I respect my pastor friends that want to preserve the local church. Most of them agree, it needs to be re imagined. That’s what I think i’m doing here – imagining.
This series of blogs is about what I’m thinking about. I think it’s good to think through things occasionally, especially in times like this.
I want to look at not just what the church did originally, but what the church should do now in light of the situation it finds itself in (for example, we have the internet – they didn’t – that changes some things).
Part 2 – What it Takes to Run a Church
I was interested in what it takes to run a church. Although I managed a church budget for almost 20 years at three different small churches, I couldn’t remember any of the amounts that I was searching for, so I did a little searching (I wouldn’t call it research). But here are some the rough numbers.
What does a church receive in offerings? Depending on the type of church, annual giving seems to be somewhere between $800 and $1,400 a year. Most of the church members don’t tithe of give anything, but that is the average. For simplicity, let’s just say that is $1000 per year per person. So, if you took the Water to Wine facebook group (1,100 people) and formed a church, it would take approximately $1.1 million dollars a year to run that church on average.
Where does the money go? Sounds like a question we would ask of the government, but it’s a fair question. What do we get back for that money? On average, churches spend about 47% of the money they receive to compensate their staff. This includes salaries and other reimbursements like housing allowances and mileage reimbursement. My main concern with staff is just a nagging little thought–are they spending most of their time doing ministry or running the organization? I know they all have good hearts and work hard, but what percentage of that work would go away if there was no organization? 22% of church income goes to property and maintenance and 10% helps keep programs running. Of the remaining budget, 5-10%goes to missions type expenses.
So, for our fictitious Water to Wine group, do these 1,100 people really need to spend $1.1 Million to pay a staff, maintain a building, and sustain the programs that make it viable? I suppose that is a question all 1,100 people have to answer for themselves. With access to information and online connection abilities, do we really need to do this or do it in the same manner we have always done it?
- What if the “headquarters” were much smaller and really just a place to equip people with supplies to do ministry?
- What if a much smaller staff recorded classes and online resources that supported people learning from their remote locations?
- What if the organization just rented a meeting place occasionally (like once a quarter) to get together and fellowship and celebrate?
- What if we realized, we could utilize multiple methods to fellowship, learn and encourage each other other than coming to a central location?
- What if half of the budget were spent on social justice issues? What could we do with $500,000 a year in our little Water to Wine church.
I know some churches do better than others in some of these areas. For example, some churches give more to outside charities. Some have less staff than average, but some also have more. These are averages and only limited research on my part.
I’m just asking questions–just kicking this can down the road–love some input!
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