Small churches can’t do everything. But we can do a lot more than we may think.
The challenge is to use our limited resources in the best possible way, for maximum ministry impact.
Over the years, our small church has learned a few principles that help us do just that.
1. Partner With Reliable, Efficient Ministries That Share Your Mission
When you go it alone, you have to do everything. In a big church, that gives you the chance to call the shots and do exactly what you want in the way you want.
Small churches should consider partnering with another ministry that’s doing something really well, and very efficiently. This targets our resources more tightly by not reinventing systems or facilities that are already in place.
For instance, if your church has a heart for feeding people, but you don’t have the room to store food, connect with another church or food bank that has plenty of space. They’ll be grateful for your help, you’ll do more ministry, and the people who need the help will receive a greater blessing.
2. Save Funds In Advance
Next month, our church is implementing an idea that our youth pastor gave us, called Heart for the World Sunday. On that day we’ll receive an offering, all of which will go towards an emergency fund to help our missionaries and others as needs arise.
Between now and then, we’re encouraging our church members to put money aside for it. Some of them are reducing other expenditures to do so. Many are giving up something that matters to them to help others.
There are several advantages to having a day like this.
- First, it will allow us to respond to future needs as they arise instead of telling people “we’ll take an offering and see what happens.”
- Second, it reminds our members of the importance of generosity.
- Third, it avoids the compassion fatigue of going to the church every time a need arises.
- Fourth, it allows us to plan our giving for the best possible outcome.
3. Triage All Emergencies
No church can respond to all emergencies. So every church needs a plan that helps decide which needs they’ll respond to and which ones they won’t. This isn’t easy, but it’s important.
Sometimes a church’s priorities will be based on the severity of the need, but we also should make some of those decisions based on which needs we can make the biggest difference in.
By setting those priorities, a church is less likely to run out of resources on lesser needs (or needs they have less impact on) before coming across a need where they can have a huge impact.
It’s better to prioritize our resources to maximize our ministry influence than to have those decisions made for us by running out of funds.
4. Respond to Needs That Aren’t In The News
When disasters are in the news, a lot of people and churches respond. And they should.
But, as anyone who’s been on the ground in response to a natural disaster will tell you, the immediate response to newsworthy needs tends to be so big it’s overwhelming. Because of this, there’s a lot of waste. Then, not long after the disaster falls out of the headlines, but long before the needs have stopped, the donations dry up.
That’s a great time for a smaller church with limited resources to step in. Our donations go a lot farther when we’re meeting forgotten needs.
5. Find Ways To Turn Small Into Big
A few weeks ago, I was chatting with a church member who is in his first year as a full-time missionary. He had received enough in monthly pledges to go to the mission field, but the sponsoring missions organization didn’t guarantee a full paycheck until they’d seen 80 percent of the pledges come in for three months in a row. That’s good stewardship on the part of the missions organization. They need to make sure the donors are actually giving before they commit their money.
Our missionary had received the minimum donations for the previous two months, but this month – the critical third month – was looking tight. If it didn’t come in, the three-month clock would go back to zero and he’d face a difficult financial burden.
So we gave him some of his funds early, which put him over the top for the month. That donation of a couple hundred dollars that we’d have eventually given anyway, released possibly tens of thousands of dollars for him. Talk about leveraging your resources!
6. Always Have A Plan
Everything in this list comes down to planning.
Planning your giving is a very New Testament idea. That’s what the Apostle Paul did. He told each of the churches he worked with to set money aside to help the suffering saints in Jerusalem so that it would be ready when he came. (1 Corinthians 16:1-4)
Every church of every size should give prayerfully, passionately and generously. But if you really want to leverage your giving for maximum ministry impact, give with a plan.
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