The area of church finance is riddled with myths. They have pure motives behind them, but they are myths all the same. If you buy into them, you’ll set yourself up for financial peril down the road. Here are a few with some observations:
- Churches that spend more money on missions and benevolence are less selfish and more externally-focused. I suppose it’s a noble goal to spend less internally and more externally. However, there are churches that use missions as a way to outsource evangelism. They spend the money they do because they have no vision for reaching their own community beyond assemblies and bible classes. Truth is, reaching your community costs money just like reaching people overseas costs money. So, when you hear about the church that gives 60% of their budget to missions…pause and ask if God cares about lost people overseas more than he cares about the lost next door to your church. We can do both–support global and local evangelism. We should.
- The second is like it: There is a certain percentage of a church’s budget that should go to staff. This is a completely subjective idea. There are far too many variables–location, church size, amount of offerings, season of the church’s life to say there is an ideal amount of money. Besides, in general, a quality staff member will pay for themselves in ministry and growth. You can certainly over-hire. However, you can also underhire and underpay because of a subjective number.
- Number of ministries = ministry impact. This one will sink you faster financially than anything. More doesn’t necessarily make a bigger impact. It certainly costs more in money and energy, though. I once heard a pastor of a church of 3,000 brag about having more than 400 ministries. Sounds like a great church. But, they may have been able to make twice the impact with 50 ministries. Build strong, vibrant, fruit-bearing ministries. That’s where the impact is…not in the number of ministries. Too many ministries will typically dilute, not increase your impact over time. Too few is…well…too few.
- Dollars = Value placed on a ministry. Bologna! Many of the church’s most powerful ministry requires very little, if any, funding. Prayer, Small Groups, Preaching, etc. all make a huge difference but require very little money. Does that mean the church values the facility more than prayer? No, it just means they’re different. A teenager costs parents more money than they did while in elementary school. It doesn’t mean you love them more because you have to spend more money on them. It’s just life. Some churches spend a lot of money on helping the poor, but ironically don’t really care to come face-to-face with them. Dollars do not equal value placed on a ministry.