There are many areas where COVID-19 pandemic has challenged our churches – and a big one is money. Our executive pastor made the statement early to our staff: “Don’t spend any money!” With the closing of many businesses and the basic shutdown in much of the state, churches have experienced a considerable decline in giving for a number of weeks.
Many of our churches have reported a steady increase in giving as they have learned to provide new and different ways for members to give money. The latest statistics are projecting that many churches will see a 10 percent or greater decrease in giving over the next year.
Pastors and church leaders have encouraged members to be faithful in their financial support of the church and its ministries. Many of our churches are continuing to look for ways to trim the budget, cut spending, and still be faithful to the work of building the Kingdom of God and furthering the reach of the Gospel.
While not in these exact words, many pastors and church leaders are asking the following question: “How can we save money and still maximize our Gospel impact?” This interesting and unprecedented time has given us a great opportunity for ministry. The fear and concern associated with the pandemic has provided a unique and powerful time of ministry for the church. So, how do we manage our financial resources well and still further the Gospel? Below are a few suggestions for saving money and trimming the church’s expenses.
Utilities and insurance
Many of our churches are not meeting in person, while others are only meeting for worship. This means that much of the church building is empty. Thermostats can be adjusted; lights and timers can be cut off and other systems can be temporarily shut off. Don’t make the mistake of paying for things you are not actually using.
This is especially important for churches with large campuses and a number of buildings that are sitting empty right now. Additionally, there are a number of things that you would usually do in ministry with a full summer schedule as well as in your regular schedule of activities. It may be possible to restructure your insurance policy and/or renegotiate your premiums for several months while your buildings are closed and your schedule is streamlined with fewer activities.
Subscriptions, periodicals and other printed materials
Many of our churches are meeting virtually for worship and for Bible study. Some of our churches are beginning to meet in person for worship only. This means that much of the printed materials that we use for Sunday School, small groups, children’s ministries, etc. are not being used. You may want to consider cancelling magazine subscriptions and large curriculum orders during this time to help with expenses. Virtual small groups could use on-line curriculum which is usually available and a much cheaper cost.
Maintenance agreements – often, churches will have significant expenses with the maintenance agreements on their business machines such as copiers, risographs, etc. Many of these machines are not being used right now or at least used much less. The church may be able to renegotiate their maintenance agreement for the next few months and save a considerable amount of money.
Summer activities expense
Summer activities such as youth camps and other ministry activities are being cancelled due to gathering restrictions that are still in place. This could actually save hundreds if not thousands of dollars in the church budget.
Mid-year budget adjustment
Church budgets provide a blueprint for ministry. Most are based on various ministry goals and provide a guide for how the church plans to spend the resources provided by the tithes and offering it receives. It may be a good idea to look at actual giving versus projected giving and make a mid-year adjustment. In other words, if your budget expenses were based on a $10,000-a-week offering, but you are averaging $7,500 a week, it is a good idea to recalculate your budget based on your actual giving versus the expected or projected. This will allow you to avoid a shortfall in the weeks and months ahead.
While any one of these ideas may provide a little relief in the budget, using several or all of these together may not only provide relief, but may actually allow you to provide a “rainy day fund” for those future unforeseen expenses. Air conditioners break down, roofs leak and computers crash. Having a contingency fund for the unexpected is a good idea.
One final word about saving money in the church budget …
When expenses get tight in the church budget, often the first place we begin to consider cutting are staff salaries. Let me encourage you to make this the last place you look. I have been in ministry for over 30 years and rarely if ever have I known a pastor or staff leader who is overpaid. Most are more likely underpaid when you consider their level of education and number of hours put in each week as well as the level of care and support that they provide for their church family.
Instead of undervaluing them by cutting their salary, consider showing them how valued they are as the shepherd and caretaker of the flock. Let’s do our best to be good stewards of the resources that God has provided us for ministry, and let’s give it our all when it comes to furthering the Gospel and building the Kingdom of God.