Cut Costs without cutting your program

In tough economic times, donations in many churches go down and then the bean counters come after the “program budget,”  i.e., children and youth ministries. The problem is that drastic cuts in program budgets are often penny-wise and pound foolish. If you lose too much traction in your children and youth programming, those kids won’t be back as adults to pay future bills. (Check the facts…lose them by age 13/14 and statistically they don’t come back!)  Or you spend the next 3 years trying to rebuild momentum.


In some churches, they institute “across the board cuts” –as if each ministry and expense is of equal value. But WHY should the CE budget participate in a “20% across the board cut” if it has managed its budget wisely and others have not? …and if it has produced results where others have not? …and if LOSSES in CE would be more damaging -and more difficult to regain than they would be in another area of the church?
It’s one thing to put off resealing the driveway this year, and another to eliminate youth retreats. It’s one thing to put off replacing the copier, and entirely another thing to cut the DCE’s position -thus effectively SAND-BAGGING almost everything you try to do in CE for the next couple of years.  


 -it’s time to go over ALL expenses and expense procedures with a fine-tooth comb, –not to cut program, but to plug leaks in your budget. It’s time to find money you didn’t know you had, and stop money you need from being wasted.

  • Do the choir songs we bought 6 years ago really get “all used up” ?
  • Did that low-bid paint contractor also use low-bid paint (asphalt, sealer, etc) which is forcing you to paint/fix things again too soon? 
  • Do we really need to spend $75+ week on fresh flowers in the sanctuary? (some members donate memorial money to pay for the flowers, but in one church I was involved with, the donation didn’t cover the actual expense!)
  • How much money are we spending on free coffee after worship? Probably more than you realize. Yet in many churches the “donation basket” next to the coffee has disappeared. ($10  week for coffee x 52 weeks = $520 a year in coffee!)   What other hidden expenses might you have?
  • Is someone actually reading your meter? I know of one church that discovered it was routinely being overcharged by 50% a month.
  • Is your internet bill the best deal?  I know of one church paying $60 a month for DSL when the broadband provider in that area provides service for FREE to churches.
  • Can you get the church cleaned cheaper? Cleaning contractors might be better than full time custodians. And for the “sextant” duties you can hire a college student or retired guy to move chairs and unlock doors.
  • Is the church creditcard and checking account getting the best rate?
  • Is your Sunday dress-code (the unwritten one) causing you to pump more AC into the building during warm weather than necessary?  See my posts about GREEN JESUS and saving energy at the church.


More Budget Leaks…

Is your church mis-managing the money is DOES have? Read my post about SCARY CHURCH ACCOUNTING procedures and mistakes I’ve encountered in dealing with churches buying my software.

Double payments… in the hundreds of dollars. Mistaken amounts on checks. And had we not told them of the mistake, many would have never noticed because they don’t audit their accounts.

Churches ordering things they already own, just because they forgot they had them, or couldn’t find them. We get about two orders a month returned because they “found the copies we already had.”  Or, “ordered them again because the original CDs had walked off.”

Materials walking off in member’s hands.  Curriculum, books, supplies and CDs that never get brought back to the church and have to be re-ordered (or simply aren’t there to get more use out of the next time they are needed.)



True Story:

In 1990 as an associate pastor in my first year at that church, I asked the secretary to order 3 dozen pairs of scissors for the classrooms and a case of glue. She said, “I order those items every year, what’s happening to them?” Good question.
So that summer we emptied out all the classroom and hallway closets and cabinets into one big pile. And there before us were BOXES of brand new scissors, cases of construction paper that had been misplaced, a badge maker nobody used, stencil cutter nobody used, hundreds of dollars worth of UNOPENED curriculum —still in its cellophane wrapper, four filmstrip projectors (at about $700 each) etc etc etc. The teachers had been SQUIRRELING IT AWAY.


I am SURE you could add to this list, …and you probably should.
And I apologize in advance for the turf-burns you’re going to get when you step into other people’s sacred budget territory 😉
<>< Neil MacQueen














This entry was posted in Ideas for Changing the Church. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.