Rev. Matthew Garred, Pastor at Our Redeemer Church in Solon, Ohio, offers a list of money saving ideas that congregations might consider to stretch financial resources especially during these difficult economic times.

I realize that nothing here is an earthshaking revelation. Let's face it, we all face similar expenses, and many of those expenses are not easily or painlessly changed. Most of these ideas save relatively small amounts of money, but when taken together they cut around $23,000 annually from the expenses at Our Redeemer - Solon.

  1. Evaluate the effectiveness of long - standing ministry efforts, and cut ineffective practices. (We eliminated our mailings to new residents of the area, a practice for many years, but from which we have seen little to no response in recent years. We've also cut newspaper advertising for the same reason. Instead, we are focusing more on our website.)
  2. Distribute monthly newsletter to members by e-mail and publish our newsletter on our website. Save postage and printing costs. Provide the newsletter in full color. We still print a few copies by request of those who want them.
  3. E-mail pre-school newsletters and many of the forms required for registration and enrollment in our pre-school.
  4. Have a plant or an artificial flower arrangement available for any Sundays when altar flowers are not sponsored by members – or simply do without.
  5. Use bulletin covers printed in - house in black and white. Simple clip art may be used, or a creative member can dress up the front cover with some artwork.
  6. Distribute updated church directories by e-mail. Members can print if they want.
  7. Review fees charged for the use of facilities by community groups, if any. Make sure they at least cover the cost of lights, heat, cleaning, and other incremental expenses.
  8. Set thermostats a degree or two lower for heat, and higher for air conditioning. Most people have already done this at home anyway. Also dim slightly any lights that can be dimmed. But be careful, a dark, cold sanctuary is not the way to attract people to church.
  9. Replacing incandescent bulbs with CFLs saves energy, but remember, it will take time to recover the initial investment in the bulbs from the energy savings - especially in areas where they are only on for a few hours a week.
  10. Use e-mail or church mailboxes (if available) whenever possible to distribute information.
  11. Seek alternative telephone service providers and compare prices.
  12. Check for energy wasters (lights left on, drafts or air leaks that can be caulked, etc) Turn off PCs at night or when they won't be used for several hours.
  13. Do some comparison - shopping for items purchased regularly - especially if they've been bought from the same place for a long time just because it's easy or convenient.
  14. We stopped buying bagels and donuts for our fellowship time (the donut donations were covering only about 1/3 of the cost) and asked for volunteers to bring baked goods. We hoped for 16 volunteers (4 volunteers each Sunday, each one serving once a month). We've got 30 volunteers so far, and have better baked goods and more variety at the fellowship than when we were buying.
  15. If you have a mortgage, find out what options you may have for extending the amortization, or paying interest only for a while.
  16. Compare prices from different Natural Gas Suppliers-this could save several thousand dollars per year. If your building uses over 1000 mcf annually you may qualify for a lower commercial rate. Soon, you may be able to shop electric rates in a similar way if the regulatory changes go through as expected. The following consultant has negotiated significant savings ($3,000 $5000 annually) for a couple of the churches in the area:

    Gary Greulich, Partner
    North Shore Energy Consulting, LLC
    Phone - 330-807-4438
    Fax - 888-515-8150

    North Shore Energy Consulting

General Thoughts

  • Review every bill that comes in and ask yourself - is there a more cost effective way to accomplish the same thing?
  • Is there a less expensive way to purchase? Maybe by working together with another church or two to place a larger order for a discount?
  • Is there a less expensive vendor to purchase from?
  • Ask yourself before spending - is this necessary now? Could an expense be put off until better times without
  • it coming back to hurt us later. (Ex. Leaky roofs must be fixed or repair costs could escalate substantially. But we could skip spreading mulch on the flowerbeds around the church this year.)

Thoughts on the other side of the ledger: Income

  • Our congregation president made a very good presentation to our congregation explaining what our deficit was projected to be, what the leadership had done to cut expenses, and what would have to be done next (salary cuts) if all else stayed the same. He recognized that some had lost jobs or experienced cutbacks and were not able to give as much as they had before. He emphasized that no one has to pay to come to church, and that "If you can't contribute anything, we still want you here." Then he asked if those who were able would increase their giving to help the congregation through this difficult time. The response has been strongly positive.
  • Thrivent "Giving Plus." If you have a school or pre-school, see if there is a way this program can help you. Our pre-school pays "shared expenses" (rent) to the church. We are using this program to help make sure the pre-school makes its payment.