Church budget unavailable: Stay or go?

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by Pleasant_Bill, Jun 9, 2011.

  1. Pleasant_Bill

    Pleasant_Bill
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    Our church used to be pretty open about it's budget but as it grew (about 900-1,100 members currently) so did the budget. I'm not sure exactly when this started happening but now that the church is claiming we're in a deficit, people that ask for a detailed breakdown are being told 'ain't gonna happen'.
    The only people that may be aware of the full details of the budget are on the Leadership/Finance Team. Being told to give more or make sacrifices while we're being kept in the dark as to why we're running in the red is unsettling to say the least.

    Now it appears that we're hiring yet another pastor (Senior, Exec, Associate, Worship Arts, Youth already) as well as paying supporting staff. Several years ago when you had an idea of what some of the numbers were, salaries (no known breakdown of who made what) were over 50% of the budget when we just had a Senior, Associate, Worship Arts and Youth Pastors (and admin). Rumors (I hate them btw) were starting that our Senior Pastor was making $150k but since we (members) can't verify that, no one (except certain people) knows. That was a couple years ago so that figure if true is probably more by now.

    By not releasing it publically, it opens the door for the enemy via all kinds of speculation and rumors. We're hemmoraging members about as quick as we get them and I can't see how it can change with the way the church is set up.

    I give willingly to our church and have always stated that if anyone is misusing funds they will have to answer to God for it. I just don't know if I can stay at a place like this.
     
  2. Don

    Don
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    That's the kind of thing I'd talk to the pastor about, ask him to come clean or at least explain why things were being done that way, and tell him that I'd have to leave if there was a refusal to make things transparent and accountable. I'd base the leaving on the fact that it was my family's name, and every other family's name, that's associated with the way the funds are being used, not just the church's name.

    I wouldn't just up and leave without discussing it first.
     
  3. David Lamb

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    I note it is your first post, Bill, so welcome!

    I must say the idea that members of a church should not be told details of that church's finances is something I have never come across before.

    But the other strange thing (to me) in the OP was the idea of you (Bill) somehow being separate from the church. Perhaps I'm just reading too much into your phrase, "I give willingly to our church".

    I agree with Don; discuss it first.
     
  4. Pleasant_Bill

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    Thanks for the welcome. :thumbs:

    Nothing meant by 'I give willingly to our church'; just that I (my family) give from joy, not from pressure. I can't speak for others.

    As far as discussing it (thanks for the reply Don); getting an audience with the Senior Pastor, especially for this subject is probably not going to happen. I know for certain others (businessmen whose tithe is considerable) have been told no to seeing a breakdown and no to a 'one on one' meeting. That usually means losing that member which further adds to speculation. Why take such a stance and risk losing members (especially big tithers when offerings are down)?
     
    #4 Pleasant_Bill, Jun 10, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 10, 2011
  5. Earth Wind and Fire

    Earth Wind and Fire
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    Seriously brother.....how can ANY Christian church have NO transparency with budget & no access to clergy? I think you answered your own question....that church is a house of cards.
     
  6. Arbo

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    Is there a reason that the budget is not open to review by its members?

    I'd be very suspicious of such a policy.
     
  7. DiamondLady

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    I definitely agree here! As our church treasurer I can tell you that I am absolutely accountable to each and every member for every dime spent, check written, receipt given....everything. I must account monthly to the finance committee with a written report and answer any question they have about expenditures. I report to the church as a whole quarterly and again am asked questions about expenditures.

    I don't know that I would advocate leaving the church for this reason alone but I certainly would find out who is on your finance, or oversight committee, and talk to those people if the pastor is unapproachable. I would also contact those who have similar questions and begin asking why these people are not accountable to the church.
     
  8. Crucified in Christ

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    If it is a growing church, often times the jump in budget and attendance will cause the Ministry team to make missteps. Still this is a pretty large one.

    I know of several churches that are very cautious in what they publish about their finances (esspecially any savings) as they have been targeted by scamsters. Even in those churches, the information can be obtained by Church members in the office any day of the week.

    Unfortunately, there have been cases of ministers implementing the kind of policy you mention when trying to hide large salaries. I hope that this is not the case at your church.

    The thing that I am struggling with the most is that the Pastor will not even discuss it with church members in a one-on-one setting. If I were a member of such a church and change was not possible, I would find another fellowship to join. I would however speak to someone in leadership as to why I was leaving. They need to see that there is a correlation between those leaving and the lack of transparency.
     
