One of the things that I found most infuriating about working at a church was the lack of value the congregation placed upon the services they were receiving. Unfortunately, most people don’t buy into their local churches. They don’t financially support the institution, nor are they willing to volunteer to run the programs. As in most cases, ten percent of the congregation do ninety percent of the work. It sounds cold to talk of the church as though it is a commercial venture, but the fact of the matter is that most people attend church as consumers. They devour free services as they wish. If they choose not to show up, they don’t call ahead to cancel their attendance and save the church the overheads they don’t use. If you didn’t show up for your massage therapist appointment, you will still be charged if you don’t cancel 24 hours before.
A quick google search helped me put together a suggested price list for the basic minimum services that people consume at their local churches:
Cover charge for worship band: $20/adult (a cover artist show at my work runs $35 for early bird registration…)
Tickets for sermon/motivational speaker: $10/each (based on MissionsFest ticket costs)
Childcare for two hours: $12.50/child (based on Wind and Tide basic full-time childcare)
Kid’s midweek club fee: $5/child (Based on quarterly program at YMCA, $60)
Adult midweek program: $15/adult (Based on YMCA drop-in rates).
Weekly cost towards annual pastoral counseling appointment: $3.37/adult (Based on $175/hour rate for my therapist)
Thus, the total cost to cover a family of four (2 adults, 2 children) is $112.83 (including HST. Because there is tax on services). In case you’re too lazy to do the math, this works out to a basic annual cost of $5,867.10 for basic service rendered.
I’m deeply disturbed by the fact that the same people who pay thousands of dollars for gym and golf club memberships, who run their kids to four or five activities a week, and spend $6 per latte at Starbucks show up to church in their Audis and refuse to invest in their churches. What I’ve found is that the least involved people are usually the loudest people who expect to dictate the trajectory of their churches.
When you don’t support your church – financially or otherwise – people start to look for reasons that the church isn’t flourishing. Without people to staff programs, do evangelism, or invite others, you will not get a full house on Sunday morning. Programs suffer even more when churches are forced to freeze their budgets because the same people who drink $10 of bad church coffee every week don’t want to invest their finances. Usually the pastor becomes a scapegoat. I think this is grossly unjust.
Organizations have cultures. Just like you may shop around for a gym or golf club that fits your personality, or you may be choosy about the book club you attend, people want to be part of organization that fit their worldviews. To an extent, culture can be fairly insidious. An organizational culture flows through everything a company does. Consider Starbucks; you can travel the world and you will have similar experiences at every Starbucks you visit. The same can be said for Apple; Apple stores adhere to universal standards. There is also a reason that Wafflehouse isn’t universally hailed as a bastion of customer service and fine cuisine. To that end we can deduce that organizational culture dictates more than anyone person can. When you come in as the new guy, you’re going to have to fight tooth and nail to change the culture. Even Howard Schultz (Starbucks CEO) was unable to oust the breakfast sandwiches from Starbucks when he returned to his position after an 8-year hiatus; he didn’t want people to walk into his coffee shops and smell burnt cheese, but once people’s expectations were set, there was no reining in the beast.
A pastor cannot make his congregation place value on their faith community, especially when the congregation has multiple decade track record of poor involvement and a lack of buy-in. If Howard Schultz couldn’t do it, I can guarantee your local pastor can’t either. D
If you want your church to thrive, you have to be invest. This prompts the question: how much do you value your church? Do you believe your church is worth even the most minimal financial buy-in to keep it afloat? Do you give your church the same investment that you put into your local gym, sports league, or shoe addiction?