3 Smart Decisions That Release Old Resources

As a pastor, your vision is to advance the kingdom as much as possible in your city and around the world. Not only is this a truly noble life goal, but something your entire congregation can get behind. But what does that vision actually encompass? How can you reach your goals when they may not be clearly stated for maximum personal engagement? When your members give generously, they want to know where the resources are going and the results they produce. How can you make sure that what comes into the church is used in the most efficient and fruitful way toward your vision? I want to explore three areas that can turn current resources toward a more abundant result. 

#1 Focus On a Clear Vision

Every church and every pastor has some form of vision. For some it is contained in a clearly stated document that was the result of months of tedious labor. It could be a simple phrase like, “Love God and Love People.” For others, it is either unstated or assumed. It could be something like “doing more or better than we did the previous year” or “fulfilling the biblical principles of the church for God’s glory.” But do wide ranging or vague visions provide the greatest opportunity for engagement for your church members? The drive for improvement and transformation is important, but we have to understand that simple or assumed isn’t always best. Clear is best.

Your vision should be laid out in a clear, accountable, and actionable way. Every staff member should know their role to help the ministry reach its ultimate goal. It should be a blueprint that allows everyone to know what to do without the pastor’s help. Most importantly, it should be exceedingly obvious to everyone when the team succeeds. 

Tip: Begin with creating a clear and unifying goal each year. Then lead all ministries to rally around it. Although a single goal may seem limiting, it actually provides an opportunity to do one great thing together which can impact the entire church. The alternative is to resource several less connected independent objectives that may or may not serve to move your vision forward in a unified fashion. Often this has two negative effects, it doesn’t rally resources well and it doesn’t invest them to their highest return. The power of one clear goal provides your people with a clear path of personal engagement to reach this greater cause together. You aren’t limiting your impact within the kingdom, instead you are creating a larger more meaningful impact that can be fully accomplished. Once this goal is reached, you and your entire church will be able to celebrate together. 

#2 Quality Over Quantity

It is easy to prioritize ministry success that is measured by enjoyable events, in amazing environments, that cause large groups of people to leave feeling great about the experience. This isn’t always the case; successful activity is not the same as accomplishing the vision of kingdom expansion. There was a day in your past when you surrendered to the call of ministry, remember that feeling? You probably had no dream of being the best event planner ever. You wanted to transform lives. You wanted to help people walk away from their past problems and current pain, finding lasting hope. Well, let’s move from measuring success with a busy calendar of well run events to a measurement of discipleship progress. If you can powerfully affect people with a specific and well done event that moves the vision forward in a measurable well, isn’t that better than largely attended events that you question their long term value? 

I am all for well done, successful events. However, I think we need to be very careful of assigning an eternal value to an event without clear measurables determined on the front end. Every resource we are given is a kingdom resource that deserves the highest level of investment. Once you expend a resource you typically do not get a second chance at it. What if you are not investing God’s resources towards their highest use? God’s resources are vast. They include time, money, energy, and space. All of these items use money. Let’s make sure our resources are being wisely invested for a fruitful return. 

Tip: Spend some time with your team measuring every ministry event to determine it’s MROI (Ministry Return On Investment) in regards to the clear vision or goals you have already established. I would suggest calling a meeting and completing an analysis of the resources invested in all calendar events versus the MROI in terms of vision advancement. It might help to make a chart, write down all the events, and measure them using a simple green-yellow-red system. Green means “good to go,” yellow is “wait and think,” and red being “let’s stop for now.” Ask these ten questions about each event to the group.

