by Jac La Tour
I have always been a saver. Even as a child, I tucked away my allowance for a rainy day (making me quite popular when my siblings needed a loan). Recently, though, I read about a family who adopted a baby from China. The Lord laid it on their hearts to adopt, but they did not know where the money would come from. Then it dawned on them that they had a nice cushion of “emergency” funds set aside. What greater emergency is there than saving the life of a child, they reasoned. They stopped saving and started spending—whatever it took to bring that little girl home.
So it is with spending versus saving—and it’s not cut and dry for ministries, either. There is undoubtedly merit to saving. It prepares us for the unexpected and allows us to cover larger expenses when they pop up.
Take, for example, Clayton Valley Church of Concord, CA. “We intentionally set aside money to prepare for major replacement costs,” says Leonard Tilton, treasurer. “We’ve also set up a contingency fund to help cover emergencies.” And it’s paid off. “For a while the church did not have a pastor, but giving remained the same. Rather than spending the surplus, we opted to save it. That money is now getting us by while we are in a season of transition with our new pastor,” says Tilton.
But spending seems to have a place, too. One church in Washington reasons that “God has provided the funding, and He will continue to provide.” As money comes in, it is immediately put toward ministry use. Opportunities are not missed while money is safely sitting in a savings account.
Then there is the rationale that saving allows for spending (like in the example of the adoption). Twin Cities Church in Grass Valley, CA can attest to this. “By investing in savings and unrestricted cash reserves, we are able to give to special projects or needs when we want to give. Constraining ourselves too tight financially would take away those choices,” says accounting director Karen Allen.
Even for savers, there are seasons of spending. For years, Twin Cities built up their cash reserves. In 2010, they opted to use a large portion of those reserves to make improvements to their parking lot. But 2011 will be another year of saving, intentionally rebuilding their reserves.
For Clayton Valley Church, the current economy is the “rainy day” they’ve been saving for. Because of the transition to a growing congregation, they are using all the money that comes in toward immediate ministry needs, plus dipping into their savings. “Giving is growing, but so are expenses. The time is coming when we will need to make significant budget cuts if we want to be intentional about saving again,” says Tilton.
What is your ministry’s approach to spending versus saving? If you’re a saver, what kinds of “rainy days” have tapped into your reserves?