Communicating Church Spending and Financial Plans

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

How much should you pay church staff? #3

Looking at Church staff pay over the last few posts… basically a summary of what our Association Committee discussed and decided last year. In the last post we saw that staff salaries should be:

  • Comparable, according to the work they do
  • Provided by us – the church
  • Tending on the side of “more than they need” (rather than “less than they need”)

The next question is, what does it mean to be comparable?

We started by doing some research to look at salaries in our society that it might be useful to compare with. But this research took a few things into consideration…

  • Geographical location changes average income
    We collected values that related to Newcastle where available, but we also took NSW figures and some from Sydney, and adjusted them to take out biases associated with location and cost of living differences. (We did this by comparing the average income in Sydney to the Average income in Newcastle and applying that ratio to the Sydney incomes).
  • After-tax income NOT total Salary Income
    We worked out the equivalent After-tax income (when you include all the Ministry expenses, and allowances and tax breaks). this was important when comparing to secular salaries which had a larger package overall, but would have been taxed more and thus had less after-tax income. It’s just a way of comparing apples with apples.
  • The Average Income of the Newcastle Area
    We used the Census data to get a figure for the average After-Tax income of persons who are full-timer workers aged 25-55 from the Greater Newcastle Area. This was from 2011, so we guessed it up to what we thought it would have been in 2013.

With these issues taken into account, we started to look at what other churches and denominations pay, and what other “similar secular roles” pay was compared to the Newcastle Average…

  • Religious Sector:
    • An untrained Anglican Deacon (Novacastrian-adjusted)
      102% of Newcastle Av.
    • NSW Pressy Pastor
      113% of Newcastle Av.
    • Anglican Rector (Novacastrian-adjusted)
      130-150% of Newcastle Av.
  • Education Sector
    • Childcare (Novacastrian-adjusted)
      77% of Newcastle Av.
    • NSW Public School teacher – 1st year graduate (Novacastrian-adjusted)
      80% of Newcastle Av.
    • School Admin staff (Novacastrian-adjusted)
      103% of Newcastle Av.
    • NSW Public School teacher – 5 years expereince (Novacastrian-adjusted)
      110% of Newcastle Av.
    • NSW Public School Head teacher (Novacastrian-adjusted)
      124% of Newcastle Av.
    • Uni Lecturer (Novacastrian-adjusted)
      126% of Newcastle Av.
    • NSW Public School Deputy Principal (Novacastrian-adjusted)
      140% of Newcastle Av.
    • NSW Public School Principal of med/lrg school) (Novacastrian-adjusted)
      169% of Newcastle Av.
  • Other comparable sectors
    • Average Human Resources Salary
      97% of Newcastle Av.
    • Average Architect Salary
      97% of Newcastle Av.
    • Average Physio/OT/SpeachPath
      111% of Newcastle Av.
    • Average 1st yr Military Officer
      113% of Newcastle Av.
    • Average Accountant/Engineer
      120-130% of Newcastle Av.
    • Average Senior Manager
      170% of Newcastle Av.

We realised that we had been paying our senior staff about 107% of the Newcastle Av. We decided that our staff team needed a range of salaries (based on breadth and width of responsibilities) between 85% and 115% of the Newcastle Av. We’ve planned to roll this increase in incrementally over 3 years.

How much should you pay church staff? #2

When our Association Committee reviewed our staff salary packages, we asked the question, “How should staff pay compare to other salaries?”

When we looked to the Bible, we found a bunch of passages that gave us some good principles which we could apply to staff salaries. There are also some places where ministry staff pay is discussed directly. Looking at some of these, there are three main conclusions we established.

1. It’s a job, just like everyone else’s job

When Paul writes to Timothy he tells him that:

The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honour, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.
For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.”

By Double Honour, he is referring to the honour of the position as well as financial remuneration. You can’t expect an ox to work without its food, and nor can we expect a HBC staff worker to go without fair pay. In fact, our staff are in a honourable position, which you’d think would typically attract an honourable pay packet. Some people might be tempted on occasion to think that Ministry Workers should be poor, or at the very least, shouldn’t get paid more than “me”. Perhaps this misconception comes from the fact that so many people volunteer for ministry work. But Paul pretty much slams that here, as does Jesus when he said it to the 72 disciples. Nowhere does Paul (or Jesus) say that the worker is worth a poor wage.

