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Excellence in Ministry . . . What is It?

By Raul Rivera

I get the privilege of working with hundreds of churches and ministries every year.  With that privilege comes the responsibility of looking into their books, records, policies, and procedures to analyze the good, the bad and the ugly.  In my own estimation, the majority of churches fall into the bad and ugly when it comes to their IRS compliance.  Yet, one thing is evident.  Only the churches and ministries that make IRS compliance a priority are the only ones that ever get it right.  One aspect of doing ministry, no matter who you are, requires that time and money be spent on making sure you are operating within the law.  This aspect will never go away.  It is the unseen aspect of excellence, which usually gets confused with rigidity that quenches the momentum of a ministry.

In the name of excellence

What makes this topic so much more difficult is that we, (because I, too, pastored) often act in the name of excellence when in fact our actions lack the very essence of what it means.  When I listen to pastors share their dreams with me, I hear things like growing a congregation, acquiring, abiding, reaching the lost with the gospel, expanding into all 50 states, buying land, establishing a for profit arm, and many other wonderful and worthy ideas. 

Many ministries spend less than 1% on compliance

Stop and think about these dreams for a minute.  They are all great and they all require that the ministry spend money on making sure they do it right.  They all require compliance with state and federal laws.  Yet, when I look at ministry budgets I see less than 1% dedicated to legal and IRS compliance.  One cannot go after the vision by taking a short cut.  Excellence in ministry looks at the whole picture before it acts.  A real component to your success is establishing your ministry on a solid legal foundation.  Before you spend any money on any project, always consider what the legal and compliance challenges will be.  This form of excellence is the foundation that will sustain your ministry's growth.

Money trails

A church's finances always reveal its priorities.  One always puts their money in the things most important to them, and I often do not see any money spent on compliance or stewardship.  Stay with me for a moment. My question is, "How can one spend 40% of the church money to keep or gain new people when less than 1% is spent on the infrastructure to manage and sustain it?"  Getting people in is good...keeping them in is great.  People are able to perceive when stewardship is great and when it is bad.  Their perception will do more to keep or reject new growth.

God's heart for good stewardship

When it comes to stewardship in your ministry, God cheers you on.  Scripture shows us (1 Cor. 4:2) that it is in the place of faithfulness in stewardship that His blessings flow in abundance.  How important is it to you to get it right?  What are you doing today to get to a place of excellence?  Are you spending any time getting the information you need to start and stay right?  It is difficult at first, but it does get easier.  Today's legal and IRS issues are intimidating and that is why it is a great display of excellence when one manages their ministry in compliance.

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