Many years ago, I invited a non-Christian friend to volunteer with me at a Christian organization for their annual fundraiser. She was surprised to have received so many phone calls from strangers who wanted to give. She said, “At my work place, I had to call our customers who owe us money repeatedly to pay us, but here, people just called in to give money.” What a great testimony for all the cheerful givers. Nonprofit organizations and churches depend much on the giving of it’s community. Church leaders agree that when the congregation’s giving decreases, the church suffers financially. However, that is only a portion of the equation. The larger portion lies on how money is managed, physically and spiritually. Here are the 10 ways churches can thrive financially.
- Teach Godly Financial Principle – Many families, including church-goers, suffer from financial difficulties not necessarily due to lack of income as many would think although it is a possibility but more often due to a lack financial discipline. People are searching on the internet as to how to create a monthly budget. It is important for churches to teach their congregation and their leaders alike how to budget, give generously, set spending priorities, and be good stewards of the resources God provides for us. In Matthew 25:21, we see what the master says to his faithful steward or servant, “. . . Well done, good and faithful servant, you were faithful over few things, I will make you ruler over many things.”
- Be As Transparent As Possible – According to Dr. Charles Stone, churches should be transparent about their financial condition. This internal process and money management works because it builds trust in the church. This means the financial records should be made available to the congregation. Proverbs 11:14 says, “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is ” The congregation may or may not be counselors, but the church is accountable to them.
- Develop A Clear Communication –More often than not, lack of communication leads to misunderstanding, contention and withdrawal. Amos 3:3 says, “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” If a church takes on projects and/or ministries without clear communication with their congregation, when financial responsibility is passed on to them, their giving is no longer cheerful giving, but giving out of obligation. On the other hand, when the church and congregation communicate well in everything they do, both will reap the benefits together. Ecclesiastes 4:9, “Two are better than one because they have better reward for their labor.”
- Pray Without Ceasing 1 Thes 5:17 – Jesus warns us in Mark 13:33 by saying, “Take Heed, watch and pray, for you do not know when the time is. Although this passage refer to the coming of the Lord, but it encourages us to be vigilant. Do you know when the giving in the church will drop? You may argue that you could do a forecast. As much as you have planned, which you should, the unexpected may take place. One pastor I spoke with shared this story. His congregation gave an approximate of $200K on a monthly basis. Due to certain circumstances, the giving went down to $35K. Through many prayers different individuals gave extra and some wrote large checks which helped them make up the difference.
- Trust In The Lord – Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths.” As stewards, these promises are extremely meaningful as we face inconsistencies in giving and insufficient funds when paying bills. The Lord promises in Isaiah 40:31, “Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”
- Obey The Word Of God –If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land. Isaiah 1:19. Samuel gave God’s commandment to King Saul to completely destroy the Amalekites. King Saul destroyed everyone but he took Agag, the king of Amalekites, alive and spared the best of his flocks for sacrifice to the Lord. He thought he had done well because he had reserved the best for sacrifice but he was wrong. As the result, his position as a king was given to someone else. 1 Samuel 15:22, Samuel said, “. . . Behold to obey is better than sacrifice and to heed than the fat of rams.”
- Segregate The Want from The Need –What we want is not necessarily what we need. Nowadays it is hard to distinguish want from need because we use those two words interchangeably. The bible says that we only need two things. 1 Timothy 6:8 says, “Having food and clothing, with these, we shall be content.” Dave Ramsey simply put it, “If you can’t afford it, you don’t need it.” Therefore, having identified what is ‘need’ and what is ‘want’ in the church, when it is time to slash expenditures it makes it a lot easier.
- Learn To Be Content – Contentment goes hand in hand with above. Though it sounds simple, it is nowhere near simple at all. The apostle Paul who had been through ship wrecks, poverty, hunger, imprisonment and a host of other conditions stated that he had learned to be content in whatever state he may be in. Philippians 4:11. “I once heard great advice from a wise mother she said, “Learn to do with, and learn to do without.”
- Set Up A Reserve – In the world of ‘for profit’ businesses, when a business makes some profit, they may keep a portion of the profit within the business for reasons such as expansion, big purchases, and for emergency funds. Likewise, churches should begin a reserve account that can be used to support the expenditures when giving in the church shrank due to lost of employment among the congregation, for example. Proverbs 21: 20, “There is desirable treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish man squanders it.”
- Adopt ‘Purpose First’ principles of Profit First for Non-Profit – Do Profit First principles apply only to businesses that focus on making profit? The answer is no. Although it may have been intended in the beginning to always generate profit for businesses, the principles can be applied to non-profit organizations and churches. It is a system designed for clarity and cash management in order to do the best with the resources we have. This mindset can absolutely be applied to your purpose as a non-profit.
How? Ecclesiastes 11:2 (ISV) “Apportion what you have to seven and also to eight, for you do not know what disasters might befall the land.” Profit First principle deals with human behavior for managing cash flow, dividing income into several accounts. Since humans are involved in for-profits and nonprofits, Profit First principle will serve both worlds well.
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Many thanks to the pastors who did not want their names mentioned. Let the name of the Lord, Jesus, be glorified, the Word of God.
Ruby Tan is the owner of Cela Bookkeeping Services, LLC (www.celabookkeeping.com); a firm that helps churches and nonprofit organizations manage their finances through ‘Purpose First’ methodology, a Profit First principle with www.