As a business owner, I have learned that there are circles of life in business that, try as you may, cannot be thwarted. Just as we discover that we are not going to live on earth forever, business leaders discover that their business model cannot live forever. The same is true of our local church. There is a life cycle for every local church. And one day, your local church as you know it will cease to exist.
Whether business or church…or life, I have learned to keep one eye on the past and one on the future. What we did was good, but it will not work tomorrow. The real key is to take the successes of the past and learn how to leverage those successes for the future. That is real stewardship.
For a North American church to be effective in our post-Christian era, we will need to make some changes. When we wake up to the fact that more than half of our US population will never attend anyone’s church, we will want to change. 1 Timothy 2:3b teaches us to live in such a way that we “please God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved…”
Emerging generations of Americans will not come to our churches to find the answers to life. In order to give them the life they need, we should follow the example of Jesus and go to them. This is a huge shift for the church in which I grew up. In addition to the spiritual change that needs to take place in the church, this change will demand a different financial and physical structure model.
So, how can we leverage our past to bless our future?
Church Staff – This is one of the two biggest areas of cost for every church. What if we could turn the tables on this? Here are a couple quick ideas:
- Consider a second stream of income. As a pastor, what are some ways you could generate additional income? A second job? A talent that you leverage for additional income? Writing? Consulting? Buying rental property? What gifts and talents do you have that could bring enjoyment and financial relief?
- Instead of hiring one full-time person to do one job at the church, consider hiring part-time servants who will work a job and serve the church. There are very talented people in your church who would work for little or no pay…just because they want to. (I am living proof of this. I have never received a paycheck from our church.)
- For a smaller church, consider not hiring ministers at all. Equip working stiffs for ministry…sound familiar?
Church Buildings – This may be the biggest loss of kingdom money in our country. Our landscape is dotted with church buildings sitting on valuable real estate that get used once per week and additional small meetings throughout the week. They are designed for specific use thereby limiting other involvement that could be leveraged for the kingdom. This is a tough one. People gave money, time and sweat to build these buildings and then dedicate them to God. That is wonderful, as long as we understand that God does not reside in a building, nor does He require that we give these spaces solely for our church services and practices. (The separation of sacred and secular is a teaching for another time.) Here are some facility questions to consider.
- What part of your buildings could be used for community endeavors such as co-working space, non-profit enterprises, clubs, coffee shops and other uses that bless the community and generate funds for the church?
- What if you sold your building that sits on valuable real estate and build a building that could meet your church needs and generate income? Many communities are in need of community centers, event centers, small music venues…the list goes on and on. What if you built something that those who will never go to a church start coming to your address every day of the week!
- What if you sold your valuable property and purchased property in a declining neighborhood and started a revitalization ministry in that neighborhood?
There are so many ways we can build for the future. I have only mentioned a couple, but I hope you are thinking about the possibilities.