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8 Tips for Expanding Staff on a Small Budget

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    Thom Rainer
One of the more common concerns I hear from church leaders is the lack of funds to do ministry or to hire staff. The concern is often expressed as, “Our church is small; we can’t afford to do that.” But that sense of scarcity is not limited to small churches; I have heard the similar concerns from leaders of large churches. Many church leaders would love the ability to hire more staff, but their perception of limited resources hinders them from doing so. Do alternatives exist? I believe so. Let’s look at eight thoughts about this issue. 1. Church leaders should adopt an attitude of abundance instead of scarcity. Do we really believe God will provide all the resources we need? If the answer is yes, we need to act from a posture of abundance instead of scarcity. That does not mean we make foolish decisions; it does mean we look at ways to make it work rather than give up. 2. Churches have more funds than most leaders realize. On a trip to Uganda, I spoke with a pastor in Kampala whose church was doing an incredible work in the community. He spoke with joy about the abundant resources his church had. The best I could discern, the church had a budget of less than $500 U. S. dollars a year. I rarely see a church budget that can’t find some funds for new initiatives. The problem in many churches is the unwillingness of leaders and members to change current spending patterns. 3. Many people will gladly work as a non-paid church staff person. You can probably find some persons in your church or community who would be delighted to do so. In my first two churches, our worship leader was not paid. The student pastor made $25 a week in the second church. 4. Consider some small level of compensation. I recommend churches find at least a small amount of funding for staff persons. Even a small stipend engenders accountability and demonstrates tangibly that a person is indeed part of the church staff leadership. 5. Consider a one-year trial. One luxury you have with an unpaid (or modestly paid) staff person is that he or she does not depend on the pay for livelihood. You can thus offer a one-year trial to see how the ministry situation works for both parties. Neither party feels like they are making an irrevocable decision. 6. Look to local Bible colleges and seminaries for staff. Many churches are located within an hour or so of a Bible college or seminary. Those schools typically have required internships as part of their training. And a number of the students would be willing to serve in a volunteer position for the experience. 7. A good staff person will pay his or her own way. Forgive the economic crassness of this point. But the topic is about affording to pay staff. And the reality is a good staff person will create efficiencies and/or attract others to the church. It is not a stretch to believe the net effect of their ministry can be financially positive. 8. Bivocational ministry is a growing reality for the future. For many reasons, there will be more bivocational ministers in the future. The supply will be plentiful for those churches that cannot afford a full-time minister. Watch this trend closely, and seize the opportunities it affords. I have no doubt budgets are tight in many churches. Indeed, I understand clearly when a pastor or other church leaders lament their inability to hire new staff. There are, however, ways to make it happen. Focus on the possibilities instead of the excuses. You might be amazed what God can do through you and your church. Let me hear from you.