Cost-cutting: Is it for the short term or the long haul?

Once a decision is made to adopt cost savings projects, a proper process also needs to be adopted to ensure the final deliverables are met in a timely fashion. This process needs to be measurable so that the improvement strategies are successfully and permanently implemented.

A common process is explained below.

The process

  1. Define—Defining the problem!When the cost-saving projects are identified, it’s important that they be scoped collectively from all potential operational processes within the church environment. Interviews about scoping the projects should be conducted with all staff involved in church operations, as those are the areas that potentially experience recurring overspending on the church’s budget. Such scoping conversations should involve discussions on reducing waste and managing efficiencies by retraining the staff through the betterment of improving their working skill sets, utilizing of new technology to improve day to day operational systems and reducing dependency on manual labor tasks, for example.
  2. Measure—Quantify the problem!Barriers to efficient execution of daily operations should be identified and measured in terms of: downtime, wastage of human resources, and getting the tasks completed on time. A deep dive into the current issues should be carried out to identify the root causes of such operational delays and problems, which could cause overspending of the yearly budget and producing unsatisfactory results.
  3. Analyze—Identify the cause of the problem!Establishing root causes through thorough research and data analysis of past historical performances is critical to the success of finding or developing an achievable solution. Most of the time, when a deep dive into the issues on hand is not done thoroughly, a resolution of the problems cannot be achieved and sustained in the long term. This is where the analytical team’s work is most important and time should be given to properly analyze the root causes. As the issues are analyzed, there is also an opportunity to start developing solutions to tackle the issues proactively, to ensure that short term solutions and permanent solutions can be put in place.
  4. Implement—Implement and verify the solution!Solutions can be developed and designed to resolve the root causes of the issues that have resulted in overspending and waste in a church. The challenge: Are the solutions measurable and sustainable in the long term? We are not looking for a quick fix to the problems, but permanent elimination of the root causes. That should be the goal of of cost-saving projects. When a solution is implemented, it should also give you room to verify that it’s working. If not, and if other loopholes are discovered over time, then you will have to go back to the analytical stage again to review what has been missed by the analytical team in its findings and the creation of the solution. Patience is of the essence at this stage of the process, as any revised resolutions should be measurable and comparable to the previous situation before these new solutions are permanently adopted. Once the new solutions are able to stabilize the problems from reoccurring over time, you can then comfortably say that there is a permanent fix to the issues on hand. The end result is, of course, that you will see an improvement to the bottom line of the church’s budget, moving forward.
  5. Control—Maintain the solution! This last, critical step demands consistency by the operational staff to have respect for the entire process. Once permanent solutions are developed, discipline is required by all staff to ensure the controls implemented are always sustainable. If there is no discipline exercised and respect to keep the entire process intact, then, possibly, the former root causes will resurface again in due time. To help maintain this discipline, usually, a written protocol of some sort is required to ensure all steps are followed through in upholding the entire process. This can be effectively implemented as a written set of instructions or a written manual that is made available to all staff, which includes training the new staff who has just joined the church, to learn about these protocols and be informed on how the entire process works. This is to ensure that the redesign of the entire process, which has taken much work to accomplish, can guarantee success in undertaking the cost-cutting measures.


 – Victor Ku

Questions & Answers

Q: Wow! The process review of implementing cost-saving projects is a daunting task! Is this really necessary?

A: Well, as the saying goes, “No pain, no gain!” I always thought of Paul’s missionary journeys as foresight of why we must engage in cost-saving projects. Paul traversed in at least three major different missionary journeys in his lifetime, the ones that have been prominently featured in the book of Acts 13 – 21. There was also a fourth journey which he took to Rome as recorded in Acts 27 – 28. In 2 Corinthians 11: 16 – 33, Paul talks about his sufferings and why he went through what he did. He said that he did it for, “The God and the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ!” in verse 31. Paul did it for the sake of spreading the Gospel and ensuring that the churches which he planted will continue to thrive in the difficult circumstances of that time. Moreover, he encouraged the churches to be resourceful in order that they can give to support the work that is ongoing elsewhere (2 Corinthians 8: 1 – 15). And I am sure he would have asked the churches to conserve and save up where possible for the sake of supporting the work of the Kingdom. So, it is eminent that as we go through the growing pains to be leaner in every aspect of running the operations of the church, and the end result is what we can achieve in exercising good stewardship, which will glorify “The God and the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ!”


Q: How am I going to convince the church that such cost-savings initiatives are not a waste of everyone’s time and effort?

A: The end result will speak for itself! When we first started to venture into this endeavour, it took some time for our staff to believe in what we are seeing today, in terms of the results. It basically took us seven years to achieve the yield we enjoy today- in terms of being a leaner organization, and enabling the extra cash to be free to support other ministry needs of the CBWC and her constituencies every year. The hard labour invested in to produce these fruits is shared today by everyone in the continuous work that we do to advance the Kingdom of God. That’s the blessing we received in return! You will see some short-term results, but it is the longer-term benefits that are most interesting to watch for. As the process unfolds, a different kind of operational paradigm shift will ensure a sustainable environment for future ministries in the church. You can describe this as a new “resilience” towards the financial sustainability of the “new” church.



April 2019 issue of Treasurer’s Corner | Subscribe here