  9. annsni

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    I love how our church is really transparent in this regard. We have the budget printed out each year for the budget vote and we can ask the business pastor anytime what is going on. Additionally, we are audited every year by an independent auditing company and that makes me feel VERY comfortable.
     
  10. Arbo

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    Just a thought-
    In my mind, part of being a good steward is knowing where the money's going and what it's being spent on.
     
  11. HAMel

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    If they "refuse" to show a detailed financial report one can easily conclude there's something to hide. Time to find another church.
     
  12. preachinjesus

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    Curious here, what do ya'll run on Sunday? How fast have you grown?

    With growth, numerically, comes more needs organizationally.

    Sounds like your church has grown. As it does there will be times where more ministers are needed to ensure the growing slate of programming and ministry happens.

    Who cares how much the Senior Pastor is making? Seriously who?

    Here's my perspective, I am on pastoral staff of a church that runs around five thousand on Sundays. (We don't do traditional membership) We have about fifteen pastoral positions on staff. We see about eight thousand unique individual visits every month. (The monthly total is more important to us than weekly) Also, given we are in a highly mobile, transplant suburb we see about 1/3 of our people replaced every year due to job transfers, new jobs, leaving, other churches open, etc.

    I don't know how much other senior leadership makes. I don't care.
    We have a completely open budget process. If a covenant member wants to find out how much we have allotted to the children's ministry they can ask our finance team and they'll get an answer. If at any time someone wants to know how much we are over (happily we are significantly over on our budget right now) or under they can ask (or pick up a worship guide on Sunday, we keep everyone informed that way.)

    Every year when our budget comes up for vote we hold a Saturday morning meeting that is completely open to the church. All of our pastoral and senior leadership (including personnel and finance teams) show up. For a church that runs as many as we do we usually can count on our hand how many people show up. But that's okay, it's what we do.

    The only thing we don't discuss publicly is personnel salaries. If a covenant member wants to find out about that they can ask the finance team who in turn have about ten questions and a confidentiality form the person needs to fill out. Here's the thing people (not necessarily you) try to do. They find out how much the senior pastor makes and they broadcast it. That isn't authentic.

    All that said

    If a church starts closing up about money and being less transparent that can be a sign of several things. Now I don't know your church or their leadership so I can't speculate as to why. Sometimes we can get so successful you worry about little things tripping you up. Not saying that is happening here. I'd go and ask for a private sit down meeting with the senior pastor.

    At our church, any member can call and arrange a sit down meeting with any member of our senior leadership team within one week (provided no vacations) of their call. We are a large church but our members are just that important.

    If the senior pastor won't meet with you take two or three other concerned people with you and ask to visit the senior pastor. If that doesn't happen find our what personnel or finance teams are out there and take your request to them. If that won't happen take it to the deacons. If that won't happen, maybe its time to leave.

    Hope that is helpful...its sorta rambly. :)
     
  13. StefanM

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    I understand the logic by that. I do think, however, that the church should make an aggregate salary amount available to the congregation.
     
  14. Siberian

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    We lump all the pastoral staff salaries into one number for public knowledge (within the church family) . So no one knows exactly how much I make except for the finance and personnel teams (they control salaries). If someone really wants to know specifically, they have to submit a written request to the finance team along with their reasons for wanting that information. At that point, we would give the information almost always regardless of their reasons (so long as they state their reasons). We've never had anyone do that yet, but the church only has about 300 members, so maybe that's why.
     
  15. BobinKy

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    Once, I got interested in the budget of a church I was attending at the time. What I found was the majority of the budget went for debt and staff, missions got 10%. As debt decreased, staff increased...Hmmmm.

    ...Bob
     
  16. Jkdbuck76

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    We are similar. The budget is made yearly and is voted upon in a business meeting set for that purpose. Also, we have a monthly business meeting and the financial report is given of "ALL expenditures vs Yearly Budget". So I look at column A and it tells me "month to date" and there is a "year to date" and a "budget FY 2011" column.

    I just cannot imagine finances NOT being made available to members.
     
  17. SBCPreacher

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    If you can't trust the leadership on how they handle the $$, then it's hard to trust them on anything else. Makes you wonder what they're hiding.

    I'd be looking around.

    BYW, welcome!
     
