During those same two years I’ve preached on the topic of church giving two times - once on May 26, 2019 where we discussed the difference between Old Testament tithing and New Testament giving, and another time on February 18, 2018 where we learned strategies for how to be a generous person.
So, it’s safe to say that I haven’t talked about this issue very much lately. And to be honest, I don’t even think we should count the two sermons as “talking about it” because I think the purpose of those sermons is quite different than the purpose of a letter like this one. Those sermons are about discipleship. The purpose of what I do when I preach on Sunday mornings is not to fundraise for the church organization; the purpose is to teach you how to grow in your spiritual maturity. There is a difference between what a pastor does when he is training the people to be generous (which I mostly do via sermon) versus what he does when he tries to make sure the organization has enough money to survive (which I mostly do via newsletters like this.) And like I said, it’s been two years since I’ve done this.
WHERE WE ARE NOW?
As I mentioned in a recent article (“Things Change as We Grow”) Good News Church has grown. This is great. But if we compare this year’s income to last year’s, we see that it’s actually down by about 2%. Yep, you read that right. This year, the congregation grew (by over 10%!) but that larger congregation has, so far, given 2% less than the smaller congregation did last year.
WHY BRING THIS UP?
The reason that I am bringing this up right now is, quite frankly, because the budget is tight and I wanted to give you all a reminder and some time to give more money before we begin to make any significant spending cuts.
A QUICK RUN-DOWN OF OUR FINANCES
As I’ve explained in the past, Good News Church has a budget of 11% giving, 10% saving, and 79% operating expenses. In other words, we give away 11% of all income to other ministries within the Kingdom of God that are serving God in different ways than we are. Feel free to check out this 2018 article to see an explanation and a listing of the kinds of organizations that we support. The short explanation is that we give away 11% of our income for the purpose of evangelism and showing compassion to those in need.
Saving is another thing we do – with about 10% of our income. We keep some of this money on hand in case we ever have a big expense to deal with (ex. an air conditioner goes out, a new classroom needs to be built, hurricane damage needs to be repaired) and anything extra goes to pay off the mortgage on our building faster.
Historically, we haven’t had trouble keeping our expenses within the 79% that is left over for our regular expenses. But, like I said, this year attendance is up while giving is down. Attendance being up is relevant to this discussion, because that causes expenses to be higher. The larger a church is, the more donuts you have to order for the back counters. The more people that show up on Sundays, the more paper towels that are used in the restrooms. The higher the number of people attending usually means the higher the rate that something breaks and has to be fixed. It also costs more to heat and cool a building the more people that are in it, and the more days per week that the people use it to have group meetings and activities. (And of course, as a church grows, the number of staff costs more since four people usually can’t live on the money that you used to pay the first guy.)
WHAT DO WE DO?
I don’t know how much you think about all that stuff, but my point is that if a church continues to grow, it would need to have its income grow proportionately, or else it will need to make some cuts in some of its expenditures. And if a church grows while having its income actually decrease, the cuts might have to be even bigger.
You may not know this, but Good News is frugal. We don’t waste money on frivolous things and luxury items, and when the budget gets tight, my first instinct is to find cheaper ways to do things rather than ask the congregation for more money. However, it’s getting to the point that there’s not a ton of room left to cut.
So far, I have never considered changing the 11% giving nor the 10% saving. I strongly believe in giving and saving and so those amounts are pretty much fixed. I’ve also not given much consideration to cutting the pay of the employees. That seems like it should be a last resort after other less-drastic measures have been implemented. We obviously can’t cut much in the area of things like utilities. The lights are going to cost what they do. The air conditioning is going to cost what it does. And things like toilet paper and donuts really aren’t the place to save significant dollars.
That leaves program expenses, but we already do those things pretty cheaply. We are a simple church without a ton of programs. KidZone isn’t done in an expensive way. The youth group has already cut back on the amount of pizza it orders (I think we moved from serving it weekly to monthly) and we’ve put off any significant upgrades to the sound system (with the exception of doing things like fixing a broken speaker so the music sounds good on Sunday morning.)
The only “luxurious” thing I can really think of that would be somewhat easy to cut without changing the way we do ministry would be to remove the security officer on Sunday mornings. I mean, we did get by without one for six years. I suppose we could save a few hundred per month by eliminating that expense.
So, that brings me to the main purpose of this letter. We need some of you to consider giving more. We need some of you to begin giving for the first time. We need some of you to return back to giving if you’ve taken a break from it. Perhaps there are some of you who don’t give regularly who will consider utilizing the online bill payment feature of your bank to set up a recurring donation each month.
Basically what I’m saying in this letter is: I’m going to give you all a few months to see if you will do it. And if not, then we can consider spending cuts. My current plan is to keep things pretty much as they are for October and November, and then reevaluate and see what cuts we may or may not need to make starting in January. And I suppose I just wanted to give you all a chance to do something about it if you wanted. I didn’t want us to do something like get rid of the security officer and then have someone say, “Well, why didn’t you ask us for money? I would have given some!” So, I’m asking now.