4 Common Ways Churches Waste Money

4 Common Ways Churches Waste Money

Your congregation faithfully gives you their money, trusting your staff to steward it well and use it to advance the kingdom of God. It’s a weighty responsibility, and churches shouldn’t take it lightly.

Some churches are so cautious about spending money that they don’t invest in critical tools. They want to be certain that every choice is necessary, wise, and in the church’s best interest. But even when you take stewardship seriously, it’s easy to unintentionally spend too much. And sometimes what seemed like a good decision in the past turns out to be a waste of money.

Every financial decision your church makes means you have fewer resources to invest in other areas. So it’s important to revisit the choices your church has made and thoughtfully explore the ways you might be wasting your resources. Here are four common ways churches fail to do that.

1. Buying or renting too much space

Your church should always have room to grow. But how much room you give yourself should depend on more than just attendance. If your budget isn’t growing too, then it may not be wise to spend more on a larger facility.

When churches grow quickly, it’s easy to feel like your space is too small, but there are lots of creative ways that churches can do more with the space they have, such as adding an additional service, renting a storage unit, or remodeling.

If you have more space than you need right now, take the time to estimate how long it will take for you to fill the space based on your current growth. Are there rooms you’re not using? Is it worth paying for space you don’t need right now? Are there other facilities nearby that your church could use instead?

If you own a building you’re not using, you may want to find ways to rent it out—or else, sell it.

2. Not using mobile giving

This may seem counterintuitive. Mobile giving solutions cost money. But here’s the thing: If you don’t have mobile giving, you’re leaving money on the table every week. People are writing fewer checks and carrying less cash, but you know what they always have with them? Their phones. And their credit cards.

Without a mobile giving option, church members have to remember to bring their checkbooks—which they almost never use—or stop at the ATM on their way to church. If they forget, they have to wait until next week to give.

When people can give digitally, you don’t have to rely on their memory, and they can conveniently give throughout the week, not just during the five-minute window when you pass the offering plate.

We’ve found that when people can give via mobile, about 65 percent of giving happens throughout the week—not on weekends.

Plus, mobile giving can actually increase the amount people give. That’s because mobile giving makes recurring donations easy. And recurring givers donate 42 percent more annually than one-time givers.

People already automate the transactions they make regularly (like bills and subscriptions). Recurring giving makes tithing effortless, and it helps your congregation work it into their budgets. And with Pushpay, you can even default to recurring giving to encourage your members to do it.

3. Creating or keeping unnecessary staff positions

Every year, your church should assess the value and importance of your staff positions. It’s never easy to let someone go, but staff salaries and benefits will always be your greatest expense. You can’t afford to be wasteful in this area, yet many churches hold on to unnecessary positions simply because change is hard.

Maybe someone hasn’t been meeting the expectations you set for them. Or their role no longer aligns with your mission, vision, and capabilities. Maybe you don’t need to cut a position altogether, but it no longer makes sense for it to be full time. You need to love your staff well and treat them with compassion, but that doesn’t mean you should keep unnecessary or wasteful positions.

Staff leave for plenty of other reasons, too. And whenever someone transitions off your team, that’s a great time to re-evaluate whether you need that position.

4. Continuing ineffective ministries or programs

Similarly, churches need to constantly examine which ministries are worth investing in. If a ministry isn’t working toward your goals or having success, it might be time to pull the plug. You can’t afford to keep pouring resources into programs that aren’t fulfilling their purpose or helping your church reach your mission.

Remember: those resources could be going toward something else. And chances are, you have ministries and programs that are being effective and could be more effective if they had more resources.

You need to have a clear idea of what success looks like for every ministry you’re spending money on. And if a program doesn’t do what it’s supposed to, you need to decide: can we problem solve, or are we wasting our money?

It’s not just about where you spend money

Even frugal churches can waste money. Responsible stewardship doesn’t just mean being thoughtful about what you purchase or where you invest. It means thinking critically about where your money is going right now, too.

Wasting church resources is an obvious pitfall to avoid, but there are others your church should make a conscious effort to avoid. To discover common church practices that can hurt growth, click here to download the free ebook, 5 Bad Habits That Kill Church Growth (And How To Break Them) today.

Ryan Nelson

Ryan Nelson has been a volunteer youth leader with Young Life for nearly a decade. He writes in the Pacific Northwest, where he lives with his wife and twin boys.