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>>Tips: Five Steps Toward Progress

When a church is going through difficult times, just “cutting back” and “eliminating the excess” are not enough. Don’t forget to get proactive. Here are some additional steps to take:

Step 1: Change Your Thinking

We all have self-imposed ceilings in our lives—things inside us that keep us from going higher or moving to the next level of success.

The best way to change your thinking and remove these ceilings is to talk to others! Proverbs 11:14 says, “In the multitude of counsellors there is safety.” None of us can afford to be isolated. You can take off the lid of your preconceived ideas by making use of the ideas, answers, and vision of others. These can help you identify and remove the barriers in your life.

Larry Burkett said, “Show me your checkbook, and I’ll show you your priorities.” The same can be said for churches. Spend 20 minutes looking at your church’s budget, and you’ll quickly be able to tell its priorities. That’s why it’s so important for the church to be open and honest with the congregation.

Cell phones are a good example of “ceilings.” Some of us had a flip phone for a long time and were perfectly happy with it. We even resisted changing to a smart phone, thinking we didn’t need it. But then someone we knew and hung around a lot got a smart phone, used it around us, talked about it . . . and we started to see the benefits. Eventually, what they knew changed our minds. We embraced the idea and got a smart phone too.

When we were at RBTC, all the instructors together had input into our lives. It was a collaboration, not just one teacher or method. But some of us graduated and isolated ourselves from the influence and ideas of others.

We are members of a Body. There is no reason for us to reinvent the wheel or be trapped under our self-imposed ceiling.

Ask yourself, “Am I stuck in a box?” If we stay by ourselves, we’re limited in our methods and vision. But if we begin to ask questions, mix with others, listen to people, and avail ourselves of new things, we can start to embrace new ideas and methods. This will remove the ceilings from our lives, and then the sky is the limit!

Step 2: Take a Look at Money

The budget. First, do you have a budget? If not, get one (see resources for this issue).

The numbers. Examine each area to see where you can save: utilities, supplies, cleaning, staff costs, and so forth. Get volunteers to do what you’ve been paying for. If utility bills are too high, put in electric timers and seal windows and doors to eliminate leaks.

Don’t be afraid to count how many people are at each service, and how many are giving. Know the state of your flock. Maybe someone who has stopped giving needs your help. People often stop giving before they stop coming—it’s not bad to be concerned about them. Seek them out. Once every
three months, look at the numbers.

Connections says: If multiple people have church credit cards, be sure they understand the spending limits per week or month. Take a month and record every expenditure. Know where every dollar is being spent. After that month, review for unnecessary spending and eliminate it.

The members. Don’t just preach on money—help your congregation with their finances. Hold a Financial Peace University seminar in your church (www.DaveRamsey.com), and even make it available to the community. Help people get out of debt and financial trouble. Many people sitting in your church are drowning in a sea of red ink and financial mismanagement.

If they prosper, your church can prosper. (For more ideas along these lines, see the spring/summer 2008 issue of Connections, “Financial Freedom: Getting Your House in Order”.)

Connections says: Have the whole staff take the workshop. How a person handles personal finances will be mirrored in the church finances (without exception). If a pastor or staff member is behind in household bills or has always struggled with finances, that person will eventually cause the church finances to drift into the same condition.

Be accountable. Be trustworthy and open about the finances of your church. Make sure your bylaws are in order. Have disbursements go through the proper channels, perhaps two layers of management approval. Record all charitable contributions given to the church, whether they are cash or noncash donations. Issue appropriate statements or non-cash contribution letters annually to be used by donors for charitable giving tax credit, if they so choose. Meet six times a year to establish policies, set budgets, oversee operations, and review ministry accomplishments. If necessary, have the church’s books audited yearly by an outside accounting firm. In other words, be accountable to steward donation dollars in the most effective and efficient manner.

Connections says: Employ an outside accountant who understands ministry finances. Ask other grads in your region who they utilize.

Step 3: Investigate Other Income Streams

  • Should you rent out your facility to others?
  • Should you get a secular job? (See pages 14–15.)
  • Should you meet a need in the community? (For instance, parents’ night out, labor force, illiteracy, homeless, shut-ins, and sporting events.)
  • Should you do fundraisers? (For example, concerts, a community-wide talent show, a pasta dinner, a kids carnival, or concessions.)
Connections says: Consider contacting other pastors in your area—even the ones you don’t know—to ask them what they’re doing to add income streams. Gleaning from others is a must if progress is to be made.

Step 4: Evaluate Your Staff and Volunteers

  • Are there jobs that volunteers could do? (Cleaning, maintenance, hospital visitation, office work, daily upkeep, and so forth.)
  • Are you valuing and constantly communicating with your leadership? Pour your life and enthusiasm into them.
  • Value your staff as well as your volunteers. (Make it a team effort.)
  • Don’t overwork your staff or your volunteers.

Doug Jones says: The proper perception of staff, department heads, and volunteers is vital. It’s like purchasing a lawn mower—it gives you the ability to accomplish more than you could without it. Yet there are pastors who spend more time caring for their lawn mower than they do their church helper.

Your staff, department heads, and volunteers must be viewed as valuable assets. Nurturing them is a must. More time must be invested in these dear ones than in any other group. Often, in hopes of convincing someone to join his team, a pastor will pursue a potential helper by communicating his heart and openly discussing the true condition of his church. But sadly, after the helper accepts the position, the degree of free communication quickly deteriorates. We must understand, “Communication begins a relationship, and communication maintains a relationship.”

As a pastor I learned there was one sure way to choke the life out of a program, and that was to never talk about it. This is also true concerning staff and department heads. Leadership silence and staff vibrancy are impossible roommates.
Here are some questions to ask yourself about communication:
  • Have I proven to my staff and department heads that I actually considered their ideas and suggestions?
  • Do I draw out the opinions and ideas of the more silent members of my staff?
  • Do I respond in a timely manner to ideas presented?
  • Do I allow my staff to express their opinions about what they believe is ineffective?
Pastor, staff, and department heads must become a united entity that collectively evaluates, creates, executes, and maintains the overall progress of the life and endeavors of the church. A pastor who attempts to lead through his wife and himself alone shortens his reach and hinders what could be accomplished in and through his church.

Step 5: Get Real

  • Evaluate your current spiritual condition. Are you spending time daily in fellowship with God—in prayer, the Word, and worship? Are you keeping a vital connection with the Source of your life? Every time you draw near to Him, He draws near to you.
  • Is your preaching relevant? Does it apply to life? (Click here for more information)
  • Check the tone of your message delivery. Are you allowing your frustrations to show from the pulpit? Are you bringing a word that encourages people or beats them down?
  • Are you making room for continuing education and spiritual growth—for yourself, your staff, and your lay ministers?
  • Under pressure, have you slipped from believing to mental assent? This may be a good time to get back to basics in the Word of God, rehearse scriptural truths regarding provision and prosperity, and let faith rise in your heart again. Get encouraged, and turn “the switch of faith” back on!

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