When Saving Money Costs You

My whole life, I have been a saver. I dislike spending money, but I love to watch my savings grow. I have no problem gutting out a less convenient product or option just to save a few bucks. However, when it comes time to spend, I am not afraid to do it right. Because I save on the less important things, it allows me to really invest in personal priorities or conveniences.

Church leadership often practices the same spending habits of individuals. Sometimes churches can be extravagant spenders on items that do not advance the mission. Other times, the church can take great pride in saving money or not spending it. This can easily be done at the cost of the greatest investment toward the mission. However, it is hard for savers to see it that way.

So to all the savers out there leading church finances. Here is my list of ways churches often seek to save money that ultimately can have a greater cost of limiting success in the mission.

  1. Technology – I know how hard it is for a non-tech person to have a great appreciation for an amazing website, app, sound, lighting, and streaming experience. These and other tech ministries always have such high prices and need constant upgrading. It can be extremely difficult for a church to make a priority of technology. However, we do exist in a technological age. People are visiting your church via their handheld devices multiple times before they ever set foot on your property. You might just be giving an unhelpful witness, unknowingly, missing out on the opportunity to impact a life in person. The gospel is a person and a message. The message needs to be presented in the most modern, powerful, and clear way. Set aside money each year in your budget to get up to speed with technology.
  2. Capital – Building needs are big expenses. Common repairs cost in the thousands and tens of thousands for smaller churches, then millions for larger. It is so easy to seek to delay or cut corners. I have seen cutting corners really cost churches in the long run. Not only can the maintenance be more when you build poorly, but the limitations on next steps can be dramatic. Facilities as a whole are one of your most powerful tools. They can unleash ministry potential or severely limit you. How many times have church leaders thought how previous space decisions are limiting future opportunities? Don’t go the cheap route with your facility.
  3. Training – Unfortunately, staff training and leadership development can be easy budget cuts. These expenses are seen to only benefit a few and can cost thousands of dollars when done well. However, the loss can be experienced with ineffectiveness, lack of leader multiplication, and team stress. Developing and multiplying leaders is core to successful ministry. I would do without some ministry events before I would minimize an investment in the team.
  4. Marketing – For some, marketing is a bad word. So I would say it this way, anything that enables your people to become great inviters, should be a priority investment. The gospel is extremely important and it goes at the speed of your people. People impact people. Seek to prioritize how to facilitate your people being excited about what God is doing in your church and eager to bring others to be a part of it. Simply maintaining a less effective event or even an entire ministry at the expense of outreach will cost you in the long run.
  5. Generosity – This one often flies under the radar, but it has a significant impact on funding church vision. Underspending in generosity effectively cuts off the supply. Every church needs to be able to facilitate a quick, fun, and easy gift via a smartphone. These gifts should take 2-3 clicks in a matter of seconds. Technology, credit cards, and transaction fees are not bad. I know we do not always like them and they do not always cooperate with us. However, most of the time they do make life more convenient. I would also discourage long explanations on why ACH giving or bank drafting is better for the church than using a credit card. Most often, when we attempt to do something that is better for the church, it is at the expense of the giver. Think of any investment in generosity as an investment in discipleship. Make giving fun, easy, and accessible 24/7 then you will reap the joy of generosity.

These are just a few of the items that I regularly encounter. You may have some other cost saving decisions that you have learned had a big ticket price to be paid. Feel free to let me know. I’d love to keep learning and pass on the advice to other church leaders.