Big Vision, Small Checking Account

Written by Founder Raul Rivera on Feb 17, 2011 in Pastoral Helps

How Big Are Your Dreams?

Sometimes, the vision of a pastor's heart is greater than what the church's finances can provide.  A big vision is wonderful, yet when you add a lack of finances to the mix it can lead to a discouraged heart.  If you ever become discouraged in this way, I challenge you to assess the condition of your heart!  Scripture teaches us in Proverbs 13:12 that hope deferred makes the heart sick (NIV). Is your heart sick? Do you feel like you have been waiting and waiting and still there is no answer? I have had too many conversations with ministers who are notably discouraged because of a lack of finances, even though their conversation does not admit to it.  As mentioned earlier, the condition of your heart may be a bigger challenge to overcome than the church's small budget. Later on in this article, I will share ideas on how to increase church finances, but first let's talk about your heart.  Philippians 2:14-15 says, "Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure." (NIV) The act of being blameless is not limited to us being found without fault; it also means that we are not blaming God for the financial inadequacies of our church/ministry. It is easy to outwardly proclaim our faith in God to provide for our finances, but the battle raging inside our hearts may look much different. Many pastors secretly blame God and hold offense because their ministries do not grow according to their own vision.  How can we fix that?

My Personal Experience

I am writing today out of my own personal experiences. I have been offended before at the Lord for the church's inadequate finances. I labored for several years before going on a full-time salary. It was not until heart issues of trust and offense were settled, that all of my plans and hard work began to produce fruit.  Once the issues were resolved, in the first six months the church grew from 25 to 125 members and the finances grew by over 125%.  Moreover, supernatural provision blessed our ministry to the degree that we began a long series of outreach programs that ministered to thousands and thousands of people.  

As a pastor there are four goals that need to be established early with real efforts being made to meet them.  They are as follows:

  1. Full-time ministry for the pastor
  2. Create a financial business plan for the church
  3. Acquire a building that produces income
  4. Run the business side of church as a business to produce real income for the church

These four priorities are essential.  Though they will take years to accomplish, they are necessary for creating a thriving ministry.  Let me give a brief explanation of each goal. 

Full-Time Ministry for the Pastor:  Let's face it, increasing your church's income is necessary for you to become a full-time salaried pastor. In my 18 years of ministry experience, I have witnessed the major difference in efficacy between churches that have pastors on full-time salary and those who do not. The dilemma we run into when pastors are working outside jobs is that their hearts feel divided, and the amount of energy and time they can give is limited. It is during these times that a pastor needs to fight with everything within to keep his/her heart un-offended.  I am not saying that a duly employed minister is a bad thing.  Every church has its humble beginnings, and the Lord uses these meager times to test our hearts.  Your response determines your future.

Acquire a Building That Produces Income:  Acquiring a building is always more expensive than you think.  As a general rule, you will probably spend 2.5 times more than you initially budgeted.  Do not fall into the trap of moving into a building too early.  For many, moving into a new building is the beginning of the end.  The expenses usually end up draining the budget more than expected; leaving no room for the usual ups and downs of church finances. 

When looking for a building, you must do three things:

  1. Begin saving for it now:  The best scenario is to save for two years.  The soft costs of moving in are always more expensive than the usual rent and predictable expenses.  Soft costs are the costs of building out, sound systems, permits, licenses, technology, and decorations.  It is essential that you have six months of operating cash left in the bank after you move in.  Believe me, this will save your ministry in the long run.
  2. Get a building that is big enough to generate income:  When looking for a building, get one big enough to use for business purposes such as a daycare, after-school care, or grant-based social service programs.  Perhaps you can use it for a business that pays taxes, such as a sublease, or a church controlled C-Corporation that earns income.
  3. Spend extra time and money on your bathrooms and entrances:  Most churches have nice entrances and attractive sanctuaries, but terrible bathrooms!  Do not ignore the bathrooms.  Unattractive bathrooms will chase away newcomers faster than anything else.  Think about moms with babies and changing diapers.  You get the point!  People will remember a negative bathroom experience more than they will your message.  Don't plan on visitors returning if you have bad bathrooms.

Create a Financial Business Plan For the Church:  If there is one area where most churches are weak, it is in keeping up with business responsibilities.  Most church business plans consist of depending solely on tithes and offerings.  The hope of most pastors is that new members with financial strength will join the church and increase giving.  Unfortunately, that rarely happens.  What if the church developed a plan to generate real income through legitimate businesses owned by the church?  What if the church created a plan to save cash over a period of time and invested it into a real income producing business?  What if the profits were enough to pay for excellent facilities for the church, which in turn produced income, too?

Run the Business Side of Your Church as a Business to Produce Real Income For the Church:  For some reason, many pastors ignore the financial aspect of ministry.  Perhaps it is the fear of having to manage money, even if it is just a little.  In fact, the less money there is, the more emotional pastors become.  They often fight feelings of inadequacy or loneliness.  For others, they simply have never had experience with business and so running the business side of the church feels very foreign to them.  I do not know of one Bible college that teaches entreprenurial skills to pastors.  Like it or not, today's pastor not only shepherds the flock, but is also a CEO and business leader.

As with any business, taxes are always the biggest expense you will incur.  Churches and ministries face increased exposure to tax laws due to changing laws and regulations.  If the IRS or state were to audit your church, will they find proper records and documentation?  Did you know that over 83 percent of churches suffer from noncompliance issues?  In August of 2009, the IRS published final regulation on section 7611 in the Federal Registry .  The proposed changes in the regulation are set to restore the IRS' ability to audit churches.  With penalties that range from hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars, the IRS has a financial motive to engage in church and ministry audits.

A Final Word of Encouragement

Falling in love with God's call on your life is a very important part of the process of growth.  When you are in love, time invested and size of ministry no longer matter as much as your relationship and understanding of His heart toward you.  Sure, we would all like to have larger ministries!  That is nice, but it will never satisfy like you think, and more ministers end up spiritually bankrupt because they seek masses with more vigor than seeking His presence.  At the cost of intimacy with God....THAT is too high a price to pay for anything. (Lord, rescue us from what we think we need, and in Your kindness, give us what You know we have grace to steward.)


Please feel free to comment. We always appreciate good dialogue. However, we do moderate each comment to ensure that it is on topic and not derogatory to other participants. We ask that you keep your comments brief and pertinent to the topic so that others may benefit.

Raul Rivera

And receive Book 1 of our Grow Trilogy FREE today! This series gives you the strategies you need to get started growing your church plant today!