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How do you handle a budget crunch?

Make necessary cuts.

We suffered a serious shortfall in 1999. Our three-year-old church "restart" was creaking under the combination of too much overhead and too few givers. For several months I contemplated my worst fear: firing staff.

As we met to finalize the budget, I was told we still needed to eliminate $100,000. Ministry line items were already cut to the bone. I told the committee, "As hard as this is, we must lay off two associate pastors if we are going to present a balanced budget for approval by the membership."

This decision caught everyone by surprise. Many members were frustrated that we didn't allow them the opportunity to increase their giving to prevent the layoffs, but we couldn't present a seriously unbalanced budget. The two staff members were gracious, but this was very painful. We lost a number of people whom they served.

We have rebounded, but even now, two years later, there is some lingering paranoia about hiring new staff. In the wake of this crucial decision, I ...

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