Hey Fletch … A Friend and “Church Doctor”

Hey Fletch … A Friend and “Church Doctor” 2018-03-18T14:25:40+00:00

From around the globe, people tune in on Fletch’s warm and sound advice. He’s a friend and “church doctor,” bringing an objective perspective, broad knowledge and vast experience. Your question will get a personal reply from Fletch.

Columns in the Last 7 Days

Hiring Church Staff

Friday, April 20, 2018

Hey Fletch … Here in Nigeria I have a question. I would like to know if there are templates on church staff recruitment decision making … like a decision grid.

DRF—I’m not sure that I would use the word ‘template,’ as each church is unique. You want to create a style, or template, that reflects who your church is. Yet, there are many common issues to hiring among churches. To address these common factors, I wrote an article that may help you: A Ten Step Process For Hiring Church Staff. 

Here are the 10 Steps: 1) Send your job description to multiple sources and receive resumes. 2) Respond to each applicant via email within a week. 3) Make an initial phone call to candidates who fit your description and profile. 4) Make a second call to those you are interested in. 5) Check references. 6) First “in person” interview. 7) Have the candidate put his/her thoughts on paper. 8) Second “in person” interview. 9) Bring the interview team together for a final call on the candidate. 10) The hiring lead makes the offer.

You should examine each of the ten steps and see how they fit your situation in Nigeria. Your local church polity and policy may come into play, such as who does the selection and who makes the final decision. I am not an expert on Nigerian culture or the structure of your church … but the principles can help you create a hiring template. 

God’s best to you across the ocean and thanks for writing.

Is a Donation ‘Thank You’ Too Pushy?

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Hey Fletch … Do you encourage churches to acknowledge first time givers through a thank you letter?  I am considering starting this because I see this as a significant opportunity but do not want to come off pushy.

DRF—Great to hear from you. I have such warm memories of my time out there at your church. I was advising them of how to hire someone like you! I love seeing that you came, have stayed and have a rich ministry there.

A first time donation is a big step. The person is saying, “Hey, I’m beginning to buy into the family and vision here. Let me help and support it.” I would strongly encourage you to send a letter to them. I have done that for years. When we printed a 10 page color end-of-year “ministry stories” publication, we printed enough extra to send to new donors throughout the year. People loved it.

You don’t need to thank the person for the amount of the donation. Some churches treat that information as confidential and only for the business office. People do want to know that the money was received and that it matters. Regardless of the size of the gift, say “thank you for being a part of this family. Every person matters here.” 

Will you come off as pushy? Not with a great note. When were you ever upset that someone said, “thank you!” I have asked Brad Leeper, Principal at Generis to respond:

Brad Leeper—Rather than pushy, think pastoral. This new giver, through this financial gift, has indicated a new, deeper engagement with your church. The step to acknowledge and to say thank you is a powerful pastoral step that reinforces the risk and courage to enter into a new relationship with their church. And consequently, a new relationship with you as their pastor. 

Taking this step and receiving a silent response sends an unintended message that they are not necessarily welcomed or embraced here. Another reason to graciously acknowledge the gift is to prompt and encourage a second gift that comes faster with a note than silence. It seems only 4 of 10 first time givers ever make a subsequent second gift. Those lost second gifts means less financial resources for your mission and a loss of spiritual connection with that person. The lack of a courteous response in a thank you might send the message that we really do not want your next gift and, as odd as this might sound, we really do not want you either. Sending a note establishes a personal relationship with the giver which is pastoral to the core. 

One more reason to send a thank you acknowledgement. Most every non-profit will acknowledge that gift and show appreciation. Why would we as church leaders seem less pastoral and caring than a non-church organization? 

Sample Thank You Letter

Dear Joe and Julie,

Thanks for being part of our Church! The finance team let me know of your initial financial investment to our church. Your gift is generous and will return a big impact in the lives of many. Your part in our church really matters. It is an honor to be your pastor and to have you as part of our community! Pastor Eutychus 


Note: What if your church policy states (or you prefer) that you should not know about a person’s giving? It is easy to honor that policy by including one phrase: “While I am not aware of the amount, your gift is generous and will return a big impact in the lives of many.”

