Growing Your Church Staff: Should You Hire or Rely on Volunteers?

Small Churches With Big Vision Can Have Big Impact.

But it takes more than one person to bring that vision to life.

Perhaps you are a visionary pastor. Your greatest desire is to see more lives changed by the power of the gospel. You went into ministry because you had a God-given calling and a passion for people. You have a vision to see God use your church to accomplish His mission. But there is only so much you can do alone.

Too many pastors and church planters try to save money by trying to do everything themselves. But it’s too much. And it’s not the most effective way to accomplish the vision. And in the end it can end up costing you more time, money, and diminishing your impact.

Big impact can only happen when a strong team is in place to execute the vision. And the challenge for pastors is figuring out how to build that team.

Should Your Church Staff be Made Up of Volunteers or Employees?

Perhaps the scenario we see most often in small and growing churches is the all-volunteer church staff. If you are in the early stages of planting a church, you simply may not have the funds to hire any help. In this case, you must rely on a team of volunteers to make things happen. This is sustainable for a season.

But eventually there will come a point where the current level of growth, effort and impact of your church will not sustainable through the efforts of volunteers alone. Either you, and/or your volunteer team will burn out. And the last thing your church needs is for you to get burned out and quit the ministry. We’ve seen this happen way too many times. 

Before you ever reach this point, you and your leadership team need to think hard about what type of church you want to be and the long-term investment that will be required to accomplish the vision of the church. You will need to determine what kind of church you want to be, and which leadership structure is right for your church.

But before we dig into the details of how to build your church staff, we need to address a common misnomer.

Cheap Doesn’t Equal Stewardship

It can be tempting to continue to rely on a team of volunteers to execute the mission of the church. After all, this feels familiar and it is obviously the cheapest option. Isn’t cheap the same thing as good stewardship?

Absolutely not. I’m not sure where these two ideas got intertwined. Just because something is cheap, doesn’t guarantee that it is the most cost-effective, valuable or the right choice for long-term sustainability and health. Cheap doesn’t always equal good stewardship. 

Building an All-Volunteer Staff

While volunteers are a vital part of the functioning of every church organization, there are some challenges that come with relying solely on volunteers to accomplish key ministry tasks:

  • Your volunteer may be willing, but not in the right position. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard stories about volunteers who were very willing to serve in a role, yet they were not suited or qualified for the given role. What’s more, the under-qualified individual may prevent the right individual from serving where they are most gifted.  

    This can lead to an uncomfortable situation if the volunteer needs to be removed from the role. Often pastors will avoid this confrontation and just work around the situation. This creates more work for everyone involved and is not healthy for the entire organization.
  • Volunteer responsibilities need to be managed differently. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) has specific guidelines regarding the differences between employees and volunteers. While the guidelines for non-profit organizations can be interpreted broadly, this is something to keep in mind. Essentially the more say you have in what and how a person performs specific tasks, the more likely they are to be seen as an employee in the eyes of the law.
  • You are relying on their time commitment. Often, the volunteer’s schedule will dictate when things can get done. It is easy for the needs of the church to get put on the back burner. Things that are critical to ministry growth and success might not get done.

The biggest challenge to the all-volunteer staff approach is that the impact potential of the church gets limited. While we have seen a few churches sustain health and growth with only a team of volunteers, most churches eventually plateau (or begin to decline) unless they choose to invest in church staff. 

Is it Time to Hire or Outsource?

A great first step to increasing the impact of your church is to hire part-time help or outsource time-consuming tasks.

Think through how you currently spend the hours in your week. According to the Harvard Business Review, you can free up to 20% of your day by either eliminating or delegating unimportant and time-consuming tasks. What kind of impact could your church have when you are able to focus more on the mission and less on the administrative details?

Some of the most common tasks to outsource include:

What Happens Next?

We can’t tell you specifically what role you should hire for first and what you should prioritize because this is unique to each church. It depends on the specific giftings and weaknesses of the lead pastor, along with the vision and goals of the church. But here are some of the most common church staff roles that help churches make big impact:

  • Associate Pastor and/or Executive Pastor
  • Children’s Minister
  • Student Pastor
  • Administrative Assistant
  • Groups/Equipping Coordinator
  • Worship Pastor
  • Missions/Outreach Coordinator

We recommend sitting down with your core leadership team to dream together about the vision of your church and then sketch out a strategic plan and timelines to bring on paid support to help accomplish this vision. This will not happen overnight, but through setting goals, making informed decisions based on accurate numbers, prayerfully pursuing the vision God has given your church, and building a healthy leadership team, you will move towards big impact much more quickly.

Are you a small church who wants to have big impact? Give us a call so we can chat about how we can partner with you to grow your reach and impact. 

Before You Hire Your First Church Staff Member…Do This

If you are the pastor of a small church, you probably already know that there is a limit to what one staff member can accomplish for a church (at least without eventually burning out).

You’ve realized that there is a finite amount of time, but more tasks that need to be accomplished than can fit into that finite amount of time. Eventually there will come a point – if it hasn’t already – where you will need to consider whether to bring on additional help.

Many small churches and church plants will first try to make do with volunteer staff, but there are additional challenges that come with relying on volunteer staff for key ministry functions.

If you truly want to be a church that flourishes and experiences long-term health and impact, you will at some point need to invest in paid help. But before you bring on an additional paid staff member, there are a few things you need to consider:

1. Make sure you hire a church staff member for the right reasons  

Hiring that first employee is something that needs to be done with some forethought.

I’ve met several pastors that hired their first employee and in hindsight realized they did it for the wrong reasons. Yes, there probably was more work than one person could handle, but their motivation for hiring someone was really the belief that hiring an employee would mean that the church plant had somehow now “made it”.

In reality, when not done right, hiring that first employee can actually be a detriment to the church. After all, there are a whole new set of responsibilities and requirements that need to be considered once your church is designated an employer (more on this in a moment).

2. Make sure you hire the right church staff person for the right role

I’m sure you already know this, but never hire someone simply because you are desperate, and they are available. Conversely, don’t hire someone just because they are a good friend or a “good person”.

In the words of Jim Collins, “Leaders of companies that go from good to great start with getting the right people on the bus…and the right people in the right seats.”

The same is true for your church. If someone is not the right fit for the church or for a specific position, it can cause a great deal of harm. Before you hire someone, first think through the needs of the church. Then consider your responsibilities, giftings and skillset. Ask yourself:

  • What is currently missing/lacking?
  • What responsibilities should I offload?
  • Could I effectively solve these problem areas with volunteer help or by outsourcing? Or should I bring someone on in a paid capacity?
  • What are my areas of weakness and how could an additional staff person offset this?

If you determine that your church would be best served by an additional paid staff person, consider what characteristics would complement your gifts and personality traits. For example, if you are a visionary/dreamer, consider bringing on someone who is more detailed-oriented and gifted at turning dreams into executable plans.

3. Recognize that you will now also be a boss

Chances are you went into ministry because your life was changed by the gospel. You expected that life in ministry would involve preaching the word, discipling and encouraging others in their faith, and spreading the message of Jesus with your community.

My guess is that you didn’t go into ministry with the expectation that you would be operating the equivalent of a small business. And yet, as a church grows, the administrative responsibilities increase as well. Being a lead pastor involves not just shepherding people, but also leading the organization. When you hire additional staff, you become both a pastor and a boss.

