This is one of the biggest concerns for smaller & older congregations:  how to pay the bills.  I wish I could give you a quick 1, 2, 3 list that will always work.  I can’t, but I can tell you some places to look.
Build and Maintain a Budget, and manage cash flow.  Look at the monthly costs of annual expenses; don’t just pay the bills as they come in.  You can’t go without insurance, or safety inspections. The pastor and staff want to be paid.  The utilities have to be paid.
Start with your expenses.  In one church I found we were paying liability insurance for a staff of 6 but were down to three.  Does the sanctuary need to be at 65 degrees all week long if it’s only used Sunday morning?  Maybe you spend a thousand to zone off the office area.  Add some insulation.  Replace some inefficient equipment.
Then do an accounting of all the special funds you have.  I worked with one church that had a couple hundred dollars squirreled away in the flower fund, and a hundred thousand in a future building fund.  The church held 300 but only had a few dozen each week, and wouldn’t need that 20-year-old fund for a new building anytime soon.
And look around at what you don’t need.  At one church, I wondered what was in one of the closets.  What I found was a 3-octave set of handbells, in great shape, with sheet music – it hadn’t been used in 20 years, and I got permission to sell them.  Only $3500, but it was a fair price for their age and condition, and it bought a laptop, a video projector and a screen, with cash left over. 
Ask for help.
Are there things you pay for that volunteers could do?  (Yes, volunteers.  I’ll talk about that next seminar.)  Maybe someone can handle the janitorial. Use a missions team to do needed repairs. Ask for more donations.
Give them something to give to:  state a vision bigger than the present.
I still remember the meeting 15 years ago when we were facing laying off a staff member.  Then we figured that $5 more dollars each week from each family could make up the shortfall.  So we asked everyone if they could give a little more.  $20 a month from 20 families was enough, but some gave more.  Kept us going. 
Find partners.  Maybe you make a bulk purchase for cleaning supplies or office supplies with other churches of your denomination or you neighborhood association.   Maybe you share a secretary.  Maybe you share your building with another congregation.
Teach money management.  That church recently instituted Financial Peace University. They found that people wanted to give more, but there wasn’t enough left over. When the church helped them get their personal finances in order, they started giving.  The congregation is now giving more than what they need to pay the bills, enough to spend more on ministry.  Pretty good for a church that was in danger of going broke just a few years ago.
Preach and Teach giving.  George Barna tells us that if the pastor preaches on giving once a year, people will avoid or ignore that message.  “Churches in which pastors preach a series of messages about giving are nearly two-and-a-half times more likely to experience an increase in giving.
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I usually filter most of the comments, although I read them all.  And when someone leaves me a note about something they’re selling, I tend to delete mercilously.  But Fred Ruckett’s comment caught my eye, and I made an exception.

Fred responded to the main page of “Hope for Struggling Churches“.  His comment advised me and my readers about a new service called DivineCoupons.com.

According to Fred, “We started this site for the sole purpose of helping churches sow their seed. This coupon site encourages saving and giving more to the church. We ask that you pass this method on to your congregations.”

We believe that the role of the faith community is to let people know that there’s always hope, that adversity brings about opportunities, that we must not surrender to fear and panic, but continue to trust in God and believe that a better day will come.

We as a community of faith need to embrace the opportunity to do what we are called to do. If that action is printing grocery coupons or store coupons in order for saving money and giving a little extra to our church or non-proftit, we think its a small sacrifice to make.

I haven’t used the service, and can’t personally vouch for the service.  Nor do I know the impact it will or won’t have on your congregation.  But it’s a worthy project.  I commend him for out of the box thinking.

And I encourage you to continue to consider ways to help your congregants be wise in their use of God’s money (both in the church and the home) so there is more left over to do God’s work at home and abroad.

Go look at  DivineCoupons.com.  It might be right for you.

I want you to think about how you ask for money for church events, and what you are teaching the people when you do ask.

Are you teaching giving to God out of gratitude for your salvation?  Are you teaching a model of sharing what you have for the common benefit of all?  Both of those come from a practice of regular tithing – a weekly or biweekly or monthly share of your income.

Or do you fund the church with bake sales and flea markets?  (more…)

Some years ago, a co-worker and I were on a business trip to the same location. I suggested she join us for dinner that Wednesday night, but she declined, saying she always goes to church whenever she can, even while travelling. Caught me up short. It’s now my habit, too.

Trouble is, a lot of churches have abandoned midweek services. In some cities, I have to hunt to find a place to worship on Wednesday evening. In Utica, NY, I’ve found a great midweek service.

Lighthouse Baptist Church is Independent, fundamentalist, and only uses King James. Not my style, but the pastor is a great preacher. Tells it straight, holds his people accountable, and preaches with conviction.

They meet in an old store in an older neighborhood, supporting posts obscuring the view of the pulpit, suspended tile ceilings and long flourescent tube lighting. But it’s functional.

Tonite I learned they have been offered a 100-year-old Catholic church (seats 700), with rectory, convent dorms and a school, at an unheard-of $400k. It’s more than they can afford, but they’re stepping out in faith, excited about what God could do.

I want to challenge you to pray with me, and give with me. Their doctrine isn’t 100% what my doctrine is, but they are reaching people for the kingdom, and that’s what counts.

Please pray, and please give.   With your help, they can move in right away.

The church’s address is 115 South Street, Utica, NY 13501.

p.s. – If you are in Utica, go visit. I think you’ll be blessed, as I was.