Posted by: watchman | March 12, 2009

Recession Special: Offering Refund

One of my favorite sites, Church Marketing Sucks, has an interesting story about a Church dealing with unemployment in the US.

Basically, if members lose their jobs, the church will refund their offerings for the year. This is a great idea!

The story got me thinking about something.

When pastors are terminated or forced to resign, a church offers a severance package, typically. By the way, he rule of thumb is that a pastor gets one month of pay for every year served. I did not know that rule til after I received less than that. Not cool. Anyway, the severance package is meant to assist the pastor in transition since most small church clergy do not qualify for unemployment insurance.

It is important that a ministry examines this element of a termination or forced resignation before running headlong into a very difficult situation. For example, when I got the bad news in my situation, my wife had been laid off, my first son was only 6 weeks old, and my small church stipend was our only source of income. To be fair, the church did take up a love offering and gave us enough for one trip to the grocery store. In the end, the amount we received would not have covered a half a year’s tithe.

From this I learned:

  1. Church is a bad investment monetarily. If you look at the numbers, there is a lot of waste and inefficiency in the church. You don’t get a whole lot of bang for your kingdom bucks in most local churches. Take a look at this breakdown from Lifeway. Basically, about 75% of your tithe goes to staff and operating expenses. Compare that to World Vision which only spends about 15% on administrative costs, with the rest put to work in Aid programs. What is stewardship, again?
  2. If you have to tithe, don’t overtithe. We gave about twice as much as we were expected (not including the various out-of-pocket expenses of the ministry). After we left, it would have been great to have that money back for things like food, or gas to the welfare office.
  3. Keep a nest egg. We had a bit of money tucked away “just in case.” Well, “in case” happened in the form of a nasty church lady.

Finally, let me just say, that ministers have one of those rare and extraordinary jobs where they pour themselves out to the max to accomplish some good. When all that comes to a screeching halt, a minister can wonder whether investing so much time, talent, and treasure was even worth it. Every situation is different. In my particular case, I am unsure.



  1. […] Recession Special! Offerings Refunded! […]

  2. Hmmm…one month for every year huh? That means I should have gotten three and a half months. Wait, they were only going to give me three months to begin with…and then took away a month when they realized I wasn’t going to just roll over and die for them.

    And I thanked them for it because they convinced me that is what I deserved. Wow…some people can be slippery.

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