Church Debt

One of the True or False Church Addiction Test questions by Tom Bandy in Kicking Habits: Welcome Relief for Addicted Churches is this:

True or False: “Debt freedom always leads to church decline.”

It’s True – “Sound debt management is the key to thriving church development.”

I know congregations with no debt who are failing and I know congregations with debt who are thriving. Money is obviously a tool of ministry, but what is “good debt” and what levels of debt will kill a congregation?

I’m not a money person (i.e. English major) but I’m learning to love money issues. What happens to a church that receives a million dollars from a member’s will, especially when the membership doesn’t believe their financial contributions are needed anymore? Sometimes a large endowment = subsequent poor stewardship practices.

The point is not the money. The point is doing ministry. The point is the spiritual discipline of making a financial contribution based on our commitment to God’s Church whether they have millions in the bank or not.

Regarding churches with millions of dollars in the bank: what’s your plan? Millions of dollars can build transitional housing, build a shelter for abused women, or build a hospital in Haiti. Again: what’s your plan?

If our plan is to build up reserves “for a rainy day” please look out your windows right this minute..

It’s pouring rain out there. It’s literally raining on the heads of the homeless. It’s literally stormy for kids who’ve aged out of foster care. It’s brutally cold for those seeking a community of people who will love them unconditionally.

I’m not the person to comment on what percentage of debt is healthy and faithful. But I can tell you what thriving congregations are doing: they are not afraid of debt if they know that they have a mission that the congregation buys into. They do not fear debt when they’ve discerned that God is calling them to serve their neighbors in new way, even if that means razing and then rebuilding their church space. I find their faithfulness contagious to the point of knowing that God will make congregations successful when they understand who they are and why they exist.

Would love to hear your comments on your congregation’s debt. And tomorrow: Why Personal Debt Is a Spiritual Issue.

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