There is a sense of uncertainty about the financial future for churches. Most of the uncertainty revolves around churches’ tax-exempt status. For many pastors, the removal of this status will drastically alter their paycheck and, potentially, even their employment.
Since we are unsure of the future, it may be good for pastors to consider how to prepare for, potentially, difficult financial times. Here are six ways:
1. Get a really good grasp on your spending
Where does all of our money go? If your family is like most families, this question arises on an all-to-frequent basis. When finances are stable, this may not seem like that big of a deal. But when faced with financial instability, not knowing your monthly expenditures can be detrimental.
Take a look over the last three months’ expenditures. You should be able to find these in your checking and credit card account statements. Identify where your money goes. This will be critical should any changes be necessary.
2. Create a budget
Once you have identified where your money goes, set up a monthly budget. This helps you determine where you money should be going. It allows you to better manage your income and prepare for the future. Make sure you identify an amount to give and save in your budget. And start following through with the plan.
3. If you have debt, pay it off
Creditors do not care if you do not have a job and are experiencing financial struggles. They just want their money back, with interest. In order to avoid collections or to make sure high interest payments do not cannibalize your savings, pay off your debts as soon as possible.
4. Set aside 6 months of living expenses
Six months should provide a sufficient cushion to help ease the pain of a financially difficult time. Saving this money will take some time, but your budget should help you. One way to ensure that this happens is to set up a monthly, automatic draft from your checking account to an emergency savings account. Once it is gone, you will not be as tempted to use the funds for other purposes.
And not just within the pastoral community. Should you need to be a bi-vocational pastor, an extensive network will help you find a job.
6. Set appropriate expectations for your family
If trends indicate that your church will not be able to afford your role in the future, let your family know. They will better understand, accept, and maybe even encourage any preparatory changes needed. The last thing you want to have is a family completely caught off guard.
It is my hope that the tax-exempt status remains intact. But at this point, I am not certain of it. If it were to be removed, churches and their pastors would feel the financial ramifications. Ministry would continue. Pastors would keep pastoring. It just may look different. The pastors’ financial picture may look different. And it may be best to start preparing for that change now.
What about you? If you have walked through financially challenging times, what lessons did you learn? Please place your comments in the section below.