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Session 1: The Problem of Church as a Family Business

In this first session, David Fletcher introduces the case study method and WheatFields Good News Church. At WheatFields, the leaders want the newly-minted XP, Dan Black, to move the church beyond the family business model. Like you, Dan must navigate the challenging waters of compensation.

From the WheatFields case

Thirty years ago, in a semi-rural area, Pastor Wilson began WheatFields with five families. In terms of demographics, the church is in an upscale neighborhood of an urbanized area. The church is not in the big city but many of its members daily commute to it. The people of WheatFields have a variety of professions, from managers to graduate school professors to entrepreneurs. Its members come from many races and nationalities.

Dan Black soon realizes he had a crisis on his hands:

“WheatFields has eleven pastors, nine directors, eighteen support staff and ninety staff in the preschool—$4.44 million in salaries and benefits. I have three weeks to sort out salaries, examine classifications of all employees and create a sane system for raises. The salary issue will touch the Compensation Team and Elder Board. It will impact every staff member and their families. Everyone’s perception of me in this new role hinges on this compensation study. The records are a mess and there is poor history. Yes, this is a crisis!”

Discussion Question

Which of the 7 is most important to you?

  1. Invest in salaries with skill, fulfilling the church’s vision.
  2. Handle worldly wealth with excellence and trustworthiness, using money to serve God.
  3. Implement fair and generous compensation that neither underpays nor overpays.
  4. Follow federal or state regulations with integrity.
  5. Learn from information channels of those with deep knowledge of church finances, avoiding the “stupid tax.”
  6. Be fruitful lest God gives resources to others who will produce fruit.
  7. Find success in the wise use of the finances as measured by changed lives.Click edit button to change this text.


Gather Insider History

Defining culture can be like nailing Jell-O® to the wall. Before you dig into compensation, thoroughly understand the culture of your church. An adage says, past performance is an indicator of future outcomes. If you know of past issues, you can put an action plan in place to chart a new history. Talk face-to-face with the insiders of your church. Have a meal together to understand not just the facts but the context and feelings behind thosefacts:

  • When and why was the church begun?
  • Who were and are the key leaders?
  • What influences have shaped your church to be what it is today?

Knowing the insider history will help you avoid past pitfalls. When someone says, “We have tried that before,” you can give a knowledgeable answer. A good response can then be, “That was then and the world is more complicated now … let’s examine new solutions to our problem.”

Evaluate Your Church

Once you have a firm grip on the history of your church, you can evaluate its current status. Do not focus on compensation issues here. Look at overall ministry. Examine your mission statement. Ask for stories of ministry from key leaders. Those stories should exemplify the implementation of the mission statement.

  • What are your church’s strengths in people, program and culture?
  • What are current ministry limitations, concerns and issues? What ministry opportunities and challenges are on the horizon?
  • Describe in detail how your mission statement is being fulfilled in existing and upcoming ministry.

Write down your findings. Give concrete examples in your notes with names, descriptions of ministry and results. When you get to the steps of analyzing role descriptions and compensation, this data will be invaluable.

Form a Compensation Team

Bring together those who are wise in money management and are aligned with your church’s mission. The Compensation Team may be a subset of the Finance Team or report directly to your governing board.

A direct and gentle conversation on an urgent topic ... $125