  1. Is this ministry activity aligned 100% with our clear stated vision?
  2. Is this ministry activity designed in light of its clearly stated measurable outcome towards our vision?
  3. Is this ministry activity functioning as an anchor ministry of primary importance to our discipleship strategy? (Examples: worship, small groups, service, missions, outreach)
  4. Is this ministry activity functioning as a bridge event helping connect people to one of our anchor ministries in our discipleship strategy? (Examples: new members class, training events, worship rehearsals, fellowship events, camps, retreats, mission trips, VBS)
  5. Is this ministry activity occurring in the right space in our facility?
  6. Is this ministry activity occurring at the right time and season of the year?
  7. Is this ministry activity supported by the proper amount of trained staff and volunteers?
  8. Is this ministry activity receiving the wisest investment of financial resources? 
  9. Is this ministry activity gaining the proper promotional and marketing support?
  10. And the most important question: At the conclusion of all this investment of time, money, and energy, is this ministry activity accomplishing its desired and clearly stated goals toward our vision? 

It is not uncommon for churches to over fund certain ministry activities while under funding others. A sure fire way to develop both more financial margin and resources is to lead with measurable clarity on both the front and back end of an event. Measuring the work of God through your efforts is not wrong. Jesus measured both before and after activities. Do you remember when we were instructed to count the cost before we started a project or when he stated that the financial investment of the poor widow had more impact than the large investment of the rich?

#3 Balance Staff and Volunteers

Having served on a church staff for decades, I completely support a well-compensated team. Staff is the backbone of the church, keeping everything together, and working as one body for the kingdom. Unfortunately, sometimes as a church grows both larger and older, it tends to expand both staff size and compensation levels. Most church budgets will invest around 50% of their expenses toward staff. As time goes on we can become more staff dependent and run low on people making a powerful impact as volunteers. God calls His body together to serve Him at the highest level. If volunteers are low and staff is high, then you have an investment of resources that needs to be reconsidered. It’s a difficult conversation to have, but it’s an honest one that will free up revenue for the vision. 

To be clear I am not advocating the termination of staff. I am suggesting that it is a healthy practice to regularly rethink how your team is organized, where it is heading, and how you might release resources towards a great impact. For instance, if you strategically reduced your staff expense by just a few percentage points year after year, what would it be like to free up 5-10% revenue annually? The way you accomplish this is a natural result of the previous two discussions. Create a clear vision with goals, then drive all your activity towards them. If you find yourself streamlining your activity you will discover more budget resources along with more available volunteers. You will also begin to relieve pressure on the potential next hire making staff dollars more fluid. This gives you freedom in future years.

Tip: Start working on a new staff structure that empowers more volunteer leadership. This isn’t going to happen over night, you need to work at it and reorganize it repeatedly until you are comfortable with the plan. Then, it will take 3-5 years to fully implement. Try to move your church from an activity and event based framework to a process and systems framework that volunteer teams can execute. Doing this will enable you to hire a less expensive management level team to implement. The most important part is to make succeeding easy for volunteers. The effort may need to be great, but the reward of success shouldn’t be a mystery rarely discovered. Volunteers are the heart of your church so inspire and encourage them, but most importantly, thank them. Celebrate with your volunteers when an amazing impactful season is over. Thank them for all they continue to do for your vision. I guarantee there are many people out there in the pews waiting for a calling that just don’t know where to go or how to start. Unleashing a person to their God given destiny will release every resource you need to accomplish God’s vision for your church. 

A pastor’s job is challenging and ongoing. Pastors deal with a variety of issues everyday, but hopefully these tips can help you move a couple of big items on your plate. Creating a clear vision for the congregation, providing quality goal oriented events, then finding the balance of staff and volunteers are just a few ways to get started. This type of focus will also help you create margin spiritually, relationally, physically, mentally, and financially. It can remove a lot of the little tasks that consume your time and burn sideways energy. 

Being a generous church goes beyond preaching on money, leading a financial peace class, or capital fundraising campaign. It’s about strengthening the kingdom and pursuing your goals while helping your members reach their full potential as fully devoted Christ followers. Remember, the more engaged in the vision, the more generous we are. 

The past three decades have brought about a lot of changes for the Church. There are more possibilities today than ever for the Church, and much of it has to do with the guys who went before us. In the eBook 12 Giving Talks Worth Giving, Todd McMichen shares how creating a generosity theology is the foundation of cultivating a generous culture throughout your ministry.