Tag Archives: Leadership

Let’s run the church like a business, part 2

In part one of this two-part series, I tried to show how the plea to “run the church like a business” often misses the point. The church is not a business. But, there are some great lessons we can learn from the business world. Here are four of them.

Under promise and over deliver

ProductsI keep an 18oz. jar of Smucker’s jelly in my office. It reminds me of a great lesson from that wonderful company. There’s a legend that they put a little extra jam in each jar. If the label says 18oz., you can count on there being a little more than 18oz. of jelly in there. They deliver on their promise, plus some. And the product tastes pretty good, too.

As church communicators, we can learn from Smucker, both in our personal lives and in church life. Personally, we can carefully assess our capabilities and make sure we can do what we say. And as we think of the words and images we use to represent our congregation, we can strive to tell it like it is rather than as we wish it would be.

Carefully manage your resources

I once worked with minister who routinely overspent his budget. And he didn’t seem to care. He wasn’t embezzling, or spending it on frivolous things. He just couldn’t seem to exercise restraint. If he saw something that would help his ministry, he’d buy it. At the end of the year, the Finance Committee would slap his hand and tell him to be more careful next year. You can probably predict what happened the next year… and the next.

But the time came when this minister needed some money for replacement of some expensive equipment. Since he had not earned the trust of the finance people in the church, they nitpicked the request for months. They brought in an outside expert to evaluate the request and review the proposal. When they finally approved the money, they appointed someone else to manage the project. And I don’t blame them. Jesus addressed this issue in one of his parables – A master gave his servants some of his treasure to manage in his absence. When the master returned, he said to the servants who managed it well, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” (Matthew 25:14-30)

Count the cost

As human beings, we live with limits. There are only 24 hours in a day. There’s only so much money in the budget. How can we best deploy the resources God has given us? That’s one of the challenges we face in ministry.

Jesus was talking about the cost of following him as a disciple when he used the illustration: “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?” (Luke 14:28) But don’t you think it’s great advice for everything else we do in the church?

I worked with a new pastor some years ago who came to the church sensing a call from the congregation to fix some longstanding problems in the physical plant. He set to work right away. Addressing those issues was his passion. Unfortunately, he didn’t count the cost of focusing all his attention on the building at the expense of pastoring the people. Everybody agreed the building needed fixing. But the inexperienced pastor didn’t accurately count the cost of spending time on those issues before building a solid relationship with his congregation. It became increasingly difficult for him to work with the committees, deacons and other church leaders, whose support and counsel he needed.

The story has a happy ending. The pastor eventually rearranged his priorities. They got the building fixed and he became one of the most beloved pastors in the church’s history. How much more effective those first five years of his pastorate would have been if he’d counted the cost before launching the building program.

Give people opportunities to grow and advance

Helping-MentorGood business managers hire great people, encourage them, give them opportunities to learn and grow, and promote them to positions of greater responsibility. Those of us who work with volunteers in the church can do the same. We can seek out and recruit people who have a lot of potential. We can encourage them, help them see the big picture, give them opportunities to try their wings and learn from their mistakes, and then release the ministry to them.

I remember a woman in a church I served many years ago. As a member of the Woman’s Missionary Union, she wrote up a little promotional announcement for one of their ministries. She did a better than average job with it. So I encouraged her to continue writing. A few years later, she published her first book: a great little volume on how to do ministry to international families. She gave me a copy and wrote inside, “For David Powers – the first person who gave me the encouragement to write. Had you not said such kind things about my first efforts, I might never have had the courage to try.”

Discerning God’s will; building a church budget

We’re beginning a bold experiment in discerning God’s leadership and developing a Ministry Action Plan at Richmond’s First Baptist Church.

Its still a work in progress, and I’m sure we’ll hit some bumps along the way. It may even fall apart in the process. But it is an open, honest and straightforward effort to listen and follow God’s leadership.

I’ve never been a big fan of the way most churches develop their budget.

