The Business Of Faith

Black megachurches are turning pastors into CEOs of multimillion-dollar enterprises

neighborhood. Initially, the real estate venture, a $6.6 million investment, did not appear to be lucrative. But Pyramid CDC raised a portion of the money and took out a loan to broker the deal.

Under Caldwell’s leadership, The Power Center has become a buzzing shopping center that is now home to a J.P. Morgan Chase Bank branch, a private school, a family health clinic, a pharmacy, an optical center, office suites, and a large banquet facility. The Power Center pumps about $14.5 million into the local economy annually, attracts 9,500 shoppers monthly, and employs 257 people.

Despite those who question mixing businesses and faith, church leaders like Jakes, Maclin, Long, and Caldwell represent the black community’s only line of defense against apathetic politicians and failing institutions. They are the last bastion of social entrepreneurs, creating businesses that appeal to congregants’ spiritual needs and providing jobs within African American communities.

“Some people say that is not in the Bible,” says Caldwell. “Almost one-half of the parables in the New and Old Testaments deal with money. We are representing in the 21st century what the Lord said and did in the New Testament.”

HOW TO HOLD YOUR CHURCH ACCOUNTABLE
Churches must institute a strong system of checks and balances to ensure that those at the helm are held accountable for the financial dealings of the ministry, says Danny Freeman, author of Building Wealth through Spiritual Health. The following are some recommendations:

Churches with budgets over $250,000 should hire an outside firm to conduct annual financial audits and share the information with parishioners, recommends Daniel Borokoff, leader of the American Institute of Philanthropy in Chicago.

Pastors should grant authority and leadership positions to laypeople within their congregations who have the expertise to help govern church-affiliated businesses and nonprofits, says Preston Williams, a retired Harvard University Divinity School professor.

To avoid conflicts of interest, an outside board of directors should monitor church businesses and all executives of church-affiliated business should be fully disclosed, says Freeman.

John Walker, chief creative officer at Tennessee-based Chitwood and Chitwood, says a pastor should be paid a regular salary not compensated by a pastor’s aid club fund committee. He believes it’s unethical to pay cash out of the offering bucket to an evangelist or to use one offering basket for pastor and one for the church. Good financial accountability has record keeping that tracks how money is collected and distributed and leaves a paper trail of receipts.

The use of fundamental business principles are essential for church deacons and trustees. “Good financial operating procedures make sure that the funds are extended properly and consistent with ministry priorities and overall financial posture,” says Stanley Featherstone, a deacon at the First Baptist Church of Glenarden in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

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