Patrick Henry is Vice President of Ministry Services for the Arkansas Baptist Foundation
While we should not go around calling the local church a business, I would be one of the first to tell you that churches should have strong business principles. Having served on church staff for over 20 years I have seen the inner workings of the church from the lowest position as an intern to near the top as the executive pastor.
The local church is not a business, but there are many business practices that we should utilize. I would encourage every church leader to evaluate your current business functions, utilize appropriate systems for these functions, and outsource whenever you can. Whether you are a church member or a staff member, it is especially important to understand the business functions within the local church.
When you look at the functions that must happen within the church it is most assuredly easy to see the need for sound business acumen. Payroll, asset management, income, payables, insurance, human resources, and marketing are just a few of the things that most every church will encounter monthly. Leaders of church plants, small to medium established churches, and the mega church will all find themselves working in and around these functions.
There should be a period during each year when your church looks at all business procedures and evaluate. Are these procedures documented? Are there certain standards put in place by an auditor that you should be following? Is there one sole person that has too much control which violates separation of duties within your accounting procedures? Do you have too much or too little insurance coverage? Are your pastors and your staff paid correctly? These are just a few of the questions to ask when evaluating your systems and functions.
When your church has evaluated its business functions, they should then take a good look at the systems they are using to carry out these functions. Today there are many options when it comes to systems for your church. There are dozens of options to consider when you talk about a church management system. This system is what you use for keeping all your member information (contact information, giving information, notes, and other important data). You should consider your church’s database needs and try to discern the system that is right for you. Is this system secure? What system does your church use for accounting? Is this system capable of doing the accounting the right way? Can this system provide the reports necessary for accountability? Often a church will have many different systems that overlap. Every church should take time to make sure they are not paying for a system that isn’t needed. Does the system that is currently being used have tech support? Will the system be supported by the company in the future? Is there another product that is more affordable that can do the same thing? It is always good for someone in your church to stay on top of the current needs of the church and make sure your systems can manage them appropriately.
Is outsourcing appropriate in the local church? Absolutely! There will come a time when it is necessary for a church to turn over some of its functions to a professional. There are many options when it comes to outsourcing accounting, payroll, human resources, etc. If your church is not able to adequately perform the required business practices within the church, they should consider hiring a professional to take care of their needs. When making these decisions it is imperative that you hire someone that is knowledgeable and capable to do the work that is required by the church. Just because there is someone that knows how to do payroll does not necessarily mean they can execute payroll for your church staff.
The Arkansas Baptist Foundation exists to serve, advise, and encourage the local church. We have staff that are willing to help you with any administrative need that you might have. We also have partnerships with like-minded organizations that can help your church. Whether you are evaluating your current business functions and systems or looking for an outsourcing partner, the Arkansas Baptist Foundation would like to help.