Church Cuts

Churches spend money on three things

  • Staffing: church personnel form the heart and brains in leading the work of the church
    • If you cut staff, you may need to replace with untrained volunteers
  • Buildings are the skin and skeleton of the church that holds everything in place and in its place
    • If you cut buildings, you save on infrastructure but it is expensive to tear down and re-build
  • Programming is the blood and muscle of a church; this is what gives the church energy and motion and dynamism
    • If you cut programming, you end up with staff sitting in their offices and nothing to attract people and give the church a mission


Where does a church cut its budget when it desperately needs to cut?


My first answer is, nowhere. Instead of cutting, the very first thing you do is to raise income. Do all you can to encourage generosity among your members, show them the results of what they’ve done in the past, help them experience the joy of giving, and let them see the people who have been helped by their tithes and offerings.


My second answer is, everywhere. IF you absolutely must cut AND you have really tried to raise funds, then you are at a critical point in your church’s future.

  • It may be time to close the church down. Seriously – if people are not willing to give more to help the ministry of the church, then perhaps it is time for the church to close its doors. Think about it – actually, you probably already have thought about closing down the church.
  • The other option in the “everywhere category” is to cut a staff person, and the programs overseen by that person, and shutter the rooms used by that ministry area (lights, AC, heat, cleaning, etc.). This is an “All of the above” strategy.


Often churches cut everything by 10% or 20%. That won’t resolve the crisis because you keep doing the same ministry and programs with the same staff in the same rooms but now you’re trying to do it on the cheap. Ministry on the cheap results in cheap ministry. That is no way to do ministry. Death by inches is what people do when they are afraid to lead.


When gangrene sets in and antibiotics don’t stop it, sometimes the only option is amputation. It is dramatic, traumatic, painful, and requires learning a new set of skills. But you can get a prosthetic limb. It won’t be as good as the original but it will give you much (not all) of the same functionality you had before. Churches need to be willing to sever some staff & programs (and close down building wings). Cutting one or two of the three isn’t enough. Decide what is the main focus of the church and provide staffing, buildings, and programming money for that. Anything that isn’t a part of the Main Thing is removed. It might be replaced later but if it is not needed now, it is done away with.


Before you cut, raise money. But if you cut, cut strategically and not indiscriminately.


Lead On!