Church and expenses

For a variety of reasons, our congregation has lost many member families. As a result, the monthly tithe does not meet our "budgeted" expenses. Can we ask the pastor to take a lower salary? As we take funds from the savings account to cover his salary, the account will be depleted in 9 months and the church will have zero money. What happens to our church? I am a worried member.

When you mention “monthly tithe,” I have to wonder what that means. It would be wonderful if “monthly tithe” meant that your fellow members, in Christian freedom, were giving ten percent of their income back to God. As it is, the current estimate is that the average percentage of giving compared to income of all WELS communicant members is 2.5%. It goes without saying that if that number were higher, there would be far fewer financial difficulties in our synod. God willing, the level of giving on the part of your fellow church members is higher than the percentage listed.

If expenses continue to outpace offerings in your church, the leadership of your congregation, along with your pastor, will need to explore different options. Because I am unaware of your congregation’s circumstances, I do not know if any of the following ideas might be applicable to your situation.

Is it possible to combine your congregation’s ministries with those of another, nearby WELS congregation? Is a multi-site strategy one that your congregation would consider? Would your congregation be interested in the services of WELS Commission on Congregational Counseling?

Reducing your pastor’s salary would be only a stopgap measure. Certainly, Christian love would call for your pastor’s input on any discussion of reducing his salary and benefits. Your congregation wants to be mindful of this biblical instruction: “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching” (1 Timothy 5:17).

I encourage you to cast this anxiety (1 Peter 5:7) on the Lord in prayer and dismiss your worries. Be concerned, yes, but don’t cross the line into worry. God can “do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20). God bless you and your congregation.