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Saving Money in Ministry

Tight budgets are commonplace in ministry.

That means that decisions about spending money are equally as common.

Someone in our church recently asked me, “Why can’t the church do ‘x’ when it’s only thirty bucks a month?”

“It’s a great idea,” I affirmed, “but there are so many other great ‘thirty dollar’ ideas people have proposed. When all of that adds up, it’s way more than thirty bucks a month.”

I’m tired of having this conversation… telling people that the money isn’t there – so I’ve been inverting it.

pillowI heard a story about how a famous five-star hotel in New York decided years ago to no longer put expensive pieces of chocolate on the pillows of their guests. The hotel determined that by not spending money on the traditional sweet treat, they could instead use that money to hire someone whose sole job was to bend over backwards for guests.

The comment cards that came in after this transition affirmed what they had projected – having that staff member made people more inclined to return back because of the extraordinary customer service.

Along those lines, our church started looking for ways to redirect any dollar in ministry we’re spending on random items that serve a good purpose but may not be mission critical.

The problem is those random expenditures are still really good ideas.

txtCase in point, we were paying $15 a month for a text message system to send out a daily message of inspiration to our congregation. It became a part of our identity, as it helped people to keep processing our weekend message all week long. I really liked the service and can’t say enough good things about it and its flexibility. They’re actually the think tank behind SimplyTXT.

Then I came across – a free text messaging system designed for teachers to send out text messages to their students. I emailed the administrators and explained I’d be using it for church purposes and got their thumbs up. While I still prefer the flexibility and features my old system offered me (and hope to return back to it), this temporary move gave us the margin to bring a part-time staff member up within our church.

We’re trading “chocolate” for people.

Saving money in ministry isn’t about cutting back. It’s about having a plan that lets you still hit big goals without creating big blind spots.

Or as Song of Solomon 2:15 offers, “Catch the foxes for us, The little foxes that are ruining the vineyards.”

  • chocolate_checkSift everything: Use your church or ministry vision statement to shrewdly filter if a proposed idea or existing practice further its. If it doesn’t, make it a “B” or “C” priority so that the “A” priorities can happen.
  • Always affirm people: Maybe you don’t need to spend thirty bucks a month on postcards about your next event. Instead, you could buy six $5 cards for Dairy Queen and pass those out to key adult and student leaders. You get the idea.
  • Don’t always affirm people’s ideas: Culture seems to prod us to affirm everything everyone says. Some churches follow this trend by just doing whatever the majority thinks versus doing what is needed. If someone says, “But another church is doing it” you can offer, “Let’s celebrate that. Good for them! But honestly, not for us.”

What does this stir up for you?

Have any other tips on how to trade “chocolate” for people?

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Saving Money in Ministry

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