Manage Your Church for Financial Success by Dave Marples

Manage Your Church for Financial Success
by Dale Marples

Dave MarplesDale Marples and his wife, Betty Jo, are ordained through Rhema Bible Training Center and had been pastors for 24 years before retiring in 2010. They pioneered 3 churches during that time. Dale has a degree from the University of Nebraska in Business Administration and Finance. After serving as an officer and pilot in the U.S. Air Force he became a National Bank Examiner and Executive Officer in banking for 25 years. Dale also was Director of Treasury and Budget for the Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association for several years.

Today Dale has a consulting company, CFO Omaha, Inc., which provides financial management solutions for companies and churches and prepares business plans and financial proposals. He has also developed a financial seminar for pastors, staff members and church boards entitled "Church Finances 911" which is designed to enable church leaders to be good stewards of the finances that have been entrusted to them and to establish a financially sound and stable church.

Contact Information:
(402) 502-2255

Church FinancesAs the pastor of a church, you are the spiritual leader for preaching the Word and ministering to the congregation. You are also the CEO of a business. God called you to the ministry, but you inherited the CEO responsibility. In Bible School you were taught the Word and how to minister the Word but the financial management of the church was not part of the curriculum. This is not a criticism of the Bible School because they only have so much time to teach and the priority is the Word, which it should be.

Today I want to spend a little time sharing about your responsibilities to “manage the church for success.” The world is looking for success. Business managers are spending time and money going to management seminars. They want to be successful in their business careers and are looking for others who have that same drive. If we in the church can demonstrate that we also are managing for success, we can reach our community.

There are two primary ways that the community will judge the church. One of those ways is your facility. So what does a successful church look like to the world?  On the exterior, it would be a facility that has curb appeal, properly landscaped and well maintained. If you are in a strip shopping center, you are more restricted, but your signage and front entrance should be professional and neat. Does it look like a place where they would want to bring their family and friends?  When they walk in, is it clean, orderly and friendly?

The second way the community will judge the church is how the finances are managed. If you have a reputation of always paying all of the bills on time, the community will speak well of you, but if the finances are not handled properly and the bills are not paid on time, you will not have a good reputation. I was Director of Treasury for a large national ministry. Every bill that came in was paid before it was due because the head of the ministry said he never wanted to be out in the community and someone asks him why he didn’t pay his bills. That is the way you show that the church is successful.

Everything I have said takes money. You may be thinking, with the vision God has given me, I need a supportive staff. Then there are the children and youth and elderly programs, outreach & missions programs, and it goes on-and-on. You have a passion to reach your community, nation and world with the Gospel. Then there is also the expense of maintaining the facility. The pressure of all this is a distraction for doing the work of the ministry.

So how do you balance the needs for ministry programs and the physical maintenance of your facility? Simply by planning and managing.

The very first part of managing starts with having a plan. In the financial world that is called a budget. If you have been the pastor of a church for a year or two, you have your past financial history from which to build a budget. When starting a new church, it is more difficult because you don’t know how many people will come to the church and how that growth will lay out chronologically. Whichever church you pastor, an annual budget is necessary and each year requires you to prepare a new budget.

Preparing a budget is not an impossible task. When you look at the whole, that may be the impression, but take it one piece at a time and break it down into workable tasks. From last year’s history you know how much money came in. So for this year’s budget, determine how much that will increase based on the outreach work you will do. Then look at each expense. Ask, will that increase this year or stay the same or can I reduce it? By this time you should have God’s Plan for the New Year. Are there some activities not to be repeated this year and are there others that will be added?  Before I was a pastor, I had been on church boards and there was always someone, which on the first budget draft, if the expenses exceed income they just wanted to raise the income to balance it. That is setting the church up for failure. Every item you put into the budget has to have a justification for the dollar value you assign to it. Once you have the budget prepared, you move into the management phase.

The first step in managing your budget is prayer. You need God’s help in reaching the financial goals and His wisdom on managing the income. Each month, review your budget. Did your income match your budget?  If not, why?  How about your expenses? Are they in line with what you planned?  Maybe you need to make some changes in your spending priorities. Success is all in managing your resources so that you don’t over-extend your church financially. Of course, faith comes into the management but don’t commit to go beyond your faith. Brother Hagin used to say you can’t believe for a new suit if you can’t believe for a pair of socks.

Having been a pastor for 24 years, I know the responsibilities you have of praying and preparing to minister to your flock. As the pastor you have not been called to be all things to everyone, so don’t pressure yourself to be that. There is nothing wrong with being yourself. If finances is not your thing, then look for someone in your church to help you. If there isn’t anyone available, you may need to go outside of your church and find a professional to do your finances. This is not a suggestion but a firm statement that you must manage your church finances for success. The responsibility stays with the pastor, but who does the work is your decision. Always remember you are the spiritual leader of the church but are also the CEO.

How you handle the church finances is a witness to the people in your church and community. By placing qualified people to assist you in managing your church finances you can establish a sound financial base for the church. Then, manage it, and manage it for success.


This article is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is shared with the understanding that neither the author nor Tony Cooke Ministries is engaged in rendering legal, accounting, psychological, medical or other professional services. Laws and regulations are continually changing, and can vary according to location and time. No representation is made that the information herein is applicable for all locations and times. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought.

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