Tips for a tough economy

February 15th, 2009 / By: / comments

Investment managers commonly say "past performance is no guarantee of future returns." This statement has never been truer than in today's economic environment. Though investment managers say "past performance is no guarantee of future returns," ironically they use past performance from normal market conditions to assist in their current investment strategy and portfolio modeling.

However, today's economic market is far from normal. Therefore, very few historical records of such huge market swings as we are experiencing are available for comparison. As a result, opinions differ as to what will happen next in the economy. Some advisors say that the market has fallen as far as it is going to fall with an upturn in the near future. Other advisors are suggesting that we could be on the verge of the next Great Depression. The bottom line is nobody really knows!

Even though nobody knows exactly what to expect, many of our churches are beginning to feel the effects of a depressed and unstable economy. As you lead your church to make an impact for God's kingdom in the days ahead, here are 10 tips to help your church not only survive but thrive through the financials challenges it may face in the near future.

?1. Remind your people that God is in control. One of the names used for God in the Old Testament is Jehovah Jireh ("The Lord Provides"). His Word also promises in the New Testament that he will meet all of our needs according to his riches in glory.

?2. Teach biblical stewardship. Many of our church members need to be reminded of the biblical stewardship principles God gives us in his Word. Our congregations need to be instructed in areas of money management, debt reduction, and especially the tithe.

?3. Recommit to a priority of missions and evangelism. Fewer operating resources always force us to reconsider our priorities. Difficult times should not cause us to back away from the Great Commission, but rather to focus and commit to our Lord's command all the more.

?4. Evaluate practices. Make sure your church is using sound financial practices in how it collects, records, and distributes its funds.

?5. Build-up reserves. Most financial advisors encourage individuals to have a savings reserve of three to six months of expenses. It would be wise for our churches to also strive to have similar reserves.

?6. Have a backup plan. Be prepared for a decline in your receipts by having a secondary budget that is 10- to 15-percent less than your current budget.

?7. Properly manage debt. It may be wise to avoid or pay off debt during these times. However, if you must take on debt, do so wisely. First, try to not borrow more than twice your annual undesignated receipts. Second, make sure that your monthly payments are not higher than 20-25 percent of your monthly expenses. Third, attempt to keep your total loan amount less than $2,500 per giving unit. These recommendations are less than what a typical bank would require in order to give your church additional protection during this particular economic environment.

?8. Encourage estate giving. As giving from annual income goes down, this is a perfect opportunity to encourage your congregation to support your ministry with all of their assets through an estate gift. As you reaffirm biblical stewardship principles, you might challenge your congregation to leave a tithe of their estate to the church.

?9. Offer help to the community. If your church is suffering, then most likely your community is suffering. As a form of outreach use this current situation to offer help to your community through money management classes and benevolent ministries.

?10. Seek personal renewal. Times of difficulty always create opportunities for spiritual growth and renewal. As these economic challenges force your families to reprioritize their lives, help them do so in a way that strengthens their love, faith, and commitment to Jesus Christ our Lord.

For more information, visit or call toll-free 877-953-7282.

?This column first appeared in iLead, a monthly e-newsletter of the SBTC Church Ministries team. It is adapted for use in the TEXAN. Johnathan Gray is executive director of the SBTC Foundation.