Staff vs. Building vs. “Program” vs. Contingency

At the Trinity annual meeting on Sunday, the elders brought forward a motion about exploring the possibility of hiring additional ministry staff to help further the growth of the congregation. We didn’t really have details worked out, but were looking to see if the congregation would support this in principle and allow us to think about how we might use $10,000 for an additional part time staff person. We need to really think through what they would do. The motion was tabled. I see that as a way for the congregation to say “we want to hear more” – “keep working on it.”

But this all brings up an interesting bias. My bias is to invest in staff whenever there is extra money, even if the congregation is small. Many in the Church (not necessarily Trinity), feel that when a church is small, there isn’t need for more staff, so we should save any extra money for “when we need it” and for “when we know what to use it for.” For me, the time is always now (except when it was yesterday). Ironically, I tend to be a planner and am looking forward. I guess I see staff in a church as contributing to the growth of the congregation. For me, staff are leaders, not managers. I think for those who see staff as a necessity when you have lots of people, they likely see staff as managers of the people and resources already there.

In New Churches (especially in PCC new churches) it seems as though the bias is towards saving as much money for a church building. Get the building built. For me, investing is staff (when you find the right people) gives you way more bang for your buck than investing in a facility. So, putting $10,000 towards a staff person will get better results than putting $10,000 in a building fund. That isn’t to say the church building isn’t important, just that you will get greater added value in ministry faster for less money when investing in staff. In other words, you need way more money to build a building that will effectively help the ministry.

The next bias is to invest in “program.” This is a pretty elusive one, because no one really knows what that is. Is it resources? equipment? rental for space? Without the staff motivating the volunteers, money for “program” probably won’t go anywhere. I would much rather hire someone awesome and give them a smaller budget to work with, than hire no one and give a committee a huge chunk of money and no real direction. I guess my bias is that the right staff can help bring direction to a team of people.

Finally, we come to contingency. What if something happens? What about the unforseen? What happens if we start to run low on funds? For me, having a small contingency makes sense, but having a large contingency is somewhat faith-less. If we start running out of money, that means that people aren’t giving and people are leaving. If that happens, the last thing we want is a large contingency, because we’ll rely on it, instead of waking up to the reality of what is happening. Our trust should be only in God, not in a contingency fund.

I guess this means the elders have some work to do. If we are going to spend money on staff, who will we hire, and to do what? Currently, there’s me (the minister), an administrator (about 10-12 hrs/wk) and a music director (about 5-7 hrs/wk). What next? And what form should it take?
Someone to work with children, youth? Campus ministry at the University? Someone to coordinate all educational programs for all ages? Someone to lead the Mission/Justice (I heard about a church with a “minister of compassion” as a paid position). Would it be smarter to increase the music director role?
Should we invest in staff to work for a “term” rather than the whole year?
Lots to think about.
Feel free to use the comments to suggest anything, or email me if you have ideas…

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2 thoughts on “Staff vs. Building vs. “Program” vs. Contingency

  1. Jeff says:

    Matt, I think you’ve hit the mark right on. The old mission model was “appoint a pastor, buy the land, build a building, make them self-sustaining”. It worked…in its day. Now, with a different culture, I agree with you that it makes much more sense for a church plant to focus on staff than a building. In many ways, being building-less makes you more missional – and less burdened. There are definitely pluses to having a building, but at Trinity’s stage, I think you’re on the right track.

    As to what area to add staff? Consider your target demographic. Who are you aiming at with your Sunday morning worship gatherings? Staff your church to minister to that group, whether it’s in youth/young families, music, etc. will depend on the emerging culture of both congregation and community.

    BTW, have you read Thom Rainer’s “Simple Church”? It may inform you on this matter. My review of the book is at http://passionatelyhis.wordpress.com/2008/07/31/simple-church/

    God’s best in your pioneering work!

    Passionately His,
    Jeff

  2. mbrough says:

    Thanks for your words Jeff. I have heard about Rainer’s book, but have yet to get it and read it. I read your review and it sound like it is a must read, not just for me, but for the elders of Trinity. Again, thanks!

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