When your church has to make spending cuts (and all churches will at some point), choose wisely. By wisely, I mean don’t make cuts that offer low ROC (return on cut). Let me explain.

The primary reason go into an IHOP is for the Cinn-a-stack pancakes. If I could do without those, I would rarely eat at IHOP. Here’s why: there are two things they do that ding my breakfast experience there.

First, they give you one, small, limp, non-absorbent napkin. When you’re eating a huge plate of pancakes involving syrup, who wants to have to wait for an extra napkin while they have syrup on their face or hands? Why not just put a napkin holder on the table like you do the coffee…which brings me to number 2: They put the coffee on the table (good), but only fill it with the amount they think you’ll drink. They assume, for instance, that I will only drink two small mugs of coffee over the course of my visit. I finish those by the time they’ve taken my order. So, despite the yumminess of the pancakes, I don’t like eating at IHOP. It’s a messy , napkinless affair, with self-serve coffee I still have to ask for.

How much money did they save on that second napkin and making me ask for my next cup of coffee? Not much–they just made my visit significantly less fun. I don’t mean to pick on IHOP, they were the first example that came to my head. Many, many restaurants, businesses, and churches do the same thing. Plus, the Cinn-a-stack pancakes are legit 🙂

So what does that have to do with church, you may ask?

When you must make cuts, don’t cut the small, hospitality stuff. Don’t get rid of bottled water for guests because it’ll save you ten dollars a week. Don’t get rid of air freshener in the bathrooms because it’ll save you $20.00/quarter. Don’t turn the thermostat in the children’s wing to subarctic temperatures in the winter to save a hundred dollars a month. Why? Because you’re losing more than you’re gaining. You’re losing morale, vibe, and relational warmth hospitality brings.

If you need to make cuts, Go where the money is (except staff salaries–always the last resort). Go to programming and trim a little. Men’s ministry can operate on $4500 rather than $5000. Keep the water, the thermostat, and the air freshener. I know now some are saying, “But Tim, men’s ministry is part of our vision, air freshener is not.” Actually, it is. It’s called hospitality–which ought to be a part of every church’s vision. Also, it’s a lot easier to seek a private donation of $500 to make up the cut in men’s ministry than for air freshener. Cut where the money actually is, and where you get a good ROC. There are often facilities cuts that can be made as well. I would just recommend make non-hospitality facility cuts.

Adjust the church budget wisely is every bit as important as budgeting well in general.

How has your church done this well or not well?