Interview With Thomas E. Trask
Management: the Other Side of Pastoral Ministry, Part Two
In part two of our interview, Thomas Trask talks about the other side of pastoral ministry and offers keen insight into three more areas of church management: finances, legal risk, and facilities and property. (Read Part One of this interview.)
What are some legal ramifications a local church faces today that are perhaps greater than in the past?
Trask: With the problems the Catholic church is having with child molestation, checking the backgrounds of paid staff and volunteers is mandatory, especially in the areas of counseling, children, and youth. When parents entrust their children into the care of the church, the church must make sure there is not something in a worker’s background that will bring harm to individuals and liability to the church. We must take necessary precautions. A pastor should never place himself or anyone else in danger.
In regard to financial matters, as a nonprofit corporation, pastors must obey the laws of the land and never bring shame on the gospel through mishandling finances. Scripture teaches that we are not above civil law and to obey those over us. Our Christian testimony is more effective when we obey the law.
Managing church properties and facilities is time consuming. How can pastors handle these areas?
Trask: A pastor without a paid staff member who oversees facilities can assign a facility portfolio to a board member. Then that board member has the oversight and responsibility to see that the church properties are maintained. This board member can bring the facility needs to the board and let the board act upon those needs.
What impact does the condition of the church property and facilities have on the community?
Trask: The condition of our facilities says that we are diligent and care about the house of the Lord or we are slothful and careless. If the lawn isn’t taken care of or the restrooms aren’t clean, these things make a profound statement. When I go to a church, I can tell whether that church is concerned about its property by how well it is maintained both inside and outside. This doesn’t mean the building has to be the newest. But the church must be clean, and that costs very little.
Some feel we place too much emphasis on buildings when we could be doing more for people and missions. How do we balance that?
Trask: We are not going to be able to do much for missions if we don’t take care of the entity that is responsible for providing missions—the local church. If the local church doesn’t take care of its facilities and take care of the flock, it is not going to have opportunity to take care of missions. It would be a mistake for a congregation to send all its resources to missions and not take care of the local church.
Two sources of church income are tithes and offerings. Discuss the purpose of each.
Trask: The church needs to be supported by the tithes and offerings of its people. The church should not look to the world to support it. God has given that responsibility to the local church. If our people will tithe, two things happen: they are blessed and the church is blessed. Then there will be sufficiency.
Tithing is not an Assemblies of God principle; it’s God’s principle. When a church and its people are generous, the Scripture says that it brings God’s blessing on them individually and corporately. Generous giving needs to be taught regularly and practiced by all, starting with leadership.
Another source of income is offerings. Many times offerings, given above tithes, are used for missions, and other outreach ministries. The tithe is for the maintenance of the church and leadership salaries.
What should be our response to the person who says he cannot afford to tithe?
Trask: Tell him he can’t afford not to tithe. A person who does not tithe removes himself from under God’s blessing. Scripture calls a person who doesn’t tithe a thief. Such a person has stolen from God. Nobody wants to be found in that position. If you give God His portion, He will make the nine-tenths go farther than the ten-tenths.
Who should determine how the finances of the church are disbursed?
Trask: First, the pastor needs to know how money is being spent, but he should not be handling the finances. A church needs to require two signatures on each check. If the pastor is one of the designated people to sign the check, then he needs to have somebody else—the treasurer or another board member—signing as well.
There must be an accounting for the church’s finances at the monthly board meeting. There also needs to be an annual audit so the people know that the money they gave was handled properly and that there is financial accountability. This honors the congregation. It isn’t our money; it’s their money. It isn’t our church; it’s their church. When everything is done above board, there are no secrets. Openness in handling finances is healthy for a congregation.
What is the role of the church treasurer?
Trask: The church treasurer is simply the custodian of the funds. The treasurer, along with the church board and senior pastor, is responsible for making financial decisions. When it comes to major decisions—purchasing property or building facilities—these matters need to be brought before the whole congregation. If the people of the church are involved in the process, then they will support the final decisions with their finances.
What advice would you give a church that has a mortgage?
Trask: There is nothing wrong with having a mortgage. The key is that you don’t overextend yourself so all your resources are going toward the mortgage payment. Here is a good rule of thumb that many organizations recommend. Allocate one Sunday’s income per month for debt retirement or mortgage, and give three Sunday’s income for ministry, salaries, and facilities, etc. I always tried to be careful over the years never to put my congregation into an indebtedness that required more than one Sunday’s tithes and offerings.