When I left my career at Callaway Golf for full-time vocational ministry, the list of things I knew would have fit on a post-it note, whereas what I didn’t know would have been thicker than War and Peace. For example, as I slowly and methodically worked my way through the church budget, one of the things that stood out immediately to me was the amount of work accomplished versus the number of employees on staff. Every week I saw musicians, sound techs, video techs, children’s ministry teachers and helpers, security team members, ushers, greeters, and people in the parking lot giving directions. Yet, not one of them was on the payroll. An X-factor is a variable in a given situation with the potential to have the most significant impact on the outcome. For a church or non-profit, volunteers are the ultimate X-factor. Imagine if for-profit organizations like Callaway Golf ran their production lines, facilities staff, IT departments with volunteers. The savings would be astronomical. According to Ministry Architects, 45% of the weekend worship attendees have a volunteer role at the church. If your church is in that range, this is good news. Consider this; research also shows that the more paid employees a church has on staff, the lower the volunteer percentage. Let that sink in.
The Big Idea
Compensation is typically the largest portion of the church budget at 45-55% of the total budget. Churches have people who want to work for free, also known as volunteering. However, as the number of people paid to work at the church increases, the number of people volunteering decreases. Churches looking to increase involvement through volunteering and lowering compensation costs must consider this data. Ephesians 4:11-12 tells us that one of the roles of a pastor is to equip other believers to build up the church. Admittedly, it is impossible to put a dollar value on the contributions of the volunteer force at a church. But, to gain perspective and put a scope on the power of the X-factor, calculate the number of hours all the volunteers served in a year and multiply it by an average hourly rate. For example, if a church has 20,000 volunteer hours annually and the national average hourly wage is $29.81, the church was the beneficiary of $596,200 per year. Of course, there are way too many variables in that example to nit-pic. Many of those volunteers were childcare workers and would not earn $29.81 per hour. On the flip side, many technical volunteers are worth way more than $29.81 per hour. It’s not a perfect formula, but it makes a dramatic point about the impact of the X-factor.
Considering the data, churches need their budgets to reflect the potential power of the volunteer workforce in certain positions.
- Compensation – This could be a touchy subject for some, and I am not advocating eliminating paid employees. However, it is prudent to evaluate all paid positions to see if any are prohibiting volunteers from serving.
- Volunteer Training – Keep the Ephesians 4:11-12 model in mind during this process. Someone needs to equip the volunteers to do the work of the ministry. One of the fastest ways to devalue and frustrate someone who wants to serve God at their church is the sink or swim method. To that end, budget for training materials and classes. Think of these costs as an investment that will pay huge dividends in a short period.
- Volunteer Appreciation – Volunteers are using their gifts and talents to glorify God. Many of the volunteers are highly skilled professionals that donate their time and talent for the sake of the mission. Be sure the budget includes a way to show value for their contribution. Buying lunch or even a cup of coffee can go a long way.
When creating a church budget, take full advantage of the X-factor – your volunteers. Start by determining if your church’s volunteer ratio is maximizing the X-factor. This process should include deciding if the number of paid employees on staff is a limiting factor to the number of volunteers. Finally, be sure to budget the financial resources to equip and encourage the selfless members of your church who donate their time and talent; it is an investment sure to pay dividends.