In some cases, pastors specifically hire someone to oversee all the administrative areas of the church. They assume that by hiring an executive pastor, they will be able to solely focus on ministry.

However, as the lead pastor, you need to be aware of the health of your organization. Even if you aren’t managing the day-to-day details, you still need to have a pulse on how the organization is doing. And you are still ultimately the person that sets the vision for your church and that all other staff members answer to.

Besides, as a non-profit organization, there will ultimately be one person the IRS or state and local government looks to as the “manager” of the organization. As much as many lead pastors try to say they’ve delegated this role to someone else, at the end of the day it falls on them.

My encouragement to you is to not let this new role scare you. View it as an opportunity to grow in your skills as a leader and a disciple-maker.

4. Learn to lead your church staff team well

Even if you hire the right person for the right role, it does not guarantee ministry health and success. You will need to grow in how you lead and communicate with your team.

The moment you hire someone else, the structure of the organization changes. How you operate, make decisions and structure your day will need to change.

You will need to provide your staff members with consistent, intentional communication. This goes beyond just talking about job responsibilities and assigning tasks, but an ongoing dialogue that includes expectations and feedback.

Church staff check-ins

Set up a time to have a routine, intentional chat with each of your employees. In our company, I push to have a weekly “check-in” chat with every employee. Usually it only lasts 10-20 minutes, but these chats allow me to maintain the pulse of our organization. I get to know what’s going on personally with each person, while also keeping a handle on their workload and how they are doing. 

Church staff performance reviews

Secondly, you should have routine performance reviews. This is an area where many churches see problems arise. Let me describe a common scenario:

You hire a new staff member who excels at their job. Because they are a go-getter, as time goes on, they take on many additional responsibilities. As a boss, you are excited because it keeps more tasks off your plate.

Months go on and, because the work just keeps getting done, you never take the time to revisit the scope of responsibilities or hold a job performance review with the person.

Sounds great right?

It is. Until there is a problem.

I’ve seen things go poorly for churches in this situation several times. Either the staff member eventually burns out, or they begin to lead people toward a different vision. Instead of moving towards a united church vision under the leadership of the senior pastor, they end up sowing seeds of discord because the pastor and staff member are no longer on the same page.

Without consistent feedback, vision casting and dialogue with you, your staff members will eventually develop their own vision of where they think things need to go.

To grow a healthy church, you need a healthy leadership team pursuing the same goals. And a healthy team begins with how you lead your team.

5. Understand any new legal requirements and filings your church may be responsible for now that you have a church staff

In most, if not every situation, you as pastor are a “dual-status” employee. This means that you are considered a church employee for federal withholdings; but considered self-employed for SECA (Social Security and Medicare) withholdings.

Since you are already on the payroll, your church should already be filing proper documentation with state and federal authorities. However, if your church has not yet set up proper documentation because you’re the only person on staff, you will need to make sure you take care of all legal obligations before bringing on any additional staff members.

At a minimum, you should be submitting monthly or quarterly forms that detail payroll information for all paid staff members. This requirement starts the day your church begins compensating a person in an employment relationship.

NOTE: Before we move on, please know that it is NOT OKAY to circumvent filing payroll by paying someone as an independent contractor. The IRS has very clear guidelines and a person must meet specific criteria to qualify getting paid in this manner. Many churches mess up in this area of payroll. We don’t want you to get flagged by the IRS for mishandling payroll. 

Conclusion

We believe that churches are healthier and more effective when they have a strong leadership team. And a strong leadership team is made possible when your church is able to hire additional staff. 

If you’re concerned about managing the records and legal requirements as an employer, consider using our Simplify Payroll system. We’ll take care of all your filings and paperwork, so you never have to worry about doing it wrong. Our goal is to break down all the barriers that prevent pastors and churches from thriving. 

Bringing on staff members is an entirely new level of ministry that needs to be handled with forethought and planning. But when done well, hiring that next staff member will enable your church to impact more lives, while keeping you from burning yourself and your family out.


The Easter Opportunity: How to Create an Impactful Easter Service amid COVID-19

I’m sure you’ve checked your calendar and seen that Easter Sunday is a little over a week away.  

On Easter Sunday, most churches typically see a spike in attendance. For many churches, it is their most attended Sunday of the year. 

You may have been planning for your Easter service for weeks or months already. And now it’s time to throw out those plans and completely shift gears. 

But before you give up on reaching new people this Easter consider this:

  • More people are facing high levels of stress and anxiety right now
  • More people are feeling isolated right now
  • More people are actively looking for ways to deal with their stress and anxiety
  • More people are considering either their own mortality or the mortality of a loved one

They are looking for something that can bring them a sense of joy, hope and peace in a season of fear and uncertainty. 

This Easter, more than any other, more people are looking for what can only be found in Jesus Christ. 

In other words, the Easter opportunity still exists! 

Yes, you will need to completely rethink your strategy, but Easter is still a significant opportunity. I believe that if you choose to seize this moment, you’ll be amazed at what God can do through your church to reach people that might never otherwise darken the doors of a church. 

But You Must Seize the Easter moment.

By this I mean you cannot simply do “church” as normal (whatever that means anymore). You need a new plan to reach people on this particular Easter. 

So how do you prepare for an online Easter service in the middle a global pandemic that reaches MORE people for Jesus? 

BOOST AWARENESS

Your Goal: To get someone who is not connected to a church to watch your Easter service online. 

In many ways, this is much simpler than asking someone to get dressed up and drive to a building with a bunch of people they don’t know. They never have to leave home or even get out of their pajamas. They just need to know that you exist and that you have something that can help them out. 

Clarify Your Message

Let’s start with the second part – they need to know that you have something that can help them out.

Here’s the honest truth: If someone isn’t connected to a church, they won’t care about the story of your church, or even the story of Jesus. What they will care about is if what you have to offer can help them survive or thrive.

When you create content that invites people to watch your Easter service, keep this important fact in mind. Create content that addresses the pain you know people are in, and how you have a solution to that pain. And please don’t use “churchy” words. 

Before you sit down to write anything, pretend that you’re having a conversation with someone that has never been to church and has just lost their job due to economic impacts of COVID-19. What would you say to that person to get them to watch to your service?

Now create an inviting social media post based on that idea.

Encourage People to Share

Once you’ve thought through what you want to communicate, the next step is to let people know that you exist. The easiest way to boost awareness is to enlist the help of your current attenders. Create a post about your upcoming Easter service on your social media pages. Ask your current attenders to share your posts to their own pages. 

This works even better if instead of just hitting the “share” button, they add a personal anecdote about their experience with your church. 

Boost Your Visibility on Facebook

If you have some money in your budget, I’d recommend boosting your post as a Facebook and Instagram ad. Once you make a post on your Facebook page, you’ll see a “boost post” button. Click the button and Facebook will give you a series of options to promote your service. You can specify who you want your ad to appear to (such as people in your local area or friends of those who like your page), how long you want the ad to run, and how much you want to spend to reach people.

Engage with People on your Church Facebook Page

Begin now by posting regular content on your social media pages. This will help both keep your regular attenders connected and growing AND help engage new viewers with your content. Have someone from your church leadership team go live on Facebook each day for a daily dose of encouragement, or to share ideas for staying connected and growing spiritually.