  18. StefanM

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    Depending on how the members of the finance/leadership team are placed into their roles and depending on what oversight would exist, this sounds like a dangerous scenario with major problems with a lack of internal controls.

    It doesn't mean that bad things are going on, but scenarios like this make embezzlement, fraud, and other illegal and unethical activities that much easier to cover up.

    Personally, if a church refused to disclose basic financial information, I wouldn't give them another dime, and I would be looking for a new church. I wouldn't need specifics about individual salaries, etc., but general information about budgets for staffing, debt service, maintenance, ministry divisions, etc. would be necessary, and accounting for receipts is absolutely essential.
     
  19. Baptist Believer

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    Having been involved in Baptist churches for years (and having been in two congregations at the time where certain factions developed and tried to wrestle control from the vocational staff), the issue of "how much the pastor gets paid" is the standard first prong of attack. You can always drum up some support from unhappy people in the congregation by discussing whether or not the pastor is worth his salary, especially if the pastor is making at least a reasonable living.

    Believe it or not, when I was making $3,250/year as a pastor of a struggling church in 1988-1989 (equivalent to nearly $6,000 in today's money), I had people complaining that I made more than they did. I was living on beans, bread and peanut butter and a rapidly dwindling bank account.

    Some people actually had the nerve to want to borrow money from me and didn't believe me when I told them (quite honestly) that I didn't have any extra to give. I guess they assumed that the ravens brought me things to eat (like Elijah), paid my bills and filled the truck with gasoline and I was simply stockpiling that fat wad of cash the church treasurer was giving me every Sunday.

    You can be sure there are pastors that are making too much money (I could name a few), but those are few and far between. Most church members don't really understand how much time a good pastor spends taking care of the needs of the congregation. Furthermore, pastors are taxed differently (often as private contractors) and many church members see things like funds for Social Security co-payments and housing allowances as a bunch of extra "perks" that a pastor gets to pocket, when in fact it is a prudent way to compensate the vocational staff members. I have often heard malcontents in the congregation lump together all of the tax and insurance payments the church pays the vocational staff and falsely (and possibly ignorantly) portray it as the "take home" pay, not realizing how much of a privately employed person's compensation package is never seen by the employee.

    All too often, these troublemakers only think of the pastor "working" during the times they actually see him. I actually had someone describe the responsibilities of the pastor as simply, "showing up on Sunday." I have seem people who buy/lease a new car every two years complain when a vocational minister finally gave up on the 15-year-old car that smoked up the streets and replace it with a late model used car. Somehow a pastor is not supposed to have reliable, safe and comfortable transportation for his family?

    That being said, I think it is important for churches to be open, but cautious, regarding financial information, salaries and personnel decisions and evaluations. At the same time, I would want to seriously example the motives of those who can't stand not knowing how much the pastor makes. Why is it a big deal? Is there an issue with the pastor? If so, address the real issue and not his compensation.
     
  20. Pleasant_Bill

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    The church is approx. 10 years old and it's starting to plateau at around 1,100members due to personnel actions (set forth by the pastor), disagreement with policies (set forth by the pastor) and the aforementioned budget cloaking.

    If the budget were transparent and there was true accountability there, I wouldn't. However, the Senior Pastor answers to the Leadership team; all of whom he's picked himself. Likewise, the Finance Team is picked by the Senior Pastor.

    I don't subscribe to the 'Pay him what it will take to keep him' philosophy. If he's willing to chase the dollar to go to another church, why would you want to keep him? A Pastor's salary should be median to his congregation IMO and NOT in the top 1%. If we can afford to pay him $150-200k a year + benefits, we shouldn't be on a shoestring budget in more critical areas like Youth/Bible Studies (men and women). A Senior Pastor should live comfortably but not so grand as for him AND his wife to be driving a new vehicle every other year and/or in such a way that they lose humility. Given our area and the size of the congregation it would seem more appropriate for pay him say $80k + benefits.

    Well put.

    I know you're speaking in general but I don't understand how it's a bad thing to know what you (as a tithing member of the church) are paying the Pastor(s)? If it's layed out for everyone to see with a detailed explanation, it shouldn't be an issue if it's in the median range of the congregation. It's not being a 'troublemaker' to care how your charitable donations are being used.

    You are right; there are issues of trust with the Senior Pastor outside the budget that have me pondering seeking another church. I didn't care for years what the man made until other issues arose. Unfortunately, the way things are set up there, I don't see how they can change.
     

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