Prepare to Be Actively Involved - You cannot go into your ministry assignment hoping that someone else will be able to take care of the financial, legal and business details of the church and you won’t have to worry about them. It’s a part of your job to make sure the church’s resources (building, property, staff, finances, etc…) are managed and stewarded properly.
· There may be people in roles, but they need you to be able to at least have intelligent conversations about these areas in order to lay out your expectations for these volunteer positions, answer questions when they come up and give vision and direction.
· Many times you’re going to be the ones training the volunteers to oversee these roles in smaller churches. And they’ll love Jesus, but they might not have the chops to do the role without some help. I’ve had seven different treasurers in 7 years – and only one was a CPA or had an accounting background. That happens.
· It’s ok if you don’t know how to have intelligent conversations immediately about every form, tax issue, loan term or report...but being able to do so soon needs to be on your radar and something you’re working towards.
Learn. Everywhere. Always. - You cannot neglect learning about and becoming proficient in the basic details of church leadership and administration. It’s never too early to start.
· So, pull out your CL&A books…and maybe even “The 7 Habits” if you’re feeling ambitious (list best CL&A books)
· If you’re currently an associate pastor, take every opportunity to sit on committees, go to board meetings, join the finance committee, help your lead pastor with Annual Reports, etc…
· Read the local church section of The Manual. Seriously, read it. Refer to it.
· Join webinars on church finances, tax preparation, non-profit businesses, etc…
· Find two or three mentors and put them on speed dial.
· Gather some folks around you who know what they’re doing and have them evaluate your leadership in particular areas.
Don’t Recreate the Wheel – These are three areas of practical things I wish someone had told me 7 years ago.
· Financial/Bookkeeping - Get to know a CPA yesterday. This may or may not be your church treasurer, but you need to know one and have their information in your favorites section of your phone. Use Quickbooks Online. No questions.
· Database Management/Record-Keeping - Become proficient in and use regularly a Church Management System – Elvanto is awesome. Church Community Builder is also good. Excel will not get it done. We are in the people business. We have to have a central place where we can access information and track progress. This is it.
· Church Board Meetings – Set a time limit (and hour and a half is what we use). Create a Consent Agenda (instructions here: http://www.boardstar.org/assets/documents/Consent%20Agenda.pdf) Include the following on it: Old Minutes, Financial Reports (P&L vs Budget Fiscal Year To Date, Current Balance Sheet, Previous month Transaction List), NYI & NMI Reports and any other things that fit the description for a Consent Agenda. Spend the rest of the time talking about a vision/mission issue that has been pre-planned.
Failure Is Only Final if You Quit
· You’ll make mistakes. You’ll learn for next time.
· You won’t know the answers. You can learn them.
· You’ll mess something up during tax season. The IRS is actually full of really nice people. You can actually call them and talk with them. They will actually help you. It’s great.
· You’ll miss some fine detail in The Manual about support staff or something. Your DS will understand.
· You won’t be the first person to make ____________ mistake. And you won’t be the last.
· People might think you don’t know what you’re doing sometimes. That’s ok, because you probably don’t. So, just get that out of the way and stop worrying about it.
· When you’re in the middle of “not-knowing-what-you’re-doing” a little positive self talk goes a long way…the church where you are is lucky to have a person like you doing the best you can to be their pastor…and to keep the church from being raided by the FBI. It’s going to be ok.