Another idea is to create a holy week journey for your members with specific content, scriptures and prayer points posted daily in the week leading up to Easter Sunday.  

Encourage Members to Host a Facebook Watch Party on Easter Sunday 

A watch party is a co-watching video experience. A host creates a Facebook watch party and invites friends to join him or her. Everyone in a watch party watches the same moment in the video at the same time, and group members can comment on and react to the content in the video.

Let’s say you go live with your Easter service on your Facebook page. A member can navigate to the video, click share and choose the drop-down option “watch party.” From there the member can start a watch party on their own Facebook page or share it to a group page that they are a part of. 

The more your members interact with and post about your online service and personally invite friends to join them, the more people scrolling the Facebook news feed will see your service. 

PLAN YOUR EASTER SERVICE 

Your Goal: To get someone that watches your service to make contact with you  

Now is the time to begin planning your Easter service. As much as you want to equip and encourage your church members, choose this service and create it specifically for someone that may be tuning in for the first time. 

As I mentioned above, what makes people curious about what you have to say is the belief that it can help them survive or thrive. Build your entire service – your worship, your announcements, your message – around this idea. 

For example, if you begin by talking about the fact that we all have a sin problem, you’ve probably already lost your audience. 

However, if you begin by talking about the stress and anxiety people are currently feeling and the need to resolve these feelings, then you’ve aroused curiosity and your audience is open to hearing more.

Author Ray Edwards provides a simple outline that he calls the P.A.S.T.O.R. framework. While his book is specifically about communication, this framework is exactly what you as a pastor are called to do!

Here’s the framework:

P – Pain. Begin by meeting people where they are at. Talk about the pain they feel and the problems they face in terms they can relate to

A – Amplify. What is the cost of not solving this problem? 

S – Solution. What is the solution to this problem? 

T – Transformation. Share a story of a life that has experienced positive change due to solving the problem

O – Offer. Explain the solution being offered

R – Response. Ask for a response

I have a sign in my home that reads, “You miss 100% of the shots you never take.” 

You probably know that just because you ask for a response, it doesn’t mean someone is ready to make a response. On average someone needs to hear the gospel 7.2 times before they are ready to respond. But you will get a response more often than if you never asked for a response. 

But asking someone to make a choice to follow Jesus isn’t the only response you can ask for.

Think about a response in terms of building a relationship. You probably wouldn’t ask someone to marry you on a first date. Instead, you might ask for a phone number or a second date.

So what is a logical next step to start building a relationship with that first-time viewer? Ideally you’d like to be able to reach out and start a dialogue.

As I mentioned in this post, every digital service should offer some type of digital connect card that people can fill out. You do not need fancy technology to make this happen! It can be as simple as posting a link to a free Google form you create.

You can encourage more people to fill out these forms by asking them to submit prayer requests that you will pray over. 

Or consider offering to donate a specific amount of money (e.g. $5) to your local food bank or some other COVID-19 response organization for every connection form that gets filled out.  

Another way to encourage a response, is by offering a free download that helps people further implement whatever you talked about in your message. This could be almost anything.

You could offer a prayer and meditation guide, or a list of people offering free online counseling, or a handout on how to rethink your budget in times of crisis, or a free ebook on overcoming fear. The possibilities are endless! 

For the next few weeks, you’ll need to be clear (and repetitive) about specific ways for people to plug into your digital community. Keep publishing encouraging content on your social media pages and keep seeking opportunities to connect with those who may be far from God. You might even consider starting a new preaching series on Easter and encourage people to come back the following week to hear the rest of the story.

PLAN YOUR FOLLOW UP

Your Goal: To turn a one-time viewer into a regular viewer and potential future visitor to your church.

I’ve talked with plenty of churches who theoretically had a “follow-up plan,” but their execution was lacking. Make sure you know: 

  • HOW you will follow up (text, email, card in the mail, etc)
  • WHO will follow up
  • WHAT TIME FRAME you will follow up

Last Christmas I was visiting family and we visited a local church on Christmas Eve (a Tuesday) because the service time worked well for our family. A few weeks went by and one morning I received an email from a church thanking me for “my visit last Sunday.” I knew that I had been at my home church the past Sunday and my first thought was, “Has someone been using my email address?” 

It took me a few moments to figure out that email was from the church we had visited on Christmas Eve. While I am glad that the church followed up, their follow up was neither timely (three weeks later) or accurate (I did not attend the past Sunday).

 I could make excuses for them and say that the person responsible for follow up was probably on vacation, but the truth is that their follow up would have been a lot more effective if they had simply tweaked their message and then either had someone else send the follow-up message or automated their follow up. 

A simple text or email might be the difference between someone never watching your service again and someone eventually becoming an active part of your congregation.

Services like Text In Church are designed to help you effectively follow up either through text or email. (Note: They are currently offering 60 days free for new members). 

A simple text or email might be the difference between someone never watching your service again or someone eventually becoming an active part of your congregation.

However you choose to follow up, your plan should include MORE THAN ONE touchpoint. The goal is to build a relationship over time. That does not mean rushing to a commitment, but rather cultivating curiosity that leads them to want to hear and learn more. 

FOLLOW THROUGH 

Now that you and your team have developed an intentional process for connecting new people to your church digitally, follow through with it.

Remember, you are creating open doors for new relationships. As with any relationship, getting to a place of trust will take time. You may get discouraged because this method is not nearly as simple as counting the number of visitors who attended on an Easter Sunday and then counting how many visitors returned for another visit.

But the door to reach MORE people who would not normally visit a church is open to you. And if you are faithful in the slow path of building relationships over time, you may be surprised at how many visitors you do get, once you can physically begin meeting together again.

But you must seize the opportunity! 

Be intentional and consistent in your planning, execution and your follow up. I can’t wait to hear how God works through your church in the coming weeks and months!

How to Help Your Church Go Digital, Part 2

Congratulations! For many of you, you made it through your first week of doing church online!

It took some creativity and ingenuity, but you made it happen. And that’s something worth celebrating.

So my guess is your thinking, “What now?”

Many states and localities have now issued “shelter in place” orders, so you and your staff and volunteers are probably trying to navigate working from home. 

Are there best practices for church leaders seeking to work remotely? How do you stay connected? How do you collaborate? Manage projects? Communicate? 

Here are Simplify Church, we’ve been working as a remote team for more than a decade now. We partner with churches all over the country to provide financial management services, so it just made sense to allow our team of Simplify Account Managers to work remotely as well. The convenience and flexibility of this set up has truly served both our company and our employees, and I believe it has great potential for your church as well.

With this in mind, here are a few tips, ideas and best practices to help you navigate the next several weeks of working remotely with your ministry staff and leaders. 

KEEP YOUR STAFF AND LEADERS CONNECTED

Overnight, we’ve all gone to a virtual environment. Last week you may have chosen to cancel your staff meeting or your elders meeting or your Sunday planning meeting.

While this is okay for a week or two, it’s not a sustainable way to keep an organization connected. You still need to be in regular contact with those on your church leadership. You can do this via:

Slack – This free messaging service is a very popular way to communicate virtually via instant messaging and group chats. Instead of an email inbox, you have direct conversations with others in dedicated spaces called channels. Pro tip: organize chat channels into broad categories to keep the discussions relevant. 

