OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma — Prominent multiethnic church movement leader Mark DeYmaz is warning that tithes and offerings will no longer be enough to sustain healthy churches and suggests that congregations look for alternatives like creating for-profit businesses to generate more revenue.
DeYmaz, who founded Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas in 2001 and co-founded the Mosaix Global Network in 2004, will release in October his new book, The Coming Revolution in Church Economics: Why Tithes and Offerings Are No Longer Enough, and What You Can Do About It.
The book will expand on a chapter from his 2017 book, Disruption: Repurposing the Church to Redeem the Community. The 57-year-old author shared insights from his yet-to-be-released work while speaking at the Evangelical Press Association’s Christian Media Convention this week.
“Right now, very few — I would say in my experience — less than 5 percent of churches are thinking about the future, that is, the coming disruption of economics,” DeYmaz told a packed ballroom of Christian journalists, writers and publishers.
One sociological problem facing churches that will lead to the decrease in tithing and offerings, DeYmaz said, is the rapidly changing population.
By the 2030s, he stressed that the population will decrease in the United States due to fewer babies being born. With an aging population, he contended that many older churchgoers today will age out of the workforce and have less money to give to their churches. He noted that about 75 percent of the wealth in Christianity today is held by people who are 65 or older.
“Millennials and Gen X and those coming after do not think about money or give money the way boomers, older people do because most of the church has been built on a transactional model,” he explained. “And the idea is to get more butts in the seat, right? Because more butts are in the seat, more bucks in a plate, right? Those days are gone.”
Another issue he highlighted will be the emergence of artificial intelligence taking jobs away from people.
“AI, by 2030, will take away 12 to 22 percent of jobs in the world in the next 12 years,” he continued. “That’s an Oxford [University] statistic.”
He pointed out that a friend of his is the pastor of a church in Baltimore, Maryland, that lost $100,000 overnight when the Baltimore-based corporation Under Armour laid off 400 people. Because of this, the pastor’s salary and the church budget decreased and a number of church programs were cut.
“It's not that those 400 people won't be able to get other jobs, it's just how fast that happens,” DeYmaz said.
As exponentially more families in America today are reliant on two or more streams of income than they were decades ago, DeYmaz said churches should be looking for ways to generate multiple sources of income.
“The American Church in the 21st century is living as if one paycheck — tithes and offerings — takes care of everything. But it doesn’t,” he asserted. “And we have to disrupt the way we think about what we're branding.”
At Mosaic Church, they have a yearly budget of about $1.2 million, DeYmaz later told The Christian Post in an interview. Only 70 percent of that budget comes from tithes and offerings while the rest is generated through “smart economics.”
DeYmaz explained that “disruptive” churches should stand on three legs: spiritual, financial and social justice. However, many churches today are only standing on the spiritual leg, he contended.
As DeYmaz is a proponent of multiethnic worship, he stressed that churches need to work to end segregation in the church and solve justice issues impacting their own local community. Additionally, he said, churches need to be innovative when it comes to revenue generation.
“The second leg of the stool is how to integrate. We need to integrate disruptive witness in our local communities to advance social justice, compassion and mercy by creating one umbrella nonprofit,” he detailed. “There's reasons for that. But this also bleeds into economics and why you would do this.”
Starting separate nonprofits
As for Mosaic Church, it established a nonprofit entity called Vine and Village in 2008.
“You create one nonprofit, think about this [as] two sisters who live in the same house who share the resources, split the cost, etc.,” he told the crowd. “You move your compassion and justice work out from under the budget of the church into the budget of the nonprofit.”
“You can't scale if it's under the budget of the church,” he added. “And secondly, when your compassion and justice work is under your social justice side, other churches will send you money. Did you know that? Churches don't write checks to other churches. But if you say hey, ‘I've got a food distribution program that's part of Vine and Village,’ they'll send you their money and they'll send you the people. [It will] qualify for local, state and federal grants. On and on I could go.”
He stressed that it's a “smart move economically” and allows churches to show people that the church is interested in what is going on in the communities in which they sit.
“In our case, Vine and Village focuses and leverages all of our assets like a laser beam on the people of 72204 [a Zip code for an area of Little Rock with 30 percent poverty],” he added.
One offshoot of Vine and Village is The Orchard, which is the largest food distribution program in the city of Little Rock that serves 20,000 people each year in a Zip code of 32,000 people.
