Church Finances & Value

Does this video remind you of how your church does business?

Though this video clearly illustrates a client/vendor relationship, the principle is exactly the same when it comes to churches and their vendors, contractors & consultants. In the name of “being a good steward”, churches often go past the point of getting a good value and shove vendors/contractors/consultants right into a corner.

Re-Defining “Good Stewardship”

I know I’ve seen this type of scenario happen to me both in my corporate work of years ago and in my consulting with churches and ministries. It’s perfectly acceptable to negotiate. In fact, I think it’s downright good business. But instead of equating “good stewardship” to “saving money”, what if churches understood “good stewardship” as “not wasting money”?

“Good stewardship has less to do with how much money is saved and more to do with how much money isn’t wasted.”
- Anthony Coppedge

Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”
- Oscar Wilde

A Workman is Worthy of His Wage

1 Timothy 5 sums up the Biblical standard of worth:

“…the Scripture says, ‘You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.’ And in another place, ‘Those who work deserve their pay!'”

The video above illustrates the “low-ball” approach to assigning value: it’s inequitable and unethical.

I’ve honestly had people call or email me and say “God told me you should work for free for us”. Really? It’d be great if He’d tell me that first. In fact, when I have worked for free, it was because I was led by God to do so, not because I’d been asked (or told)!

In a down economy, I understand budgets are tight (mine’s tight, too). I’ve provided additional consulting, offered more hours and found ways to create outstanding value. As a result, churches are getting incredible value and my family enjoys eating. ;) But, seriously, working together to create higher value is more important than simply saving dollars.

It’s all about Relationship

Back when I sold gear (design/build systems integration firm), I had a very simple policy with churches that bought from me: I’d show them what I paid (my cost) and they’d pay between 10%-15% markup for all gear and market rate on labor. The result? Fair prices, great service and a loyalty that worked both ways.

Value, my friends, is a fair and suitable equivalent for something else. A strong value in a client/vendor relationship goes well beyond price; it involves an understanding between the two parties that mutual benefit is important to all involved.

Let us all laugh at the ludicrous parody in the above video, but not forget to apply good stewardship with the Biblical model of paying a workman in a worthy manner.

 

5 Comments

  1. There's another aspect to this that a lot of time churches miss. In their race to get the "best deal" (read as cheapest), they neglect the advantages that sometimes attach to spending more. Beyond the better relationship with the contractors (something I always strive for in my professional career as well as churches that I work in!), there's the additional features and reliability that (often…) attach to the increased price tag.

    Many churches, in their rush for "good value" also neglect to plan for future needs. They find the best price on what meets their needs today, without any thought or consideration to what their needs will be tomorrow, or two years, or 5 years from now. Far too many contractors play into that as well, not wanting to devote any more time than necessary, and thus perhaps failing to learn what your needs are going to be 2 or 5 years. Far from being "good stewardship", even though many churches think they are trying to be good stewards, it's quite the opposite. In 2 years, they are replacing equipment, often with equipment that was available at the time of the first purchase, thus effectively wasting the first purchase.

    Mike

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  2. so good. stewardship is vital in a christians complete package of the ambassadorship of Christ. Do we complete something as Christ would? ::: great thought :::

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  3. Great Blog Post Anthony. Thank you for your insights. I love the comment you make about working together to create higher value is more important than simply saving dollars. I think we (Sales & Consultants) can be so focused the result we dont always do the best job of educating the church on the value that will be seen by our services. Not sure if that makes much sense, but we have to really try hard at helping the church see the results/value that will come from the expense they are dishing out.

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  4. Great post, Anthony. I've been on both sides of this relationship. When I owned my own video production company, we worked with a lot of churches. Some were great, others wanted to see how little they could pay us. All in the name of stewardship, of course. It got so bad in some cases that it soured my perspective on the Church for quite a few years.

    Now, I work at a church. And I occasionally find myself in the uncomfortable position of being told to press vendors for a lower price than what I feel is fair because "it's for the church." Even when I point out that a vendor has already cut their price by 30, 40 or 50%, I've been told to push for more. Seriously? Worse is when we finally get the cut down that far and don't go with them anyway.

    I don't like the practice and feel it harms the cause of Christ. Your definition of good stewardship is most instructive. The Church needs to be wise in it's allocation of resources, this is true. We need to shop for good deals. At the same time, we need to be fair to our vendors if we expect to have any chance of being winsome.

    What would happen if we contracted with a non-Christian company for something, worked out a good value price, then paid them a little extra if they did a good job? Just to bless them. Might that put the church in a different light? Crazy, I know. Just a thought.

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  5. Anthony – This is a great video, in part because it makes the point without any need for explanation. I, too, like your definition. But I'd like to go one step further. The context of your post and the comments to this point is that of a service provider. I can attest, as Mike alludes to above, that the same is true when it comes to staff at a/the church. "Equipment" and "services" is one thing, but you would think the corporate culture might be different with people. Unfortunately, in many cases that is not so. As publisher of Creator magazine (http://www.creatormagazine.com) I hear the same refrain over and over from music and worship leadership: The church wants more work, and more time, from me, but I haven't had equitable pay in years. And for part-time staff it is even worse in many cases, because the demands of the position make it difficult for a part-time staff to hold a "regular" job.

    I wish it were not so, but wishing won't fix the problem. In my experience it has been a leadership/vision issue. If the leadership (however that is defined at a particular church, because it is not always the pastor, and it is not always the "elected" leaders who make the real decisions), believes in stewardship that pays it forward in the name of growing the Kingdom, then it shows in how they "do business." If not…you get what most of the conversation above is relating.

    Thanks again for addressing this issue. It needs to be brought to the light.

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