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I think pastors are cheap

Yep, I said it. I think pastors and churches are cheap. Now, I am not saying all are, I know there are some churches that embrace change, lean into tough decisions and spend money when appropriate. But most pastors & churches are cheap. Did that offend you? Well let’s test it. How much did your church spend on the design of your website? Did it cost more than your lunch? More than a month worth of lunches? I doubt it. What causes this? Why are churches afraid to open up their spending for a meaningful tool that can impact people to call or visit on a Sunday? A tool that can be used for teaching. A tool that will allow pastors to connect to their congregation, or even better, let their congregation connect to them.

The poverty mentality.
I get it, pastors typically don’t make very much. Heck I have been there, I was making $500 a month as a youth pastor. Some pastors for years work two jobs just to keep their head above water. This mentality of pinching every penny has a trickle down effect to the church. Every area of ministry is under constant watch. Youth pastors have to dip into their own pockets for supplies. Look, I get it. Times are tough. But why not invest in something that could help bring more people into your church? Your website is an investment. It is a tool that can help spread God’s word and bring people into your church.

Let’s make a deal!
Let’s not. I get this question all the time from pastors and it goes something like this: “Hey love your work!” (It’s always good to butter someone up before asking them to take a pay cut apparently.) “I know your websites start at $XXXX, but I was wondering if you could fit our website in for $XXX?” This is a nice passive (it’s always an email) way for a pastor to ask me to take a pay cut on my next design. Whah? Really?

I would never ask my pastor to do a funeral or wedding at half his cost. I know that money goes and feeds his family. It pays the bills, he tithes on it, and he puts it back in the economy. So why is it OK for a pastor to ask me to cut my rate? Does this money not do the same thing? It pays my bills, it feeds my family, and I tithe.

Get the volunteer to do it.
Yes, everyone should be involved with their church. We should get involved and pursue the things God has called us to do. But when did God call the us to be used by the church to save money? I have been a part of churches (and sat in meetings) that have called people to serve their church, uncover their talents, and use their talents for the benefit of the church, until that person is burnt out or quits. This is not good.

When it comes to church websites this is really bad. Most often when I take on a church project, I am taking on combining content and systems from the last 3 “volunteer” website guys. Sometimes it just better to pay someone to do it right the first time.

So where do we go from here?
I’m not sure yet. I wanted to get you to think about the motives of why you are being cheap. Is it out of necessity? Or is it just because you’re cheap?

12 replies on “I think pastors are cheap”

However, a problem we run into is that we think money will do things for us that it cannot, and should not. There are too many examples of churches spending so much money on things that focus on our cheap spirituality.

I struggle with the fact that I can pay way more for my website, light bill and cleaning supplies than I do to bring the good news to the poor and letting the oppressed go free.

So, I look at Paul’s words in Philippians. It is a true stewardship testimony:
“I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

That is Paul’s way of saying I am going to be able to preach the Gospel, not because of a bigger budget or even because of a frugal attitude, but because Christ strengthens me to do the work.

Thanks for your post. I appreciate your website. Stay blessed…john

@ John

Thanks for the comments! I hear you. We are all called to preach the Gospel, to tell people about Jesus. I love Paul’s words here a little further on in Philippians:
“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. ”

My point with the post is that I think often times pastors use their poverty mentality to cut a deal for themselves or their church. (I get asked all the time for a discount, and it’s always a pastor.) I appreciate a good deal every now and then, but at the cost of what? I don’t ask a plumber for a discount because I make less than him. He has a family to feed and his skills are what God has given him to provide.

God bless,

Jesse

A nice quick read about a long-discussed topic. Thanks for your post, Jesse.

Volunteerism is the pocket my situation falls into. And one that is mentioned in your post. At times, I look at the past state of the church’s website and think, “man, that was really cheesy,” or “who in the world is this attractive or interesting to?” But then, in cautious humility, I look at the current state of the church’s website and its ministry (now my responsibility), and I know full-well that the guy who follows me is going to have a better, more advanced skill set. That’s just the way it goes, I think. A natural progression that is healthy in the long run.

In the short run, I wholeheartedly agree with your statement of how it goes when you have to come in behind the last 3 volunteer web guys. It’s a mess. Nobody understands or really cares why – they just want it to be better.