Zoom – After using several tools and testing them out over the years we’ve landed on Zoom as our app of choice for video calls with those outside our organization Zoom makes the process simple and easy to setup a new call, invite others and collaborate together in a virtual meeting. Zoom offers a free option with time limitations or a simple single user price for $14.99/month.  Single user just means that you have one login. So long as that one individual can schedule the calls (even for others), then that option is viable for a church.

Microsoft Teams – If you already have Office 365, you have access to Microsoft’s chat and video conference tools via Microsoft Teams. In fact, here at Simplify Church, we recently made the switch from Slack to Teams for our internal communication, primarily for the ease of use of Teams Meetings. This system is very simple to use, but if you don’t already have Office 365, it’s probably not worth the subscription in lieu of using Zoom. 

GoToMeeting – A great tool, but not as easy-to-use as Zoom. They offer a similar service to other video conference options. Admittedly, I have not looked into their system after transitioning to Zoom from the simplicity they provide. 

Google Hangouts – If you’re a Google Apps user, then you have access to Google Hangouts. This is a viable option even without the Google Apps setup so long as all users have a Google ID (anyone can set up a google email address for free) and use that to login. Note: there is a bit of a learning curve for this option. 

Email – While I would absolutely recommend you incorporate one on the above tools, in the short term you can stay connected via email. You will just need to remember that it is important to err on the side of over-communicating rather than to under-communicate and risk miscommunication.

KEEP YOUR CONGREGATION CONNECTED

I was listening to a podcast targeted to small business owners the other day. But as soon as I heard this suggestion, I knew it was just as applicable to churches.

The podcast host made the statement: “The businesses that survive this pandemic will be the ones that find a way to stay connected to their audience.”

Now, replace business with the word church.  

This is exactly what will set apart the churches that come out of this crisis stronger from the ones that will end up closing their doors.

Yes, it will take creativity and ingenuity, but one of the best things you can do for your church is lean into this new era of digital connection.

You must find a way to keep your congregation connected. An easy way to do this is to encourage all of your small groups to continue meeting virtually via Zoom, or apps like WhatsApp or GroupMe. 

Stay tuned. We’ll be sharing some more ideas for creatively connecting with your congregation in the weeks to come!

HELP FACILITATE YOUR STAFF WORKING FROM HOME

Let me first address a common concern/myth I hear from those resistant to virtual workplaces. It’s the myth that given the opportunity to work from home, people won’t actually work. 

In over a decade of working with staff remotely I have found the opposite to be true. In fact, often remote staff work MORE than they’re supposed to (which is why it’s important to encourage your team to develop healthy work/life boundaries). 

To be fair, there have been a few instances where an employee took advantage of the situation. But I’ll be the first to admit that it was a hiring issue, rather than a virtual employment issue. I simply hired the wrong individual and they took advantage of the flexibility we offered. 

Working from home is not the issue; it is how we lead and facilitate a remote team that makes the difference. 

Communication

The best piece of advice I can give is to maintain intentional communication with your remote staff and team members. Being intentional means that you reach out to them periodically. Check in and see how things are going. Communicate with them even more frequently than you normally would in an office environment.  

Set up consistent video calls with the team. These calls may be project-related, or they may simply be a chance for people to connect with one another. It’s all about keeping people connected in this new reality, when they may not be used to working from home. 

Pro Tip: If you’re going to use a system like Slack or Teams, you can set up a “check in” channel so that people can let everyone know when they are available or stepping out. I'd also recommend setting up a “virtual water cooler” channel to give people a place for non-work-related discussions. This helps foster community, collaboration and helps people feel like it’s more than just a place for transactional discussions.  

While I’m sharing suggestions that we’ve learned from years of remote work, it is also important to keep in mind that this season is anything but ordinary. Many on your team will be home with children, since most schools are cancelled.

A virtual chat offers an outlet from that 5th episode of Wild Kratts playing in in the background. Also understand that your team members may be less productive and need additional flexibility and grace as they seek to both accomplish necessary tasks and teach/care for children. 

P. S. As the leader, your staff and volunteer leaders are looking to you for guidance and direction. In times of stress and uncertainty, it can be helpful to have a person or a group to process with. You also have the opportunity on calls with your team to help them navigate the days ahead and be the voice reminding them that our security is found in Christ alone! 

Tools

Beyond simple communication, you’ll need to find a system that works for your organization to manage projects and collaborate with team members. Here are some options:

Project, Task Management 

Trello – basically an online dashboard of post-it notes. You can share your Trello board with others and track project progress as you move cards along the lists that you have pre-defined. This is a very helpful tool for managing projects and other needs for your staff. 

Asana – Free online project management software. Asana is a bit more robust than Trello in that it already has some pre-defined ways of doing things. You can setup projects, invite people, track progress and to-dos and set deadlines.   

Basecamp – a paid online project management tool, but at a nominal cost. Basecamp is great as the company itself has written several books about the concept of remote work. If you’re looking for some resources or tips, they have written extensively about it. Here is a piece they wrote about internal communication for remote workers. 

Online Collaboration 

Most of the project management tools listed above will have some cloud storage and collaboration systems built-in, but here are a few other options to help your team share files: 

One Drive – Part of Office 365, OneDrive allows you to share documents and work collaboratively on them. The benefit for many churches is to always have one version of the document so you can be sure you’re always working on the latest draft.  

Google Drive – very similar to One Drive except using Google’s infrastructure. 

Evernote – this is a little less robust from the features of Word or Docs, but still gives a method for cloud storage and collaboration. 

Dropbox, Box – both options are a cloud storage system.  These are great for times when you need to access a file from multiple locations. Neither of these system have online collaboration features, however, so you’d need to use Office 365, Word or Google Docs/Sheets to collaborate.  

REMEMBER THAT SPIRITUAL CONNECTION IS POSSIBLE, EVEN WHEN PHYSICAL CONNECTION IS NOT

Right now as a church leader, you should be encouraging your staff and congregation to stay home and help stop the spread of the Coronavirus.

But as you do that, you may feel a sense of confusion or loss. The Church has always been about connection, community and reaching out to meet needs. What should the Church look like in this season? 

The good news is that this crisis is simply a reminder that the Church was never about a building; it was and always will be a movement of people. The even better news is that God is not at all limited by our physical distancing. 

A pastor in our Oasis pastor networking group shared recently that he was able to lead a member of his church to Christ over a Zoom call last week. The mission and the message of Jesus and the movement of his Church continues, regardless of what workspace we use or how we gather together. Isn’t that a wonderful thought! 

I’d love to hear how your church is navigating the move to collaborating remotely. If you have any questions or we can help your church out in any way, drop me a line Josh@simplifychurch.com

5 Helpful Responses to COVID-19 (Coronavirus) For Your Church

In the last 48 hours, the feelings of many Americans about COVID-19 and the impact that it has on their personal lives has shifted dramatically.  

 Across the country, events and gathering spaces are closing in an unprecedented way. Schools are shutting their doors, churches are cancelling services and many Americans are being asked not to come in to work or to try to accomplish all their tasks from home (while simultaneously teaching and caring for their children).  

This can cause a lot of fear, anxiety and stress for many people, both inside and outside of the Church. Here are five actions your church can take to respond to this crisis in a healthy way.

1. Start With Prayer

Enough said.

