Does the quest for sustainability apply in the Church?
There is a real desire in communities around the world to give attention to sustainability. It means to develop institutions, businesses and communities that will last into the future with minimal imposition on future generations. This is not just about surviving. Sustainable means looking forward to a positive future by doing well, living and growing, there is a sense vibrancy. Sustainability necessitates managing resources now so that our activity will continue into the future.
What does sustainable mean for a church, the Church, your Church? A denomination?
How do we decide on priorities for managing the resources of our Churches?
What are resources of our churches intended to be deployed and activated for?
One of our key resources is the finance of the church, so what is the money for?
What does managing the money in a church mean?
Recently I have been in Europe enjoying many of the tourist activities including visits to many old and ancient Christian Churches. I am amazed at the old churches – their size, their grandeur, magnificence, opulence and the artistry performed so long ago. I enjoy looking around, imbibing the atmosphere of occasional choral singing or mass said and learning their histories.
All of the original features that endear the buildings to the tourists are fading and in many cases have faded so much that they are almost gone, much has already been lost.
Of interest of course is that most of the people who go into these buildings are tourists – thousands, and in some places millions, each year. Also interesting is that thousands who visit have no Christian background or adherence – they are simply tourists. Consequently, many of these churches charge fees to tour, view and learn about the buildings and also ask for donations specifically for maintenance of the buildings. Fortunately, these funds contribute in part to the huge maintenance costs which alleviates some of the financial burden from local congregations.
Do you think that the people behind the construction of these churches intended them for tourism in the 21st century?
One of the revelatory points from all this for me has been to realise the need to understand the real priorities for church finances in our own time.
I believe “in our time” is what we are called to do.
“Finance for ministry in our own time”, means the work of ministry now
Money now is for now, if we believe that God will provide for what is needed for what God calls people to do tomorrow
Money now is for ministry now – whatever that means in our own contexts. For some churches this means worship, local preaching and teaching, pastoral care and outreach.
For everyone it means evangelism now
For some it means providing physical resources suitable for now and the near future as reasonable as can be budgeted. Just as business must be sustainable (by making profits) a church must be sustainable by wise management of the funds donated now.
“need to understand the real priorities
for church finances in our own time”
For churches sustainable does not mean incurring large debts which will require future generations of church-goers to pay down loans. It does not mean constructing buildings that will require unsustainable maintenance – either financial or human.
How much effort and finance is required now to maintain edifices built years, many years or centuries ago?
Interestingly enough, the lessons are already in the Bible, of how the people focused on things in lieu of their faith. We don’t seem to have learned the lesson: in Judges we are told, it was only one generation into the promised land for the people to “forget their God”. There are also post-Biblical lessons too: many countries that were evangelised during the NT times, and built magnificent church buildings and things, are now no longer friendly for the Christian church.
When the church concentrates resources on edifices instead of ministry and evangelism then it is certain that the people will forget their God and be left with crumbling and decaying things.
It is time to review our focus and move towards growing a sustainable Church, communities of vibrant and active faith where ministry is provided for believers and everyone.
Please contact us if you would like to discuss the financial management of your church or NFP at [email protected] or 1300 138 627
© Benkorp Management Services Pty Ltd 2018