Four Million Dollars for the Church

October 15th, 2012

Last week one of our ministry strategists called me to share disturbing news about one of his clients. The pastor had just told him the church was notified they were the recipient of a 4 million dollar bequest. He was elated, but my strategist was very concerned. He explained that this church with about a $500,000 budget was about to go from a position of unity and strength to one of division and weakness. THEY HAVE NO ENDOWMENT POLICY!

He explained that as of now only a few church members know of the gift, but they are already in divided discussions on how best to use the money. They were preparing for a capital campaign to add on to this growing church and some want to cancel that immediately. They have some debt and others want to pay that off immediately. There are some more who want to place it into an endowment where none of the principal will be used. Then there is the group that feels that all of this must go to fund missions outside of the church. With about six people in the know, they have four different ideas of what should be done. This strong church is about to crack because of the wonderful generosity of a recently deceased member. How sad, yet how easily preventable!

If this church had an endowment policy in place then there would be no discussion. The money would all go to the endowment and be controlled by the policy on exactly how it would to be distributed. Good policies use percentages on return as statements on how interest is used. This way the church is protected whether the total in the endowment is 4 dollars or 4 million dollars. Templates on these policies are available from your denominational foundation or from Horizons Stewardship. They are simple and easy. They also can prevent a war in the church and help leadership maintain good stewardship practices from those presently there while maximizing ministry with the endowment proceeds.

Along with a sound endowment policy, every church needs a Gift Acceptance Policy to control what can be accepted and what cannot, and under what conditions a gift will be accepted. You want to see a good fight, let someone offer the pastor their "time share in Ethiopia" and the pastor say "NO" or you accept a nice corner lot that you find out later was a gas station and dry cleaners. After you accepted, it was declared a Superfund Site by the EPA. Guess who is responsible for the environmental cleanup? There goes the new sanctuary.

If your church does not have both of these documents in place right now, then immediately start making arrangements to have them in place within a month. Then when you get 4 million dollars you can truly celebrate a wonderful gift instead of worrying if your entire ministry is going to be washed away in a sea of dollars. It may be the first and last time you can say, "We would have had a wonderful ministry there, except we had too much money!"

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