How Churches Can Be More Forthright About How They Spend Money

church money

In the epic tale All The President’s Men, the secretive informant known as “Deep Throat” badgers Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward to “follow the money trail.” Deep Throat, who we now know to have been Mark Felt (the #2 man at the FBI), was convinced that if people knew how money was spent by the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP) they could figure out exactly what happened, who did what and when. The same is true in the church. I believe many churches are not forthright about how they spend money, for a number of reasons.

Two sad snapshots
I served for three years as the executive pastor of a mid-sized congregation with a $3.4 million budget. The business administrator of the church was strident about reminding the congregation that 10 percent—a whopping $340,000—went to missions each year. We wore this truth as a badge of honor.

However, as I followed the money trail, I learned that included in the $340,000 was the $64,000 salary of the missions pastor and the $30,000 salary of the mission assistant, along with a variety of office expenses. So in reality the church “gave” about $230,000 to missions, and perhaps less.

The second money trail relates to the ever-sensitive matter of senior pastor compensation. I consulted with a church some time ago where the senior pastor’s base salary was $111,000 with another $21,000 in benefits for a total package of $132,000. The next highest paid staff person—an associate pastor who had served at the church for 15 years—earned $70,000.

On one occasion I asked the administrative pastor of the church about this gap in compensation. He explained that he estimated that the senior pastor brings in excess of $1 million in tithes and offerings each year due to the fact that he was an incredible preacher. “When Patrick preaches the offering is 25 percent higher than when someone else preaches.” I asked if the congregation was made aware of the salary scale of the staff. Aghast, the business administrator told me the congregation could not handle that information well.

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SOURCE: & Christianity Today
Brian Newman

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