A recent comment about churches paying their bills prompted my post today, although this has been a pet peeve of mine for as long as I can remember. Having worked on both sides–both as the church paying the bill and as the person looking to be paid from the church, I’m keenly aware of the systemic issue this is.
I’ve been ripped off and taken advantage of more than I care to even remember when it comes to “working for the Lord.” Although it’s easy to slip into bitterness-mode, I’ve always found more harm than help doing that. Perhaps a few of the following lessons can help you–whether you’re paying or being paid.
- Do your homework. Whether you’re the church looking for contract work or supplying the church with a service, both of you should do your homework. Why did the church leave their last contractor? Why does the freshness of this new relationship seem too good to be true? Why am I the only person bidding this job? What are the standard payment terms for this church? What other churches have worked with this service provider and do they recommend this person?
- Write it down. Everything should be discussed first through conversation. Capture the big picture, understand the goals and get to know each other. Talk through the deliverables and deadlines. Come to verbal agreement. Then write it down. If anyone suggests otherwise–or does not sign the written understanding–do like Joseph and run as fast as you can because someone’s about to lose their shirt.
- Communicate changes. I don’t care how much the fine print in the written agreement covers additional charges, change rounds or hidden fees, don’t put them on an invoice unless the church specifically knows they are coming. Sure, it’s technically OK to charge them, but make sure they know they’re coming ahead of time. If there is any change to the original agreement, start the process over. Yep, verbally agree and then write it down again. The sloppier the communication gets, the more frustration you will both experience when it comes time to settle up.
- Agree to a deposit. If you can’t be trusted with a deposit or if the church can’t pay a deposit, you both shouldn’t be working together. This does not mean that a deposit should always be required, but it’s not a bad idea if you are just starting to work together.
- Pay your bills on time or earlier. This goes both ways. As the service provider, if you’re not paying your bills on time, don’t expect that churches will either. It starts with you! And if you’re the church, if you can’t pay the bill on time or earlier, don’t request the work. No faith-speak or “Lord’s work” excuses. God is not readying his bride on the backs of slaves.
- Part purposefully. There are plenty of times when the relationship just doesn’t seem to be working. The church appears to never be satisfied. The service provider isn’t meeting or beating expectations. This stuff happens. And when it does, I’m convinced that God cares more about how we deal with the breakup than he did with the meet-up. It might take twice as long to come to a peaceful parting, but you’ll both be a lot better for it when you do. It might mean the church needs to suck it up and pay a portion of the bill even though they don’t think they owe it. It might mean the service provider needs to back off, suck up his/her pride, and chalk it up to a lesson learned. It’s probably a little of both. If you can’t leave in love, get a mutual party that can help you get there. Life is too short to be carrying grudges.
If you have your own ideas please leave them in the comments. And please friends, this is not a forum for name calling or airing dirty laundry. Your comments should be motivated by helping others learn from your mistakes, not criticizing other churches or service providers, regardless of their shortcomings.