Vine and Village also runs other programs such as a chess club for at-risk children.
Another nonprofit program established by Mosaic Church is called Immerse Arkansas, one of the first programs in the country to work with kids who age out of the foster care system.
“By moving [it] out from under the budget of the church, it received over $2 million in grants in 10 years,” DeYmaz said of Immerse Arkansas. “One year, we got a five-year grant for $800,000. It is smart economics because you wouldn't get those grants if it was under your [church] budget.”
DeYmaz contended that “justice and economics” are “the evangelism of the 21st century.”
“This is no longer bring Billy Graham to your city,” he explained. “Tremendous man, amazing, we would all agree. [But] that was the 20th century. … That is not how you lead people to Christ in the 21st century. You know how you do it? Justice and economics. This is the future of the American Church. Jesus didn't say let me hear your words. He said, let them see your good works. And if there was ever a time the society needed to see good works, it's right now.”
In order for a church to be “disruptive” in the economic sense, it should be doing things like repurposing property, creating jobs, generating tax revenue for the community and putting the talents of church members to use in the appropriate ways to further the mission of the church.
“This entire 60,000 words [of the book] can be summed up in a question or a statement: How do you as a pastor, how does the church leverage its assets?” he asked. “[Those assets] are people money and buildings to bless the community. … How do we leverage our assets to bless and advance the Gospel, advance the common good, and at the same time generate for-profit sustainable income?”
Utilizing people, money and buildings
According to DeYmaz, churches need to make the most out of the property they have.
As an example, he mentioned how Mosaic Church (now located in a former K-Mart store) is generating income by leasing out about half of the building to a fitness club since 2013. The fitness club pays about $8,000 per month for 50,000 square feet.
The reason behind the leasing of part of the building was to help offset the $7,400 per month the church pays on its mortgage. Because of the lease with the fitness center, DeYmaz said, 20 jobs and about $26,000 in tax revenue was created for the local community.
Another way to generate income is for churches to monetize existing services.
Most churches give out free coffee on Sundays for churchgoers. For Mosaic Church, the coffee costs roughly $3,000 per year, DeYmaz said. Although some churches put out a donation jar, they are never made completely whole on the coffee they serve.
To solve this problem, Mosaic started selling sausage biscuits wrapped in aluminum foil purchased at a wholesale store in its cafe area. The entrepreneurial endeavor has not only offset the cost of the coffee but generated extra income that the church has put toward youth summer camp scholarships.
Considering most churches are smaller than the average K-Mart store, DeYmaz told CP that smaller churches can do things like rent out unused offices or classrooms to an organization in their area looking for a cheaper rent option.
In his interview with CP, DeYmaz explained that churches can also generate income by renting out their buildings for events like weddings or to another church in the area to worship on Sunday nights.
Some churches might allow other churches to use their worship space free of charge because they believe it to be part of “ministry.” But DeYmaz believes it would be wise for those churches to start charging.
“But if you keep doing that you might not be here in 10 years,” he warned. “So charge them something. You don't have to get top dollar, but get something.”
Bigger churches, he added, might have print shops that can be used to generate money.
Starting for-profit businesses
Churches and other nonprofit organizations are legally allowed to start for-profit companies so long as the for-profit entities pays their share in taxes and as long as the profit from the companies go back to support the church or nonprofit that launched them.
Although starting a for-profit entity can be daunting for clergy, DeYmaz stressed that pastors don’t need to fully understand how to operate a business so long as they can place that responsibility on lay persons in their congregations with experience running a business.
Some churches also pay for janitorial services. Instead, DeYmaz said, churches could create their own cleaning service business by paying employees to not only clean the church building but also take on contracts to clean other buildings in the community.
“Send your janitors out in the community. They get contracts on other places and net $30,000 a year and clean your church for free,” he told CP.
While some people facing tough financial times might just “rely on God” or “have faith” that things might turn around, DeYmaz asserted that God calls on churches and Christians to be good stewards of what they are given.
“Jesus tells the story of a master, right? [He gave one man] five talents, two to another, one to another. When he comes back, what did he say?” DeYmaz asked during his speech. “The one with the five says … ‘Here's your five and I give you five more.’ [The second] says … ‘Here's your two and I made you two more.’ What does the master say? ‘Well done good and faithful servant.’ Good and faithful steward, right? The [other] guy sat on his asset.”