor never needed time off and was fine with the pay and parsonage. I guess the new pastor just isn’t that committed.” So pastors may hint about it and grow resentful when no one picks up on the hints.

This is where the Staff/Pastor Relations Committee needs to step in. When it comes to the needs of the pastor and the needs of the congregation, there is often a communication barrier or problem. Here’s what the committee needs to consider:

  • How are we advocating for our pastor? Look for how you can lead the change in areas that are negatively affecting your pastor but are awkward for your pastor to address head on.
  • How are you advising your pastor? Don’t bring complaints to your pastor veiled in anonymity. This is a horrible thing to do. Instead, use your filter to bring real needs and concerns to your pastor.
  • How are you training your pastor and the congregation to respect boundaries? This is an issue on both sides. Define what healthy boundaries look like and work on communicating this to the congregation.

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Assessing your Church’s Financial Health

About eight months ago, I called into the Dave Ramsey Show and got through. After I quit gushing over Dave, I asked him, “What would be the Baby Steps for a church?” This was not just a passing fancy of mine. I’ve been thinking and reading and visiting with people about this subject for many years. In this quarter’s webinar, Sheri Meister and I discuss the seven areas that church’s need to give attention if they want financial freedom to follow Jesus Christ.

Here’s the short version of the areas. I encourage you to watch/listen to this webinar to get the long version. Plus, there is a link to the assessment below that you can take for your church:

  1. Invested Leaders: Church leaders should be raised up from the top 20% of givers. Leaders that don’t give worry about what others might think. Leaders that give worry about the mission.
  2. A Focused Team: Now that you have Invested Leaders, the next step is to help them take responsibility for Overseeing Spending, Growing Giving, and Managing Reserve Funds.
  3. Stewardship Teaching: Money can be either a great obstacle to living for Jesus or a great tool. If you help people manage their money and teach on the benefits of giving, church income will go up.
  4. Budget Accuracy: With a growing income, now is the time to be honest about your budget. How will you plan to spend the income…not what you wish the income was.
  5. Debt Aversion: Debt is a weight on the ministry of a church. It will affect how you lead and make decisions. The sooner you can rid yourself of the debt, the better.
  6. Capital Reserve: With the Debt gone, a Growing Income, and an Accurate Budget, it’s time to build up reserves to care for the property. This helps you avoid always raising funds for the building so that people begin to think the building IS the ministry.
  7. Operating Reserve: At the same time, building up an Emergency/Opportunity Fund will help you take risks and weather storms.

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SPRC: Building up the Pastor

Think about the best boss or teacher or coach you’ve ever had. What were they like? I’m betting they brought the best out of you. I’m betting they were honest yet optimistic about your performance and potential. That is the type of Staff-Pastor Relations Committee your pastor needs. Here’s the secret: Everyone wins when the pastor is at his or her best. The strength and vitality of your ministry will be limited by the overall health of your pastor.

What can you do to build up your pastor?

  • Be trustworthy: If you are on the Staff-Pastor Relations Committee, never ever break confidentiality. Even if you justify it as a “prayer concern,” it’s gossip and will tear your pastor down.
  • Do go there: Don’t just dwell church business. Prepare yourself to have the conversation about what your pastor’s biggest concern is apart from church work. Be willing to share your own struggles.
  • Take action: If it all possible, help the church take some sort of action to help your pastor with that area of concern. If the pastor needs better boundaries between work and family, help define that. Then have the Committee share this with the church…repeatedly.

In the video, I have a bunch of other practical examples of how to build up your pastor.

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Church Committees: It’s about Stewardship

Last month I re-watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy. If you read the books or watched the movies, you’ll remember the Stewards of Gondor. Long story short, when no rightful heir to the throne was found after the death of the king, the Stewards watched over and managed the kingdom of Gondor with the original intent that they would step aside as soon as a rightful heir was identified. The Stewards dared not even sit on the throne, but instead they sat on a chair at the foot of the throne. As time went on (nearly 1,000 years), the Stewards saw their position and power as something they were entitled to and actually tried to reject the true heir to the throne in order to hold onto it.

Does any of this sound eerily similar to how some church committees operate? If Jesus Christ showed up in the flesh and blood for a Finance Committee meeting or Trustees meeting, would we even want to listen to him…even though he’s the rightful owner of all the church property and money? When we are good stewards, we never forget who the owner is. We are mindful to carry out our work in a way that is hopefully pleasing to the LORD.

In the video, I talk about this, but then I give some practical advice for how to remind ourselves of this so that our Committees are truly a blessing to the Kingdom.

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Letting Go to Fuel Generosity

In the 4th quarter webinar for 2020, Sheri Meister takes the learnings from Matt Miofsky’s book “Let Go” and applies them to the church fundraising world. Here’s what I got as the key teachings:

  • A New Hope: Discover who you are as a church and what success looks like for your church. Without hope of a better future, giving, volunteering, and passion will dry up.
  • Letting Go is Necessary: You can’t have it both ways. The world we were ministering to in 1970 or 1990 or even 2019 no longer exists. What ministries and methods are still life changing and what is life draining? We just don’t have the capacity to do a bunch of new things to reach the world of 2020 while still doing everything we’ve always done.
  • Value the Past without Living in the Past: This was a powerful statement from one of our attendees. Is your past a foundation you’re building off of or an idol you’ve started to worship?

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