Everywhere I go, I run into pastors who complain about not having enough money. They can’t afford to go to a conference, take a course, or host an event. Many don’t even have a book allowance.
For every pastor who has succumbed to the excesses of the prosperity gospel, there are 100 (or 1,000) who hardly have enough money to function. That’s true for both their families and their congregations.
A scarcity mindset is an epidemic in too many churches. What is a scarcity mindset? A scarcity mindset is when everyone in an organization is pre-occupied with what they lack – be that time, money, staff, or other resources.
Scarcity mindsets fuel unhealthy cost-cutting competition within an organization and an obsession with numbers, penny pinching, and cutting corners.
Another way of referring to a scarcity mindset is a broke mindset.
The dominant mindset at too many churches is a broke mindset. And that’s just not frustrating; it’s killing the church’s potential and the future.The dominant mindset at too many churches is a broke mindset. Click To Tweet
I Understand Broke Mindset Personally
I started ministry at three little churches that struggled with a broke mindset.
Two churches had it, and the third was on the verge. When I started ministry, we were a young family with very little savings, two kids under five, and I had a salary that was technically just below the poverty line.
Fortunately, the church provided a housing allowance, and my wife worked part-time, so that helped, but we were still very much living paycheck to paycheck.
I got paid on the first of every month. For many months, though, the first of the month would roll by, and my monthly paycheck wouldn’t arrive.
I’d wait a day or two, and then call or drop by the accountant’s office to see if there was a mistake or if someone forgot, and then ask for it (we needed it).
If that wasn’t humiliating enough, the person in charge would often tell me that the check wasn’t ready and to come back in a day or two.
I don’t know what kind of power play that was, but I can promise you it’s made me 100% committed to this: That people I would eventually hire would make a living wage and get paid on time. No one should ever have to beg for a paycheck.
That and many other discussions around money in the church made me think through the difference between embracing a scarcity mindset and an abundance mindset.
So if your church struggles with broke thinking, I get it. It was a multi-year battle to rid our church of broke thinking and ensure that we didn’t veer into the excesses of the prosperity gospel either.
An abundance mindset is what most healthy leaders embrace. Don’t get me wrong – An abundance mindset still means you have constraints. You embrace super healthy constraints and veer away from the excesses and no-limits greed of the prosperity gospel.
But embracing an abundance mindset also frees you from the shackles of scarcity. Scarcity springs out of fear, and it generally means you eke out a meager existence that gets smaller every year.
The question is how do you break a broke mindset at your church? Here are five keys.An abundance mindset is what most healthy leaders embrace. Click To Tweet
1. Call Out and Stop The Broke Thinking that Masquerades as “Wisdom”
As soon as you start talking about money around the leadership table, some people will justify broke thinking by using phrases like “I’m just being…
- A good steward
The people in your church who most often say, “I’m just being responsible with money,” are usually not being responsible; they’re being cheap.The people in your church who most often say, "I'm just being responsible with money," are usually not being responsible; they're being cheap. Click To Tweet
Truly wise people realize that cutting costs isn’t the only goal. Sure, they’re not lavish with money, but they’re also not gripped by fear or small thinking.
The way to tell the difference between broke thinking and wisdom is simple: true scarcity mindset people are motivated by fear. They have one speed: Slow. And their default answer to spending money is “No.”
Recognizing broke thinking when you encounter it, calling it out, and naming it for what it is will help you make progress.The way to tell the difference between broke thinking and wisdom is simple: true scarcity mindset people are motivated by fear. They have one speed: Slow. And their default answer to spending money is "No." Click To Tweet
2. Get the Cheapskates Out of Leadership
Once you’ve learned how to spot broke thinking and a scarcity mindset, the next step is to get the cheapskates out of leadership.
Having cheapskates in senior leadership at a church is like having a car with brakes but no accelerator – You’re not going to get anywhere.
You definitely don’t want all yes people in your senior leadership circle. But even one cheapskate can ruin the vibe: Vision casting, dreaming, and imagining a better future become very difficult when you have one person who consistently shuts everything down.
It’s fantastic to have a prudent person in your senior leadership. But it’s almost always fatal to have a scarcity mindset person in your inner decision-making circle.
