Larry Osborne loves to say, “If churches spent as much time and energy counting faces as they did dollars, they would not have a growth problem.” I couldn’t agree more.
The ironic thing is many church leaders say they agree with Larry, too. Unfortunately, they sometimes end up making different decisions. For example:
- Churches don't offer a variety of ways for people to give easily because it costs more money to do it.
- Churches won't invest in systems and processes which will actually help them count the faces, but they will invest in those that count the money.
- Churches place more emphasis on financial reports than ‘involvement’ reports in their ChMS.
- Churches don't care whether small group leaders track individual attendance each week. A simple number is okay to them.
- Church leaders say that they ‘love to serve people’ but won't return a phone call or engage in a hard conversation. (OK, this last one is more of a rant.)
What’s frustrating is that churches are in the people business. Good stewardship isn't just about counting pennies and dollars. The Parable of the Talents reminds us that the Kingdom is not about avoiding risk by preserving what we have today. Rather, the gospel message compels us to invest what we have been given — as disciples and churches — to advance the Kingdom beyond what we first thought possible. It's about making investments in systems and processes that produce deeper levels of engagement and more disciples. This is the path churches must take to facilitate spiritual transformation in their communities.
In churches, leaders have choices when it comes to the use of resources.
- Do you invest in recruiting and maintaining great staff, or do you settle for what you can get for as little pay as possible?
- Do you spend time, energy, and resources to develop new things, or do you keep polishing what you already have?
- Do you create listening channels and metrics so you know where and how to adjust, or do you rely completely on the perception of the executive leadership?
It's more than being profitable; being a good steward is about doing the most ministry possible with the resources God has given you. If there is any organization that should represent a different way of using resources, it should be the church. We can do that not by only lowering our expenses (good financial management), but also by using the resources we have to develop and grow disciples. It's always about people, not dollars.
Church leaders tell the people in the proverbial pews that their bank statements reveal what is most important to them. Can your church's bank statement verify that reaching people is at the center of your financial management?
Growth is never money problem; it is always a people problem. When you are focused on reaching people and growing disciples, money is rarely an issue. It doesn't mean we aren't supposed to talk about money. That's part of discipleship. However, it does mean that every decision must be in line with our stated value ... the sanctity of human beings, both in this life and the life to come.
How does your church's bank statement validate your belief that reaching people and making disciples are at the center of your ministry?