For three years, each Sabbath, the church members watched the red line on the fundraising “thermometer” grow closer and closer to the goal. One day, as they entered the sanctuary, there was so much excitement in the air. Everyone wanted to see the red line that was at the top. They had met the goal!Four years earlier, this church gathered in their multi-purpose room and looked across their gravel parking lot to a plot of land where they envisioned a school building. Although the congregation started from humble beginnings, they felt compelled to serve their members and community. So, they prayed for God’s leading in building a church/school.
They asked for God’s guidance in general for the project and to give them wisdom on how to proceed. They also prayed several specific prayers, such as, where would the money come to build the church? Would there be support from the conference to pay teacher salaries? Would parents be able to afford tuition?
Fast forward ahead several years from the opening of the school. Similar to many schools and other church organizations, many memories are made over the years—during the Christmas music performances, spring fairs, and in the countless stories of how God blessed the staff, the students, and their families. There were less-memorable moments that happened during that time. Repairs needed to be made, the carpeting had to be replaced, heating and cooling systems required maintenance, shingles were replaced, computer equipment was upgraded, and much more.
Through the years, the school experienced the normal fluctuations in enrollment that comes when a large graduating class is followed by a small kindergarten class the following year. Financial support also ebbs and flows as donors and church members come and go. Regular maintenance and upgrades like a ripped carpet in the hallways, heating equipment, and upgrades increase in frequency and cost. Where will the money come from to maintain the school so parents will want to invest and send their children to learn?
Many years later, back at the church, a group gathers in the same multi-purpose room, looking across the new asphalt parking lot at their school. The group listens as Mrs. Smith, the unofficial historian, recounts how approximately 25 years ago, their church had a vision for this school and how a building fund was started. She tells stories of Pathfinders turning the church gravel parking lot into a ‘store front’ to sell bags of mulch. There were yard sales sponsored by the women’s ministry group, a crowd watching Pastor Ron as he bobbed for apples at the fall festival, and the excitement of the day the red line reached the goal.
Mrs. Smith trails off a bit as she and the others think about the challenges the members faced in the past and the challenge before them. Had they overlooked the long-term cost of running a school? Had their commitment to the community, parents, and students changed over the years?
You probably have heard the term “the cost of doing business.” What members do as a church, a school, or a medical clinic is a ministry within the Seventh-day Adventist Church. But that does not mean we are exempt from the principle that there is a cost to do business. At least there is a cost to doing business correctly.
The people who come to our properties have expectations that it will be safe, well lighted, and the interior of the buildings will be at a comfortable temperature for the weather. We ask our members and communities to come to our church, pay tuition for their children to attend our schools, or come to our clinic for services. Are we adequately prepared to receive them?
Ministry is influencing people to ‘come and follow Christ.’ I would submit to you that a successful ministry must focus on the short, medium, and long-term financial plan for what I call “the Cost of Doing Business Correctly.” The physical aspects of the buildings and other operations tell a story to those to whom we are ministering. The care with which we minister, how we manage our resources, and our properties’ appearance and safety says a great deal about how we value those we profess to serve.
As you consider the “Cost of Doing Business Correctly,” Adventist Risk Management (ARM) has some free resources to assist. adventistrisk.org, can be beneficial to churches, schools, and other ministries as you navigate running a safe and thriving ministry.
As we return to our church group meeting in the multi-purpose room, we realize they have expanded their vision. They are looking “beyond” the building located across the parking lot. They have a new focus on and excitement for items that include budgeting, fundraising, and maintenance programs, as part of their church school’s current ministry. Caring for what they have makes it possible to dream about what could be. Their community, parents, and students depend on them to approach their school’s daily business with the same energy that existed 25 years ago as they watched the red line moved toward the goal. Mrs. Smith smiles, knowing “her” school is in a different phase, but that at “her” church, there is excitement in the air.
Image Credits: iStock/yucelyilmaz