2. Plan, Not Panic

We should absolutely take COVID-19 seriously. It does not do our churches any good to pretend that this virus will not impact all of our members in some way. A feeling of panic comes naturally to people. What is needed is not panic or a reactionary stance, but rather to prayerfully and thoughtfully make a plan for the ways it will impact our congregations. 

  • Is there a better way to encourage greeting one another that limits physical contact? 
  • What if your Sunday service does not meet?  
  • Should you gather in smaller groups? 
  • Do you have a way to digitally stream your Sunday service? 
  • Should your small groups still meet?  
  • Should your youth or children’s programming be altered in some way?  

What is right for one church, may not be right for another. This is why approaching all of these questions with an attitude of prayer and seeking the Lord’s guidance is so important. People want to know that those in leadership are trustworthy and are making wise decisions. By being proactive and communicating your plans and actions, you continue to build that relationship of trust and help prevent people from moving to a sense of panic.  

3. Encourage Generosity

Our response should not be to hoard resources, but to consider those around us. Encourage those in your congregation to continue to give and live generous lives. Encourage people to continue to give to your church as well. 

As a church leader you may be concerned about the financial impact to your church. 

If you need to forgo meeting together on a Sunday morning, do you have a way that people can still fund the mission of your church? Make sure that you have digital giving options for your members AND make sure they know how to do it. If someone regularly gives on Sunday morning, they may need a simple tutorial of how to set up online giving. 

This is also an opportunity to encourage your regular givers to set up recurring giving if they aren’t already doing so.   

4. Promote Being a Good Neighbor

In this season, there are many people that are feeling even more fearful, stressed, isolated and confused. Many will face significant financial stress and it seems all of us will face a shortage of toilet paper.🤷‍♂️

Encourage those in your congregation to be a light and a good neighbor to those around them. It is about being intentional with our words and actions. Have groceries delivered to a friend in need. Call/text friends and family to check in on them. Be intentional about meeting needs and looking for opportunities to share the hope we have in Jesus Christ.  

5. Spread Faith, Not Fear

God has not given us a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7).  

During trying times and events that affect our nation as a whole, people tend to lean into anything that can give them a sense of peace and security. It is our responsibility and opportunity as Christians to be open and available. We can show how our faith prepares us to handle uncertainty, knowing that God is in control and has a plan for us even when we don’t see it. 

Be confident, be strong and courageous and be available to minister through this time. This is a huge opportunity to offer hope and to “care for the least of these.” 

Every church will have to take measures to deal with this unprecedented time according to their own best judgment and the advice of the local authorities.  The church can be a beacon of hope during this time so keep your eyes open to opportunities that may exist to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  

5 Ways Your Finance Team Is Hindering Ministry Growth

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To be clear, we’ve written many times about volunteers in church and how they can be the biggest blessings.  In reality though, we can also probably share horror stories of where volunteers have created some headache and heart-ache for your ministry. 

As a church finance company, we obviously deal mostly with treasurers, financial secretaries and finance teams (stewardship committees if you will).  In the many years we’ve been doing this, one things has become abundantly clear, there are some real ways your finance team may be hindering ministry growth. 

The great news is that if you know these 5 areas, you will be better positioned to not let them affect your ministry. 

1. The Mission and Vision are Not Front and Center

I’ve written earlier about how to budget to your mission and vision of your church. Scripture tells us in Matthew 6:21, Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  I see this as a very clear statement on priorities.  Even more clear is the statement on treasure and what how that guides your soul.  You’re  a church leader so I don’t need to preach to you but just be reminded, where we prioritize our focus and resources will reveal where our heart is.

So how does this affect our finances in church? 

In the previous post about mission and vision and budgeting we’ve laid out the reasonings for that focus.  For this purpose with your finance team, that mission and vision needs to be the guiding principal of the meetings and decisions made. 

I’ve seen too many teams get overly focused on the numbers without remembering the mission.  Church finances can be tough.  You have very little control over your income, and for many of us, that income is tight!  Sometimes when money gets tight, it causes us to make rash, hasty decisions or to easily forget our ultimate mission and reason we were entrusted with those funds. 

For your finance team, keep the mission and vision of your ministry at the forefront of everything you do. 

2. Too Many Hands In The Pot, Cooks in The Kitchen, Wrong People On The Bus or Whatever Analogy You Want To use

Another area we’ve seen finance teams become a hinderance is when there are no defined roles for the people on the team.  I know in most churches we delve out roles based on whether the person is breathing, but for something as important as finance we should go a step further. 

Just because someone owns a small business, works as an executive or even better they are a CPA doesn’t default them qualified for your finance team.  In fact, it is often those people that we find causing the most issues among finance teams.  Yes, on the surface it makes sense that they’d be good for the role, but we often find that success or experience in the secular world doesn’t always translate to success in ministry, especially financial ministries.   

Now, don’t read that wrong, there are some very faithful people that have had success in the secular world that go on to be great church leaders, but from experience, those stories are not the norm. 

This point could probably be an entire post for itself so I won’t go too much deeper. 

For your finance team, put a system in place to almost interview people for the role on the team.  Putting a process in place now will save you in the future. 

3. Unclear Expectations Of The Team

This point will go in line with the previous one but this is more related to the team as a whole.  For some reason, the finance area of a church has become a kingdom for some people.  I’ve seen too many treasurers on a power trip that feel it becomes their job to dictate the finances of the church.  I’m not sure why that happens but it’s a story we’ve seen countless times. 

I’ve also seen the finance team that becomes more powerful than the pastor or the elders. 

Without clear expectations for the team, they are open to their own interpretation of their roles in the church.  It goes back to the old adage, he who holds the purse strings controls all. 

Your finance team needs to know that their place is to review the current financial reports, analyze those and make recommendations to the pastor and/or elder(s) on what they find.  That is a healthy balance for a church.  When the finance teams dictates and directs the elders, that becomes unhealthy and is a recipe for disaster. 

For your finance team, be sure each member knows the role of the team and where they fit into the big picture of the ministry as a whole. 

4. Too Many Ideas Overcomplicating The Process

In church finance, there are a lot of ideas and stories out there that start out with something like “Well at my last church we did … “. 

I tell pastors almost every day that if you ask 5 different accountants how to handle church finances and especially payroll, you’ll likely get 5 different answers. 

Because of this, we often run into finance teams that have people coming with ideas and experiences from previous places.  While this is great to have a diversity of ideas, it often complicates things.  Especially when some of those previous ways are wrong. 

In our experience, most churches are over-complicating things.  Our company is called Simplify Church for a reason, we as church people (or people in general) are pretty good at making things harder than they need to be.  Ministry is tough already, let’s not voluntarily add complications that cloud our mission. 

For your finance team, keep simplicity in mind.  Vet ideas through a filter and seek counsel.  We consult with churches all over the country and have found many are quite simply overcomplicating things. 

5. Lack of Leadership

Ok, this point my bite a little bit. 

The final way your finance team may be hindering your ministry growth is from lack of leadership.  Far too many pastors feel unequipped to handle the finances and in turn rely on the finance team.  The problem with that is then the finance team doesn’t have clear direction or leadership from the person who is shepherding the church.  It won’t take long to find out where that ends up. 

There are areas where you should rely on others and use their skills and gifts.  However, leadership is providing direction and counsel in that process.  

Pastor, if you’re not invited to the finance team meetings, that needs to change immediately.  The finances of the church will have a direct impact on your ability to lead the church and guide them.  If you don’t have an idea of the financial picture, you don’t have an idea on where the ministry is at, or where you can go. 

