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Call to Worship (Mission)

There are many different strands that make up the tapestry of church life. Two key aspects are those of mission and worship. Thinking about the amount of effort and resources that go in to the various aspects of church life, it is very clear to me that a major area of resourcing in the life of church is that of Sunday worship. It is an aspect of church life that dominates the weekly activity of both the paid ministry and also the expectations and life of the lay people.

One way of making a judgement of appropriate resourcing is to convert the resources invested to a dollar amount. We can then judge whether that activity is as valuable as the resource investment.

How do we cost the weekly investment in worship? We can begin by considering the actual costs of the hour to two hours that the people spend together worshipping God. Depending on the service, these costs may include things such as heating, lighting, refreshments, electricity and wear and tear on equipment and building.

Is this a true costing of worship?

The largest thing that we have left out is the cost of people running the service. A paid ministers salary may be in the order of $48,000 per year in costs to the churches budget. But that is only the beginning of the cost of having a paid minister. On-costs such as superannuation, workers compensation, office facilities and staff development add significantly more to this cost. In some industries, the accepted rule of thumb for calculating on-costs is to multiply the base salary by 2.50.

$48,000 x 2.5 = $120,000

Depending on the worship delivery model, whether a traditional worship delivery model, in which the Minister does most things, or a modern worship delivery model in which many people take part in delivering that worship, the investment by the paid ministry varies. I would expect, depending on the ability of the Minister, the delivery model, and the quality of the worship, for the paid minister involved in worship to invest somewhere between a day and a half to three and a half days in providing that worship. On a six-day week that is a direct cost to the church of between $30,000 and $70,000 per year.   A weekly cost of between $577 and $1346 per week.

$120,000 / 52 = $2307 per week

$2307 x 1.5 / 6 = $577 (1.5 days per 6 day week on worship)

Even in traditional worship delivery models, there are other people involved in worship beyond the paid minister. At the minimum that tends to be an organist and ushers. In a modern worship delivery model you may have worship leaders, musicians, sound technicians and a variety of other people involved. In most cases these people are unpaid, however since the church is largely an organisation made up of people giving to God, their efforts should be costed. Their time and energy is part of the total resources of the kingdom of God supplied by God to achieve its end.

Having said that, their effort is very difficult cost. In their paid work, they will be paid a variety of different hourly rates which don't necessarily reflect the value of their contribution during worship. In addition the amount of effort for a service will vary depending on delivery model and also size of the church. Large churches tend to have complex high-value but also high-cost worship.

The actual investment would have to be somewhere between a person day and several person weeks. Even if we costed this resource at a low level, (say $10 per hour), this effort will add another $80 minimum and perhaps as much as $1200 to the cost of delivery of the service.

8 hours @ $10 per hour = $80

For the people who are to come to experience the worship, the congregation, is it a benefit or an act of duty? We could argue that in some churches is definitely the latter. The reality is that in any service the congregation comes both to receive and also to give. In a commercial setting in the world, this kind of activity would be part of work. Once we consider the level of giving by the congregation in worship, multiplied by the number of people in anyone's congregation for cost is starting to get really high. A congregation size of seventy people during a 2 hour service, at a low salary rate ($10 per hour) produces a cost of $1400.

2 hours @ $10 per hour across 70 people = $1400

Worship tends to happen within a purpose-built building. The value of that building will vary between churches. A magnificent Gothic cathedral is priceless, I would argue an outback 20 seat clap board church, is also priceless but in a different way. Churches that are building today would tend to have a budget of somewhere over $1.5 million. What is the life of such a building? Modern commercial buildings, built using the same techniques tend to have a life of around 15 to 20 years. At the end of that time they either need to be replaced or have major refurbishment done. That gives a cost of depreciation of such a church building of $100,000 per year. A weekly cost of $1923.

$1,500,000 / 15 years = $100,000 per year depreciation

Of course, the church building is used for other things than worship. However it would be true to say that, a large amount of the cost is taken up in the worship area with such high cost items as seating, sound, audiovisual, and a broad expanse of roof. Even if we say that only 50% of the value of the building was placed into the worship area, that is a weekly cost of of almost $1000.

