Jul 8, 2005

Slanting The Church Budget The Wrong Direction

Huge churches with large ministerial staffs dot the horizon in all directions, and many of these churches are doing a wonderful job, and certainly worthy of our emulation and respect. These churches appear to involve the entire congregation in their work; perhaps they have discovered the magic combination to effect change in their communities!

Unfortunately some large churches with multiple ministers, and saddled with astronomical mortgage payments, often find no available funds remaining to aid widows in need, orphans, and others needing help in their communities. When this happens I wonder about the elders vision of the church.

Not too many years ago Christians were more than willing to roll up their sleeves and take care of the many aspects of "church work" themselves. For example; if a member was a teacher, that person often was in charge of the educational programs, and a bookkeeper would handle the financial aspects. Freely offering our talents to the church promotes good Christian character, and allows us to eliminate the multi-minister system incorporated into many churches.

It has become too easy to shift our burdens, frustrations, and duties as Christians to a group of professional ministers who are paid to handle the situation. The fact that he/she might handle the matter better than us, does not give us an excuse to sit by twiddling-our-thumbs thinking our obligations as Christians can be transferred to another person.

Where I meet (1000 members) there are seven elders and four ministers (outreach, pulpit, youth, and associate minister) who constitute the church leadership. There are no deacons in this congregation; apparently the role of deacons is assumed by the professional ministers. Members who offer their services to the Lord labor under the leadership of the appropriate minister in charge of a particular project. I'm not condemning or approving this type of church management (although I certainly have my opinions,) but only stating how this church operates.

One possible solution; resurrect the office of deacon and put them in charge of the church programs; select at least another seven elders to share the leadership role, and reduce the budget by aiding, all but the pulpit minister, in finding wonderful jobs somewhere else. Suddenly the finances are under control, and money is available to help our communities, and fortunately, or unfortunately, pay off our astronomical mortgages. Is this a realistic scenario? Of course not!


jettybetty said...

I read this last night and have been chewing on what you have to say here.
I certainly don't have many answers.

There's trend towards house churches--I suppose the could give all of their contribution for things that would honor Jesus. I am interested to see how those work out--I can't find a whole lot to argue with.

I go to a huge church--and we have so many "ministers" I don't even know them all. Even though I know there would be lots of places to pick--from where I sit it goes pretty smoothly. We don't have any building debt to speak of. We do use the building a lot--like about 16 hours a day 7 days a week. A fairly good percentage are involved. Of course, there are some that you could light a firecracker under them and they won't move--I suppose they will always be with us.

BTW, we don't have deacons either--we have "special servants" and they are men and women!


Larry said...


Perhaps I should sit back and go with the flow when things seem to be out of whack, but tossing out an opinion or two helps me understand the situation a little better.

Your comments, and those of others, agreeing or not, help me get a better grip on the subject; so I appreciate your comments.

Next time the elders present a budget I'm not going to analyze it... :)

jettybetty said...

I am really the same way--I like to hear lots of opinions--I know not all of mine are right on--so I am constantly evaluating and changing.

I don't want to be an elder--so it's pretty easy (perhaps too easy) for me to let them take that responsibility--it's my responsibility to give--what they do with it, is their's.

I do think we need to be spending more on things that really matter, too--I was born an optimist but I dothink gradually that is happening. I figure we are never going to get it 100% right--but we might as well have that as our goal!

JD said...

Good points, LVM. Sorry for the delay in replying...been on the run from Dennis!

Seven elders for 1,000 people is out of wack. It's probably hard for those seven to give up control of the pocketbook. You may have your finger on the pulse there. No deacons? The role of elders certainly needs lots of examination - in probably every church.

I think the role of "ministers" as well. Yes, if every member took upon themselves the responsibilities of the congregation, then there would be no need for someone "on staff".

Did I type that out loud?

jettybetty said...

Just had a thought while I was thinking through this today--if the church used women in selected roles--do you think this might help?? (less paid staff) or hurt???
(too controversial)

Larry said...

Trying to get me in trouble huh! :)

Churches of Christ in this part of the country use women in all kinds of roles, but never in a public manner.

Some churches are so strict I'm amazed they even allow the women to sit with the men during the public gatherings.

Women could be a great help in reducing the church staff, but it will never happen in the church where I meet. This church is not legalistic, but still retains a lot of the old traditional viewpoints

jettybetty said...

No I am not really trying to get you in trouble (I hear you have a hair-do that could do that ;) I am truly trying to think through issues and wondered what you thought on this one. You probably know from my past comments I do believe women are under-used. I don't know if this would help the dilemma here.
Do you think 7 elders for a church is not enough? Not getting your take on that one. What percentage of members do you think will actually be "active" no matter what the "church" provides?? (I know it should be 100%, but does anyone get that???)
Now you are probably saying--it is soooo good that woman does not want to be an elder! (LOL)

Larry said...

Seven elders for 1000+ members seems appropriate to me as long as they deem it necessary to hire multi-ministers.

Personally I believe about 15-20 deacons (men and women)could be selected to replace the paid ministers without losing a beat!

This church once used a rotating deacon system for awhile with about 12 deacons at a time for a two year period, but for whatever reason they continued to hire ministers and eventually phased out the deacons.

There will always be pew sitters, but hiring more ministers will not solve that problem. Many in our churches may look like pew sitters to the casual observer, but often these Christians do great work in the community; they just don't blow their horn in public.

I have known many women leading beautiful Christian lives; shinning examples of what Christianity should be, but were never for a moment considered to be an elder because of their gender. They may not fit into the eldership process in some churches, but in my eyes they are elders.

JD said...

Seven leaders to run a 1,000 member organization is ok. Seven shepherds to care for 1,000 people is vastly insufficient. But in our traditional view of elders as CEO, things can at least function pretty smoothly.

BTW, thanks for the link to my blog. I just noticed it. JD feels honored!