“It’s all well and good saying that you need to do ‘both and’” you say. But what about when we can’t afford to do both and. It will cost more money than we have, it will take more time than we have. That of course is where you plan and prioritise. But you are not prioritising one thing over another in terms of necessity, you are looking at the order in which you are going to get things done. Here are some thoughts to help.
1. What and who is available when. As I said in the first post, the manager who needs to buy a goalkeeper, striker and midfielder needs all three, so which one does he buy first? Answer, the one who comes up first. What type of church worker are we prioritising? Answer, a Communities and Families worker and that is simply because someone who can do that is available (there’s another reason below -see 3).
2. Is there a natural order to doing things -are there dependencies between different priorities? Be careful with this one and watch out for subjective reasoning. Several people told me that we should focus on the community building project first and when that started to bring people in then we could look at another service. I’m so glad that we didn’t do that. It took two years to get the building ready and by then we were well under way with our additional service. It meant that newcomers came into a context where multiple congregations were normal rather than having to go through that disruption early in their church life.
3. Are there other ways of doing what you need to do -think creatively? We still need additional workers in other positions and they are just as critical but going from actually being at a deficit when supporting one worker to supporting two feels like a stretch enough -can we really go to three? However, what we have found is that God has provided the workers for the other needs in different ways. So, we have been clear that the strategy is to get a third worker but we don’t expect them to turn up immediately. However, we are starting to look and part of the looking is through training people for urban Gospel ministry. Some of the people we train will have little long term involvement in Bearwood but some will be a great help to us in the short term and some may stay with us for the long term.
4. How short are you really? Here’s a case study. You have a church of 120 people and you’ve outgrown your small building. You are looking at renting a venue to meet in. You also want to employ a worker. The venue will cost £6000 per year -that’s £500 per month. You are tempted to say “We can’t afford to do that and employ a worker” but why not. Where will the £500 per month come from? It will either come from additional giving or existing giving if you have been running at a surplus. If you’ve already budgeted for the venue within existing giving, then you are in no different place to a church that wants to employ someone but is currently just about balancing the books. BUT, even if you are having to find an extra £500 per month for the venue, then that would be no-where near paying for a worker. You would still have a £1500 -£2000 deficit if you wanted to pay an extra worker. That’s why I would be going to the church and saying “Look guys, this is the true cost of the mission here. We may feel like we balance the books at the moment but that’s at the cost of what we are not doing that we definitely could, and definitely should be doing?” So, let’s pray about this. On the one hand, we want to be aware that there is a stretch. There will be a step of faith here. We will need to trust God to provide. At the same time, I’d want to look talk about how realistically close doing both is. Let’s assume that the 120 attendees includes 60 adult members. £500 per month is equivalent to about £8 per person and £2000 to £33 per person. Now, of course, you aren’t going to see each member giving the same amount, some will be able to give a lot more, some a lot less -but it starts to show what is possible,
I hope this helps you think through any planning and decision making you have to go through. Remember that thinking practically and counting the cost are not in competition with trusting and acting in faith. It is because we trust God that we make careful, practical decisions.