Planning for the Future

Planning for the Future

Build, renovate, or repurpose the facilities you need and pay off any debt quickly. That has been my advice for the last few years. I thought about that last Sunday night as I attended a Leadership Summit at the church my wife and I attend. Our Executive Pastor announced plans to renovate and expand our current campus “to position the church facilities for the next twenty-five years of ministry.” I wanted to stand up and shout Hallelujah! Are you planning similarly?

Most churches are not. And that fact is going to be a major reason why we will see many churches close. Church closures will not be confined to churches in the middle of nowhere. It will be churches currently with multi-million-dollar budgets and facilities as well. The estimates are that we lose around 20 churches a day now. No church, large or small, is immune to the danger of closure. The pace of closures will rise unless we take action to help stabilize as many churches as possible. But the time to plan for that is now! I’m going to address that in this Coach that I have entitled Planning for the Future.

What I told a state denominational leader last week. I’m working on expanding my newsletter. I have been approached by several state conventions of the Southern Baptist Convention to use a newsletter that I write for the Missouri Baptist Convention called the Stewardship Journal. The Journal takes this column and my Bonus Section and adds an additional post to round out the weekly newsletter. Last week, I met with a state convention Executive Director about the need for stewardship resources for their state’s pastors. I pointed out the continual decline in giving and then gave these observations:

  • We are entering challenging economic times that will stress church budgets. We live in unstable times, and the world desperately needs the message of hope that Jesus brings. Now is not a time to shrink back but to advance forward. Facilities do not bring salvation, but they do serve as tools for doing the work of ministering in Jesus’ name. Thus, our continual question must be, how can we best maximize the use of our current and future facilities to advance the Great Commission and equip disciples of Christ? Given the current economic climate, the answers might not be easy, but the longer you put off planning for capital improvements, the greater you endanger the future ability of your church to continue its present mission and ministry.
  • Giving will continue to decline as our key donor group, Boomers, moves off the stage. We have a shrinking window of opportunity with our largest donor class, Baby Boomers. By 2030, Boomers will essentially all be in their retirement years, living off a fixed income that today looks more uncertain than ever before. You need to be prepared for this key group’s giving to decline by 30% to 50%. As a result, it is imperative that we tap this group before they retire and that we move them to leave a legacy behind for your church in their estate. We are about to see trillions of dollars transferred from one generation to the next. Don’t miss the opportunity to help your Boomers make a difference long after they leave for Heaven.
  • NextGen donors have yet to step up and thus need training and development. As a result of devaluing the offering and giving, we have generations of believers who are clueless about the importance and power of stewardship. If we do not address this lack of stewardship awareness, our churches are headed for failure.
  • Government/Societal pressure will force churches to make difficult decisions. Covid showed us what the government can and will do to local churches. If you haven’t seen the movie, The Essential Church, you must. Seeing Canadian pastors hauled off for continuing to hold church is our future. I believe churches will see gaining permits for buildings and renovations more difficult as society views Evangelicals more as a threat than an asset. This is another great reason to build what you need now.
  • Denominational uncertainty will mean a decline in giving. If you are not in a denomination, your sentence would read, institutional uncertainty will mean a decline in giving. Confidence in local churches is at an all-time low. The same is true for ministers. This uncertainty or suspicion is more acute in the younger generations. This is one key reason you must always connect how giving impacts your community for good.
  • Aging facilities will make it difficult for many churches to survive. Inflation and supply chain issues will continue pushing prices up, and rarely do they go down once they have gone up. Additionally, interest rates are on the rise, so the money you borrow will cost you more to repay. As I always say, “Your project will cost more than you think and take longer than you like.” Delaying your next project might make it impossible to afford. Now is the time to begin planning for the future of your facilities.

As a result of all of the above, I believe that it is time to start planning for the future! You must start raising the capital dollars to meet the needs you see for the next twenty-five years. Here are the types of projects we are seeing:

  • Renovation – Every leader reading this has a building denoted as the “new” this or that. That “new” building is probably over twenty years old. We have a massive renovation issue facing us. It is my opinion, based on my observations, that this one issue, above all others, will force many churches to close their doors due to the cost of upkeep for aging facilities. Check out my interview with Tim Cool of Smart Church Solutions!
  • Repurposing – COVID has forced us to rethink facilities. This is perhaps one of the biggest challenges we face as we emerge from the pandemic. We must now think and build out physical infrastructure as well as the technology infrastructure for remote engagements.
  • Adoption/New Campuses – One church with multiple locations, including online, will be the norm for mega-churches and medium-sized churches.
  • Debt Reduction – My advice is to become debt-free as quickly as possible. When hard economic times come, any debt becomes a brick weighing you down. You can delay paying the staff. You can’t delay paying the bank. Being debt free gives you freedom and more money so you can pay the staff (and yourself!)

Why is it imperative to start planning for the future? Because the church that survives into the future will be the church that prepares for the future today. If a church wants to stay open beyond 2030, it must address its facility needs and develop a plan for how to raise the funds needed for that project and how to sustain the upkeep of its facilities.

Mark Brooks – The Stewardship Coach

Missions and Ministry Moment (aka Offering Talk) – This week’s talk can be accessed after you register at:

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