In my years of ministry as a senior pastor, executive pastor, and now church consultant, one thing I have tried to impress upon my staff, my leadership teams, and my clients is to let the ministry drive the money instead of letting the money drive the ministry. Let me unpack that a little.
All too often I see major decisions being made in churches based on money.
Q: Should we hire a new youth director or just add that job description to another staff member?
A: It depends. Do we have enough money to hire a new youth director?
Q: Should we start providing meals to the homeless people we see on the corner by the church every Sunday morning?
A: It depends. Do we have enough money to provide breakfast for homeless people?
Q: Should we allow AA / NA / Alanon, etc. to meet in our church?
A: It depends. Do we have enough money to pay the electricity for them to meet? Or, can they afford to pay us rent so we can make some money off the deal?
Q: Should we refurbish our children's area to make it safer, more secure, and more inviting to young families?
A: It depends. Do we have enough money to refurbish our children's area?
You get the idea. All of these are examples of letting money drive the ministry instead of letting ministry drive the money. In a truly Gospel worldview, these conversations should go something like this:
We are having more and more families with youth attend our church. I think we need to invest in quality ministry for young people. What can we do to attract and hire a really talented youth director to minister to our students?
I have noticed a large number of homeless people on the corner when I arrive for Sunday service. I stopped and talked to one and she said she hadn't eaten since Thursday night. I invited her in to get something to eat. Can someone help me start a ministry to feed these children of God in our fellowship hall every Sunday?
There are so many people in our community struggling with the difficulties of addiction and the associated problems it brings. Why don't we start an AA / NA / Alanon group or a Celebrate Recovery ministry in our church? What do we need to do to get that going?
Our children's area is dark and drab and not very kid-friendly. I also heard one parent saying he doesn't really feel safe leaving his toddler in such an unsecured area. Children and families are so important, and it is vital that the children's area be some place that kids want to be and parents want to send their kids. Let's get together Saturday afternoon and repaint the area. I also heard the trustees are meeting Tuesday night. Let's see if we can talk to them about changing the check-in area to be more secure.
These last four versions of the scenarios are examples of letting the ministry drive the money. I understand churches are called to be good stewards of the gifts with which God has blessed them. But, I also understand that money driving ministry is an unsustainable ministry model and will NEVER meet the needs of your mission field. Money driving ministry is the exact opposite of a faithful, fruitful ministry model.
Examine the needs of your mission field. Pray that God will give you God's eyes to see the needs of those around you. Pray for strength and guidance from the Holy Spirit to meet those needs. And then do whatever is necessary to meet those needs.
Letting money drive ministry is asking God to be in ministry with you.
Letting ministry drive the money is you coming along side God to fulfill God's mission in your community.