There may be those who hold the opinion that the work of the pastor is entirely divorced from anything that savors of secular business, yet it is an accomplished fact that he who is not a good businessman cannot adequately discharge his responsibilities as pastor of a church.
Still, the pastor must guard himself against the opposite extreme of continually waiting on tables to the detriment of his more spiritual duties. It is possible to be a good business executive and yet fail in supplying the care and nutriment that will make the members of his congregation fit subjects for heaven.
We as pastors must find, then, the mean between these two conflicting ideas. It should be made clear that the pastor can be responsible for the business of his church without attending to every detail of each transaction himself.
A pastor opening up the Lord's work in a new place, or finding the work decidedly growing in a place where the church is already firmly established, will be supervising to a large extent the construction of a church building. He will have a contractor if the edifice is to be a large one, but it will still be necessary to inspect the work from time to time in order to ensure that the very best building for the price paid is obtained.
There have been numerous instances where shoddy work and failure to give supervising attention to detail have resulted in a church building's not being entirely satisfactory. Though the pastor may not lay the brick or put on the laths himself (which, if the church is being built by the volunteer labor of his parishioners, would not be at all out of place), yet he should not let his more spiritual responsibilities be excluded by the temporal pressures. While building is in progress the pastor must keep close to the project, and for those of us who are under such pressures these words have particular meaning: "It is just as essential to do the will of God when erecting a building as when taking part in a religious service."—Christ's Object Lessons, p. 350.
A well-built and conveniently arranged church building is essential, and future growth and success is bound up with it, yet the pastor's responsibility does not end here. Proper maintenance of the church property, which includes the building (and all equipment housed therein) and the grounds, must also be considered. More than one well-constructed church building has left the wrong impression on visitors because it was improperly maintained. Dusty pews and dirty windows are not good propaganda for Christianity.
Granted that the pastor is not the janitor, yet it is his responsibility to see that all is clean and tidy within the house of God. Should he fail in this respect, he will find himself and platform guests dusting the platform seats while the congregation looks on. The minister who makes gentle, and, of course, tactful suggestions to his caretaker will usually find the wheels will run more smoothly. If the church is not large and there is no regular janitor, the cleaning of the church may be left to the voluntary services of the church members. In such a case he will need to exercise even more care and tact in supervision.
Then there is the matter of church building renovations, repairs, and replacement of worn equipment; these also should come under the pastor's watchful eye. He should be the first to notice that the organ wheezes, or that an electric lamp needs replacement. Perhaps there is a leak in the roof or a hole in the carpet. A windowpane has been broken by a carelessly thrown stone, and the front door sticks. With but little more time involved than it takes to jot down the memorandum of a sharp observation, he can see that such matters are brought before those concerned. It is well if he notices such matters before the members of his congregation have them called to their attention by casual visitors. Unaccustomed eyes see what is sometimes oblivious to the regular attendant.
Let me emphasize here that the pastor should occasionally look outside his church as well as in. The exterior appearance of the building and the landscaping or lack thereof can tell for or against the church communion. The pastor will remember that a little prompting is usually what is needed to keep the lawn mowed at regular intervals, and the flower beds and shrubbery in proper condition.
Now let us leave the physical aspects of a pastor's business responsibilities, and go to those that concern the proper balance of his church as a corporate body. He will, of course, hold church board meetings at regular intervals. Let him not deceive himself into thinking that the church board will do the work connected with the business of the church without any assistance on his part. Before a pastor goes before his board, he should have the business to be considered well organized, as to both content and order. He will ask for "other business," but he must remember that the board is only the crew that assists in the operation of the ship, and that he is the captain that charts out the course.
Matters of expense—for minor repairs perhaps—will be presented to, and will always receive the sanction of, the board before such expenditures are made. Regularly recurring bills, such as for electricity, heat, janitor's services, piano maintenance, et cetera, are generally understood to be paid by the treasurer, without board sanction for each transaction. Occasionally there will be times when the pastor should authorize the expenditure of funds for some emergency, with the expectation that the board will approve his action at its next meeting. Pastors should be sure that such irregularities are emergencies, and that they are the exception rather than the rule. The board will usually respect his judgment.
A church in which the pastor does not promote the tithes and offerings will soon fall short in its benevolences. The tithes and offerings constitute the financial income of the church, in both its local and universal aspects. With these the pastor must be definitely concerned. Though the tithe is not directly for the use of the local church, this should not lessen the ardor of the pastor's preaching concerning it. Once or twice a year is not too often to preach on this vital principle. Of course, in his visitation the pastor will speak of the blessings of tithing to his parishioners as opportunities present themselves.
The pastor will find a plan for church expense that will be best adapted for his particular church. A careful study of the monthly report of the church finances as submitted by the treasurer will reveal the weak points in the church's monetary system. Some use only the regular offerings for church expense, but usually there are so many calls for special offerings of one kind or another that the actual offerings devoted to church expense are not many. If this be the only plan, the treasury is likely to grow lean. The pastor might encourage the making of pledges; problems in connection with this are that the collection of pledges is not always easy—in fact, can cause some friction between pastor or treasurer and members—and, at best, the income is irregular.
The wisest plan seems to be a percentage of salary plan. One, two, and three per cent have all been used. The pastor will study the matter with the church board and choose whatever plan works best in that particular church, always remembering that it is easier to keep up to a budget than to make up a deficit. And incidentally, there should always be a budget.
Last, but by no means least, what about the pastor as a counselor to the members of his flock regarding business matters? With but one exception, as noted in the following paragraph, here is ground where pastors should fear to tread. The pastor who makes it a rule not to give advice on personal business ventures will be blessed indeed; at least he will not often be blessed if he does. Should the business affair turn out unsuccessfully, the individual quite naturally discredits the source of his advice. Too often the opinion is not limited to the business acumen of the pastor, but to his spiritual spheres as well. The pastor is not a professor of economics, nor should he pose as one. He is a teacher of the gospel, and business advice is often better if meted out by those more qualified than himself and not entrusted with the preaching of salvation.
There are exceptions however. At times mature, sound-thinking members of his church will come to the pastor for advice regarding their wills and legacies. Here the pastor has a definite duty, one which, if rightly used, will be the means of bringing great good to the church. There are many who should be leaving larger amounts of their properties for the use of the church. Let the pastor, tactfully and fairly, guide the would-be benefactors, and the church at large will benefit thereby. The pastor himself will be benefited, but in a spiritual sense only.
These, then, comprise what might be called a gist of the responsibilities of the pastor in church business matters. They are by no means to be considered comprehensive, yet they can open up to the mind the great need and untold opportunities awaiting the pastor who is willing to consecrate, and use, his business ability for the advancement of God's cause. To be diligent in business one does not need to lack spiritual power. The Lord says, "It is required of stew. ards that they be found trustworthy" (1 Cor. 4:2, R.S.V.).