There are some notable and extraordinary exceptions, but in many churches the process usually begins with the Budget Committee looking at last year’s budget, comparing it with how much money has been given and what the economic forecast for the coming year looks like. Then they decide upon some number that represents their best estimate of what the members will actually give next year. They close with prayer and ask God to bless their work.

Surely there’s a better way. So this year, we’re trying a different approach.

It begins with a discernment process. All of the teams in the church (all 50 of them) are meeting during these days to pray and listen for God’s answer to the question, “What is God leading our team to be and do?” They’re not discussing money yet. That will come later. But for now, unencumbered by the financial costs involved, they’re trying to discern God’s leadership for their ministry area.

Our Senior Associate Pastor Lynn Turner has come up with some guiding questions for the teams to use in the process.

“God’s Will: nothing less, nothing more”

Framing:  What is God leading us to do in this area of ministry in the coming year? 

Shedding: What do we need to lay aside in order to hear God speak?  What do we need to let go of in our current ministry that will allow God to open new avenues of ministry? 

Listening: Whose voices do we need to hear now?  Who do we need to talk with that might give insight? 

Exploring and Weighing: Sharing of ideas of those who have been praying… asking the question… ”where does God seem most present in the ideas shared? Where does the Spirit seem to rest?” 

Resting: Taking some time to pray about the path ahead.

You can’t enforce a timetable on discerning God’s leadership, but we hope that by the end of the summer all of the teams will begin to sense a direction.

Next, the team leaders and leadership staff will work together to figure out how much it will cost (money, time and people) to accomplish what they feel God is leading them to do.

And then, in mid-September, we’ll have a Saturday morning-long “Ministry Action Plan Summit,” attended by all church team leaders, and the members of the Budget, Finance & Personnel Teams. Each team will have written on a 3×5 card what they’re sensing as God’s direction. The team leaders will have two minutes each to tell the group about it. (Senior Pastor Jim Somerville says he’s going to keep the stopwatch and call time.)

We’ll communicate what the teams are hearing throughout the church, through every possible channel of communication. We’ll challenge our congregation to consecrate ourselves to follow where God leads.

An important piece of the process is one we don’t feel we can implement quite yet. But, God willing, it will be the centerpiece of the Ministry Action Plan development process beginning next year. It is a “Consecration Sunday” when the congregation will have the opportunity to make a commitment of their time, talent, and finances to carry out what God has called us to do in the coming year.

Up until this point, there has been no discussion of the financial aspects of the Ministry Action Plan. But now, with the financial projections that the team leaders have developed and the commitments the congregation made on Consecration Sunday, the Budget Team will meet to develop a three-tier budget for the coming year:

  1. A “Hold the Line Budget” – the smallest of the three, that essentially keeps the budget where it was the previous year.
  2. A “Step of Faith Budget” – a larger number that accounts for the faith that God will provide.
  3. A “Bringing Heaven to Earth Budget” – a number that reflects all that we sense God is calling us to do, and so large a number that only God can make it happen.

The Deacon Chair, two representatives each from Budget, Finance & Personnel Teams, the Senior Pastor, the seven Associate Pastors, and one representative from each of the eight ministry areas of the church (Invitation, Community, Worship, Formation, Compassion, Communication, Support, & Pastor’s Office) will get together in October. With the Budget Team’s three scenarios in hand, this group will negotiate and develop a recommended set of priorities to meet each of the three scenarios. We fully expect to give-and-take among the ministry areas so that, when the day is done, we will agree on on where God is leading our church in the coming year.

The Budget Team will review, adjust and take final action on the recommendations and then begin a two-month series of presentations and discussions among Deacons and the congregation, allowing more room and time for God’s Spirit to move among us. Perhaps additional adjustments will be made the plans during this period.

Finally, in mid-December, the congregation vote on the plan.

That’s the plan. I’ll tell you how it’s going as we live it out in the coming months.