Once you craft a senior leadership team with people who think responsibly but abundantly, the vistas open.Having cheapskates in senior leadership at a church is like having a car with brakes but no accelerator: you're not going to get anywhere. Click To Tweet
3. Remember That Vision Precedes Resources
So, you’ve named the language that surfaces broke thinkers. You’ve gotten scarcity-mindset people out of senior leadership. What’s next?
Believe it or not, resources don’t magically appear overnight, but now you have a ground floor from which to build the future. And that starts by dreaming and casting vision together.
As much as leaders wish it were otherwise, vision precedes resources. Almost every successful start-up and church plant has a vision before it has people and resources. You’re no different.As much as leaders wish it were otherwise, vision precedes resources. Almost every successful start-up and church plant has a vision before it has people and resources. You're no different. Click To Tweet
So start with vision.
Vision answers the questions:
- What problem are we solving?
- What does a better future look like?
- What is it you feel called to accomplish?
Then, you’ll notice something: As the vision becomes clear and compelling, resources will start to come in.
If you wait for money to begin a new future, you’ll wait forever.
People give to vision more than they give to need. So start casting vision.People give to vision more than they give to need. So start casting vision. Click To Tweet
4. Invest Meaningfully in an Unlikely Place: Personal and Team Development
In growing churches, personal development is seen as an investment, not an expense. And it’s the last thing to get cut.In broke-mindset churches, personal and team development never makes it into an annual budget. And when it does, it's the first thing to get cut. Click To Tweet
Here’s why personal and team development matters so much: You can’t solve a problem with the same level of thinking that created the problem. You simply need to move to a new level of thinking, and that means you and your team need to think fresh thoughts.
As we moved scarcity mindset people out of leadership and began building a new team, we started investing in road trips, conferences, books, and coaching that helped us figure out how to build a new kind of church.
That helped pair a new vision with a fresh strategy. It turned hopes and dreams into a plan.
The senior leadership was kind enough to send my wife and me to a conference that was pivotal in our thinking, but we didn’t stop there. We put elders, staff, and volunteers on buses and went to conferences and visited successful churches together. I read as much as I could and connected with coaches and mentors.
Realizing that this took us years to develop as a church, I launched The Art of Leadership Academy for church leaders.
The Academy features eight courses on everything from preaching to team development to personal and team productivity strategies. Plus I host live monthly coaching calls, do all your staff training for you, and give you access to a community of over 1,500 other church leaders you can network with.
You get all of this for one, very affordable annual price. Think of it as the easiest, highest return personal and team development purchase you can make.
If you’re still struggling to get your elders to spend anything, my team and I created a proposal for the Academy you can bring to your board to convince them it’s worth the investment. When they say yes, you’ll have broken the ice on investing in your future.
5. Minimize Expenses. Maximize Investments
Embracing an abundance mindset doesn’t mean you can spend anything you want any time you want. That’s how you go broke (for real).
However, as a team start dividing your spending into two categories: expenses and investments.
Expenses are things that cost you money but don’t add much value. Sure, theoretically, everything adds some value or it wouldn’t be in your budget. But things like power bills, carpet, and flooring, or even a soundboard aren’t going to exponentially grow your ministry.
But people can. Skilled people can. Strategic people can. So can training, consulting, or even a move to a new facility can help grow your impact.
When you’re looking at spending your money, investing at least 20% of your budget in things that have the potential to produce a large return is worth it. And those should be the last things you cut.
You can usually find a lower price on googly eyes for the kids’ ministry. But you should pay your Next Gen director a generous living wage. She has the potential to see your kids min grow more than craft supplies ever could.
Invest wisely and generously. Handle expenses judiciously.
This will help position your church well for the future and ensure you don’t succumb to excess on all fronts.When it comes to spending at your church, invest wisely and generously. Handle expenses judiciously. Click To Tweet
Abundance v. Scarcity
Getting past broke thinking in your church is a transformative moment.
Abundance thinking focuses on what you can do. A scarcity mindset focuses on what you can’t do.
That’s the difference between having a future and not having much of one at all.Abundance thinking focuses on what you can do. A scarcity mindset focuses on what you can't do. That's the difference between having a future and not having much of one at all. Click To Tweet