Today in America, most middle-class families have more than one income stream in order to make ends meet. This could include one person working two jobs, or both parents working. It could include someone having a job and then having a second income stream from a small business on the side. It would seem that having multiple income streams would put people in a comfortable place financially. But after unexpected medical bills, or college bills or temporary loss of one of the streams, most families get by with very little left at the end of every month.
Why do we think a church would be any different? What happens when the math doesn’t work?
• What if the church loses its lease, needs to move, or receives a rent increase?
• What if health insurance for employees takes a huge increase?
• What if a big donor moves away?
• What if a recession hits and giving drops by 20%?
• What if, as many of my pastor friends in New England have experienced, a snow blizzard hits each week for four weeks and the church is unable to meet for four or five Sundays?
What about the creeping economic change that is taking place in churches all across our country? In 2003, Reggie McNeal wrote in The Present Future that 80% of money given to congregations comes from people aged fifty-five and older. Folks, that was sixteen years ago. Those people are now seventy-one years old and older. The financial implication of this fact alone needs to be a wake-up call to church leaders. The financial loss in church may be less attributed to poor leadership and more the cause of a trend that cannot be controlled.
None of this includes the predicted tsunami of loss of tax preferences such as housing allowances, real estate exemption or tax exemption of tithes and offerings.
The sky is not falling. But we must begin to practice Better Business, Better Ministry. We must look ahead and steward well. And we must consider multiple streams of income for churches. If you think this is an unholy idea, or a lack of faith, or poor leadership, consider Priscilla and Aquila. According to Ralph Moore, these folks were the Apostle Paul’s sugar-daddies. Consider that every major revival ministry in America was funded by an income stream other than the tithes and offerings. Consider that this is not a bad idea!
I will talk about specific income ideas in my next writing.