Your Church’s Standard of Living
Churches need money. There’s no way around it. We rely heavily on the generosity of the people we preach to. Therefore, we encourage them to live according to God’s standard of financial stewardship. We ask them to give. We provide financial courses for people to learn (or relearn) how to handle their money and resources responsibly.
It’s not an easy topic to discuss and it’s incredibly counter-cultural. Society demands we continually strive for more of the newer and better. Churches are preaching a message that encourages contentment and stewardship; whereas our church attendees are bombarded with messages to spend it like you’ve got it (even if they don’t have it). It’s common for our standard of living to push us to the edge of financial instability and stress.
I applaud churches providing avenues for people to experience freedom and restoration in this area of their lives… But many churches do the same thing.
Church budgets are constantly stretched to the max. In an effort to reach more people, many church leaders get caught up in the bigger and better mindset as well. Upgrades are frequently necessary and new things are very attractive, but churches must be mindful of their standard of living.
When churches use nearly all their resources, it creates unnecessary tension in every department. Pastors and church leaders are forced to find ways to make cutbacks and explore new forms of income. With the financial upheaval our country has experienced over the last few years, churches across the country have had to find creative ways to get things done without digging into their budgets.
What if churches could find a new way to evaluate their current and future standards of living?
Budgets aren’t created from and for nothing. They are strategic. Typically, based on where you’ve been over the past year or so, you project what you will need for the coming year or years. What if there was a mindset shift in the way leaders thought about ‘winning’ the battle over budgets?
If the saying, “whatever you reward will continue” is true, how are we rewarding people regarding church budgets? Common thinking might be if a department continually comes in under budget, they don’t need the money allocated to them. So their budget gets cut to what they do spend and the money gets put somewhere else. Other departments see this and don’t want their budgets getting cut. So they spend it, and the cycle spins out of control.
Churches are excellent evaluators. We evaluate people’s spiritual maturity, building project plans, community demographics, costs, income and much more. But evaluating a standard of living isn’t just numbers, it’s about creating an environment and an atmosphere where a staff (and a church as whole) has the ability to do the work they need to do without feeling like a financial ceiling is crashing down on them, but with the understanding that their department plays a part in the overall standard of living of their church. This demands a holistic mentality of ministry. Viewing departments as each playing a role in the grander scheme, striving for the grander goal, will create the atmosphere where departments don’t fight for their budget – rather they fight for the church’s standard of living.
A church’s standard of living isn’t the overall church budget and shouldn’t be directly proportional to their financial ups and downs. A church’s standard of living is the place where your church can grow without over-extending its resources to the point that it would create hardship if something negative were to occur. And negative things do occur.
Creating your church’s standard of living requires you to understand your church’s finances, but it also requires you to understand your church demographic. Is it a blue-collar church? Do you live in a rural area? A church’s standard of living is about creating an environment where people feel welcome, valued, and comfortable as it pertains to them. It’s not an easy thing to do – considering we are trying to reach such a vast array of people.
What makes this even harder is that churches should always be striving for progress. Ultimately, we do want things to be bigger and better. We want more people, more seats, more lights, a bigger building, and bigger parking lots. We want forward movement. We want and need progress. But that doesn’t mean your standard changes.
Your standard is what keeps you grounded. It’ll keep you from making irrational decisions that could hurt your church. It centers you around what’s important and helps filter decisions through your church’s priorities.
Your church’s standard of living isn’t just your budget, it’s part of your church’s DNA. Whether you realize it or not, your church’s standard of living impacts every area of your church. Take some extended time soon to evaluate your church’s standard of living, and decide where you are headed if things continue the way they are now. Some helpful tips might be asking some of these questions:
- What are the top 5 things your church values the most?
- According to your church budget, what are the top 5 things your church values the most?
- How have you been rewarding people who have been good stewards?
- When making purchasing decisions, do you consider if it will ultimately accomplish the goals of your church?
- What areas of your church seem unnecessarily stretched? How can you better accomplish the goals of departments without feeling this way?
- Is your church giving as much as you encourage the congregation to give?
Aligning your church’s standard of living with your goals and priorities won’t be easy, but it will help create an environment of efficiency, unity, and progress.