Since so much of this blog is about things I’m learning and developing through my ministry at Hunter Bible Church, I think it’s worth discussing some principles that shape how we communicate our spending and financial plans.
We’ve just had our “Gospel Proclamation Investment Night”. It’s a night where we talk about God’s plan for the universe, and our prayers to be part of that as a church, and how much those plans are going to cost in the next year. But we don’t think “cost” is the right word… Because every dollar put towards Jesus’ kingdom is a dollar invested. It’s a privileged to give – it might also be a sacrifice – but it’s a privilege none the less.
So how should our church invest it’s income in 2015? That’s what the night was about.
We sang to God together, we looked at Revelation 5, we had a time for people to ask any question at all about the money and why we’ve made the plans we have. And then we prayed and prayed some more and sang.
But the tool we used to go through the material was a little folded page. It tries to communicate how our spending is changing from 2014 to 2015, and clearly express where that spending goes.
Check it out here…. 2014 HBC GPI Booklet
It is common for Christians to make a call for people to get involved or sign up to serve or even to give because there is a great need.
And there is a great need!
However, if the need is the only basis you ever use for that call you will usually get only average responses. When things are simply “needs” they only need simplistic solutions. Stop gaps. Temporary fixes.
However, when you call people to be involved in something massive, something’s that will matter and make a difference, you might get fewer people, but you will get more invested people.
It’s the difference between, “hey, we really really need Sunday school teachers or else the class can’t run” and “hey, there are 10 kids you are like sponges every Sunday, and you could be one of the people they thank God for putting in their life when they are 60 years old.”
In some circles competition is shunned and avoided at all costs. And there can be some very good reasons for avoiding competition – especially when dealing with people who have a very competitive nature.
However, not everyone has a competitive nature, and sometimes, a bit of competition helps us as humans to spur one another on. It’s why some people go jogging or swimming in groups… the pull of wanting to keep-up with the others drives you on further.
And Paul leverages a bit of human competition in 2Cor 8…
“But since you excel in everything… see that you also excel in this grace of giving. I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others.”
And he does it about spiritual matters!! I often wonder what being biblically in line with Paul would look like today?
It’s worth being aware of the many reasons we Christians (myself included) come up with to justify being all “I love JESUS!” with our mouths, but all “I can’t give money”. You’ve probably heard the line, “the last part of a man to be converted is his wallet”.
Here’s some reasons that might going on in people’s hearts…
- “I don’t feel led to give at the moment”
= being obedient to Jesus isn’t enough for me, I want him to make me feel good about it too, OR
= I’m not a christian, OR
= My church hasn’t worked hard enough to prove to me why I should give them my money, OR
= I think my money is mine, not God’s.
- “I don’t have much money to give at the moment”
= Jesus won’t be pleased with me unless I can give lots, OR
= I won’t be pleased with myself unless I can give lots, OR
= I’m waiting for God to give me more money, because he wouldn’t want me to part with any of this, OR
= I’m actually starving, I have no money, and I don’t know where I’m going to get money from in the next month.
- “I give to other things, rather than my church”
= I want to disassociate myself from this group of people; I’ll attend, but that’s all, OR
= I don’t see why my church needs my money, I think it’s operating fine without mine, OR
= Other people can give to my church, and no-one will know I don’t, OR
= Other churches/ministries need it more than my church, even though the bible says I should give to my church (i.e. I disagree with God).
About 12 months ago I took an architect and a couple of our Committee of Elders to a 1970s warehouse and pitched the idea that by the grace of God we could use it as a home base for our church activities. They showed amazing trust in my intuition, they helped work out how to communicate it well to our church, and they pitched-in heaps. God showed amazing grace in getting it all finished too. It was a wild ride that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. But here’s some reflections a year out…
(If you don’t know about our HBC Hub, it’s for all our non-Sunday activities… we don’t do church there at all. It’s just for meetings, lunches, Women’s Bible Study, night time seminars, evangelistic series, welcome nights, anything… just not “sunday church”)
- There are ONLY 3 types of spaces you need in a church hub – these were the things I was looking for in the 80 or so places I looked at;
- car parking spaces,
- informal spaces (meeting rooms, conf rooms, cafe, entry, hot-swap desks, etc),
- utility spaces (kitchen, toilets, storage, photocopier, stationery, etc).
- (I’m really glad we didn’t use space for private offices. It can make it hard to have some conversations, but that’s what the meeting rooms are for. The space is too valuable.)
- Commercial building requirements are generally twice as ridiculous as residential ones.
- Labour is generally 4 times the cost of materials – so pray for helpers.
- Some helpers are great at one type of job, some are great at doing many. Get people doing their type of thing.
- People generally need to be given permission to start. If you find a good starter, he’s a God-send for helping others.
- It’s worth getting professionals to do jobs that everyone will look at in years to come… like setting the plaster on the gyprock.
- I’m glad we put the money into glass doors and extra glass panels in walls; it lets in heaps of light and it means there are no “unseen” meetings. Everything’s above board.
- Getting the right materials and tools on site at the right time took 80% of my time.
- While in the midst of it, I was very emotional. I was constantly on edge about how people would judge it, and if they thought it was a stupid idea. Even when they said they liked it, and they couldn’t wait, I still heard them as if they were complaining it was taking too long. Every question people asked sounded like an attack – but it wasn’t!! My ability to hear them positively went out the window. Towards the end of the project I took a week off before I became a complete wreck. That taught me a lot about my potential to mis-hear people’s intentions.
- Moving the staff coffee machine was the best way to get the staff to leave the old office.
- Some people clean well. Other people clean perfectly. Don’t get the former to do the last sweep, and don’t get the latter to come everyday.
- I wish I’d made the conference room a bit more square shaped. It’s 12m x 5m. It works. And I don’t think we really could have changed the layout, but it’s the only part I’d like to alter.
- The first thing we bought for the hub was a $300 leather sofa suite… 1 week before I even went to the Elders for approval. Having that sofa in the building the whole time meant a lot to me. I feel like I should leave it there when we move out.
- When you ask for donations, be clear that you will only take the things that you want. If people want you to take it on principle that it’s a donation, don’t. It’s amazing how many broken items were “offered”. Ask for people to donate new things, not old things.
- Have a list of things that you want to get, but you don’t have the money for… some people will only want to pay for those type of things. May as well let them.
- Have a celebration at the end. Rejoice in all the ways people have helped… time, skills, even the money that was donated and the praying that was done for it behind the scenes. We got people up and interviewed them simply on the basis that they gave money. It felt a bit weird but they sacrifice was just like all the others, so why not thank God for them?!
A budget is an agreed target for income and an agreed target for expenses. So what happens if your income is less than your expenses?
If you talk about income vs expenses, then the obvious question will be, “how are we going to lower our expenses to match income?”
But if you talk about budgeted (or target) income vs budgeted (or targeted) expenses, it slightly changes the game.
Yes, many people won’t be aware of the difference, in which case you should make it clear. The income didn’t fall below expenses, it fell below our agreed income target (budget). The expenses didn’t creep above our income, it crept about out agreed expenses target (budget).
That way, the right question gets asked… Did we set the budget to low or too high? How will we set the target next year? What did we agree on, and what should we agree on going forward?