September 16, 2008
Joining the Green Revolution
Rethinking our stewardship of the church's space and staff.
by Dave Gibbons
We are witnessing what some are calling the greatest transfer of wealth in human history. The McKinsey Global Institute has shown how assets are moving primarily from Europe and America to the oil countries of the Middle East and the manufacturing giants of Asia.
At the end of 2007, these oil producing countries owned about 4.6 trillion dollars of assets. That's about 1.6 times the whole economy of the UK. The six Arab countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council are receiving 1.5 billion dollars a day. Those are pretty staggering numbers.
Our "dangerous dependence on foreign oil" and the transfer of wealth it is producing, is moving both political parties to emphasize a new green agenda. This includes new technologies, further exploration into alternative energy, clean energy, drilling off-shore, and conservation.
As we consider conserving energy resources for environmental and economic reasons, maybe we should reconsider how we steward our resources in the church.
Around the country, there is growing concern with diminishing giving because of the state of our economy. People are giving less because they are earning less, and because they're having to pay more for things like gas. But this trend may prove to be good in the long run, especially if it teaches us to better manage church resources.
The largest expenses for most churches are facilities and staff. First, let's consider the stewardship of our space. Is it really the best to buy as much land as possible and erect large buildings, when the same dollars could be better deployed in other initiatives that prove more impactful? How much of our space is actually utilized during a given week? In expensive urban centers, every square foot comes at a very high purchase price, and we can't forget about the cost of furnishing and maintaining the space.
I'm not saying buildings are bad, but are we being good stewards? I asked our director of operations who helped build three of the largest church facilities in America, to assess our space usage. I discovered that we use our facilities about 30 percent of the month - mostly on weekends. So how much were we spending for facility space that we didn't use? Around $60,000 a month; $720,000 a year! In ten years that's over $10 million dollars!
How about staffing? As culture moves from a hierarchical model to a more flat, open, or wiki model, how should we staff? When I looked more closely at our budget, I realized that over 55% of our budget was staff related. While our staff is amazing, it had unintentionally created a bottleneck in our mission - it impeded the development of our people because we were "staff-driven."
Our first instinct to address needs in the church tends to be hiring professionals. The economy is going to force us to re-examine that practice. Look at a church website. How many of the leaders listed there are lay people? How many unpaid people function as pastors/leaders in the congregation? Am I saying we should do away with pastors? Of course not. But we must see the congregation as the leading edge of the church and redefine our pastoral role to support and resource them. The movers and shakers should be in the congregation, not the professional staff. We serve, support, and at times lead - but we lead in the way Paul defined it?equipping our people to do the work of the ministry.
Can you imagine what would happen if the bulk of our resources focused on the development of our people rather than on staff and facilities? Can you imagine the impact that would have on our mission? It might just result in the greatest transfer of wealth in church history.