Connecting Columbia Union Seventh-day Adventists

5 Ways for Church Institutions to Pay Down Debt

5 Ways for Church Institutions to Pay Down Debt

By Sam Belony

According to Allegheny East Conference pastors Norman K. Miles, PhD, and Roland J. Hill, DMin, it is important not only for individuals to pay down debt, but for institutions as well. “The goal is to get out of debt so we can provide more resources to the active work of the church, the ministries of the church,” says Miles, who pastors the Trinity Temple congregation in Newark, N.J.

Here are the steps the two leaders propose for institutions that have the hankering to burn their church mortgages:

1)    Develop a God-led vision.

“The first thing to do before you tackle any kind of problem is devote some time in prayer, and get some people praying with you,” says Pastor Miles. Pastor Hill concurs and adds, “Inspire people with the vision that God gives.”

2)    Exercise faith.

“I made clear to the people that vision is more than simply goals; it is not simply human calculations of future desires,” says Hill. “If God has given me the vision, then definitely He will give me the provision.”

3)    Develop a clear strategy.

“The third step in the process is to assemble a group of people that you really want to work on the problem,” suggests Pastor Miles. “Have them continue to devote themselves in prayer [while they] strategize in terms of how you can handle the debt, how you can break it up into manageable pieces. Also, ask people for ideas. It’s important that everybody understands what the goal is.” Pastor Hill adds, “Give a clear strategy of how you will achieve [the vision]. It’s not a guess work. And, it requires a financial plan.”

4)    Take austerity measures.

Pastor Miles recommends strict austerity measures for institutions trying to pay down a debt. He draws from past experiences. “When we were at Hyde Park church [in Chicago, we owed about $250,000 and decided to pay it off in a year. We looked at our income and decided that, for one year, everything that came in offering would be used to pay off the mortgage, with exception of what we needed for Sabbath School and to keep the utilities on. No department got any money for a year! And at the end of one year, we had paid off $210,000; it took another six months to pay the other $40,000.”

5)    Execute.

The last step is: Follow through! “It is one thing to talk,” says Pastor Hill, to give the people a vision, inspire them to have faith and to develop a strategy. “But, is it going to be done? You need to execute.” Paraphrasing a quote by Ellen White, he continues, “When you pray, get up off your knees and act as if your prayer has been answered.”


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