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The Editorial

Facing the finances

How’s the money in your church?

I hope there’s enough and I hope you pay your pastor adequately (1 Timothy 5.17, 18). Without a proper salary he will worry about his family bills and that is bound to affect his ministry adversely. Churches who underpay their preacher tend to suffer spiritually. The ‘keep him poor, keep him humble’ attitude in some churches is appalling.

John Benton, Editor

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But, visiting various places, I have become aware that some churches are facing financial problems – and they are not the type of church you would expect to be in difficulties. They are generally growing churches. I have heard it said that the optimum church size financially is one of around 80 members – one pastor to support and volunteers doing what they can. It is when churches go beyond that threshold that expenses per capita rise steeply. More staff may be required (not least for administration), maybe the building needs to be enlarged, or a new kitchen is required. Perhaps more people are offering themselves for Bible College or the mission field.

In the church meeting

The church needs more money. The pastor, therefore, rightly preaches on sacrificial giving. The leaders bring proposals to the church meeting – a vision with a price tag attached. They wisely give the health warning: ‘Don’t vote in favour unless you are prepared to give more money’. But it is actually at that point that things go wrong.

Put yourself in the position of the average member at that church meeting who has concerns over the money side of the situation. The leaders may emphasise the health warning, but there are pressures on you. The church is making progress together. Are you going to be the one to raise your hand against and challenge the happy unity of the work? I don’t think so. The church has been told to exercise faith: ‘The Lord will provide as we step out’. Are you going to be the one who apparently doesn’t have faith? What an embarrassment that would be! Are you going to be the one who says: ‘I’m for the proposals but actually we are really hard up as a family and we don’t have any more to give’? Unlikely! In these austere times the rise in average salary in 2017 was just 0.1% while the rate of inflation was 2.7%. So it is that church members raise their hands in approval, but actually are hoping that the Lord will somehow provide the money required out of thin air. And churches run into trouble.

Some suggestions

How can this situation be avoided?

First, there needs to be much more openness. The pressures to conform need to be relaxed. And often in evangelical churches, the leadership is comprised of people who are quite well off compared with others in the church. Plans for a 10% rise in giving which may be okay for them might be not so easy for others.

Second, there needs to be more prayerful discernment. No leader likes to have to refuse a request from an enthusiastic youngster who wants to go to Bible College. But not every such youngster is really called by God. Avoiding difficult conversations can cost a church. And not every zealous Christian has to go into the ministry: we need keen Christians in every walk of life.

Third, there needs to be more financial creativity. One church I know has financed the extension of its premises, by turning another building it owned into flats. It is now able to employ two trainees as well.