It’s imperative that the pastor of the church have a direct role in leading the finance team and holding them accountable to the mission and vision. 

For your finance team, take the lead and guide them.  Be their pastor in stewarding the funds and resources of the church.   

As you can see, or may have experienced, the finance team of your church can be a huge asset, or a big hinderance.  Hopefully you find the previous to be true and your finance team is a huge blessing to your ministry. 

If you’re looking for ideas or need some help in navigating putting a team in place, or fixing a team problem, don’t hesitate to reach out to us and we’ll hop on a call to discuss.  We love the local church and will do everything we can to give as much insight as possible. 

Send a Single Email to Increase Your Year End Giving

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For most churches, December makes up a large portion of budget giving. Studies have shown that in 2017, 23% of online giving for churches happened in December.

I don’t know about you, but making the most of year end giving can be the difference between making your budget or missing it.

One email can make all the difference in year end giving.

To make the most of your year end giving appeal, take these steps below:

1. Send an email to your entire database using the template below. If you’re using our Church Bookkeeping Software Portal, this email can be prepared to your active donors along with their donor statement showing what they’ve given to date.

2. Send this email Friday December 28 or Saturday December 29. Plan to send it around lunchtime or shortly before dinner time. This will hopefully catch people when they are checking their personal email and has less chance of getting lost in business emails.

What should that email contain?

1. Make it personal

Most databases have the option to enter the donor name automatically from the record. Take advantage and put the donor’s name in the email.

Dear John.

Hint: In most databases, this will be done by adding something like {first.name}

2. Re-Share The Vision

People give to things they believe in. Remind them about the vision and mission of your church.

2018 has been another great year of ministry for our church. Because of you, we’ve continued to reach our community for Christ and be a light in the dark world.

3. Share the Successes

I’ve written previously about sharing with your donors the tangible results of their giving. When people see that their efforts are working, they are more likely to continue. Same thing why diets fail, it’s hard to continue when we don’t see tangible results of our efforts.

Because of your faithful generosity and everyone else that calls our church home, we were able to baptize 25 people and see more than 40 come to know Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior.
We sent mission teams to Honduras, Florida and East St. Louis and were able to support sending a missionary family to Albania.

We also saw a rise in our average worship attendance and now average 100 kiddos in our children’s ministry.

This is all possible because of generous givers like you.

4. Be Thankful

Kind of obvious, but remember to say THANKS!

5. Have a Call to Action – Make the Ask

The old adage, you have not because you ask not is true here. Be sure to remind people that our mission is not over. We’ve been successful, but there is still more work to be done.

While we’ve experienced great success in 2018, there is still work to do. Would you consider making one final generous gift to our church in December? Your faithfulness allows us to continue ministry and finishing out 2018 strong will have a great kick-start for 2019. Click here to setup a gift online.

6. Personal Close

Close with your name and a personal comment of thanks. This is an opportunity to show vulnerability and praise for your donors.

I am personally grateful for your partnership in ministry. Because of you, I can continue to serve our church and I’m always encouraged to know there are faithful and generous partners on this team together.


Your Pastor,
Steve

7. Remember a PS

Many marketing studies have been done and show that the PS statement is often the most important CTA (Call to Action) of an email. More people click the PS CTA instead of the link in the actual body of the email. Remember to add it.

Remember, gifts must be received in the church office by 11:59 on Dec. 31 to be credited in 2018. You may also opt to give via our online giving option here!

Make Generosity a Culture

Generosity is such an important part of a person’s spiritual development and you as their pastor have a great opportunity to have an impact on that. This one email can really determine the success or failure of your year end giving appeal.

If you’d like to know more about how we can help manage your finances to make generosity a culture in your church and let our Church Bookkeeping System manage your donor records click here to setup a time for a Free, Live Demo.

4 Keys to Manage Church Spending

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One of the biggest questions we get from churches looking for our help revolves around how to control church spending.

Like any organization, things are easy to control when only one or a few people are involved. Once growth starts to occur and more people get involved, it becomes significantly more complicated to hold the reigns. Add to this a growing, scaling ministry and it’s no wonder why keeping track of church spending quickly becomes overwhelming.

As churches grow, often this issue creeps up on the pastor and church leadership. That first ministry leader hired needs to run to Wal-Mart to get some supplies. Pastor gives them the church debit card and they go. This process gets repeated but now the next leaders are given debit cards for their own ministry area. Before long, too many people have access to spend the money and without proper financial controls, your church’s spending will be out of control.

At first, you may be tempted to just curb all spending and put a lock down on the finances of the church. While that will definitely curb spending, it will also frustrate your leaders, disenfranchise your volunteers and stifle your ministry growth.

The key to managing church spending is to implement a system I can define as Flexible Control.

There is definitely a balance to your system and what you put in place to manage spending, while empowering your volunteers and key ministry leaders to serve.

Here are a few ideas on how to put effective spending systems in place.

1. Have a Budget in Place

I’ve written several postings about the importance of a church budget and how to start a church budget. We’ll be releasing a Church Budget Builder Online Course in September that will help guide you through the budget building process.

Before we can get to building a budget, we must have an understanding about what a budget is and what it can do for your church.

A budget is nothing more than a guide; a roadmap to how the church will allocate the resources they have been entrusted with in the upcoming year. As a plan, the budget needs to be flexible, while at the same time providing enough concrete direction to help manage the resources in place.

But how does a budget help manage spending?

It’s actually quite simple. With a budget in place, with well defined ministry area budgeted amounts, your ministry workers have their “guardrails” when it comes to their ministry. A ministry leader in your children’s ministry can know exactly how much has been allocated for them to use to do ministry for the upcoming month or year.

Now, does that mean they can just go out and spend it all in one place?

Absolutely not, we’ll get into more keys later but this is the first step.

This is also an area where you as a pastor or key ministry leader can show leadership. While you empower your ministry area leaders to be able to make spending decisions, you are also providing a level of control as to how much gets spent.

It’s also important as the leader of the church to share about stewardship. There is so much that can be said here about budgeting that an entire post can (and has) been written but for now we’ll just leave it that for your church to manage spending, you need a budget in place.

FOR YOUR CHURCH TO MANAGE SPENDING, YOU NEED A BUDGET IN PLACE

2. Develop an Atmosphere of Stewardship

Somehow over the years churches have become known as cheap. The word stewardship has become synonymous with cheap. For some reason, there’s a belief that churches shouldn’t spend money for things and opt to ask for free or handouts.

Now I’ll agree that churches should not spend frivolously and there are many things that churches and church leaders spend money on that may cause others to think differently about their decision making abilities but that is all the more reason to develop an atmosphere of stewardship.

What is an atmosphere of stewardship?

As a pastor, you are responsible for the spiritual direction of the church. It is your vision guided by God that is helping people on their journey of discipleship.

An atmosphere of stewardship is a culture where everyone in the church knows that spending decisions are handled wisely. When you are seen making wise spending decisions, your key leaders and volunteers will understand that is a key value and it should trickle down to them.

NOTE: if it doesn’t, then you may need to use that as a reason to find a new ministry leader.

Spending wisely doesn’t mean being cheap. Think of it as an investment. Even if something is expensive, what does that do for the future of your ministry? Is that an investment in people’s lives? Can that purchase or expense better build the Kingdom.