2. It’s up to the church family to generate the money to pay our staff

In Galatians, it’s made very clear:

the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.

And it’s not out of obligation that we pay our staff, but out of love that we share all good things. We don’t hold back; we want others to have what we have. But what about those of us that don’t earn much? How can I be expected to give towards staff that earn more than I do? It’s important here to not confuse church with a charity. With charitable giving we give to people who earn less than us because they are in some way worse off than we are and we want to demonstrate compassion and justice. But church is not a charity – we give because we want to have people in our church who can teach us and lead us. Our staff are incredibly wise and skilful people – in most cases they have two or more degrees and bunch of other training. We give to them out of love and appreciation rather than pity or compassion.

3. We don’t want money to be a burden, because we want staff to love their jobs

And we can see the underlying principle here in Hebrews, where the writer tells them:

Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.

And Paul encourages the Thessalonians…

Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.

You might argue that we should just cover their needs. Some churches take that approach, and indeed Paul took that approach for himself. But it’s not a Biblical expectation for all churches. As Paul instructed Timothy earlier – the staff SHOULD be paid. And we see here in Hebrews and 1Thessalonians that we should be caring for our leaders and making sure they are not burdened, and of course financial pressure can be a massive burden, leading to:

  • Negative impact on spouse relationship
  • Impact staff kids’ view of the church
  • Resentment – “I’m busting a gut, but struggling to make ends meet for these people who (financially) don’t seem to care.”

To be free from burden means that our staff should not have to forego the many things that we enjoy. We could argue that they have the same ‘needs’ as you and I – including the need for safe and comfortable housing, family health care and education, recreation, and so on.

Therefore; staff salaries should be:

  • Comparable, according to the work they do
  • Provided by us – the church
  • Tending on the side of “more than they need” (rather than “less than they need”)

Tomorrow… What should they compare to?


How much should you pay church staff? #1

Last year, our Association Committee (of Elders) discussed a concern that we may not be paying our staff sufficiently.

In the past we effectively operated like a small business – paying our staff what we could manage, which wasn’t much, but they managed because they wanted to allow the church to get started. Not only is this not a good model to sustain, but as our church has increased in size, we have had to consider a more appropriate, and more sustainable, model for staff salaries.

So over the past few years we look at what is appropriate now that we are a larger church and that our staff have much more responsibility. We’ve also had to consider how we compare with other churches, not just so we know we are being fair to our staff, but also for when we need to recruit new staff – we need to be paying enough that potential staff members can actually afford to work for us.

However, we also need to be careful that we’re not overpaying staff, as there are potential problems there as well. For example,

  • New Staff could be attracted for the wrong reasons – for the money rather than the job itself
  • Higher incomes means it would be harder to employ more people
  • And of course, it could develop a love of money (in the staff or in the congregation) that can take our eyes off Jesus.

Therefore, it was important that we try to get it right! So… more tomorrow.

Where to spend your church’s money

The simple answer is to spend money on leaders who will raise up more leaders (or facilitate that process).
It’s the principle we see again and again in the bible.
The glory of David’s earthly kingship was not his army of men, but his men who each led their own armies (a bit like Jethro’s advice to Moses). Jesus invested in the 12, sent out the 72, all because the harvest needed workers. Once the gospel exploded out of Jerusalem (Acts 8) each disciple became leaders of new things. The kingdom grew. Paul invested in Timothy, who was to entrust the message to faithful men, who would go and entrust it to others.
But the description of the church “building one another up in love” in Ephesians 4 is most helpful. The church’s earthly goal is self-growth; both numerically and spiritually. So leaders like evangelists, pastors, teachers (even the apostles and prophets of the time) were meant to help the members of the church grow each other.
So, where should a church spend its money?
It’s should invest in people who will lead, teach, mentor, entrust other people to be leaders within the church, for the growth of the church.
There will be times or seasons when a church needs to invest in ways to increase the efficiency of those people; by providing an office, or a building, or a database, or a website, or a publishing house and books.
But the facilitators must know their place in the pecking order.