Alan Wildes

Alan Wildes

Church Debt Epidemic

Is there really a church debt epidemic?

Epidemic means to affect a disproportionately large area or group.  So, is there a church debt epidemic?  Unfortunately I have to say yes and unfortunately I find it to be the case in the more established and traditional denominations.  Why?

There is no short answer and I’m sure the answer varies from region to region but I can trace it back to the 10 year time period from 1998 – 2008.  Churches were no different than the secular housing industry.  Money was cheap and it was easy to get your hands on.  Churches in rapidly growing areas such as metro Atlanta experienced growth in attendance and felt compelled to address their facilities needs due to the increase in people attending their church.

Unfortunately many of those churches planned as if the growth would continue on forever.  Over speculation on rising attendance led to the over building of church campuses.  Many of which today are somewhat empty shells of where they were in the mid 2000’s.

So here we are.  Enough of why we are where we are.  The reasons why really do not help us address the problem and help churches figure out a way to address the debt and get out from underneath the gorilla that is standing on them and holding them back from being the shining light God intended them to be.

I feel burdened to figure out a way to help churches who are in this situation.  As a consultant who ran capital campaigns for churches during this time I now feel a sense of urgency to help churches address their debt situations.  The difficulty is that addressing debt is not any more enjoyable in the church than it is in our personal lives.

It takes:

  • Vision beyond the debt – People will give to vision.  They are not very excited about debt.  What ministries and mission work is the debt keeping us from doing?  How would things be different if the debt were gone?  What is the “Golden Tomorrow?”
  • Planning beyond tomorrow – There is not a short term solution.  What are the steps?  How long will it take?  How will we get there?  Who will lead the charge?
  • Diligence beyond belief – Again, there is not a short term solution; nor is it easy.  The Pastor and leaders must be patient and persistent.  There MUST be consensus from the leaders that this is the course we are taking and we will not veer from it until the plan is complete.

Is your church in debt?  How much?  How are you handling the debt?  Is the debt crippling or is it manageable?  What is your solution?

If your church is in debt who knows about it?  Does anyone outside of the Finance Team and Senior Leadership Team know?  When will you begin the conversation?  What will the conversation be with the congregation?  Transparency is key to addressing the problem.

I’d love to learn from you.

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