Think parable of the talents.

God has entrusted your ministry with resources to be used, are you burying those resources in the sand or are you investing it to yield dividends for the Master? This is also a great place to speak into your ministry leaders that may have a slant towards being cheap or trying to do things for free. I’ve already written about the ministry cost of free and the true costs of free.

An atmosphere of stewardship encourages everyone to think through spending decisions and be wise stewards of the church’s resources.

3. Put spending guidelines in place

Ok, let’s get real practical here.

One super simple way to control ministry spending is to put spending guidelines in place. This goes back to the key of having Flexible Control over your finances. They goal here is to put in enough controls while maintaining a level of flexibility to let ministry happen.

Depending on your church’s budget the amounts may differ but let’s put it into perspective with some real numbers.

Let’s use a church with 2 Full Time pastors, 1 Part Time Ministry Assistant, and 4 key ministry volunteer leaders. This church has a budget of about $300,000 just for perspective with your ministry. For simple math, let’s break this down and say outside of fixed expenses (payroll, utilities, insurance, rent or mortgage and missions) we have about $90,000 left for ministry.

If you’d like to see how we came up with those figures, consider our Church Budget Builder Course

$90k gives us about $7,500 per month for ministry uses. As we break our budget down further and further, the amounts get pretty tight.

That $7,500 per month is to be used divided up by the ministry areas. To continue the simplicity of our example, let’s say our Children’s ministry has $1,000 per month BUDGETED to spend. (notice the emphasis on the word budgeted!)

As pastor, your job is to empower your Children’s Ministry leader to be a steward of that $1,000/month. What does that look like practically?

Within a strong financial accounting system (see point 4), you give your CM leader the freedom to spend up to $1,000 per month. Now, do they have the authority to spend that all at once? That is a question for you and your leadership. That will also depend on that person’s personal ability to manage the stewardship of that amount.

Here’s what I’d recommend.

Your Children’s Ministry Leader can spend up to $200 without needing further approval (the budget gave approval) on any expenditure. If the expense is going to exceed $200, encourage them to ask you about the purchase.

AND NO, this does not need to go to approval by committee or business meeting!!!

You as the pastor should have the authority to permit spending within the parameters of the budget. If it’s something you’re not comfortable with making the decision alone, email another elder or leader and ask for their second opinion. However, the approval to the Children’s Ministry Leader should not take more than a couple of hours.

Again, I could go on and on here, but with an atmosphere of stewardship and simple spending guidelines in place, this should not be an issue.

4. Have a robust, scalable accounting system

As I began this post, I mentioned that out of control spending is one of the top things pastors ask me about. In many cases, spending is out of control because no one is in control. No one is in charge.

Pastor wants to pawn the financial management off to the treasurer or bookkeeper, treasurer or bookkeeper is already stretched to the max just handling the data input and your elders are wanting to see the key financial reports to know the giving trends for the previous month.

With all that going on, it’s no wonder why many churches feel they are out of control with spending.

Let me suggest something real quick. With our Simplify Church Bookkeeping System, we empower your church and leaders to make decisions with the information, not spend time worrying about how to categorize that last receipt in Quickbooks.

I won’t spend too much time here in a shameless plug but a system like Simplify Church will help you gain control of spending because we’ll come alongside and partner with your church to manage your finances. With your assigned Account Manager, we can stand in your corner to help put spending systems in place.

Conclusion

I’ll admit I could have written for several more hours on this topic and probably will in the future. I could break down each key into its own post but for now we’ll leave this overview here.

Managing the resources God has entrusted to your church is a key step in stewardship and leadership. As you become faithful with the little things, God will continue to increase the amount He sends your way to steward. Managing the spending of your church is as much a spiritual discipline as anything else and should be something you strive to be the best at as a pastor.

I’m curious, what have you put in place with your church to manage church spending?  Comment below and we’ll discuss.

The Real Cost of Free

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This post originally appeared on our previous website at AxessNetwork.com, https://www.axessnetwork.com/blog/2011/08/11/the-real-cost-of-free/

One of the greatest fallacies in our culture is the perception of ‘free’ when it comes to church help. That simple word sounds so good to people, yet few realize that it is actually a misnomer. There really is nothing free. (Except salvation through Jesus Christ, but even that cost Jesus his life.)

Every time something is offered for free, someone, somewhere, somehow had to pay for it.

Many churches are operating under the assumption that their volunteers are free labor. The truth is that the free labor comes at a cost. While it may not cost in dollars directly, the intrinsic costs of volunteer labor can be substantial. Let’s look at a few examples.

If you have a volunteer that agrees to fill a need in your church that is awesome. But what if another need comes up; do you have a volunteer base that can pick up the slack? What if the first volunteer would be the best person for the new job, yet they are stuck in their current position and have no more time to give? Now what does that volunteer cost you? On the opposite side, one instance we’ve all dealt with is what if that volunteer likes the position they are in and think they are doing fine but they are not good at it? How do you tactfully tell them the truth?

Let’s say you farm out your churches website to a volunteer to design. Sounds great right? Well there are some additional costs involved in a website. In order to have a public website you must have a domain name and hosting account. Both these items will cost money. Let’s just say that you choose the cheapest domain registrar and hosting company. Your volunteer designed the site for free and it is now live. Low cost, inexpensive way to get a web presence right.

Wrong.

While it is true there are many discount web services out there, they relative cost is actually very high. This cost often comes in lack of service, lack of availability and flexibility and their template is plagued with ads. We haven’t even gotten to the user experience when they visit your website. Since you were cheap and went the inexpensive route you now have a website with low bandwidth meaning your pages load slowly and the user doesn’t get a good experience. The average user visit to a website is 7 seconds. If your page isn’t even loaded by then, the user is long gone never to return AND they have formed a perception about your church.

More labor talks. Let’s say you have some knowledgeable people in your church and you decide to have a Saturday work day to renovate some rooms. Great, skilled labor is expensive and keeping the work in house saves money right?

We met with a church that built their own building. Well, they had the shell built professionally but they finished out the inside. Only problem was that the pastor, who was in charge of design, missed the first work day. Another person stepped in and decided they could fit extra classrooms if they reduced one foot from all the rest. More room, Great! Only problem was that now none of rooms are adequate to fit the average size of their small groups. What seemed like a great idea at the time and may not have been given much thought is now coming back to bite them and they are regretting that decision.

Volunteer quality. We all know that there are plenty of people ready and willing to help their church. After all, we are called to be servants right? However, what happens when we have a person ready and willing, but unqualified to fulfill the task? What if they are adequately qualified, but their tastes are different than that of your congregation? What if they cannot meet the requirements but they are trying their best? How difficult is it for most people to confront another and tell them they are not doing something right? What if that person’s husband or wife was a key leader in the church? Now how much did that decision cost?

I have listed all these things in a way which I realize is very cynical. In many ways, I was sarcastic and brash. However, every scenario is real and something we have dealt with in one church or another. Here is our suggestion.

Take some time to analyze what areas of your church you are willing to use volunteer labor and then allocate the others to professionals. While on the surface, free sounds good, there are many times where free is actually more expensive than the alternative.

What is the value of the perception and image of your church in the community? Is it low enough to rely on free to maintain it?