General Fund Robbed by Disaster Donations

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Hey Fletch … I have been a fan of your work and website for several years. I have a question and would love your insight. As a board member, let me say that our church has a history of taking special offerings whenever there is a disaster. Our congregation loves to give to emergency causes (wildfires, hurricanes, earthquakes, famine) and tends to give generously. However, our general fund often drops significantly during those weeks. People give to disaster relief and then our core offering diminishes. 

I have heard of some churches who build “disaster relief” into their budgets so that they can respond quickly when needs arise without draining regular income. Any thoughts on best practices around this?

DRF—Thank you for gracious words about XPastor. That is wonderful that your congregation gives so much to special needs. It sounds like your church has a huge heart for the hurting world … to the detriment of your general fund. It is truly a ‘steal from Peter to pay Paul’ issue!

There is no reason why you can’t have a line item in your General Fund—you can internally restrict it for disaster, compassion, mercies or benevolence. When a disaster hits, you would say to the congregation, “Our General Fund has money for disaster relief. As needed for the relief, gifts above our regular weekly offering will go toward this current need.” You may even want to salt the food by saying, “and we have already given $25,000 this week to get help on the way.” 

The issue that I see is one of communication. If people are accustomed to giving to a special fund, they will feel like the rules have shifted. You are changing away from a donor restricted fund, one which the money can only be used for disaster relief. You are moving to an internally restricted fund, where the Board can use the money as they see fit for the current disaster, future local needs, etc.

You should communicate the new style of giving well in advance of the next disaster. Share the reason for the change, in print and in person, with the Governing Board, Finance Team, staff and key leaders. Once a month for six months, share a carefully worded statement with the congregation about the change. Ensure that any online giving reflects the wording that your church formally adopts, such as “Give at this link for disaster relief. This is a part of our General Fund and will be targeted for the current need. Unused funds will be used for other church ministry.” 

I would also position this as one of great potential vision areas for the church. “We want to do so much and celebrate God’s generosity among us. By having these donations in the General Fund, we have governing board approved methods to strongly continue our ministry and disaster relief.”

Worship Pastor for 30+ Years Wants to be an XP

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Hey Fletch … I’ve been on the phone with a friend where my son is on staff. He suggested that I reach out to you. I’ve served 30+ years in Worship Ministry at large Baptist churches and have been on the executive team for each church. Also, I was 8 years in a secular business. I am feeling a call to move toward the role of Executive Pastor and want to see what opportunities are available. Would it be possible to talk further about next steps?

DRF—First let me say that I would be pleased to visit with you. You have great experience in executive level leadership in significant churches. That will give you plenty of insight and wisdom for the XP role. Having business experience as well is a bonus. 

The XP role is a multi-disciplinary one. A Youth Pastor can specialize in youth and a Worship pastor can specialize in worship. The XP must know how to lead youth and worship pastors, finance, HR, legal, insurance, ministry strategy, budgets, relationships with the governing board, congregational communication—just to name a few.

I would suggest that you read “Three Kinds of XPs.” Discern what type of XP you might be best at. Take the XP-Indicator to see your giftedness as a leader. Then, take a look at the rest of the XPastor site, especially the “First Six Months” items. Finally, take a look at the Great Resumes to see how to share your good ministry  experience with others.

Let me know when you are ready for a phone call.

Few Cheerleaders for Ministry

Monday, April 16, 2018

Hey Fletch … Thanks for the encouragement. As you might expect, working with the church does not come with a cheerleading squad. The more we work with churches in the ditch, the more frustrating it seems while some bash us because we are trying to help. Thanks for what you guys do … and ‘getting it’.

DRF—Like the guy who thought that all pastors should be self-supporting … and ridiculed our work on compensation. Like the guy who had a bad experience with a church leader and didn’t like the article on leadership.

Keep at it! I can cheer you!

Remember: no one goes to a doctor who only studied health. Everyone goes to doctors who study and treat disease. You are a doctor with hurting patients.

Digital Film Is Expensive

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Digital Film Is Expensive

DRF—I learned about photography when film was expensive. I shot with a camera that used 120 film and you only got 12 exposures on a roll. I carefully weighed every photo opportunity and only took pictures that had significance.

