Randy Marsh, ministry development officer for the Evangelical Christian Credit Union, shared four money lessons for churches while speaking Wednesday in Dallas at the 2013 XP-Seminar, a conference involving nearly 200 executive pastors from across the country.
Marsh said ECCU observed the following healthy patterns with churches that successfully navigated the "Great Recession":
1. Using savings and making changes. Marsh said a willingness to use available savings for short-term cash issues while simultaneously making changes in spending and planning helped many weather the storm. Those who used savings, but otherwise continued business as usual and didn't make changes (all on the hopes better times would come again soon) struggled.
2. Making savings a priority. Churches that used savings to help stay afloat also made it a priority to replenish those savings right away. A church wants a minimum of three months' worth of operating expenses (payroll, mortgage, costs to keep the door open, and so on), Marsh added.
3. Acting before desperation comes. "Make hard decisions before they become desperate decisions," Marsh said. That means reducing spending, streamlining operations, and maintaining a narrow ministry focus long before small problems turn into big ones.
4. Outsourcing whenever possible. Many churches found ways to use volunteer help for tasks–ranging from lawn care to payroll–that were previously handled by paid staff. Such a practice often brought "a significant savings to a church," Marsh said.
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