Planning for a Rainy Day
Our director of Bookkeeping, Ashley Stegeman, sat down with Wesley to talk about an often overlooked area of church finances: Savings. Watch their live interview below, or read the summary.
You need money to start a church
A: As you were planting this church, what did you learn from the financial side of things?
W: The first thing I learned is that you need money to plant a church! That may sound like a ‘no duh’ kind of thing. Whenever you look in the bible, you see that God’s mission through the Church is funded by generous people who give financial resources to help God’s work in communities.
Starting a new church, we knew we needed donors. Fundraising and communicating with our donors was a huge thing. We really focused heavily on that.
I’ll never forget – one day, early in our church planting story, I got a call from a pastor at a church who wanted to meet up with our team. When we met up, he handed us a check for thousands of dollars. He gave us this check and said, ‘Just communicate with us. Give us some updates.’
So needless to say, I tend to air on the side of over communicating with donors. Whether that’s communicating our needs or giving our thanks, I wanted them to feel like they weren’t just sending money our way but part of our mission.
You don’t need as much money as you think
I say you need money, but you don’t need as much money as you think! With a little bit of patience and planning, we were able to start a church with less money than we thought we could.
In some ways we upped the quality and saved some money by seeking donations from other churches.
We didn’t do this out of a lack of financial support, but to be good stewards of the resources trusted to our care. All this was going towards an effort of building a ‘rainy day fund.’
You should have a Rainy Day Fund
The reality is, a rainy day is coming. Every church should have at least six months of operating expenses in the bank. If you’re a new church, you can be building up to that six months. If you’re an established church, going past that six months isn’t a bad idea either!
A: Six months is a lot depending on where you are in your journey, so tell me more about that.
Saving is often overlooked in church finances. Many of us have lived paycheck to paycheck. Churches are doing the same, living offering to offering. In many ways this is an uncomfortable place to be in, and it’s hard to stay on mission.
Financial capital or at least the lack of it, is one of the primary obstacles to mission. When churches face financial obstacles, they often turn inward to growth strategies, etc. instead of living on mission. We didn’t want the lack of finances to get in the way of serving the community.
People are probably thinking, you can make an impact with a handful of people with little to no money, and that’s true. But, many times meeting real needs requires financial capital. Mission sometimes is collaboration between people’s time and talent, working together to make an impact in their community.
A: How would you practically do this, though?
Giving your Best ‘Yes’ to God
Good question! We wanted to be in a position to give God our best ‘yes.’ We wanted to be intentional in our day to day decisions, so it would be easier to say yes to God. We never wanted to ask that question, can I afford to say yes to God, that just felt like an inappropriate question to ask. We didn’t want our financial instability to get in the way of giving God our best yes.
For us that meant building margin into every one of our financial decisions. Such as paying staff, equipment costs, buying a building. You don’t have to spend what you’re approved or able to spend. We never wanted our spending decisions to put us close to our financial limit.
I don’t want you to hear me say to have a small vision or to not stretch yourselves. We didn’t lack faith in any way. In fact, when our church bought a building, we stretched ourselves, we raised money for a down payment and to go into a savings account for building maintenance.
For instance – our building had seven air conditioners! In Georgia with hot and humid summers, you could count on at least one of them every summer needing maintenance.
So every step along the way we were thinking about how we could build in our savings so we could give God our best yes.
A: The concept of the rainy day fund is genius, but the reality is it’s probably hard to think this way, and we know that it’s going to rain! So tell us about a time when it did rain.
It’s Going to Rain!
I could tell you many stories…whether it was a sprinkle or a downpour. I remember one situation, it was just a tight season financially. We had a few big givers leave the church and so we were down thousands of dollars in giving each month. We always had ups and downs in giving throughout the year, but that year we didn’t have an increase and decrease, we only had a decrease.
But here’s the thing. We didn’t panic, and I didn’t have to lead out of a place of fear because we had savings in the bank. I remember thinking, ‘how are we going to work this out?’ But we didn’t sacrifice our mission, because we had savings in the bank. Because of our rainy day fund, we didn’t have to sacrifice our mission in a financially hard season.
A: Thank you so much for sharing your story today!
After teaching for several years and being heavily involved in her local church, Ashley’s heart for ministry has continued to grow. Ashley serves as a kids ministry and volunteer coordinator at Mosaic Christian Church. She serves locally in her community and her and her husband have traveled globally to serve in Poland and Haiti. Ashley understands the importance of the church in a child’s life. If she is not at church, she’s hanging out with girlfriends or with her husband and three boys in Baltimore, MD.
Wesley Bolden has ministry training and experience in church revitalization, campus ministry, leadership and church planting. In 2013, he partnered with Stadia to plant Tri-Cities Church, a multiethnic church in metro Atlanta. Wesley is passionate about empowering church planters to discover and live into their unique gifting and calling. During his free time, he loves to get outside, listen to podcast and drink good coffee.