One of the airtight principles of church leadership is that you can tell what a church’s priorities are by looking at where they allocate their funds.
That is true in some churches, but not in all. Maybe not in most.
The vast majority of churches are small, and small church budgets are far more often dictated by what we don’t have than by what we want to do.
You Can’t Spend What You Don’t Have
How many small church pastors have heard “we’d love to pay you more, but the money just isn’t there?” And how many of them have had to say the same to guest speakers, missionaries, ministries and departments?
The pastor isn’t being paid a non-living wage (or no wage at all) because the church doesn’t prioritize the importance of pastoral leadership, but because the money simply doesn’t exist.
Many churches of 20 or 30 people (give or take 20) can barely pay the light and heat bills on their tiny chapel (if they have one), let alone assign funds for outreach, graphic design, pastoral salaries or building maintenance.
What is amazing in many small churches is not how little money goes into the budget for benevolence, outreach, discipleship curriculum and mercy ministries, but how much of that kind of ministry actually gets done with little or no budget support.
Our priorities are determined far less by where we spend our money than by how we invest our time, our energy, our compassion and our enthusiasm.
Especially in smaller churches.
All over the world, there are churches that are making sure
- People in the hospital get visited and their pets get cared for
- The houses of seniors get repaired and painted
- Kids from poor homes get new (to them) clothes for school
- Neighbors who don’t go to the church receive job placement assistance
- Drug addicts have a place to go for recovery
- And so much more
All without a line-item in the church budget.
Doing It Matters More Than Spending On It
I’m grateful for the bigger churches that have enough income to pay their pastors a living wage, cover the mortgage for hurting members and do cool graphics that catch people’s attention so they come to church on Sunday and give their lives to Jesus.
But compassion, worship, discipleship and evangelism don’t need to be in the budget in order for them to be on a church’s priority list.
They just need to happen.
(This is part of an ongoing series, Money and the Small Church.)
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