The Church, Your Time, and Money
by Dr. Paul A. Murray
It is astonishing when one considers the major responsibilities and the many facets of business operations and church management that a pastor must be knowledgeable of in order to successfully over- see the day-to-day operations of the local church. There is a trend in many Apostolic and Pentecostal churches in which the pastor does not have any formal training in financial and business
management. The dominant and primary focus in our movements that regulate the position of pastor
is ‘the calling in one’s life’, not their academic and business background. The calling is a necessity and no pastor should move into this ministry with just academic and educational strength, otherwise the ministry of a pastor is a mere job or vocation.
However, the 21st century Pentecostal pastor is dealing with complex business and financial
management issues in their role as the top officer of the church. Are pastors aware of the monetary
risks that can threaten their ministries? Is the church prepared and capable of moving ahead after a catastrophic event such as a tornado, flood or fire? Is the pastor positioned to deal with a personal injury while on a mission trip, or a lawsuit charging sexual misconduct of a church member? These questions point out that being an anointed, faithful servant of the flock is not enough. The good news is that there are plenty of resources available for pastors and their boards.
Financial risks that threaten churches can be placed in two broad categories. The first includes events which, if they happen, can be financially disastrous. The risk is the loss of property or money, which can result in the loss of ministry. The second category includes insufficient funding to maintain or expand church ministries. The result, again, is the loss of ministry.
When something bad happens to the church or in the church, help can come from property and
casualty insurance companies. The most common property damage claim is for wind or hail damage.
Then there are the costly claims resulting from fire and lightening. Most churches have property
insurance, but just owning a policy is not enough to manage the risk of loss from unwanted events.
It is common for churches to underestimate the cost of replacing unique architecture or to neglect
inflation in estimating construction costs. Good stewardship demands frequent review of your church’s insurance coverage.
Another common weakness in church insurance coverage is failure to properly estimate costs
associated with county or community building ordinances. Standard insurance policies generally
cover the building as it previously existed but does not pay for improvements required by law, such as
adding an elevator, handrails, handicap ramp, fire doors, sprinkler, alarm systems or additional exits.
If a church suffers even relatively minor damage, rebuilding “as was” might not be allowed. Property damage is only one risk of financial loss facing your church. Another area is liability. When someone is injured in your building, the church may be responsible for medical expenses and loss of wages, and also for “pain and suffering” as determined by a jury of non-church members.
A pastor’s missions trip outside the United States faces the risks associated with poor medical
facilities, religious intolerance, disease and civil unrest. Many pastors are not aware that insurance
policies purchased in the United States often exclude coverage or provide inadequate coverage outside
the country. Insurance companies that specialize in churches, like Church Mutual and Brotherhood
Mutual, understand the risks of running a church and the insurance coverage needed. An experienced,
qualified company and agent who understand the special requirements of a church is a valuable asset.
To keep your church solvent, make sure you have insurance and review the policy to ensure that you are
protected against the bad things that could happen.
The second category has one asking the question, “What about financial risks associated with desired events that do not happen?” Often, these risks involve the uncertainty of raising money for exciting
new ministries. In my oversight of several secular nonprofit organizations, we utilized fundraising
campaigns to obtain a financial commitment and an emotional response to an established opportunity or need. However, church fundraising seeks a spiritual decision focused on God rather than program money.
A successful fundraising program depends on members of a church family intelligently praying about their role in financing a project or ministry. To do this, each member must have enough good information to inspire generosity and sacrifice. An effective fundraiser has at least 30 to 50 percent of the church body involved in the fundraising initiative. Without active involvement communication doesn’t happen, learning doesn’t take place and intelligent praying won’t happen. Members need to be
The most common cause of a church’s failure to reach its financial and ministry goals is that churches typically work backwards, doing the fun things first and leaving the heavy lifting last. For example, a church will go and hire an architect, show the congregation a model of the new building and then set out to finance the project. Hopes run high and excitement overflows, but the reality of the church’s credit profile torpedoes the dream. This also plays out when a church creates a new ministry spontaneously without having a ministry plan, volunteer job descriptions and sufficient “knowledgeable” members to run the ministry.
If the church does the heavy lifting first and determines its financial capabilities, ministry abilities
and limitations, then it is creating a firm foundation for success. The church can then move forward
in the project or ministry with confidence. This planned out approach will avoid the disappointment
of setting unrealistic goals.
Please feel free to contact me with your comments and any suggestions for future topics. If I can be of
further assistance to you, you may contact me at: 410.987.0755 or by email atMurrayP@aljc.net.G