“Some churches have been managing decline for so long that they have lost sight of the future,” says Gerald Kuecher in Remember the Future: Financial Leadership and Asset Management for Congregations.
Fear motivates church leaders to make short-sighted decisions that focus on the the crisis of the moment. However, the skills that allow a church to survive are not the ones that lead to growth. Fear creates a negative dynamic of complaining and stinginess that drives people away from the church.
Long before a church reaches the point of no return, where the building has deteriorated and the congregation has dwindled to an unsustainable level, leaders started making decisions that sold out the future. The sacrifices of past generations were mismanaged by the present group, leaving nothing for the future. We are reminded of the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) where a servant is called wicked for hiding money he was given to invest.
Churches that own property, however modest, have inherited a legacy from a past generation who believed in the future. Keucher reminds current church leaders that their church has a future and they ought to leave the next generation of leaders a stronger situation than the one they received. Planning should, therefore, look to the farthest horizon and building maintenance ought not be deferred.
Churches that believe they have a future and share a compelling vision will attract new members. Both new and current members will be motivated to financially support a church that has a future. Even past members may want to help preserve the building for which they hold such fond memories. Moreover, they will want to leave a legacy for future generations.
Fearful churches feel alone and forgotten but there are resources for those who will believe in and work towards the future. We must never forget that our Father owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10). Perhaps Nehemiah was mindful of this when he requested permission and resources from the King of Persia to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)