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Managing Church Funds in Times of Scarce Resources

SPEAKING AT THE ANNUAL RETREAT OF THE SAPELE DIOCESE, CHURCH OF NIGERIA, ANGLICAN COMMUNION, AT CHRIST ANGLICAN CHURCH, OKPE ROAD, SAPELE. 13/8/2021

The retreat was for clergymen, their wives, church workers, and other church officials. His Lordship, Bishop Blessing Irifeta was presiding, and I spoke on: MANAGING CHURCH FUNDS IN TIMES OF SCARCE RESOURCES. WHY SCARCITY OF FUNDS TO DO GOD’S WORK?

1. Economic Cycles and COVID-19

The lockdown in Nigeria affected the finances of Churches like several other organisations.

In economics, there is something called economic cycles. It’s an occurrence every 6-10 years of economic boom followed by economic depression and, later, a boom. It’s what I call the period of “Fat cows and lean cows“.

Even though God owns everything and can supply all our needs, we need to apply ‘Josephic’ wisdom in economic matters by saving for the years of lean cows. We need to apply this as a nation, as organisations, and as individuals. It also involves living very frugal lives in the years of fat cows.

The Roman Catholic Church and the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Church closed their churches very early in compliance with Government directives. The Roman Catholic Church has big financial reserves and socially relevant services apart from their churches that generate wealth. In fact, the Roman Catholic Church has the largest number of hospitals and health care facilities in the world. Rev Dr. Odukoya and his leaders must also be great financial administrators for them to have taken such a decision.

If my memory serves me right, Rev. Sam Adeyemi, of Daystar, also did same and did not open his church on time. For Rev Sam Adeyemi, I know he is a great financial planner and thinker. For, the Roman Catholic Church, they have several financial institutions that are profitably run.

2. I warned some few years back that the traditional streams of income of churches will not be able to sustain the current lifestyles of churches and their leaders.

There has been a rethink about offerings, tithes, vows, etc. by members as a result of social media discussions. The leadership and followership of many churches did not put up very logical theological debates to counter these assertions by these social media influencers. Most times, the responses by religious leaders and their members were curses, abuse, and threats of Divine punishment.

These further strengthen the resolve of the social media influencers.

3. Several gigantic projects that were not revenue yielding, but tie down money.

I’ve seen some prayer camp sites that are idle. They could be put into more productive use that will employ our members and meet societal needs.

The Marist brothers at Uturu in Abia state have a hatchery for day-old chicks, poultry, farms with tractors, a mechanic workshop, secondary School and a hospital all in one place in a rural area.

The God’s Kingdom Society, at Warri, has a pharmacy, clinic, laboratory, nursery, primary and secondary schools in the same compound where they use as convention ground with a cathedral.

4. Several church projects are too grandiose and done usually out of a competitive spirit.

We can build very cute and small churches like the Jehovah’s Witnesses do. They can finish the building of a branch church within a few months at a minimum cost because they will use the expertise of their members. Their branch churches, even in the villages, are more beautiful than many branches of Pentecostal churches with very big uncompleted Cathedrals in our big cities.

5. The concept of full-time clergymen that depend on the church for everything is not sustainable in a new Anglican Dioceses in suburban areas. The load of building a bishop’s court and other infrastructures is usually burdensome.

The concept of non-stipendiary priests must be encouraged. Non-stipendiary priests do secular jobs along with their priestly duties. Several of the pastors in the Redeemed Christian Church of God are well-paid businessmen and professionals. I have noticed that they attract their fellow well-to-do types to their branches too. They are also less of a burden to the members and the finances of the church.

In fact, several times, they serve with their money.

6. Donor Fatigue

Many members are tired of giving for for simple reasons.

a. The encouragement to give was premised on miraculous expectations. Many of such promises never materialized, because several times, God did not back such utterances. I have been there before; I know what I am talking about. I had to set a condition that I won’t raise funds in most meetings; if you don’t agree, I won’t come.

b. The fundraising and vows were too frequent, so the default rate was too high.

c. The extravagant lifestyles of some ministers of the gospel became offensive to the general public and, by extension, to church folks.

Even in conservative churches like the Anglican Communion, some members were influenced by such discussions on social media. The church must deliberately teach people to give out of a sense of responsibility.

d. In response to the extravagance of Pentecostalism and the abuse of the prosperity gospel, older Episcopal churches, sometimes, overreacted by preaching themselves into a financial tight corner by condemning riches and wealthy people. Most times, church folks reason only in black and white: one-track reasoning.

The resultant effect is that you will see very wealthy people giving offerings of 50 Naira during church services. The clergymen, in return, take several offerings during a church service and this drives younger members from the church to other denominations where they take just one offering.

I had to do a teaching at the Good Shepherd Anglican Church, Igbudu, Warri, many years ago, when now-Bishop John Arhuakpor of Oleh Dioceses, was the vicar. I spoke on responsible Christian giving. The offerings were reduced to once, a service, and the income increased. Church closed much earlier and everybody was happy.

God Bless You.

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