Few things are as treasured as a church’s vision. We pray for vision because without it, our people perish. When we have a clear, crisp and compelling vision, we ruthlessly fight for it. Pastors work very hard at communicating it. We pour it into our church attenders week-in and week-out and ask them to live it out.
I recently spoke with Mike Linch, the incredible senior pastor of NorthStar Church in Kennesaw, GA. on the subject of how church debt negatively impacts vision and the overall thinking of church leaders. Mike is a leader of leaders. Make sure to check out his podcast, Linch With A Leader Podcast. It will bless, encourage and equip you as a leader.
To provide a little background, INJOY Stewardship Solutions had the privilege of helping NorthStar retire a significant amount of its debt. When I asked Mike how lessening the burden of debt changed how he leads, he provided 18 facts about how church debt kills church vision. Before getting to his thoughts, if your church needs to retire debt, click HERE and download our FREE resource Slaying The Debt Monster.
- You Must Become Sick Of Debt And What It Does To Your Church To Pay It Off – When asked why they finally did a debt retirement capital campaign, Mike said, “We got sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
- Paying Off Debt Requires A Unique Vision – Because debt is not something people get excited about paying off, you must cast vision of what is on the other side of the debt.
- Paying Off Debt Creates Unique Opportunities For Your Church – Mike told me if the debt was retired, “They could change the world.” And with how effective NorthStar’s ministry is, Mike is right.
- Tell Your Church Specifically What Is On The Other Side Of Debt – People give to vision. Mike said NorthStar’s vision of what was on the other side of debt was both specific and broad. They could plant churches, invest in missions, invest more in their community, and walk into other partner churches around the country and give them money to invest in their communities.
- Many Pastors Are Immobilized By The Size Of Their Debt – This is why many churches never start a capital campaign for debt. It simply looks insurmountable.
- Many Pastors Fear Paying Off Debt – Paying off debt is often not easy. Mike acknowledged a silent fear many pastors have. He said, “It looks awful when you fail.”
- Most People In Your Church Do Not Care About Your Church’s Debt – They have their own debt. Also, because we are in a consumeristic society if you give people good preaching, good music and good children’s and youth programming, they are just fine.
- Many Staff In Your Church Do Not Care About Your Church’s Debt – They are many times over-worked and underpaid. They are silently hoping you never ask them to sacrifice even more.
- Many Pastors Think People Will Not Respond – Therefore, they do not move forward with a debt retirement campaign. Mike said, “We lived in fear. People don’t give to debt.”
- Pastors And Church Leaders Must Finally Come To Grips With How Much Debt Is Killing Their Ministry – In a defining moment of clarity, Mike told the story of his former executive pastor walking into a staff meeting and saying, “We give the bank almost one week’s offering every month.”
- Debt Has One Answer To Any Question You Ask – NO!!! – Many times NorthStar wanted to do things, and the bank said “No!” When I talk to churches, it is like I hear banks say, “You want to build to reach more people – NO! You want to hire new staff – NO! You want to give money away to those who are hurting – NO! NO! NO!” Debt’s only answer to pastors and church leaders is “No!”
- People Follow The Pastor’s Lead When Paying Off Debt – So be encouraged. Mike said, “People get excited when you’re excited. When I got fired up, they got fired up.”
- Pastors Must First Get Their Leaders On Board To Pay Off Debt Successfully – Mike did a brilliant thing. When he had had enough and was ready to retire the debt, he first met with 30+ entrepreneurial leaders in the church. They discussed whether to pay off debt or look at other options. Each and every leader said, “Pay off the debt.” His leaders were on board and ready to help.
- Paying Off Debt Gives You Vision – This was my most significant take away from speaking with Mike. I asked how retiring such a substantial amount of debt affected him as a pastor and how he leads. Mike said, “I have vision again. It’s hard to build new dreams when debt is your reality.” There is an inverse relationship between debt and vision. As debt decreases, vision increases. As debt increases, vision decreases.
- Paying Off Debt Gives Your Church A Sustainable Future – Mike said, “I feel like when my tenure is done, two years, ten years, 20 years, NorthStar will now be set up for the next guy.” For my money, please make it 20 years!
- Because Of Exponential Growth Sometimes Responsible Capital Debt Is Necessary – Going back 15-20 years, the church had to build because of its exponential growth. Mike noted, “Not one penny of debt would we redo, but we were stuck with it.”
- Debt Is Often A Result Of Impatience – Mike remembered, “We were like a young couple building the house their parents were living in.” To which I responded, “Yeah, but to be fair, you were like a young couple who after being married for two years adopted 2,000 children. You needed a much bigger house.”
- Be Prepared For Two Capital Campaigns – One For The Building, One For The Remaining Debt – So have a multiple campaign strategy. Mike broke down the communication strategies for each. He said, “Give the vision for the future building then give the vision (in the second campaign) for what’s on the other side of the debt.”
I can’t thank Mike enough for his transparency. Because he loves pastors and church leaders so much, he graciously shared NorthStar’s story of its successful debt retirement.
If your church has debt it needs to retire, download Slaying The Debt Monster ebook HERE.