Many church bulletins and newsletters come across my desk each week. Coming from Nashville, middle Tennessee and across the country, they are from Christian Churches (Disciples) and Churches of Christ of almost every variation (so-called mainstream, non-institutional, progressive, conservative, city and rural, small, large, mid-sized, etc…). Almost every one publishes their contribution figures over against the weekly budget. The figures vary greatly. Some congregations have weekly budgets of upwards of $50,000, others are about $1,000. One thing they have in common is that they are not meeting their budgets.
Building programs have been put on hold, new ministries tabled, existing ministries curtailed. Churches with debt and thin margins are no doubt hurting the most. Others may have cash reserves or some generous go-to people…they don’t seem to miss a beat.
On the one hand, this economy has a lesson for churches: you better be able to live within your budget because right now you have no choice. And if you are going to ask people (I am still seeing lots of articles about “the importance of giving”) to give, you better handle their money wisely. That’s one lesson.
On the other hand, perhaps this downturn in our economy will help us realize that ministry can be is best done without expensive programming or buildings. Hopefully it will force us to reconsider the magnificent attraction model of ministry…and move us toward an relational/missional/service model.
Weaned from a reliance on professional productions put on by the church, we can begin to train our folks to discover and implement their own gifts in the contexts of daily life. One model puts on a show for the watching public, the other serves them. Weaned from a misguided consumerist approach to ministry, hopefully we will learn to embody the gospel by serving our neighbors and divert our resources to ministry to the poor and needy.