Why Mission Organizations Should Expect to Keep Tightening Their Belts

David Mays, November 2003


I’m in an eleven year-old church of 600 people, mostly in their 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s.  Our church is known for hosting concerts and athletic programs designed to bring the community to the church.  Our church gives 10% of its fundraising campaign and 2% of its general income to missions.


Three conversations last week suggested to me that mission organizations should not expect a dramatic increase in giving from our church in the near term.  Similar conversations might be overheard in other churches.


Monday: “In 10 minutes I could write out a list of about two million dollars of electronic equipment we could use.”  A technical services volunteer.


Friday: “We have two PowerPoint projectors working in sync.  Each has two bulbs.  The bulbs cost $1700 each.  If one of those bulbs blows, you gotta’ replace it.”  Our worship pastor.


Saturday: “The plan calls for me to supervise people doing the maintenance.  But with our austerity tight budget, I end up doing most of it myself.”  Our custodian.


One author says that the church is an organism that produces more resources than it consumes, thus providing resources for ministry outside itself.  But increasingly, churches are consuming almost all the resources they can obtain.  Why is this so?


By and large this generation has not had to wait for anything.  If they needed something they got it.  If it needed repaired it was repaired or replaced.  Quality is a high value.  Church, representing God, should definitely be high quality.  And since we are trying to attract unchurched people who are turned off by shabbiness, the church must be even more high quality.


Our church has high tech people who know how to purchase, install, and use high tech equipment.  They recognize the value and the usefulness of it and feel constricted and handicapped without it.  In order to produce high quality worship services and high quality concerts, the equipment and facility must be first class.


Our younger leaders, by and large, have not been raised on a healthy diet of missions education.  The world is hopeless, far away, and out of our range of impact.  There are many people in our community to reach and it is our job to reach them.  And if we feel really ambitious, there are many needs in our city.


Church leadership is increasingly being handed to this generation.   


Many of our church people have been raised without a healthy church background.  Some spent years in nominal churches before dropping out.  Some were not raised in church.  Most have learned how to handle money from the culture and the media.  Success is indicated by material possessions.  They purchase what they feel they need, if they can afford it.  Giving to charitable causes is good, but systematic or sacrificial giving may not be the norm. 


Perhaps many look at how the church uses its money and wonder if they couldn’t use it themselves to better advantage.  As one young man said, “Why should I sacrifice the better sound system I want so that the church can purchase a better sound system?”  Perhaps few are being given a cause big enough for which to sacrifice.


There are more uses for the money on church grounds and less money available to give away.  It’s not surprising then that the world waits.  And it may keep on waiting for another generation that has a different philosophy on the church, the world, and the use of money.