Let me be clear at the outset that I’m a huge fan of using money to pay staff. By all means, pay people well if you can. Do it. Do it. Do it.
However…that’s not always possible.
When we started New Vintage Church, saying we had no money to do so was being kind. Someday, perhaps, I’ll be able to tell the whole story of how poor our church has been. For now, just take my word for it. For a number of reasons, we began with four full-time staff…and virtually no money. When you have no money with which to pay four full-time people, you have to get really creative and prepare for the potential of stormy waters.
Indeed, the waters have been rough at times–but our team survived–and still loves each other–by God’s grace. I attribute this fully to God–His provision and His work in the hearts of people willing to lay it on the line for His vision.
Because many churches are having difficult times financially, some staff have been without raises for years. Many have taken major pay cuts or been laid off. I’d like to submit the following practices as ways to pay your staff without using money. When there isn’t enough money to go around, when there can’t be raises this year, etc.
There were some practices that have allowed us to not only survive but also maintain a generally happy atmosphere of ministry for nearly 18 months now. These practices were not forced. They were part of our ministry philosophy that came in hand and were emphasized when circumstances dictated such.
There are others, but there are two primary: Freedom in ministry and flexibility.
Freedom in Ministry.
For most ministers, this is the Holy Grail. Providing an environment in which the minister can truly use their gifts to the full is crucial to a church’s success. Such an environment maximizes the capacity of contribution for each minister.
However, it also adds to high morale and staff continuity. It provides a framework for thriving. This raises the inevitable question, “What about accountability?”
Most churches I know spend a lot of time worrying about how to hold staff accountable and very little worrying about how to provide a culture of ministerial freedom in which the staff can really thrive. Providing accountability is so much easier than providing a healthy staff climate, it’s disgusting. It’s an important question I discuss below, but don’t start there. Start with a foundation of freedom.
Most pastors would trade a little less money for more freedom. How about money and freedom? :)
Well, when money runs short, freedom keeps staff morale high. In my experience, there isn’t enough money you can pay to make staff thrilled to be in a stifling ministry environment. If you find someone purchasable for such an environment, fire them before you hire them. Look for those in it for God’s fame and the love of the game.
The Lord is at work redeeming and sanctifying a people for Himself.