$100,000 x 50% = $50,000

$50,000 / 52 =  $962

Our example worship service is now costing us between $2680 and $4430. A yearly cost of between $139,360 and $230,360. There are many many assumptions that I have made in arriving at this figure, and each church will be different. However it gives us something to think about in terms of what we invest in worship on a weekly basis.

Minister's Salary

$577

$1346

Lay Leadership

$80

$1200

Congregation

$1400

$1400

Church Building

$962

$962

Total per week

$3018

$4908

Total per year $156,960 $255,216

I am sure that anyone who has ever seen a church budget will be asking how come this is more than the total income of that church? Church budgets tend not to include allowance for depreciation. When a church needs a new building or refurbishment they undertake fundraising and/or then go into debt. In addition, the cost of the congregation's and lay leadership's time is generally not included because it is not directly paid for. I am taking a kingdom viewpoint though and if God has provided it, I need to account for it.

You can use the following calculator to change my assumptions to match your church. The total will be updated when you make a change and then click on another item.

 

Minister's Salary (yr):

On-Cost Multiple:

Minister's Time (hrs/wk):

Other's Time (hrs/wk):

Value of Other's time ($/hr):

Congregation Size:

Service Length (hrs):

Building Value ($):

Building Life (yrs):

Portion of Building for Worship (%):

Total:

The next question is whether a yearly investment of $156,988 or more is appropriate for worship. When making value decisions of this nature it is important to consider the often long lists of things we would like to or must achieve. The first step is to decide whether worship is a must have, want to have or even don't want to have.

When we consider christian values we immediately turn to the new Testament which defines what we should and shouldn't do. I attempted to find a direct command to worship. I found it very difficult. The nearest I came to it was a quote from Hebrews which says:

"not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the custom is with some; but encouraging one another and by so much the more as ye see the day drawing near." Heb 10:25.

There are plenty of references to how the church should worship. They range from the injunctions in 1Corinthians on the gifts of the Spirit in worship through to the statements by James and there is to be equality in the church and that we should treat all people the same in our worship. But there isn't any clear commandment apart from the Hebrews passage that we should worship.

Does this make worship a must have or want to have? The lack of direct commandment is in sharp comparison with the command that the church has to go out and make disciples.

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them to the name of the father, and the Son, and the holy spirit; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have enjoined you. And behold I am with you all the days, until the completion of the age." Mt 28:19ff.

The great commission is repeated several times and the outworking of that commission is not only modelled by Jesus but actively taught to the first disciples. I would suggest that mission is in the must have category. In comparison to resourcing of worship, the resourcing that the local church makes in mission is much less. In many cases churches do not have a budget item dedicated to mission. Some churches may have a budget item of 10 percent dedicated to various mission projects. They may also support various external missionaries. But the centrality, the resource dedication, the ongoing effort and focus is not equivalent to that of worship.

If a church has a mission program directed towards a group within the community, and that program does not occur on a weekly basis, what is the reaction of that church? Usually it is little more than the recognition that it didn't happen and life will continue as usual. Compare that with the impact of a church failing to have a worship service every Sunday. The worship service appears to be the primary activity and the most important thing in the life of the church.

I believe that if we are to be true to what God has commanded us then the church needs to place the same emphasis upon mission as it does on worship. This means that we expend the same effort, the same money and have the same focus on mission that we have on worship. This means that if mission doesn't happen on a weekly basis, then we should be as horrified, and has upset as if worship failed to occur on any given Sunday.

Why is it that mission struggles to get resourcing in our local churches, while worship rolls on sunday by sunday? Mission is hard, expensive and threatening. Worship fulfills us and personally costs us little. Are we to be the church generation that squandered the resources that God has given us on ourselves or the church generation that spends wisely in an investment in the kingdom.

Remember an army that is always on rest and recreation wins no wars!