What to Do When Big Givers Leave the Church?
I am the pastor of a 100 member adult church and I was informed today that my largest giving family will no longer be with us. This family represented 15% of the total giving and their departure comes after the church has approved a 2014 budget. (In hindsight, we should have probably set our budget absent their giving in case such a reality occurred.) Still, faced with such a financial challenge, where would you begin to make adjustments? In other words, what are the essential functions and obligations any church must meet to retain integrity through the difficult process of financial re-alignment? Thanks always for your wisdom and consideration.
Big hit! Really hurts! Crisis moments! I am so sorry for you and for the church. I have experienced this. It is traumatic, isn’t it.
When our church was small we were debt free except for a $54,000 loan extended to the church by one of the “rich” members for a building project. The “deal” was brokered by my predecessor in conjunction with the church leaders.
I learned that several times over the years my pastoral predecessor (and others) suggested to the “rich” person that he go ahead and forgive the loan since he intended never to call for the loan to be paid. He refused; but each time, he renewed his promise.
No one bothered to tell me about the loan when I accepted the call to be their pastor.
Several years later the chairman of deacons said to me, “I have good news and bad news.”
“Give me the good news first.”
The good news is that Mr. Rich Christian promised that he would never recall the loan.”
“The bad news is that he just asked us to send him the $54,000. His daughter’s entering college and he needs the money.”
Unfortunately, we didn’t have the money.
Here are some thoughts on what to do and principles to follow as shared from my experience.
1. Take care of “home base” first. “Home Base” is the central core you cannot afford to lose. This includes the pastor’s salary, worship team, small group coordinator (if you have one) and any paid nursery staff. Everything is on the “chopping block.” If you lose “home base” you will lose the church. In other words, cut whatever is not absolutely necessary.
2. Call together the church leaders and share the problem with them and with the entire church. This is not the time to get squeamish about raising money. Make it clear what has happened and that the church is worth saving (or making up the difference needed in the budget).
3. Rearrange the budget as necessary.
4. Arrange for comprehensive prayer meetings. The church needs prayer. Get as many people to attend as possible. People who come to pray will tend to be encouraged and/or give more money to help to solve the problem.
5. I made a decision to preach regularly on giving. The average church member gives less than 2% of their income to the Lord. Talk about sin–and waste. I built my sermons around six Biblical foundation stones that I call “Biblical Economics”:
(1) Pay God His tithe right “off the top.”
(2) Pay Taxes to the government.
(3) Keep a positive cash flow. Pay off your credit card bill in full each month. The first month you cannot do that–or don’t want to–you are heading toward financial crisis.
(4) Be out of debt for depreciating items.
(5) Save 10 to 15 percent for emergencies and long-term needs–like retirement.
(6) Following good Biblical Economic will result in a surplus so we can give generously to others in need.
Over the years, Kent, our giving increased dramatically. But, unfortunately, most American Christians look at these principles and immediately refute them as impossible “pie in the sky” demands. This is because the average family overspends their income by 4% every year and the debts keep mounting.
6. Every crisis time is reevaluation time. Take time with you church leaders to decide carefully the unique mission of your church. Perhaps it is time to change the question most pastors ask. Instead of asking “how are we going to get people back to our church”… ask… “How are we going to get our church back to the people?” Figure out how to get there.
Our $54,000 debt problem led to a debt free church and enhanced economic freedom for our entire congregation.
Kent, I am sorry for the difficulties you are experiencing. I will pray for God to lead you as you lead your people through solving this financial problem.