I recently took a Sunday off from the church where I work in Temecula, California, and attended a much larger church in Fontana. I believe it’s a wonderfully healthy experience to see how other churches “do” Sunday mornings. If I’m being totally honest, I had a serious case of facility envy. Their campus has everything, a fully stocked bookstore, a cafe, numerous welcome centers both inside and out, multi-level parking, outdoor baptistry, and a worship center replete with the latest audio and video technology. Not only did it look and sound amazing, the campus was immaculate, and their signage made it easy for guests to navigate.
The same Sunday I visited this mega-church, our church had a guest speaker from another church in the Temecula Valley. The guest pastor’s church meets in a small, rented facility with inadequate parking and little room for growth. My guess is that our guest thought our facility was the bee’s knees because it is very nice – just not as nice as … you fill in the blank. It’s easy to get caught up in building bigger, better, and more attractive places to worship. I don’t recall where I heard this, but comparison typically brings either pride or insecurity. As followers of Jesus, we shouldn’t have either. On top of that, we shouldn’t be competing with other churches; there are plenty of people who need to hear the Gospel and grow in their faith. We need to support each other in our efforts.
In my position as Executive Pastor of Operations, just like visiting other churches on a Sunday off, I also like seeing other churches’ websites. I want to learn what others are doing well. In every website I’ve visited, I’ve never seen a church post a mission statement saying they exist to build the finest facility, deploy the latest technology, pay their pastors and staff exorbitant salaries, and keep out the riff-raff. The truth is most Christian churches build their mission statement around the great commission given by Jesus found in Matthew 28, “18 I am here speaking with all the authority of God, who has commanded Me to give you this commission: 19 Go out and make disciples in all the nations. Ceremonially wash them through baptism in the name of the triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 20 Then disciple them. Form them in the practices and postures that I have taught you, and show them how to follow the commands I have laid down for you. And I will be with you, day after day, to the end of the age.” ~The Voice. Jesus said to share the Gospel with everyone and teach them to follow his commands. It sounds simple, but it’s certainly not easy.
It didn’t take long after Jesus gave his disciples this command that the need for increased human and financial resources became necessary. Going to the ends of the earth with the good news required food, clothes, travel, and money then, and it still does today. In fact, it’s exponentially more complicated today. And stewarding (managing) the resources well is more important than ever. Suddenly questions come up like, what percent of the budget goes to compensation for the staff, what percent supports the facility, and how much goes to outreach, isn’t everything outreach? And when churches aren’t careful, the resources can become consumed in ways that no longer support the mission.
The budget is the tool that ensures the resources God provides your church support the mission. When building your church’s budget, start with this question, what is the mission of your church? Then ask, how does our church plan to accomplish the mission? As each ministry and operational leader submits their budget, review it together through the lens of how this expense accomplishes the mission. Don’t over- or under-spiritualize this process. Yes, the utility bill accomplishes the mission, as does maintaining a safe and clean environment to worship. The idea is to take the time each year and look at the budget with a fresh perspective and evaluate if the expense contributes to fulfilling the mission.
The weekend I visited the church in Fontana reminded me of the most important truth – the church is not a building; it’s people following Jesus. And those people sacrificially give to financially support the ongoing mission that Jesus gave to make disciples of all nations. Because the mission matters, churches need to take a fresh look at their budget to ensure the resources support the mission.short url: