As a consultant to churches across America, more pastors, church boards and building committee members are asking me, “What are we supposed to do about our building project now?” This big question is almost always preceded by a litany of statistics about the housing crisis, loss of jobs, home foreclosures, international money woes and economic confidence (or lack of it!).
Here are eight principles to help you put things in perspective as you determine what to do about current or planned building projects:
1. God is bigger than the economic issues. Abraham learned this. Isaac lived it. So did Joseph, David and countless other heroes in the Bible. We know this truth … we just often forget it.
2. Great vision always trumps a bad economy. People are not often moved by projects or plans, but by great vision cast by a great communicator who has heard God speak.
3. People don’t sacrifice for nice projects during bad economic seasons, but they will support vital kingdom projects. In times of growth we ask, “Wouldn’t it be nice to build a new (fill in the blank)?” But people don’t sacrifice for nice when the economy gets shaky. They will, with good leadership, sacrifice for vital projects, regardless of what’s going on around them.
4. Good leaders lead nice projects; great, godly leaders hear God’s voice and can lead people to sacrifice for vital projects. Challenge your people to sacrifice, for it is the hallmark of great growth during the worst of times.
5. Plan for the cyclical economic ups and downs. As a consultant for churches, this is one of the greatest challenges I face. The ever-changing financial landscape should be addressed in the earliest phases of any building project. Often it takes an “outside” consultant to help put the overall growth strategy into perspective.
6. Be cautious with long-term debt. It’s great for the community to see you building. Positive signs of growth will generally attract lots of media attention and robust attendance. However, the positive effects of building projects must always be balanced carefully against projected income.
7. Consistently teach biblical stewardship principles. Foundational principles are found early on in Scripture, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). And He who creates owns. Psalm 24:1 confirms God’s role in creation and that ownership is an all-inclusive proposition with God. He owns it all, and we get to participate with Him by managing what He’s given us.
8. Cast a clear and compelling vision for the future. Your people need to see the church has a great future—one worth investing in. Significant gifts will always be directed toward great projects that advance God’s kingdom. Everyone wants to be on a team that is pursuing a great future.
Above all, believe and teach your people to believe God for miracles. Moving forward in faith is never easy. Moving forward with vital building projects during chaotic financial times is even harder.
In the account of Isaac we’re told, “And the man waxed great, and went forward, and grew until he became very great” (Gen. 26:13, KJV). Isaac kept sowing and kept reaping, despite the conditions around him, so much so that we’re told he “went forward.” You can’t go backward when you obey the Lord; you’ll only go forward and increase.
Hebrews 11:6 declares, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him.” Often, doing great things for God requires great faith. Thankfully, we have a master builder who is never surprised by whatever happens—yes, even during difficult economic seasons.
Glenn Sauls is the president and founder of Sauls Consulting Services, based out of Atlanta. He served as a pastor for 22 years before leaving to be a part of a national church-stewardship organization. To learn more, visit saulsconsulting.com.
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