Autopsy of a Financially Deceased Church

I have seen many churches in financial distress. It is a sad situation to witness.

They are worried how they will pay their staff. They are worried how they will pay their bills. The ability to do ministry has dwindled.

And they are not sure how they got to this place.

So what happened? As we hear the stories of churches that find themselves scraping the bottom of their checking account, worried if they will financially survive, you tend to uncover some common themes.

  1. Failed to preach and teach stewardship. Maybe the pastor was afraid he would be considered a church leader that abuses his platform for personal financial gain. Maybe the church leaders were afraid of reducing attendance. Whatever the reason, financial stewardship was not taught.
  1. Took on too much debt. The church overextended itself. They built too much or too quickly. And a huge chunk of tithes and offerings were sucked away by the debt payment.
  1. Was not transparent with finances. They hid their finances from church members. Skepticism grew. And giving declined.
  1. Used very few dollars to reach and minister to the community. They focused on themselves. Little went toward outside efforts.
  1. Did not have multiple options for giving. They dismissed online giving and other nontraditional methods of giving, reducing participation from younger generations.
  1. Did not constantly evaluate how funds were spent. The church was not a good steward of the money they received. There was significant waste, preventing forward movement in the budget.
  1. Never took wise steps of financial faith. Budgets were not based on reasonable mathematical projections, but staff wants. And it was just assumed that the money to pay for these wants would be provided.
  1. The church relied on a few big givers. And when these givers either died or left the church, the church’s financial viability died or left with them.

It’s sad to see a church in financial disarray. It’s sad to see the staff struggle. It’s sad to see the ministry struggle.

Especially, when you know it could have been prevented.

5 Ways to Kill Giving in Your Church

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3 thoughts on “Autopsy of a Financially Deceased Church

  1. Great post! Thank you for writing this. I have been working for over 19 years helping churches increase giving and the points you raised are spot on. I would add that those that struggle never have a giving plan. It is amazing we have mission plans, discipleship plans, etc. but never think to develop a giving plan. When you fail to plan you are planning on failure. Keep on writing and reminding church leaders how important this issue is!

  2. Yes. Great post. I left my church 8 months ago due to financial pressures. I didn’t know how to fix it. They have recently become a third campus for another much larger church in town. We did everything we could possibly do. The pastor before me acquired a debt load that strapped us to a handful of givers which kept us from making changes to reach our community. It is heart breaking. Hope more pastors read this post and take it seriously!

  3. The Pastor should not receive such big salaries to small churches…Did not the pastor go into the ministry to serve God? Many Pastors get churches to do improvements by saying step out in faith…the money may not come and then they have a debt they can not pay. It is stupid for a church of 30 regular attending members to close. Find a custodian that will clean for free or $25.00 a week, a person to do the music for free or $25.00 a week, someone to give the message for $35.00 each week or free. What happened to serving GOD? That is how my church has still keeps the doors open! Our pastor’s salary is $4,000. a year we are small but we do not loose ground and will continue to serve God, pay 100% of our fair share and serve the community with a food bank and do other missions! We may loose a person and another one always show up to take their place. God is good and faithful!