Now with digital “film,” we can take hundreds of “free” photos. Wired magazine reports that the world upload 1.8 million photos each day. The article says: “The mobile revolution that Steve Jobs started put a camera in every pocket, along with the tools to edit them and, later, platforms like Facebook and Instagram on which to publish them. Anyone with a smartphone could capture a moment and share it in real time. Here I am at the party. Here I am at the concert. Here I am at the beach.” 

The aphorism is irony. Digital film is “free” to use, but costly in time to review all those images.

Is Deficit Budgeting an Act of Faith?

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Hey Fletch … Our church is barely keeping the payroll and bills paid and we enter the budget process in June. Our elders keep casting a vision that requires 10% or more of deficit budgeting. Historical data says we will not receive from donors the needed amount. They say we should budget by “faith.”  As a member of the finance team, I have a problem with continually asking the members to approve a deficit budget. We also have -0- reserves. Can you share some biblical principles that I can share with the finance team and leaders to show it is not a “lack of faith” to present a balanced budget? If giving doesn’t increase, we are either going to have to cut a position or sell a parsonage.

DRF—I’m a fan of balanced budgets. A budget that has a built-in deficit is a disaster waiting to happen. Jesus says in Luke 14:28-30, “For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn’t sit down first and compute the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish the tower, all who see it will begin to make fun of him. They will say, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish!’” Net Bible® Your church budget should adequately cover your existing obligations.

You can add to your church budget a special contingency budget. This can be a faith based approach. You inform the congregation that with current giving, the church budget is balanced. Then lay out the contingency budget, “if we receive $50,000 more in the next six months, then we will do these projects.” It is not a good idea to put salaries in the contingency budget, but do include special projects or renovations. If the extra funds don’t come in, then those projects won’t happen.

As for cash reserves, my friends Dan Busby & Michael Martin at the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability say on this page: “Cash reserves are the cushion that ensures: Operating expenses are paid on-time instead of incurring late fees; The church is in compliance with mortgage covenants; Funds are available to replace worn-out HVAC; The church has the necessary funds ready to launch a new ministry.”  You can download the ECFA free e-book, “Essentials of Church Cash Reserves.” Let me ask Dan Busby for his thoughts:

Response from Dan Busby, President of ECFA: 

Thanks for the opportunity to provide input in relation to this request. What you have written in response to the email is RIGHT ON!  Here are a few more thoughts:

    • 10% of more in annual deficit budgeting with zero reserves is TOTALLY incompatible. If a church has excess reserves—say beyond six months of operating reserves, then perhaps a deficit budget might be appropriate to use some of the excess reserves but without proper reserves (let’s say at least three months of operating reserves, deficit budgeting indicates a lack of adequate responsibility by the governing board.
    • This church is on the verge of failing John Wesley’s test. He said, “Our responsibility is to give the world the right impression of God.” A church that is barely keeping payroll and bills paid, is flirting with sending a very bad message to people inside and outside the church, as well as taking Jesus Christ off center stage and placing financial mismanagement on center stage.
    • Restoring sanity to the financial planning for this church will require a conservative estimate of the next year’s revenue. When the governing board chooses, what I call, the “Big Number” for the next year’s budget, that number should probably be less than last year’s revenues. Otherwise, it is unlikely the church can build reserves. It goes without saying (except for this church) that reserves are only built when cash in exceeds cash out.
    • If you need more scripture references, here are a few: “The wise store up choice food and olive oil, but fools gulp theirs down.” Proverbs 21:20.“Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider the ways and be wise? It has no commander, no overseer or rules, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.”  Proverbs 6:6-8.

Response—We had a church meeting the other evening regarding the finances and paying off a $3,900 credit card balance (which should have never happened). As a member of the finance team, I cut to the chase and informed those present that there must be a new attitude toward spending or else we were looking at cutting staff or selling the parsonage. I think people left better informed about the serious situation we are in. I’m going to propose to the finance team next week that we impose a spending freeze for items other than salaries and normal operating expenses for 3 months and see if we can get $1,500-$2,000 in the checking account. I’m working on forecasting now for finishing out the year and budgeting for next. Keep our church in your prayers and the finance team as we consider planning and honoring God with our decisions.

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