Doing more ministry with less money
By George Barna
Barna Group research indicates that the average church has taken less of a financial hit than the typical for-profit organization during the past two years. However, an emerging trend among corporations may challenge the ability of many churches to maintain their existing ministry in coming years.
Numerous companies cut back on staff as the economy tanked. But the new pattern is that many companies are finding their cost-cutting measures, driven by staff reductions, have been so effective — i.e., profitable — that they are now planning further rounds of personnel reductions. Still other organizations, convinced they can cut back no further, now believe a lean work force is a productive work force and thus do not plan to rehire laid-off employees or fill vacant positions. These scenarios spell financial hardship for a large number of unemployed or underemployed workers.
How will churches handle this? Hopefully, by doing what they can to support their people who are struggling financially and by expanding their lay ministry efforts. As churches experience a continuation of diminished revenue during a period of increased congregational needs, the pressure to replace departed staff with volunteer labor will grow.
Without meaning to be insensitive to the difficulties experienced by those who are casualties of the reduction in fulltime and part-time ministry jobs, the diminished number of and reliance upon professional clergy is in the long-term best interests of the body of Christ. In the midst of this transition, it is important for the body of believers to honor and assist those who have lost paid ministry positions. But for the overall health of the church, recognizing laypeople’s gifts and the value of using those abilities in service to others can only strengthen the church. The transition to a more streamlined, lay-led church body is a painful shift, but one that will bear long-term fruit for the church if properly understood, orchestrated and supported.
Read more about using volunteers at your event in “Helping Hands” in the upcoming October issue of Rejuvenate.
George Barna is the founder of The Barna Group, an organization that provides research services and resources to organizations in both the for-profit and nonprofit arenas. Its primary focus is trying to understand and explain the intersection of faith and culture, to help churches, parachurch ministries and individuals navigate the complex but rewarding dimension of faith. He will be speaking at Rejuvenate Marketplace in Louisville, Ky., Oct. 18-21. Read more at his blog.