Where Does Your Money Go

A hat tip to DJ Chuang for tweeting about this recent survey of church giving in the US. Love the book’s subtitle: “Kudos to Wycliffe Bible Translators and World Vision for Global At-Scale Goals, But Will Denominations Resist Jesus Christ and Not Spend $1 to $26 Per Member to Reach the Unreached When Jesus Says, ‘You Feed Them?’” Don’t love that the authors conclude the downward trend in giving is due to churches opting to pamper their members in order to woo them, rather than impelling them outwards to help fulfill the true role of the church, which is to serve and engage with those outside the walls.

Of course, there doesn’t have to be an “inside/outside” dichotomy: strong ties within a congregation are what make healthy outreach possible, so there’s no need to pit inward investments against outward efforts. Still, it is telling to think about how much churches spend – in money, time, and headaches – on various parts of their operations.

Having recently met as a congregation to discuss the 2011 budget, we all now know what those proportions are, at least on paper: about 2/3 on staff, and the remainder split between building, programs, and missions giving. Not in our budget but a very significant chunk of our influence in our community is the use of our building, both for one-off events like music concerts and special presentations, as well as by regular users (a middle school uses all the classrooms during the week, and we’ve had a handful of ethnic congregations meeting regularly at various times in our building for Sunday worship). We usually charge way under market if at all for such rentals, and I would have to say that, conservatively, the in-kind contribution to such events and organizations is into the tens of thousands of dollars, if not into six figures, which would mean that our cash and in-kind missions giving is something on the order of a quarter to a third of our overall budget.

Your church is probably different – it’s not often you find uber-eclectic congregations using a 100+ year old building in a neighborhood that boasts Ivy League professors and impoverished families. But it may be a fun exercise for you to see how your budget proportions out.

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