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Sacred Space for Growth: The Vital Role of Margin in Church Life

A group of smiling people in casual attire sharing water bottles on a sunny suburban street, exemplifying community fellowship.
Cultivating margin allows our church to not just plan, but also to participate and provide, turning everyday moments into opportunities for outreach and connection. (c) Joy Church App

The concept of maintaining a "margin" is often associated with business models or personal life management, but it is equally applicable and crucial for churches. A margin is essentially the room or capacity to handle more than just the day-to-day operations; it's what allows a church to be proactive rather than reactive, visionary rather than just operational. For churches, maintaining a margin in resources—be it time, money, or human capital—is critical to fulfilling their spiritual mission and responsibilities to their congregants.

Why Margin Matters for Churches

Creating Space for Spiritual Nourishment

Churches serve as beacons of spiritual guidance, and having a margin ensures that they remain places where individuals can find solace and growth. By not being overstretched, churches can provide high-quality spiritual services, from thoughtfully prepared sermons to attentive pastoral care and enriching community programs.

Readiness for the Unexpected

The ability to respond to unforeseen events is a practical aspect of stewardship. Maintaining financial reserves and resource margins means that when emergencies strike, whether they are maintenance issues or support for congregants in crisis, the church can respond promptly and effectively. For tools on how to create fiscal resiliency in your Church, see The Importance of Being a Proper Steward of Church Resources.

Supporting Outreach Efforts

Margins enable churches to reach out and serve. This might mean stepping in during community crises, supporting missionary endeavors, or fostering local partnerships that align with the church's mission. A margin ensures these efforts are sustainable and not at the expense of the church’s primary functions.

Fulfilling Congregational Duties

A church’s role in meeting the diverse needs of its members is paramount. With a proper margin, a church can provide for its congregation's spiritual education, offer robust support systems, and maintain community service initiatives, all of which contribute to a holistic church experience.

Practical Steps for Creating Margin

Budgeting Wisely

A well-structured budget is the first step in creating financial margin. Churches need to develop a comprehensive budgeting plan that accounts for all their regular expenses, including staff salaries, utility bills, maintenance costs, and program funding. It’s crucial to be as detailed as possible to avoid unexpected shortfalls.

Churches should aim to live beneath their means, which involves not only careful spending but also strategic planning. This means prioritizing essential expenditures and cutting down on non-essential costs. Regular financial reviews can help identify areas where costs can be reduced without impacting core church activities.

Setting aside a portion of their income for future investments or unforeseen challenges is crucial. This reserve fund can be a lifesaver in times of unexpected expenses, such as emergency repairs or supporting community members in crisis. A general guideline is to reserve a certain percentage of the church’s income, though the specific amount can vary based on the church's size and financial situation.

Additional Considerations:

  • Implementing Financial Management Tools: To aid in budgeting, churches can utilize various financial management software, like Joy Church App, designed for non-profits or religious organizations. These tools can help track income, manage donations, and generate detailed reports.

  • Educating Church Leaders and Members about Financial Stewardship: It’s important to cultivate a culture of financial responsibility within the church community. Workshops or seminars on financial stewardship can be beneficial for both church leaders and congregants.

  • Regular Financial Audits: Conducting regular audits can help maintain transparency and trust within the church community regarding financial matters. It also ensures that the church is complying with financial regulations and best practices. You can download a step-by-step guide to church audits and either run your own audit or use it as a guide for third party help.

Time Management

  • Effective time management is crucial for every aspect of church operations. Whether it's the pastor's time for sermon preparation, administrative staff managing day-to-day tasks, or volunteers' time for community outreach, well-managed time schedules contribute significantly to the efficiency and effectiveness of the church's mission. In Time Management 101 For Busy Church Leaders, it is suggested that, "The most important thing you can do to better manage your time is to schedule rest. This includes allowing time for small breaks during the day, as well as time completely away from work. A workday break could be anything from a stroll around the block for some fresh air, to a 10-minute power nap, to standing up and stretching at your desk. If you do these small things regularly throughout the week, you’ll notice a huge difference in your energy levels and physical wellbeing."

  • For pastors, allocating dedicated time for sermon preparation is essential. This ensures that they can develop thoughtful, impactful sermons without being rushed. Setting aside specific hours each week can help maintain a consistent quality in spiritual teachings.

  • Administrative tasks should be streamlined and possibly automated. Utilizing church management software, like Joy Church App, can significantly reduce the time spent on administrative duties, freeing up staff to focus on more strategic tasks.

  • Volunteer time is especially precious. Clear communication of expectations and schedules helps maximize the impact of volunteers. Offering flexible roles or remote volunteering options can also increase participation and efficiency. See The Four Keys to Increasing Volunteer Engagement by Stephen Blandino.

  • Regular time audits can be beneficial. By periodically reviewing how time is spent by staff and volunteers, the church can identify areas where time is not being used effectively and make necessary adjustments.

  • Training and workshops on time management for church staff and volunteers can also be a great investment. These sessions can offer tools and techniques to help individuals manage their responsibilities more efficiently.

Encourage and Value Volunteerism

Human resources are as crucial as financial resources. Encouraging a culture of volunteerism can add a significant margin, allowing church staff to delegate tasks and focus on activities that are crucial for spiritual and community growth.


Margin is not a luxury but a necessity for churches. A reasonable buffer in finances, time, and resources enables a church to fulfill its mission and uphold its responsibilities to its congregants effectively. As stewards of the faith community, church leaders should prioritize creating and maintaining this essential margin.

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