In God’s service, herein lies the opportunity!

Scott
http://www.safehouseweb.com

John,

This is a very thought-provoking post.  I don’t know that there is a single answer.

One reason might be that people don’t understand the time that goes into web design (or, most computer work for that matter).  I can throw together a Word document or an email or even a Power Point in less than an hour or so.  It’s hard to explain how a website is different.  Furthermore, a website is not tangible.  It’s easy to pay for remodeling because we can touch and feel the end result.  Even plumbing or A/C work, we see parts replaced and hear the clanging of the work being done.  Even when I am doing the work, I easily underestimate the effort required to make something happen on the computer be it coding, installation, etc.

Another reason is that we don’t necessarily see it as an investment, but just a requirement.  Every church has to have a website.  How can we get one to qualify without paying too much?

Those who do see it as an investment need to measure it’s performance.  Why would I make an investment and not know the return on my investment?  Measuring performance in terms of bringing people to our church and to Christ is hard for a website.  If you hear visitors mention that they heard about your church from the website, that helps.  But, when you are budgeting to put up a website, it’s hard to predict or gauge the return.

Now, the problem our church has is different.  We spent $3,000 on a company to design our website, and it isn’t working for us.  The design uses 90% images with hardly any text and no headings.  We rank horribly in Google’s search results, and I don’t think anyone is looking at our site.  We also pay at least $30 a month for the hosting service.  In the investment thought process, it seems we are loosing.

On the flip side, I have paid $77 for a year of hosting for my personal site.  I found a free template for WordPress as my “website design”.  Why can’t our church do that?

I completely understand your concept of volunteer work and having to merge multiple half-hearted attempts.  I fall in that category of the volunteer.  My hope is that I can document my work (on the site on some hidden pages to keep it all together), and I want to try to get one or two other people involved so it is not completely dependent upon me.  Worst case, I am hoping that the church could pay for a consultant or designer who knows WordPress or Joomla to maintain and tweak.

Am I am thinking right?  Do you have thoughts/suggestions?

Thanks,

Stephen

Woah Stephen! I am not sure how I missed this great post!

I think one of the difficult parts for churches is knowing how to higher a designer, or design team. You are correct, just because you invest in a $3000 site, doesn’t mean you are going to get that value back. It’s on us as designers and developers to make sure our clients are getting that value back.

Web design has little to do with graphics, or art. Web design should focus on goals, and have a plan. 

I don’t think there is anything wrong with buying a church template for WordPress. Heck, I love the stuff they are doing over at http://churchthemes.net. But the question is, what is your goal. Do you have a plan? AND is your church willing to invest in someone who can help you execute that plan?

My business clients expect this from me: Can Jesse deliver on the goal? Can he develop a plan for us? THAT is where the real investment is.

These are all great questions to ask! 

Sometimes small churches have enough to pay the rent and the preacher preachs for free.  I would say 20-30% of most churches in the US are small have no finances. So the little they have IE money for a new roof. But I believe in investiment. If the monies are there. I would reverse this. It’s easy to shoot off our mouths and slight the preacher and the churches that have very limited income. But I would put you to the test if you create a website and it doesn’t get hits then I’d calll the writer of this article a Charleton to sucker churches into spending money they don’t have and then take there money and disappear in the night.
I have a church website andd I have business sites. Ecommerces sites and regular Html sites. My Html site I built for my construction company is nice simple about 6 pages. Has allot of hits and works. So I’m not saying websites are not good but according to the finances. And all this well if they had faith stuff. Yes but it sounds more like prosperity preaching (if you were right you’d have the money stuff) and deeming anyone thats not into the worldly message to be belittled so you can sell websites

Hey there,

Thanks for your comment. While I understand your reasoning, I still disagree. I am not saying that every church is cheap. What I am really saying is that churches need to put value behind their church website. To execute their website with purpose and vision, just like any other ministry.
Now the topic of churches having their pastors work for free is another issue, and not really in the scope of this site. But, I believe Paul was very clear in addressing this with the church and telling us to pay our pastors.

The reality here is that you can find a great church website starting at $500. I will also always encourage churches to compensate their staff for the time they invest working on their site, rather than asking them to work for free.

Your youth pastor’s job is being a pastor. Hire someone to do your do your website.

Jesse

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