Churches have to do more ministry with less money.
That’s becoming truer with every passing year, and it will increase for at least another generation.
For example, 15 years ago, the church I serve was smaller and less healthy than it is right now. By every indication of growth, health and effective ministry, we are doing better today. Except in one way. It’s harder to pay the bills now than it was then.
Some of that is because the average age of our church members has dropped, and younger people have less money to give. But mostly, it’s because that’s the trend in churches across the board.
So, how do we fix this downward trajectory so we can keep doing all the ministry we need to do?
Do we hire a firm to help us raise funds? Preach more about stewardship? Do more fundraising? More bake sales? Sell property?
No. The absolute best way to solve our church’s financial problems is so simple, so biblical, it almost seems redundant to state it.
Making Disciples Beats Raising Funds
When a church is making disciples and following the pastoral Prime Mandate to “equip God’s people for works of service” (Eph 4:11-12) a whole lot of problems get better or go away entirely – including finances.
This happens because of a simple, logical three-step reality.
- First, when church members are discipled, they do more ministry.
- Second, when church members do more ministry, the church needs less money.
- Third, when church members do more ministry, they give more generously.
Aside from very small churches with bivocational pastors, the biggest part of almost any church’s budget is salaries (this is the same in most businesses, too). So if you disciple more members and raise up more volunteer workers and leaders, you’ll do more ministry with less money. And people who are involved in a ministry tend to give more money to it.
Discipleship Makes Everything Better
Discipleship is not a magic pill. If we use it a fundraising scheme, we’ll be abusing its intent and be disappointed in the results. But when we see it the way it was intended – as the central focus of the pastor’s calling and an essential aspect of the church’s mandate – it will raise the level of everything we do as a church. Including helping us to do a lot more ministry with far less money.
Plus, discipleship is a much healthier way for a church to function, anyway. With more members contributing of their time, gifts and talents, instead of simply dropping money in the plate and expecting paid staff to take care of them, the entire church becomes healthier and more effective.
The Discipleship Opportunity
Jesus actually gave us very few commands. But one of the greatest (in fact the only one repeated in all four Gospels and the book of Acts) is the command to make disciples.
Our churches can face the current financial crunch in one of two ways. See it as a problem that requires us to squeeze more money out of people, or see it as an opportunity to take discipleship more seriously.
If we see it as an opportunity and redouble our efforts to make disciples, not only will our financial problems be fewer, but our churches will get healthier, our members will grow in Christ, and our kingdom impact will increase.
(This article is part of an ongoing series, Money and the Small Church.)
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