4 Financial Areas Where Pastor Needs To Be In Charge

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There are times where I really enjoy “stirring the pot.” Usually with my in-laws in a joking way, for some reason I enjoy taking areas that people stress about and stoking the fire.

In church life there a few subjects that tend to get the fires burning as well and many of them revolve around areas of church we help with which is the finances.

As a pastor and leader of a business designed specifically to help churches in these hot button areas I for sure have heard a number of discussions when it comes to the pastor and the church finances. This topic for some reason is one of those that people will stake their stance and stand firm.

While there may be some that continue to disagree, let me detail some areas where pastor needs to be involved in the decision and analysis process.

Here are 4 financial areas that pastors need to be in charge (or at least know what’s going on)

1. Budget Planning Process for the year

The pastor needs to be a key leader in the budget planning process. We speak with too many pastors that don’t know their budget, can’t explain why certain items exist or don’t know why certain lines have certain amounts.

Now some will use the budget as an easy way to say no and that can be a useful tactic, however, far too many just don’t know the details.

Your church’s budget has a very specific prominence for your organization. While it is not set in stone, nor is it law, it’s definitely a guiding document when it comes to spending and ministry decisions. Give it too much weight and it will hinder your progress, not enough and you will be talking about how to shut down the ministry. There is a healthy balance in managing the budget. We’ve written a post here about why your church needs a budget and here on how to start that budget planning process.

There is no excuse for a pastor to be subordinate to a finance committee.

A healthy budget process is led by the Pastor and Elders, then up to the finance team to work within that guidance to allocate the amounts and make the budget work. The pastor has to have ownership of the budget and the process that went into creating it.

2. Final approval or at least input in hiring decisions

For most, if not all pastors, they are the figure head of their local church. Even if the constitution of the church says otherwise many people will assume the pastor is in charge. Unfortunately, this puts many pastors in a tough position where the assumption doesn’t match reality.

One area that many average church goers may assume is that the pastor is “chief of staff” or quite simply, The Boss. They will assume that pastor also has a say in personnel decisions.

Because this assumption exists, its important that pastor has a say in hiring decisions. The senior pastor needs to at least be in the process of interviewing and making a decision in hiring new personnel. Without pastor’s input, it puts him in a very difficult position when decisions need to be made or when problems arise within the staff.

3. Monthly Reports and Analysis

One of the biggest things we’ve learned over the years of having our business is that pastor’s eyes will glaze over when we start talking about financial reports.

The ones that don’t glaze over usually have two different reactions. There are some that believe that pastor has no business knowing about the finances of the church, then there is the others that are scared of going to jail because the church may be doing something wrong.

While I’m not going to get in the debate about whether or not pastors should know the finances (because I believe wholeheartedly that they should!), I will contend that pastors should at the very least have some idea of what is going on with the financial health of the church.

Pastor needs to know certain metrics and stats that relate to the current status of the church.

We’ll talk more in depth on giving in the next point so in this section we’ll just discuss the overall finances of the church to include overall income and expenses. Pastors need to be the leader when it comes to how the church is stewarding the finances of the church.

What does it mean to be a good steward?

When I started in ministry I am so thankful that I worked for a tightwad pastor (a term I use as endearingly as possible). I am a spender; money definitely burns a hole in my pocket. If I have cash, its very easy for me to swing by the gas station for a Scooby snack or swing through a drive thru.

Having people in my life to help hold me accountable or at least to look up to makes that a little better as I’ve matured.

As I was tasked with managing the budget in my first ministry assignment, the pastor challenged me to consider everything in worst case scenarios. We handled the budget as if we’d go weeks without any additional income. To do this, we took all total budget amounts and planned on spending at 80%.

While there were some things I could contend that were hindered in the ministry by doing this, for the most part it was very effective as we usually had surplus at the end of the year. We basically used the old Fable of being diligent to store up for winter so that we’d not starve.

As pastor, you should be keenly aware of how the money is being spent in your ministry. In the next section we’ll discuss how to watch the income, but just as important is to watch spending.

There is a very fine line between empowering your ministry leaders and micro-managing spending, but it’s important that you keep tabs on spending.

What does that look like?

For starters, when you’re planning the year and budget, express your vision for spending. Consider sharing the 80% rule with your ministry leaders. Secondly, give them an amount they can spend without additional authorization so they are empowered to make ministry decisions (this amount may be the 80%, hint, hint!) But keep an eye on that spending. Know what your ministry leaders are spending in an on-going basis and track that against the budget.

For our Simplify Church Bookkeeping Clients, this is a report we provide every month where we break down your income and expenses by ministry area, but also show you how those amounts are trending against your budget.

We know many pastors get nervous when we start talking about money and others just really don’t know where to start so we try to simplify things and give a very simple and easy to read analysis on a monthly basis of where your church stands.

4. Giving Trends

Another contentious subject for pastors and finances is keeping track of giving. If you want to start a big debate in a room full of pastors just ask the question about whether or not the pastor should know the giving information.

While we won’t debate that specifically here, there are ways that pastor can know what is going on without having to get into individual details.

Pastors need to be aware of the general giving in their church. They need to know the total for the week. They should also be aware of the amount of giving per unit and how that is trending over time. Both of these numbers can be evaluated without the pastor knowing any information on individual givers.

To analyze the weekly total, pastors should consider a few things. Once the total is counted, we need to look at the amount for this week which is pretty obvious. That amount should be then analyzed a number of ways. Let’s look at the giving over the past 10 weeks.

Why 10?

If we look at 10 weeks it allows us to see trends while removing months that might have 5 Sundays. That fifth Sunday can skew month by month analysis so taking the ten weeks into account gives a better measure. Ten week analysis also allows for seasonal trends to be taken into account. Depending on how those ten weeks are laid out, you may have a few high weeks mixed in with traditionally low weeks. Depending on big employers and their payroll schedule in your area that might also weigh in to how the giving trend looks.

For instance, our church is in a military community. Because we have a large contingent of military families in our church, we know which weeks of the month will be larger giving amounts than the others. You may also be in a community where many of your givers work for the same employer and experience the same result.

When analyzing the ten weeks, try to choose a consistent 10 weeks year over year. This will allow you to see trends as your church grows over time and provide a comparison to see how things are growing in your ministry.

Giving Per Unit

This measure takes into account an average gift amount of those people attending your church. You can analyze two numbers here but the best benchmark of giving health is to look at your total amount of giving divided by your attendance (minus kids) for that week.

If you want to get even more general, take this number of your total giving divided by your average attendance.

Keeping an eye on this number will give you a range to understand the giving health of your church. While there are no hard fast numbers here, some trends have been analyzed over time to determine some good averages. According to Tony Morgan and his post about “Measuing Church Health”, an average per capita giving number they’ve analyzed working with lots of churches is $41.

What does that mean?

Basically, a healthy church can expect to receive $41 for every person that attends their church on average.

Now, that measure will be dependent on several factors of your ministry and won’t hold true for everyone. For Example, if you’re reaching a lot of lost people that have never been around church before, that number for your church may be way lower since they may not be as aware as a young Christian about tithing.

However, you can use that number as a gauge to track over time. A good practice is to look at that number each week and month to see how your giving is trending. As total income changes this number will ebb and flow accordingly.

For pastors keeping an eye on giving trends, they will be in a position to understand what is happening in their church and possibly proactively catch upcoming changes before they happen.