Pastor Sharon was called about a year ago to shepherd a struggling urban congregation.
She quickly established trust with the elders, preached excellent sermons to which the congregation enthusiastically responded, even helped stabilize a yearly downward trend in worship attendance.
But deferred maintenance costs are becoming unsustainable for Pastor Sharon’s church, and a once-substantial financial reserve is dwindling. Despite her seminary training and other impressive credentials, neither the theology of money nor its practical management received much attention in any of her past educational experiences.
She knows something needs to change in a big way for the sake of both the mission and the finances, and the church council is cautiously on board. Lots of members even have creative ideas for new ways to serve and new ways to use the building.
But they’ve also heard horror stories of predatory business partners and of deals gone wrong for other neighborhood churches in similar predicaments.
Pastor Sharon feels stuck. How should her church get started in discerning a sustainable path forward?
Rose oversees the addiction recovery ministries at her large community church on the outskirts of town in a sparsely populated region known for agriculture (long consolidating) and heavy industry (long declining).
The church generously supports the thriving recovery ministry, but Rose’s salary and much of her budget is still dependent on grants from the county and the few place-based private foundations concerned about this rural area. More importantly, the ministry has seen too many program participants do the hard work of getting sober only to relapse when they are unable to find steady employment.
Rose has heard about partnerships between similar recovery ministries and regional healthcare systems increasingly concerned about patients’ economic opportunities. But she doesn’t know how such a partnership should be structured in this context, or whether her church would be open to pursuing them.
Rose feels stuck. What’s the right way to pitch a new program to the healthcare center, to the pastor, to the program participants?
Jeremy shares oversight of the financial assets and business decisions of a mid-sized governing body connecting dozens of churches and several affiliated nonprofits in two large urban centers and the surrounding rural areas.
These churches have a mixed record of healthy collaboration, often claiming interest in working together but frequently finding that their instincts to compete with one another take over when conflicts arise.
They also have a tense relationship with the governing body itself, exacerbated in recent years by tight budgets that make the organization’s support line in church budgets the easy target of resentment. “What do we really get for the money we give you?” is a not infrequent question put to Jeremy and his colleagues.
Still, most leaders in the area like and trust Jeremy, and they know his law degree and past experience in “the corporate world” are relevant to the high-stakes financial decisions their churches will be forced to make in the coming years.
Jeremy has helped one or two congregations steer clear of bad proposals, but he is all too aware of the gaps in his knowledge and the limits on his bandwidth.
Jeremy feels stuck. What policies and partnerships does his organization need to put in place to help member congregations thrive as they restructure and explore new collaborations?
None of these faith leaders, and none of their communities, should have to navigate these problems alone.
But here’s some Good News: others like them have begun to identify robust approaches to tackling these challenges.
The organizers of Faith+Finance are gathering their network of experienced, innovative religious leaders finding sustainable vitality with new models AND still more colleagues from the world of impact investing and social entrepreneurship who are motivated by their faith and looking to connect with more like-minded partners.
We hope you’ll join us at the first in person convening of this network May 18-20 in San Antonio, TX. The Faith+Finance early bird price of $295 is available until January 15.
Perhaps even more importantly, we invite you to join our growing Faith+Finance Online Community to start getting smarter, faster and connecting with this network via weekly discussions and webinars. Yearly basic memberships begin at just $25, and a standard membership ($75 value) is included with every event ticket purchase.
Start getting the financial education you didn’t get in seminary. Join Faith+Finance today.